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Some Questions Before Planning For A First Build

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Hello everyone! As the title says, I´m planning a first build. I admit I still need a lot of learning and reading, but I´m on my way. I understand that I´m still some time away from a first build, but I´ve been reading a lot in the forum and have made some decisions based on that.

1.- Get Mr. Hiscock´s book - before anything else!

2.- Make a clean, thorough design and templates

3.- Use already-made neck (still unsure if bolt-on or neck-thru, as seen on Stew Mac)

4.- It will be shaped on the Gibson Nighthawk model (pickup configuration), and as of last night, I´m seriously toying with the idea of a Zemaitis-kind of aluminium top.

5.- Flat top

6.- I´d like to use local tonewoods (I live en Central Mexico). Although I´ve found luthiers here, they make only nylon stringed acoustics. I don´t know what kind of wood could serve (I was hoping for a mahogany type), also, I haven´t found info on how to choose tonewoods. Maybe I´d have to get a ready-made blank.

7.- From what I´ve read here, it would be best to buy my hardware and electronics beorehand, so after sorting some priorities out, I will do that...

8.- Tru-oil finish with faux binding, probably sides and back tinted with a walnut stain.

9.- Mini hb on the neck, single coil in the middle, standard humbucker on the bridge. I like the Les Paul´s three way switch and placement, and I´m thinking to use concentric pots for each pickup, an on-off switch for the middle (so I can use it as a Paul, or add the middle in the mix), and probably a kill switch.

10.- Tummy cut

11.- Undecided if I want to do a top or rear routing for the controls and hardware. (It seems to me that it would be a good idea to do it from the top and use a pickguard to cover it all up. I´ve thought about making a wooden pickguard, a plastic one, a leather one, etc...That´s why I´m thinking of an aluminum one, kind of like the Metal Top Zemaitis models. I think that way I could do the routing, even screw up, do all the electronics on the pickguard, and then mount it.)

After doing all my reading, I will certainly plan out everything down to the detail (which means I´m going to make mistakes anyway, but there´s the challenge, hehe). I should mention I have no skills whatsoever, but I´ve been thinking about this almost everyday for nearly four months.

I think that some of these ideas can help me get started with the process, as well as shooting for an easy(!) first build. I realize it´s not easy, but I am trying to get to a fairly simple enough build so I can learn some things and not get frustrated.

I´ve read many builds threads because it´s great fun to learn from everything said here. Every time I see something I like, I get all excited and daydream for quite a while. And now I start this thread because I´d like more opinions, criticisms, and whatever comes to your mind.

Please, I don´t want to be snotty, offensive or anything like that. I am probably the most underqualified to give an opinion, but I´d love some on your input on this one...I did some research on the Zemaitis guitars and they are very well regarded. I think they look real classy with those engraved duraluminum tops, but everything else...well, IMO they look easy to make! I know, probably I´m missing something there, but...It´s a flat top, really easy natural finishing, 25" scale, pretty simple inlays...I don´t want to step on anyone here, I know this man was a very well regarded luthier. Simply put, what am I missing?? I´d like to know more, because somehow now I have the idea to attempt something similar. To my untrained eye, it seems very doable for a newbie. Will somenone show me the error of my ways?

If there are other guys in this forum from Mexico, I´d love to know how or where they get the wood, supplies, and anything and everything you guys in general would like to share.

Peace everyone.

Edited by MexNoob
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..I don´t want to step on anyone here, I know this man was a very well regarded luthier. Simply put, what am I missing?? I´d like to know more, because somehow now I have the idea to attempt something similar. To my untrained eye, it seems very doable for a newbie. Will somenone show me the error of my ways?

I think this is something you'll find out as you proceed with the build. And I think it's helpful to NOT expect too much from your first build. It's a learning experience, and it all depends on you how steep that is. The main thing that keeps me building is because, really, it's a blast...I really enjoy the whole process, from the dreaming to the building (and it's frustrations) to the finishing...each time I learn a little more, each time I get closer to what I consider a 'real' guitar.

