How to Build a Resophonic Guitar

Written by kit kiefer
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How to Build a Resophonic Guitar
(Guitar tuning image by cdbdi from

The sound of a resophonic guitar is unmistakable--clear, bell-like and full of sustain and pleasant overtones. Making your own resophonic guitar is possible, and is easier than you might think, thanks to some well-made do-it-yourself kits. These kits include the metal resonator, a study top, back, and sides, a round or square neck and all the hardware you'll need to move from putting together to picking. Instructions are easy to follow and anyone with moderate woodworking skills can make it happen.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Resonator guitar kit
  • Sandpaper in grades from 100-grit to superfine wet-or-dry
  • Files of various sizes and fineness
  • Screwdrivers (depending on kit)
  • Hammer (depending on kit)
  • Chisels (depending on kit)
  • Titebond glue (depending on kit)
  • Band saw or coping saw (depending on kit)
  • Drill or drill press (depending on kit)
  • Clamps (C-clamps and spool clamps) (depending on kit)
  • Router (depending on kit)
  • Sanding sealer
  • Polyurethane finish
  • Stain (optional)

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    Choose Your Route

  1. 1

    Decide whether you want to convert an existing guitar to a resophonic or build a resophonic from a kit. Converting an existing guitar into a resophonic is easier than building most kits, because nothing needs to be built or finished. However, the sound is a shade short of true resophonic sound, and the guitar's body and bracing may not withstand the conversion. If you're a DIYer looking for true resophonic guitar sound, consider a kit.

  2. 2

    Pick the kit for you. Resophonic guitar kits fall into two categories: kits where you have to do everything, from fretting the neck to installing the truss rod to shaping the headstock, and kits where only finishing is required. Resonator Outfitters and Janet Davis Music are the sources for the former; Adams Resonators sells the latter. The price difference is around £65; however, figure on spending around 150 hours making one of the do-everything kits, compared to 10 to 15 hours with the Adams kit.

  3. 3

    Make sure you have adequate tools and an appropriate work area. Building a do-everything resophonic guitar kit requires, at a minimum files, chisels, a rubber hammer, a variety of clamps and a router. A drill press and band saw are very helpful. Along with that, make sure you have a large, well-lit work area you can dedicate to the project.

  4. 4

    Read the instructions thoroughly before you begin. The do-everything kits have detailed instructions that take you through the process step-by-step--and there are a lot of steps. Follow them. Don't go off-script unless you absolutely, positively know what you're doing.

    Building the Guitar

  1. 1

    Build up the sides first, then attach the top and back. The kit instructions take you through this in great detail, but in essence you'll make a form to hold the sides in place, then glue the sides to the neck block and then strengthen them with "kerfing"--a flexible, notched band of wood--before gluing on the top. The soundwell, a wooden ring that supports the metal resonator, is glued to the back at this time.

  2. 2

    Prepare the neck. This involves laying in the truss rod, shaping the fingerboard with a band saw or coping saw, drilling holes for the fingerboard inlays with a drill or drill press, fretting the neck and then practicing bolting the neck to the body. The back is still not attached to the guitar, nor is the fingerboard attached to the neck.

  3. 3

    Finish assembling the guitar. Glue on the peghead overlay, install tuners, glue the fingerboard to the neck, glue the back to the sides and attach the neck. Shape the f-holes on the top, and drill the holes to attach the coverplate to the soundhole. Install and shape the nut,and cut slots for the strings, then take everything apart for finishing.

  4. 4

    Apply finish and reassemble the guitar. Finely sand the entire body. Apply stain and finish--lacquer or poly--in multiple coats, sanding between coats and allowing plenty of drying time. When the finish is set, reassemble the guitar, string it up and start playing! You've earned it.

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