If you have a good ear and a little skill with woodworking, knowing how to build an acoustic guitar is a pretty straightforward task. All it takes is a good wood body for amplification and a neck to produce the right notes. This being said, there's about a million and one ways a person can build an acoustic guitar. Once you get a firm grip on the basics outlined in this article, take your newfound profound wisdom and run wild!
Here's what you'll need:
- Three sheets of tone wood, about three-by-two feet (or bigger if you want a dreadnought style body)
- A bandsaw
- Wood glue
- Wood blocks
- Wood braces
- Acoustic guitar neck and bridge
- Cut the front and back of the body. To get started building an acoustic guitar, draw out the guitar's overall body style on two pieces of your tone wood. You can trace the body of an acoustic you already have or create your own. Once you've done this, carefully cut the sheets with the bandsaw, making sure both pieces come out looking exactly the same.
- Route your sound hole. The next thing you're going to want to do to build an acoustic guitar is route out a sound hole in the front piece of your newly cut tone wood. There's no scientific formula written specifying for how big a sound hole should be, so it's OK to eyeball this part. Just remember that a small sound hole produces more bass and a wide sound hole produces more treble.
- Mold the side pieces. Cut two pieces of wood from your third sheet big enough to wrap half way around the guitar. Soak these in boiling water for about fifteen seconds and start bending them to fit the contours of the guitar's body. This is kind of a pain and it's probable that more than one temper tantrum has been thrown trying to do this.
- Glue the sides. Take your wood blocks and glue the sides of the guitar to them with one piece on top and the other on bottom. Clamp them to hold them into place. Make sure these wood blocks fit tightly within the contours of your guitar.
- Brace the inside of the guitar. After giving the wood glue about a day to dry, take your wood braces and place them a few inches apart inside what will soon be the interior of the guitar. A good rule of thumb is to use about six braces on both the top and bottom of the guitar's body.
- Glue the top and bottom pieces to the sides. Apply a decent amount of wood glue to the braces and seams of the guitar and lightly clamp them together. Your flat sheets of wood are now starting to look like your own custom-build acoustic guitar!
- Attach the neck. Acoustic guitars use what's called a "neck through" construction, meaning it's required that you actually fit the neck to the guitar's body and glue it in place. Most necks will come pre-shaped in a V point. Route a matching cut in your guitar's body and glue the neck in, making sure to hold it in place for about 24 hours with a clamp.
- Attach the bridge. Most acoustic guitar bridges will either screw in or simply glue to the surface of the guitar. The most important thing here is measuring the space between the nut and the bridge properly before you attach it. Depending on what kind of sound you're after, a good one to five inches below the sound hole is adequate.
There you have it. You've built your own acoustic guitar! While this is a time-consuming craft, it's not as complicated as, say, building an airplane. Just remember, you can't kill yourself if you do it wrong, so what do you have to lose? Besides, getting it right could open up a whole world of musical possibilities.