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hey guys!

im new at this but i've been wanting to do this kind of thing for a long time but i have some questions.

anyways, here are my plans. i have been planning on buying old guitars from pawnshops, junkyards, or cragislist for cheap and restoring them to top-notch quality condition and selling them for as a couple grand. my old music teacher knew a guy who did the same thing which inspired me to do it. after a few guitars for practice and profit, im planning on building my own completely from scratch tailored to my needs. i've got a book by Martin Oakham called Build Your Own Electric guitar which seems pretty good and ive been reading through it. but the only problem is that i don't know how the guitars are supposed to turn out. i basically, don't know what a truly great guitar is. i know that i want them to feel smooth and sound thick and have bite while still being able to sound clean, but i have no idea how to do that and how to make absolute sure that it is good.

could you help me guys? any help will do!

Edited by sirhagorshack
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Well, to me you've got 2 things going on here; restoration and scratch building. One is basically building from parts, the other involves real woodworking.

To learn what makes a guitar SOUND great, you really have to become a student of music. Not in the formal sense, but in terms of listening to good guitar songs classic and modern, being able to have the ear to pick out the guitar parts and tell how they are different from each other in tone and attack, then do some digging to find out what kind of instruments were used, what kinds of wood they were made of, what kinds of pickups and amps/effects were used to get those sounds. Pretty soon, you really should be able to hear a song and tell when a Les Paul, Strat or Tele was being used...same can go for basses too (ie it is sometimes easy to pick out a Rickenbacker from a Fender Jazz from a Stingray).

Learning what makes a guitar PLAY great is all about learning how to do a proper setup (neck, fretwork, bridge, nut, pickup height), then after that a lot of it is personal preference of the player and his playing style. For example, blues guys will often use heavy gauge strings and slash the hell out of the guitar, requiring high action...shredders can have a very light picking style and get away with much lower action. Neck thickness and neck back contour can also be pretty personal choices depending on the level of the player.

Restoration is also about being able to refinish a guitar...so dig into the kind of wood prep that is required for a good finish (finish sanding, grain filling & primers and their compatibilities with different kinds of clear coat). Do your homework on the various oil finishes, HVLP spray systems, different kinds of clear finish materials, how to dye wood, how to mix and shoot colors and transparent finishes, bursts, etc. Then learn how to buff out to a mirror (and which finishes will allow you to do so...and why).

Then you're pretty much ready to dive in, and practicing on cheap foreign import guitars often found at pawn shops is a good place to start (though thinking you can flip them for profit is a pipe dream....). Doing this well requires an investment in a certain amount of tools and equipment; setup tools, finish sanding tools, air compressor, spray guns, buffing equipment.

Restore guitars for yourself, for your own use and satisfaction...trying to sell anything before you are ready is a great way to ruin your rep before you even get out of the gate.

Scratch building is a whole 'nuther level....knowing what kinds of wood and finish go into classic guitars and how that contributes to tone. Being able to select instrument grade lumber from run-of-the-mill. Learning how to use a CAD program to draw your own designs and learning all the types of measurements and planning necessary for a scratch build. Milling lumber to spec, routing, fretboard slotting, drilling, clamping, which glues to use when, prepping for finish, etc. And a whole 'nuther set of tools larger and more expensive than setup-finishing tools.

In all of this, you can read books and watch DVDs all day (and there are enough out there to spend your life doing just that....), and the Search function here is great....but everywhere above where I say "learn" you can substitute "learn by doing". You want to read up so you know basically what to expect, but then plunge in and go do it!

Good luck! :D

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You're being too nice.

Sirhagor, if you're hoping that you've found a way to make a quick buck, forget about it. I mean, there might be a market for this kind of thing, but I really can't see how.

There are all kinds of issues involved here--first off, you'd have to ensure yourself a supply of cheaply bought, beat-up guitars that people will actually be willing to pay thousands for in restored condition. There aren't a hell of a lot of those out there. Most vintage freaks only want guitars with all-original hardware, parts, paint, etc. And that stuff is all really expensive.

Second, you'd have to convince non-vintage freaks that your restored secondhand guitars are somehow better than the brand new guitar they can buy for a fraction of the price in any music store.

But your dream of building your own guitars is a good one--I'd suggest that you just start out there. Depending on your skill set, amount of patience, commitment, etc., you'll get there sooner or later. And maybe one day you might even be good enough to sell your guitars.

On the other hand, building up your skills in guitar repair and setups can provide you with an actual career if you get good at it. Not a bad thing, if you love guitars.

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What Mick said.

This said, the biggest bucks to be made in guitar land are probably those made by good, successful, talented repairpeople. Folks who repair instruments for people, not those who buy instruments to fix up and then sell again. Like Mick said, if you're looking to make a living, your best bet is to look elsewhere.

You also bring up an important issue yourself: if you don't know what a truly great guitar feels and plays like, how do you expect to build one?

