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Hello all,

I'm a professional furniture maker, have been for about 10 years. been playing for 20. woke up the other day and did a facepalm at the fact that i've never thought to build my own. I've been looking around this site for a couple weeks, but am having a hard time finding a comprehensive basic guide. Seems like a lot of the more basic tutorials are down/not hosted anymore on their respective sites. I'm sure this info is on here somewhere, but I'm having a hard time finding it. What is a good book to get a full understanding of building a guitar from scratch? I have a CNC in my shop and will probably use that to cut bodies, cavities, fret slots, etc., But I would like to get a good, cover-to-cover understanding of building a guitar from start to finish before I start. I suppose my main questions at this point are determining neck angle and fret, bridge, and pickup placement. as well as tonal characteristics of woods beyond mahogany and maple.

Thanks, and sorry for the noob question.

Cheers.

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Not a replacement for that book, but some further reading if you want it:

If you're looking for something other than standard scale, one of these'll help w/ fret & bridge position:

http://www.ekips.org/tools/guitar/fretfind2d/

http://www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator

Neal Moser has a great post on neck angle (I'm not sure if you have to log into his forum to see that):

http://mcs.acidpit.org/showthread.php?31-Building-a-neck-thru-guitar

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Good to have a fellow woodworker onboard! I'm certainly not a professional of 20yrs experience however I can fully understand the differences between your specific angle and that of a luthier.

I think that unless your design has very exacting needs or you can save time/risk by using the CNC, I wouldn't bother. That said, a CNC is a very quick method of producing MDF (or similar) templates for routing....

Since you use CNC however, I would presume that you are more CAD-oriented in terms of your laying out? Here is an example of a modified Gibson Firebird I drew up a while back. The most important thing to figure out is the neck geometry....if you are using a tall bridge such as a Tune-O-Matic then the neck needs a slight upward tilt of about 1,0-1,5°. Les Pauls and other carved top instruments are a bit more complex than this but we won't get to that unless we really have to....!

firebird_iv_.jpg

What instrument(s) do you play at the moment and what is the basic type of instrument you are aiming to build? The book you ordered is a great primer and one I would recommend to anyone also.

Are you more of a hand tool user by preference or a machinist? This should help flesh out the most appropriate working methods....

Welcome onboard!

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Hey there, thanks! well, I didn't mean to say 20, if i did. more like a little over 10 on the pro woodworking. but yeah, making furniture and building guitars have some very different "angles", to be sure. ;)

as far as the CNC goes, i definitely think I'll build the first one or two completely by hand, just to familiarize myself with it, and then integrate the CNC afterwards. I definitely plan on using CNC to layout the fret slots for accuracy. I do use CAD to design and do layouts, most of the time. I'm pretty excited to get into that book and hopefully get an understanding of neck angles and the like.

as far as "handtools or machinist", I'd say for most of my time as a woodworker, i've always been a jigs and machines kind of guy, but lately, I've been getting more into hand tool methods. I've done a lot of really complex projects over the years where I designed everything so that it could be cut on a CNC and put together with minimal assembly work. also Lots of veneering and routering. lots of table saw and router jigs. but the last year or so, I've done a lot more hand made solid wood furniture. hand cut joinery, hand planing and scrapers instead of orbital sanders, etc. I'm still interested in both, and will try both methods.

as far as what I play, I have an early 70's SG. I've had many many others over the years, including baritones and 7-strings, but I usually end up back at SG's or Flying V's, even though I like longer scale guitars. I have an order in for a custom Brian Monty semi-hollow at the moment. as far as what I want to build, the guitar I really want to make for myself is a 26.5 scale modified SG body (larger than the standard body, possibly slightly more assymetrical, but not like a Viper) with direct mounted pups, no pickguard, most likely one humbucker in the bridge position, mahogany set neck or neckthrough with a darker wood cap on the body. a buddy really wants a slightly modified Brian May style.

thanks for the welcome, suggestions are much appreciated.

Edited by spaced_ghost
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been going over the book this weekend. very helpful, thanks for the Title, guys. going to start on a first guitar tomorrow, a test build, if you will. Have tons of poplar in the shop, so I'm going to go with that and do one solid run through before I spring for tonewoods. will be starting the second guitar shortly afterwards.

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Poplar can make fine instruments! I personally despise the term "tone wood" since construction quality often makes cheaper non-"tone woods" blow expensive stuff out of the water. It implies grailness in woods which is silly as the craftsman's hand is far more instrumental (joke not intended but accepted).

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oh, i know. I don't think i've ever played a poplar guitar myself, but i have heard that it makes for nice sounding guitars. I just mean, coming from a fine furniture background, poplar is basically scrap wood that you use for the cheap or unseen parts. like hidden structural stuff where you need to save cost and no one will ever see it. mostly due to its softness and green color and lack of interesting grain. I have huge piles of poplar around my shop, and could make several poplar guitars right now without spending a penny other than for hardware. I'm sure if I paint it a solid color it will be fine. I just don't want to go spend several hundred dollars on wood for my first guitar when i have plenty of poplar sitting around. I also have a bit of walnut and a small amount of mahogany, so maybe I'll throw a cap on the body. in the shop this morning, going to plane and glue up the body, and try and find something I can use for the neck. guessing poplar isn't so good for necks?

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Oh totally not Wes. I didn't mean to imply that it was....! hahaha

It is still good for practice getting neck shaping and other operations down pat if you don't care much about ending up with a rubber neck! It does make for a lightweight body wood though.

Oak is not a traditional instrument wood however many people have had good results with it, especially in acoustic back and sides. Definitely a left of centre material. Brian May's Red Special has a large Oak block in the centre with an Oak fingerboard....not sure how different red Oak (the kind with wide open grain you can drive trucks through) is to European/White Oak in practice. I've only used the latter.

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yeah, not the whole thing. just a strip or two in a laminate neck.

Sure,why not.I guess I should get used to the idea of oak,poplar,pine,etc considering how scarce "proper" hardwoods are becoming...either that or I should stock up on a lifetime worth of mahogany,walnut,ebony,maple,etc while it is available.

Personally I prefer mahoganies and maples over just about anything...but I have always been a sucker for a nice piece of figured random wood like Movingue,Bubinga,what have you.

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