I think one of the big differences between me and a true luthier (apart from his innate talent) is speed --- it takes me months to finish a guitar, and even then, there are plenty of errors along the way. A true luthier will turn out a far superior guitar in far short of time. Why? Experience. Training. Skills. Tools.

But given patience, care and determination, there's no reason why you won't succeed --and even if it's not on this guitar, maybe it'll be on the next one.

See, that's part of this. There WILL be a next one. It's a drug. So one suggestion I'd have is to go easy on yourself for your first guitar, work with an existing design (that you like, of course), something relatively straightforward. It'll make the next one all the more pleasurable to build.

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Thanks Mickguard, for taking the time to reply. I am aware of the challenge, the learning curve and more. I know what you mean by not expecting much on the first build. I am fully aware, as sometimes I have seen comments from very good builders here getting frustrated or close to it. Actually, finding this forum is the main reason I started thinking about building, even though I have no skills. I think that ANYTHING I can make will be an accomplishment and hopefully give me the energy to keep learning. What do you mean by a design which is relatively straightforward? I know that I strive to build something along the lines of the models I mentioned above, sonically and visually.

And, well, I am almost sure there will be next ones, lol. Funny, haven´t picked up anything yet and ideas are jumping as rabbits under the moonlight. If someone would like to give me more input on the other things I wrote about on the first comment, I´d be very grateful. Tx

Edited by MexNoob
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Heh....that's what happened to me...I stumbled across this forum simply looking for a little bit of information about cigar box guitars...next thing I know, I started dreaming of building my own. I had no skills at all --could barely use a screwdriver. But I figured what the hell, I'll give it a go...

By straightforward, I mean, a design that already exists, that's easy to get or make templates for, that uses standard parts, especially the neck. It just takes a lot of variables out of the equation.

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Welcome aboard. You seem to have a pretty good head on your shoulders and a good idea where you are headed. After looking a little at the Zemaitis guitars, it is a pretty straight forward Les Paul style shape. So that part is not too hard. If you ware sticking with a flat top, that makes it even easier. The aluminum top is an easy and hard part at the same time. If you want to just slap a piece of aluminum or diamond plate or carbon fiber on the top, that is easy since his are only screwed on. If you want the nicely engraved top, that is the hard part. That is going to take a lot of time and practice.

I would say to go with a design that you like that is pretty straight forward (like the Les Paul shape) and work with that to get the basics down. In the down time until your second or even third build, learn and practice the engraving. If you can find some one that can do the engraving for you, then I would say go for your original idea from the start. But just so you know, learning to engrave like that takes years, and one slip can ruin and entire piece.

But good luck and have fun with it. My first build came out okay and is playable and is much nicer that my Squier Strat, but now where near where I had envisioned. I started out just where you are. I had very basic wood working knowledge. I knew how to use a drill and router, and that will get you pretty far along. I work in engineering, so I knew how important tolerances were. But now on my second and third builds I am learning how to use a lot of hand tools and staying away from the power tools more so. It is absolutely an addiction. Enjoy it. :D

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You seem to have the right attitude about starting to build.

Just take your time, and enjoy the ride.

I think that you already understand that it takes many builds to make a completely playable guitar, so if you can't afford it don't over-invest into expensive parts for your first build.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing your builds!

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Thanks guys for your comments. Rest assured, as high as my expectations are, at the same time I know it takes PRACTICE. What I mean is, I´ve designed something in my mind which I like and I´ll strive to get there, but I think I´ve come up with a simpler design based on the decisions posted on my first message, which will help me learn a few basics and get some practice under the belt.

I knwo many people have seen the thread and I thank them and those who replied with their comments. The interaction in this forum is one of the biggest reasons I decided to become a member and be part of this hobby/lifestyle.

I´m a long way yet from even deciding which wood to use, but I´m already enjoying the process of learning, researching, designing and making decisions, which I believe is part of the building as well. This already is so much fun!

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