Some of the most unique electric guitars are those made with plastic, especially those made with clear acrylic. Plastic offers an interesting look that stands out. Plastics are less expensive than hard woods such as maple or mahogany. Plastics, like acrylic, are dense enough to mimic the tonal qualities of hard woods traditionally used for guitar bodies. However, plastic does not work well for guitar necks, due to its overall flexibility. With a few shop tools and a small investment of time, a plastic guitar body can be fabricated at a fraction of the cost of a manufactured body.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Band saw
- Palm sander
- Solvent cement
- Double sided tape
- Acrylic polishing compound
- Scrap wood
- Grease pencil
Create two full size templates of the guitar's body, using heavy paper or cardboard. One template is used for the front of the guitar while the other template is used for the back. The templates define the shape of the guitar and placement of the hardware. The front template should include cutouts for the neck and pickup cavities. Indicate the positions of the pickup selector switch, as well as the volume and tone controls. The back template should include cutouts for the electronics cavity. Measure the length and width of the template, adding an extra inch to the measurements. This is the sheet size.
Purchase the plastic. If using clear acrylic, use 1 ¼ inch thick material. This is the minimum thickness that will allow a cavity deep enough to hold standard volume and tone pots. If using another type of plastic or coloured acrylic, purchase the maximum thickness available. Purchase enough material to create a 1 ¼ inch thick sheet. If using thinner material, laminate the sheets together with a squeeze bottle applicator filled with solvent cement. To laminate, remove the protective backing from the sheets and cover one side of the sheet with solvent cement. Apply another sheet on top and clamp. Repeat the process until the desired thickness is reached.
Mount the templates to the front and back sides of the sheet plastic using double sided tape to hold them in place. Use a band saw to cut out the shape of the body. Route out the cavities for the neck, pickups and electronics. The cavities should be 7/8 of an inch in depth. Use small pieces of scrap wood to create a guide for the router. This allows clean straight cuts. Use double sided masking tape to hold the guides down to the surface of the plastic.
Drill holes for the pickup selector switch, volume and tone controls. Drill any horizontal holes, through the body, to connect pickups and selector switch to the electronics cavity. Using a palm sander, sand the outer saw cut edges of the guitar's body, starting with 120 grit sandpaper. Sand again, using 320 grit sandpaper, repeating the process with 600 grit sandpaper. Sand down the cavities and holes by hand.
Remove the template from the plastic. Polish the sanded areas with an acrylic polishing compound. Lay out the hardware and mark any screw positions with a grease pencil. Drill holes that are slightly smaller than the screw. Run the wiring through the guitar's cavities and solder them to the pickups, volume and tone controls. Mount the hardware after the holes are drilled. Add the neck and pick guard and the project is complete
Tips and warnings
- Plastic fabrication uses the same techniques as wood fabrication. The only difference is the blades are finer for plastics (finishing blades). Heat the screws up slightly, on a stove, to allow them to melt a thread pattern into the plastic. Use pliers to hold the screws while heating and placing them in the holes. This keeps the screws from cracking the plastic.
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