Written by Andy Trowers, a freelance writer and guitaroholic.
Many guitarists dream of building their own axe. Who wouldn’t want to rip out sublime solos on a self-made guitar, like Brian May. Or chug out blues-soaked rock and roll on a cigar-box guitar, like Bo Diddley. The idea of making my own guitar from scratch always appealed to me.
So, after coming into a bit of spare time, I decided to do something about it. There were only a few minor obstacles. I had no woodworking experience, absolutely no idea how to build a guitar and limited funds to pay someone to teach me.
Thankfully, while searching through the expensive luthier courses available in the UK, I came across Jungle Guitars in Goa, India. As it worked out cheaper to fly to India, live there for a month and pay for the course, I booked a spot and jumped on a plane.
Run by Chris Horton, an English expat, Jungle Guitars is a workshop near Baga beach in Goa. Situated in the jungle just a short walk from the sea, it is an incredible place to embark on a guitar build. Chris is a very affable man whose passion for helping others to make instruments shines through. He makes you feel very welcome in his workshop and breaks down the process of creating a guitar into easily-to-follow steps. Despite my lack of experience, I never felt out of my depth.
Pretty much everything is done by hand except for a few guerrilla-style tools, made by Chris, to help you along the way. From his blow-torch heated metal tube for bending guitar sides to the engine powered belt sander, there is a Heath Robinson-esque feel to the workshop that adds to the satisfaction as your guitar takes shape.
You choose what shape you want, the type of finish and other details, like the design of the sound-hole rosette. Chris provides top quality wood, including Indian rosewood for the back and sides (which is much sort-after for its tonal excellence). The machine-heads and fret wire are also top-drawer, which add significantly to the quality of the build.
I had thought that Chris would step in when the going got tough and do the difficult bits, but he refused to touch the budding guitar. And I’m glad he did. The fact that I built absolutely everything on the instrument added hugely to my enjoyment of both the process and final outcome.
Though you must work hard to finish the guitar in the allotted time, there is also time to relax and enjoy the delights of Goa. You are in the workshop from 10am till 4pm, then it’s time to hit the beach and enjoy the beautiful sunset. Weekends are also free to explore the area.
I had an amazing time at Jungle Guitars. The day to day work is satisfying enough, but when everything comes together at the end, you are left with a jubilant feeling. I ended my time there playing a song that I wrote on a guitar that I had made. What a priceless experience.