I’ve bought a number of guitars over the years and although some have been expensive, I’ve never had the finances to buy a custom guitar. That just changed today and although I know I’ll have to put it together first, it still feels amazing.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to build your own guitar or maybe you just want to enjoy watching somebody like me make a fool of themselves doing it. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy this Guitar Adventures series on building a guitar from kit.
The following series was written over the course of a few months and includes videos of my experience building this guitar from kit. This is not a “how to” since I am a first-timer and I’ve made plenty of mistakes that I’ll share with you. Rather, this series on making a guitar from a kit is meant to show you what’s available, how to get started and answer the burning question I had before I started:
Can I really build my own guitar?
My hope is that yes, I (and therefor you) can build a guitar with little or no experience…but we’ll find that out for sure as we go. 🙂
Christmas Comes Early
Fast forward two weeks after I placed my order online with Luthiers Mercantile International. As expected, a nondescript package arrived at my door one warm spring afternoon. I quickly brought it back to the garage/shop to give it a look.
It’s hard to believe that an entire guitar can fit in a box this small and yet as I pulled out all the pieces, there it was. It was like Christmas came very early this year! Beautiful pieces of wood pre-cut and pre-formed were now sitting on a table in my shop.
Before I continue on, I think you’ll enjoy a look at this short video of my experience purchasing the guitar and then opening that beautiful box of guitar parts.
Purchasing an LMI Acoustic Guitar Kit
While there are only a handful of quality, acoustic guitar kit suppliers, the one I chose to use was Luthiers Mercantile International or “LMI” for short. I didn’t know much about them when I first chose to use them but it turns out they’re a very reputable kit supplier.
The process began on their website where I registered an account and chose my base kit.
From there I began to customize the kit…just because I could! I changed the standard rosette with a beautiful wooden one, upgraded the wood on my back and sides, and chose a wood binding instead of the traditional plastic.
The choices were at times a bit overwhelming but overall the experience was exhilarating. I was happy to know that an LMI representative would look over my final order to make sure it all fit together properly, since most of the parts came in different sizes to fit different models. It would be easy to mix up accidentally.
Many parts in the guitar kit could be ordered at various stages of completion. For instance, I could order my guitar sides as raw wood, pre-cut wood or cut-and-bent wood. As a beginner, I naturally chose the latter.
One mistake I did make at this point was to order my guitar bracing as a block of wood instead of the pre-cut. Although many luthiers suggest shaping the bracing is one of the most intimate parts of building a guitar, I am unfortunately short on time and the idea of me shaping a block into all that delicate bracing was almost laughable. I immediately went back online and ordered a set of pre-cut bracing.
Unboxing my Guitar Kit
As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to believe that an entire guitar can fit in such a small box. As I pulled each piece out of the box, I made an accounting of the contents.
Aside from each piece of the guitar which I had specifically ordered, the LMI acoustic guitar kit also came with:
- Detailed Guitar Blueprint: The foldout blueprint was to be used to determine exact sizing for the body, fretboard and neck.
- Detailed Invoice: This invoice highlighted exactly what I had ordered so I could compare to make sure each piece was present and exactly what I had wanted.
- “How To” DVD: Since I am building an acoustic guitar, I was given the DVD “Build a Steel String Guitar with Robert O’Brien”. LMI offers different “how to” DVD’s for each kind of guitar (electric, classical, archtop, etc.).
- Informational Booklet: It’s definitely not a “how to” for building the guitar, but it was an interesting narrative on the process of building a guitar.
It’s very important to note that although these kits come with every part of your acoustic guitar, the kits don’t contain everything you’ll need to build the guitar. There are “must have” items like wood glue and finishing materials that aren’t included and of course all the “optional” tools that I suspect I will need to buy.
Conclusion…or Just the Beginning
So now that I have all the parts of my guitar set out on the table, I’m equal parts excited and nervous. I’m excited about the idea of having my own custom-built acoustic guitar but scared that I’m diving into the deep end here.
Only time will tell how this project ends up, but something tells me that I’m going to be giving my friend Dave, a luthier who lives near me, a call in the near future.
Let’s build this thing!