How To Build An Electric Guitar

Want to know how to build an electric guitar? This can be a daunting, if rewarding, project. There are a lot of steps taken in building a guitar, and it helps if you have some experience. This article will be a help to you on the journey. 

Before you start, decide on what style of guitar you want to build when buying the neck and body. There are many good manufacturers of electric guitar necks and bodies so make sure that you buy parts that are meant to go together.  The neck joint should be very tight in order to maintain stability, and if you try to put a Fender-style neck on a Gibson-style body, it may not fit properly.

The same goes for pickups. Don't try to put a humbucker or soapbar-style pickup on a guitar routed for single-coil; it will only mean extra routing and expense. Usually the manufacturer of the body will tell you what type of pickups it is routed for.

When buying the wiring harness, make sure you buy a harness made for the style of the body and pickups. If the body has four holes for potentiometer shafts, buy one with four pots. The set of knobs, bridge, tuning keys, and tailpiece must also be specific to your type of electric guitar. Most guitar bodies are lightly clearcoated to protect the wood and if you want to paint it. Manchester Guitar Techs advises, "Lightly sand the body with P800 wet-or-dry to provide a key for the lacquer."

Things you will need:

  • Guitar body
  • Guitar neck
  • Tuning keys
  • Strap pins
  • Wiring harness
  • Pickups
  • Pickguard
  • Plastic knobs
  • Bridge
  • Tailpiece
  • Back plate
  • Screws of various sizes
  • Soldering iron
  • Medium solder

Diving In

  1. Attach the pickups to the body with appropriately-sized screws or bolts. If the pickups attach to the pickguard instead of directly to the wood, attach them to the pickguard but do not attach the pickguard to the guitar until the wiring is finished.
  2. Run the wires through the cavity. Install the wiring harness according to instructions. Normally, the soldering is done by stripping 1/4" of the wire, twisting the bare wire together, then coating the wire end with solder before attaching the wire to terminals or ground. You will also need to attach the ground wire to the base of the bridge.
  3. With the shafts of the pots attached firmly to the body or pickguard, push the plastic knobs onto the shafts, taking care to put labeled knobs on the correct pots. Attach the bridge and tailpiece, usually with large, heavy screws. Make sure that the screws are all tight. Some bridges, like the bar-style bridge,  look as if they could be attached with either side toward the pickups. Check and make sure that you have placed it on the correct side;' usually, the heads of the screws holding the saddles will be at the rear facing the tailpiece.
  4. Lastly, attach the strap pins with long screws. Attach the tuning keys to the guitar neck; normally, there is a nut at the top of the tuner shaft that will be placed on top of the headstock to tighten  the tuning key. There will also be tiny screws attached at the back of the headstock that act as stabilizers, so that the key does not move as it is turned. Some guitars use string trees to keep the treble strings in place.

Finishing touches

  1. Attach the neck to the body using the back plate and four or five large, long screws. This is a major step in building your electric guitar. Again, the neck should fit very snugly into the neck pocket, and you will want to hold (or clamp) the neck tightly against the body whilst doing the final tightening, otherwise the neck may be pushed upward and leave a space between neck and body that will render your electric guitar unplayable.
  2. Now, you can put strings on the guitar. When they are tightened, check the closeness of pickups to strings, intonation, and string height. Adjustments can be made to pickups and bridge saddles.

You have now built your own electric guitar. Go play it!

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