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How Long Does It Take You To Build A Guitar?

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Ok, im running a Guitar making course starting in February, but im not sure if ive allowed enough time.

Assuming your supplied with:

A workshop full of machinery, all set up and ready to rock and roll.

All body jigs, templates, etc, and enough routers and bits to keep you happy.

Pre-slotted and radiused fretboard

Premade pickguard

All hardware and timbers, glues, electronics, etc...

eg: basically a fully functional luthiers shop...

AND one luthier, and one cabinet making and fine furniture lecturer (so, two people) to assist in tool set up....

Limited to eight people, split into two groups (necks and bodies), then paired into couples.

How long would it take you to build a Strat?

Is 10 x 3.5 hour sessions enough?

I would think so, as the finishing (lacquer, oil, whatever) is not included in the course, and stuff like sanding will be given as homework.


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First off, Wood

Laminated?? if so, how many peices to be jointed, planed, laminated, scraped (glue joint, so it doesnt have a bump and set the wood not straight in the planer) more planing, lets say that takes them, half hour to an hour (thats more then me, but hey, i am being conciderate) then drying, 24 hours, so ready when they come back

cutting, people who only used a bandsaw maybe 2 times probaly would take a little longer then you or any other luithier

sanding is homework, ok, sounds good for the bodies for the first 2 days


laminates? or one peice? see above for laminates

routing truss rod can be done same day and starting to shape headstock too if its one peice

another day (or 2 if laminates) for necks, where up to 3 (or 4) days

for the bodies again, routing neck pocket, electronics, cavities, for me, that would take bout 2 hours getting everything *perfect* and they can start on bridge placement

Necks, providing they havent routed trus rod yet, they can do that, start shaping the headstock, drill tuner holes, slot for nut, put in trus rod and glue on fingerboard

ok, we are at bout 5 or 6 days,

i say give a day or 2 for bolting on neck, lining everything up and just general set up, finishing is not offered so i think you wold be set


Edit, i just re read and i mis understood, they are working seperatly, so you should still have more then enough time to lecture them, have them work, and all

Sorry bout that


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I highly doubt that a guitar building class will involve laminated necks or bodies. Most likely the guitars will be a variant on a Fender design.

Personally, it took me 5 months to build my guitar. Of course, my only instructor were the PG forums and MIMF.

Edited by Primal
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Hard to say exactly how long it would take ME if I had all the facilities you mention. I've had to make a lot of detours in the past because of lack of material, tools or something essential to wait for (like the weather :D ) before proceeding. So I haven't really had the opportunity to devote a lot of time in one go.

It depends on the varied woodworking experience of your average student. I'm pretty sure I could make a guitar in 35 hrs as I have some skill with power/hand tools. Its nice to get things right the first time. B) And thats just your basic guitar with maybe 1,2,3 or 4 piece body, NO carved top, laminated neck, binding or inlays with the exception of fretboard dots.

Are you offering this course to just anyone? ie. first come first serve or are there certain prerequisites, namely, previous woodworking experience, required? That will be a major deciding factor.

Edited by Southpa
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I took a similar course several years ago. Not quite as many premade items and the students weren't limited to strats. About the same session length. Nobody finished in the time allotted. Since you've streamlined things, maybe. I came out of it with a nice Tele.

Later the teacher asked me to help with a travel guitar class. We taught two terms and definately learned a few lessons on how to keep things moving: Divide the class into two groups and have one work on necks while the other starts on bodies. That way you stagger the use of certain machines. If you can prep some written/illustrated class materials it will help, you don't have to go over the same stuff if someone is sick or late (I'm a graphic designer so it was right up my alley). Don't assume they all know the basics (one fellow didn't know that the epoxy was two part, just thought the second tube was extra - what a mess to clean off his guitar). And advise them that simplicity is a virtue-custom is cool, but takes time.

Before any class work there was a safety period to keep the fingers where they belonged. I had a good time. Hope you enjoy it too, Dan

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Safety wise, are you covered w/ the proper insurance to do this?

My local wood guy held some classes and the -very first- day (he is an ultra concious and super-nice guy too) someone split their hand open with a chisel while he was giving another student some attention. They needed like 12-15 stitches.

He said it happened in the blink of an eye.

Nothing since then, but you never know. Safety around tools and machinery is paramount when it's your shop and your butt on the line.

Just make sure you're covered properly. :D

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Adding to Drak's note, just MAKE SURE they know how to actually operate and adjust the machinery properly, too. Half the time we spent in my high school shop class was about proper tool operation and safety. That and gluing will take up most of your time, waiting on tools to be freed up is another. When one person is using the bandsaw to cut a body, you'll have a whole queue (is that how they say it down under?) waiting to use the bandsaw to cut headstocks and other bodies.

Something can definitely happen in the blink of an eye. In my case, it was a router bit spinning at about 20,000 RPM being jammed into the side of my body on accident by a friend, just below the last rib. Fortunately, my sweatshirt took the force of the bit and my t-shirt kept it from cutting my skin, but we ALL sure got a refresher lecture on safety that day from the teacher.

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Perry: That sounds about right.

