Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

The Complete Saga Of My First Guitar Build

The Complete Saga Of My First Guitar Build

Instrument Completed On 1/13/2005

Instrument Completed On 1/13/2005

Travel with me back to early September, 2004. A friend of mine was in town and he and his wife spent the night at our house. I was giving David a tour of the Tundra Man workshop (doesn't take long) when his eyes lit up and said, "Say! Have you ever considered making a guitar?" Now David is also a musician (well, he's a real musician), so I can understand why he would ask this question. I answered truthfully that I had considered building an instrument from scratch and had gone so far as to purchase a book on the subject, but the project had always been put on the backburner.

By the way, if you haven't checked out David's band Remedy Drive, do it now! They are simply one of the most awesome bands around. Go ahead and check out their site. I'll wait here. Are you back? You're not lying to me now, are you? Ok, let's continue on...

Well, David's question got me thinking, and thinking, and thinking... and I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and jump into luthiery. Actually, when I myself was a young Tundra Boy, I had made a couple of guitars out of wood scraps and rubber bands, but they certainly weren't playable. They did enable me to spend many hours air guitaring to old Grand Funk and Uriah Heep albums and to jump around on a make believe stage pretending I was Ace Frehley, so from a sheer entertainment perspective the labor wasn't in vain. Later on when I actually began to play guitar, out of financial necessity (couldn't afford to pay someone to do it) I learned how to set up and adjust all of my instruments. My current main guitar is a cheap strat-copy that I purchased off of eBay, then completely disassembled and rebuilt it using a lot of custom components and my own wiring schematic that allows 81 different pickup combinations (I know, serious overkill). So, I had done some basic tech work, but had never designed and created an instrument from the ground up. Interestingly enough, I've also got some higher end guitars (Hamer, Taylor and Parker) but for some reason I keep coming back to my Frankenstrat. Perhaps it's because by giving it a complete makeover I've made it mine?

Anyway, I forged ahead with the construction of my first (real) electric guitar. For anyone interested in following the same journey, I documented the entire construction process. Because the description of the construction is quite lengthy and image intensive, I have broken it up into the smaller sections listed below. Please note (not that you were worried about it) that these steps aren't necessarily in chronological order; many of the steps happened concurrently while other parts of the project were drying, or I just felt like doing something different for a while.

Also, because I have never attempted a project of this magnitude, there will be screw ups. Rather than not mentioning them, I figure I'd offer full disclosure of what I did wrong and how I went about fixing it, if I was able to fix it. Thought it might be helpful to anyone who wants to try their own hand at making an instrument to know that there's quite a bit that can go wrong and that you're not alone.

By the way, I seem to be getting a lot of questions on the word "luthier" and it's variations. A luthier is one who builds guitars, or any stringed instrument for that matter. This is a great word to keep in mind when playing Trivial Pursuit. According to Webster, here's the official definition:

Main Entry: luˇthiˇer
Pronunciation: 'lü-tE-&r, -thE-&r
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from luth lute (from Middle French lut): one who makes stringed musical instruments (as violins or guitars)

For anyone curious, here's some links to resources I used when building the guitar:

Tundra Man Custom Guitars Logo

Lets begin the building process at the planning stage.
If you don't care how I built it, you can click here to see the finished photos.

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018