As all DIY guitarists know, a killer custom axe can be yours if you know how to make your own electric guitar. Whether you know how to cut and route your own body, score a sweet Gibson or Fender project guitar, or pick up a cheap guitar kit for about $150, building your own electric guitar is usually cost effective and just plain awesome. For the purposes of this article, we're going to assume that you already have a plain, unfinished guitar body that you're going to be adding to.
To make your own electric guitar, you will need:
- A guitar body
- A guitar neck
- Body filler putty
- Electrical components (potentiometers, pickups, capacitors, assorted wiring)
- Guitar hardware (bridge, tuners, nuts, input jack, knobs, pickguard)
- Soldering iron
- Soldering resin
- Paint your axe. The cool thing about making your own electric guitar—unlike, say, making a car—is that you get to paint it right off the bat! Start off by filling the guitar's grain with putty or some other substance and sanding it until it's completely smooth. Next, hang your guitar in an open area and apply coat after coat of paint until it has a uniform texture and color.
- Wire your guitar's components. This is the most time-consuming step of making your own electric guitar. There are a million different ways to wire an electric guitar, so finding a schematic specific to your axe is quite helpful. Even if you can't find one, wiring for most electric guitars can be done by wiring the input jack to the positive side of the pickup toggle switch. Next, wire the toggle switch to the neck and bridge pickups (the top side of the switch goes to the neck, the bottom to the bridge). Wire the ground (earth wire) from the input jack to the volume pots, then to the tone pots, then through the body to the guitar's bridge. Wire the pickups to the volume pot and ground connection, and wire .02 pf capacitors to the volume and tone pots.
- Attach your guitar's neck. Attach the guitar's neck by tightly screwing in the four bolts connecting the neck and body. Usually a thin metal shim will go in between the neck and the body itself, while a plate will fit between the screw heads and the back of the neck. Now you're almost done making your own electric guitar!
- Give your axe a bridge. If your guitar has a Fender-style or whammy-capable bridge, then you should just be able to literally drop it in and screw it into place. Tune-o-matics are a bit more tricky, as the posts for both the stop piece and saddles have to be pounded in with some force. Place a piece of wood over the posts and hammer them in, or, if you're the daring type, go at the posts with just a hammer until they're fully in place.
- Attach other miscellaneous pieces. Once everything else is done, you can attach your guitar's other hardware. Nuts are glued in with tacky glue, and tuning heads usually screw into place. Knobs will either simply slip on the potentiometers or screw in.
And that's it! String it up and plug it in, because you've just made your own electric guitar. Once you know the ins and outs of guitar construction, you can literally build any kind of custom beast to fit your needs without paying custom shop prices. Building guitars is like eating chips—you can't stop at just one!