I did a solidbody course ages ago, and it was 10 weeks at about 3 to 3.5 hours a week, with some homework. There was also some tasks done by the luthiers in between weeks (stuff like bandsawing and routing... we weren't allowed to use any of the really dangerous power tools for insurance reasons). We were also given fully assembled neck blanks (truss rods inserted, scarf joints - if necessary - were cut and glued, fretboards glued on). We did everything with hand tools.

It was 15+ years ago, but i seem to remember the week-to-week flow going something like this:

- design and specifications

(the shop did rough bandsawing of our body blanks)

- sanding the body edges

- carving the forearm cut

- carving the tummy cut

(the shop prepared our neck blanks prior to this week)

- shaping the neck

- installing the frets

- dressing the frets

- sanding body and neck (homework)

- install electronics

- install hardware

- final setup

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Ok, im running a Guitar making course starting in February, but im not sure if ive allowed enough time.

There's a place in England doing this...I don't have the link off hand (anyone?) but they run a permanent workshop where you pay them to come in and build your guitar under their supervision.

They include finishing as part of the service. Seems to me you should too 9not the sanding)--what's the point of making a nice guitar only to botch up the finish at home?

I'll see if I can find the link...

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I checked out a course here, in Holland, by a luthier. He teaches classes of 4 people only, the course is 6 months long and is one day a week on saturdays. It takes up the full day. They do everything themselves, including sanding, lacquer and final adjustments.

I agree with idch, I think you should offer the lacquering part too. As for sanding being given as homework...I don't know, people who never touched wood in their lives before might very well be able to screw that up too without supervision. It doesn't take much to sand a bit too much off the edges of a neck to get something thats not wide enough to fit all strings and making your neck useless. I did this mistake already and I knew what I was doing, I wasn't totally clueless like some students might be.

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Primal was right, the body designs are limited to tele, strat, and soloist. Standard fender neck joint, although there is a "fender" straight, or scarf joint style headstock. Absolutely no laminations for the neck, although the bodies will most likely be glued prior to the first day.

The reason there is no finish included, is that we are going to push people towards a tung oiled finish, which can be done at home. It costs a massive amount for 3 hours of workshop hire, so add five more weeks for finishing (do YOU think you can lacquer a guitar in only five coats??? no..) and it adds a LOT more to the course cost, plus this is my business (and my source of income) and i need an hourly rate to :D Plus, its a wood working workshop, and there is no spray booth.

So, in the interest of keeping it cheap enough ($1500 AUD, roughly $1000 US), we opted for no finishes. However, if people want to go this way, I will be offering to finish the guitars in lacquer for a pretty reasonable cost ($2-300 AUD)

As for public liability, its all covered. The workshop we are using is the Fremantle School of Fine Furniture, so it falls under their banner. Basically, its a public access workshop, where the public can get access to woodworking tools, machines and experience, to make their own projects. Awesome idea.

No-one can start the course until they have completed a intro to wood machinery, and safety course. There are enough staff to watch and stand near the machinery, and only one machine will be used at a time.

Oh, and for those people who have been PMing me, its being run in Fremantle, W.Australia.

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assuming all standard joinery in removed from the equation, I think you've got plenty of time Rhoads. You could demonstrate how to glue up a body blank, but provide them to the students already made to save time. The same goes for Scarf jointed neck blanks if you decide to use them. That would leave alot more time for explaining technical things such as scale length and neck angle. Plus you wouldn't have a bunch of people sitting around waiting for glue to dry :D

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Scott stole my thunder.. lol He has the same idea I have about making things go faster. It will just make things go by quicker if you eliminated all the slow processes like joining the wood, planing, etc. Just like he suggested, you could show them how, but already have it done for them since your on a time restraint. I think the first Strat we built took a little over a month, but that was just a couple hours a week. So, basically 35 hours should be enough if everything goes smooth. You could test it out with someone first and see if how fast they can do it following your instructions with scrap wood. Then you could draw you out a realistic schedule from that, so that you won't be rushing anyone too much when the classes take place. The part that takes the longest to me is the setup time, neck jigging, fretwork, etc. The wood part is a breeze compared to making the thing actually play first class. Maybe that would be another weekly seminar for that though.. lol

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Yeah, i will definately be supplying all the glued bits as "glued bits" :D

Ive actually been meaning to make like 50 scarf jointed necks, just to have them lying around. Now i have a good excuse.

I might even have to look at cutting the belly and forearm carves also, as i know a lot of people come unstuck there. Would also save a small amount of time.

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There was a guy in the UK who was teaching guitar building in a weekend. Two full days. I can believe it.

For me, the time consuming parts are: Getting all the pieces in one place; and letting the Nitro dry. Having said this, I do not make my own necks. It takes me about 2 hours to do a Tele body, and about 1 hour to install the electronics and put it all together.

BTW: When you say "build a guitar", what do you mean? Solid body or acoustic?

For thoughts on Shop Safety, you might want to read this thread.

Guitar Ed

Confusion still rains o'er me.

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I think that if you have motivated guys for students you might have to pace them to go thru all the 10 sessions, on 2 days 3hr work,( not counting the time it took me to glue up the body balnk), with out templates, I free handed band saw, rout and shape of the body silouette, and carve the top, 3 rs will get the pups cav, neck pocket, control cav rout, and bridge set up., 3 hrs on the neck shaping, etc... I think they will have time to spare!

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