Step 1: buy some books (Dan Erlewine's stuff, various stuff at StewMac) about setting up a guitar. Doing fretwork, great setups, understanding action, making nuts, etc. Unless you can nail fretwork (it's not hard to match, say, Gibson's factory fret jobs, but that's hardly setting the bar very high), get that intonation and playability spot on, you're just making and/or restoring what Rick Turner calls 'Guitar-Like Objects', rather than guitars. Which is fine if you want to sell to collectors who want a shiny thing on their wall, but musicians will want something else. Remember that most guitars are mass produced, with little value, and finding cheapies that will clean up well is a task in and of itself. Want feedback on what makes a great guitar? Go talk to some touring/gigging musicians in your area. Have them play your guitars/guitars you set up, and ask them for their honest feedback. Personally, I find great repairwork is a good bit harder than building a great guitar from scratch, and requires a very different set of skills.

Next: a great finish requires an investment in materials (guns, compressors, a certified spray booth with proper safety equipment) and then lots of practice if you want to match what the best of the big boys (Taylor, PRS) are putting out these days. If you can't match it, you're not going to be able to sell the guitar for a few grand. Relicing is even more difficult to do authentically, in a sense.

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Mick has it right on the money.A couple of grand will buy anyone a top knotch brand new guitar,or a top knotch semi-custom shop,or an original brand new les paul or explorer...I just don't see this as anything but wishful thinking.I have bought close to 50 guitars over the last 10 years,but I have never seen a "restored" pawn shop guitar I would pay more than $200 for...besides which..pawn shops now all have internet,and ask about 90% of the "new" price for the guitar they have.you would have better luck hitting garage sales and classified adds(local ones)...and I doubt that would help either.

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Similar to my naive way of thinking in my late teens. But at least I was already fairly good at setup, fret-work, etc.

I could never find the magical place that sells "diamond in the rough" *desirable* instruments at wholesale prices. (Oh, I can imagine a stack of 80's crackle finish metal shred gits sitting in some warehouse, and they all got warped necks, etc, but don't see how you can buy, restore, resell and make profit)

What I know now, is a player just won't invest substantial American repair labor rates into a guitar, unless it's a guitar they already like.

I'm curious about the "junkyard". What is that exactly ? That really conjures up fantasy images of some huge warehouse full of every kind of guitar part. All forgotten about. All really dusty, but in good shape. Somehow rent or property taxes for the warhouse was never an issue, so the stuff could just sit there while the owner of the stuff was too busy traveling the world.

Ok, then reality kicks in, and the closest thing that comes up is a few starter korean or chinese plywood strats sitting in the back room of a music store for years because the necks were twisted all to hell, maybe fret-boards came a little unglued, bridge cavity routed too far to one side, etc etc. They'll eventually offer them for $20.00 each, but they need $250.00 in repair to be useable. Same guitar without issues sells new for $80 to $150.

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ok then.

i'll forget about the restoring part. the only reason why i wanted to do that was to get money sooner to buy everything i need to make an uber-custom-guitar for myself. i guess the real reason why i posted this was to see if this was a realistic goal even though i had a feeling it was too good to be true. anyways, i know what i want my guitar to be now so now i just need to know how much it will cost to get good parts, to get even betterparts, and to get really good parts.

i'll just get myself a job and save up to build from scratch. i appreciate your feedback by the way even though it wasn't what i was hoping for. it's good for me, you know?

Edited by sirhagorshack
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It's just differnet these days. Everyone is more educated. I mean years ago, vintage guitar dealers would have people in the palm of their hand on a regular basis. The guy who was left the old Gibson by his uncle, didn't have many options about finding out the maximum value of what he had. What would often catch their eye is the ads in the paper " I buy old guitars. top dollar paid". Or an ad like that in the yellow pages.

Then along came the "antique roadshow" tv show, where you would see sometimes what old guitars are worth.

Then the internet. Now it was just as easy to find out the real value, as it had used to be to call that "we buy guitars" phone ad number. And of course all the buyers and sellers now had direct contact. Middle man was quite screwed at this point.

Pre 1990s : " I guess we could put Dad's Fender in the garage sale"

Post 90's " There's these internet message boards. We should ask what to do with Dad's old Fender".

It could still pay off, to make garage sale rounds near your home. maybe find a decent guitar you could make a $50 to $100 profit without doing anything to it. Maybe find some deals on tools too (more likely than finding a guitar).

Also the fact that cheapo guitars of the 50's 60's that could be had cheap in the 80's, is different than the cheapo guitars of the 80's 90's that can now be found cheap (sometimes). The former will always be seen more as desirable classics. The Indonesian, Chinese cheapos will never be seen the same way, even in 25 years.

Also, if you high performance tweak a guitar, you are expecting a buyer to pay for that extra work, but he might still be too green to appreciate that kind of unseen work, or might prefer a very different set-up that will throw some of your work off (he might use different string gauges, tune the instrument differently, etc.)

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