How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit

Written by peter conrad
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How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
Some guitar enthusiasts enjoy building their own instruments from kits. (man and guitar image by Theresa DeAngelis from Fotolia.com)

A guitar kit is a perfect way to learn the basics of how to build a guitar. Building from a kit helps you learn many of the required skills and acquire the tools you will need. The advantage of starting with a kit is that some of the work has already been done for you. You will quickly develop the skills needed to build another guitar.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Guitar kit
  • Lacquer cement
  • Small clamps
  • Cam clamps
  • Neck clamps
  • 7-inch rubber bands
  • 150-, 180-, 400- and 600-grit sandpaper
  • Wide masking tape
  • Wire cutter
  • Hammer
  • Fine file
  • Razor saw
  • Drill press
  • Laminate trimmer
  • Epoxy glue
  • White glue
  • Guitar lacquer (spray cans)
  • Deep throat C-clamps

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Apply lacquer cement to the pre-bent sides and hold together the two end blocks using clamps. Glue the mahogany or cedar lining strip along the rim and hold together with small clamps.

  2. 2

    Attach the end-piece set---which is made up of a wood end block inside the body, a plastic strip, and an end pin---in the bottom of the guitar. Cut a tapered slot with a laminate trimmer through to the end block and glue in the plastic end piece with lacquer cement. Drill a hole in the plastic end piece where the end pin is installed.

    How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
    Building the guitar body is the first step. (guitar image by jeancliclac from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Use lacquer cement to glue the white and black strips in place that form the rosette around the sound hole.

  4. 4

    Trim the piece of wood that will be the front of the guitar to within 1/4 inch of final size. Use lacquer cement to glue in place the bracing for the front piece.

    How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
    The top of an acoustic guitar usually has a sound hole. (Guitar 2 image by Chad Perry from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    Glue the two pieces together to form the back, with the accent strip in the middle with lacquer cement. Cut the shape of the back within 1/2 inch of final size. Use lacquer cement to glue the supporting braces onto the back piece.

    How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
    The bottom and top of the guitar are braced to withstand the powerful pull of the strings. (lutherie : guitare classique image by Frédéric Daniau from Fotolia.com)
  6. 6

    Trim the braces on back and front so they will fit snugly inside the sides.

  7. 7

    Glue the guitar back onto the sides with lacquer cement and hold it in place with cam clamps and 7-inch rubber bands.

  8. 8

    Glue on the front with lacquer cement and hold in place using cam clamps and rubber bands. Sand the guitar body with 180-grit sandpaper.

  9. 9

    Trim a 1/16-inch edge around the edge of the guitar with your laminate trimmer. Glue the edge binding to the front and back with lacquer cement, holding it in place with wide masking tape.

  1. 1

    Glue the adjustable truss rod into the base of the pre-machined neck of the guitar with epoxy glue.

    How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
    The neck is pre-shaped in the kit. (guitare classique image by Nath Photos from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Glue the fingerboard onto the neck with lacquer cement. Use neck clamps, which have the curved shape needed to hold the fingerboard in full contact with the neck, to hold it securely in place.

  3. 3

    Drill the holes for the turning machines on a drill press to ensure they are correctly aligned.

  4. 4

    Use a wire cutter to cut off a piece of fretting wire a little longer than the groove it will be placed in on the fingerboard. Wet the groove with water and use a light hammer to tap the fretting wire into place. Repeat this for every groove on the fingerboard.

    How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
    Placing the frets is a simple process. (acoustic guitar image by Tanya McConnell from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    Cut away all excessive fretting wire and lightly file the frets. Glue the nut in place at the top of the fingerboard using lacquer cement and clamp it in place with cam clamps. The nut is the white edge that is at the top of the fingerboard; the strings are pulled over the nut as they are tightened by the turning machines.

  1. 1

    Sand all wood parts of the guitar with 150- to 180-grit sandpaper.

  2. 2

    Fill open-pore wood grains like mahogany with grain filler. Sand the filled grain surfaces of the guitar with 400-grit sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Spray the body and neck of the guitar with lacquer. Sand the guitar with 600-grit sandpaper between every two to three layers. Apply eight coats of lacquer, but do not sand the final coat.

  4. 4

    Attach the neck and body of the guitar with white glue and secure them using deep throat C-clamps. Attach the bridge with white glue and hold it in place with deep throat C-clamps.

  5. 5

    Install the saddle on the bridge. Cut slots for the strings in the nut with a razor saw and install the turning machines. Install the strings and tune your guitar.

    How to Build an Acoustic Guitar Kit
    For tuning purposes, you must carefully measure where to place the saddle. (guitar image by Jan Will from Fotolia.com)

Tips and warnings

  • Use lacquer cement for most steps requiring glue, as it finishes like epoxy but does not need to be mixed, but use epoxy where it is specifically identified.
  • The back of the guitar has a curved out shape that can be effectively glued in place and secured with large rubber bands and cam clamps.
  • The neck has a curve, so when you glue the fingerboard on use special neck clamps, or use prepared shims that make full contact between the fingerboard and the neck.
  • Cutting laminates during the construction requires a special laminate trimmer, like the Dewalt Laminate Trimmer, as a larger router will not produce a fine enough finish.
  • Spruce tops do not need wood filler.

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