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Hello All,

I’ve played for several years and finally would like to attempt my first guitar.

Its a Les Paul style guitar.  However, I would like to start with some cheaper wood for my first attempt.  Anyone have any idea of what type of wood is a good choice for a first run?  Something that’s cheap but would last for a while?

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The price depends on your whereabouts. Local species often are less expensive and most any wood will do as long as it's of decent quality. Hardwood is preferred, much because of the more consistent grain. Alder, Poplar etc for the body, maple for the neck if you don't want to spend on mahogany. Your local timberyard may be the least expensive choice and if you ask nicely they may help you choose some suitable blanks.

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For the first build a bolt-on neck might be easier than a true LesPaul tenon with shoulders and neck break angles. A Les Paul Junior type if you like the shape, a Strat or Tele type from the other name as well. 

Despite being simple by design the abovementioned models must follow the basic rules of guitar building. That includes precise lining so the strings stay on the neck all the way, right placing of the bridge, routing the neck pocket to suit the height of the bridge, not to mention all the fine tuning involved like adjusting the nut, the bridge, the relief... Plus of course the electrickery. So they're not "simple" in terms of understanding the dimensions of a well playing guitar.

Oh, and welcome to the addiction!

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Poplar was my choice for first build, I paid $28 USD and got enough for 2 guitars so only $14...but I’m painting mine so if you want something prettier worth showing grain maybe not for yours.

Happy building!

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44 minutes ago, Wildman Guitarist said:

Any chance you have a pic of yours?

The whole build is documented here...still ongoing but I’ve just began painting so wrapping up my first build(s) soon

 

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6 hours ago, Wildman Guitarist said:

Hello All,

I’ve played for several years and finally would like to attempt my first guitar.

Its a Les Paul style guitar.  However, I would like to start with some cheaper wood for my first attempt.  Anyone have any idea of what type of wood is a good choice for a first run?  Something that’s cheap but would last for a while?

so... have you assembled a partscaster before at all?  do you have any experience with a router?  these kinds of things can all give you a leg up on the common issues for a first build.  Some folks just jump right in and do fine... up to you to decide if you are that type.  Something you might consider: assemble a partscaster from guitar fetish to get your feet wet.  You can get bodies for $30 sometimes and necks for just as cheap.  Not great stuff... but great stuff to learn on.  If yer diving in to building from scratch: study some videos and even build threads around here like that mentioned above.  afa wood... one thing I'd suggest - as a beginner you might want to snag something big enough to get the whole guitar out of so you can minimise the learning curve (joining wood can be done, just a bit more involved).  guitarwoodexperts has some pre glued up bodies for $40ish.  you can find them on evilbay from time to time too.  look fwd to seeing your progression.

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2 hours ago, mistermikev said:

so... have you assembled a partscaster before at all?  do you have any experience with a router?  these kinds of things can all give you a leg up on the common issues for a first build.  Some folks just jump right in and do fine... up to you to decide if you are that type.  Something you might consider: assemble a partscaster from guitar fetish to get your feet wet.  You can get bodies for $30 sometimes and necks for just as cheap.  Not great stuff... but great stuff to learn on.  If yer diving in to building from scratch: study some videos and even build threads around here like that mentioned above.  afa wood... one thing I'd suggest - as a beginner you might want to snag something big enough to get the whole guitar out of so you can minimise the learning curve (joining wood can be done, just a bit more involved).  guitarwoodexperts has some pre glued up bodies for $40ish.  you can find them on evilbay from time to time too.  look fwd to seeing your progression.

Thank you!  These are the resources I was looking for.  I am a guitarist- a woodworker- very minimal experience.  But, I just have the desire to finally learn how to do this.  I will check out guitar fetish and go from there.

thanks!

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The most popular "first builds" tend to be either a telecaster or a Les Paul junior. Both have slab bodies, and the telecaster is slightly easier in having no neck angle to calculate and a bolt on neck. Having said that, there are no rules. My first build was from scratch and was a telecaster - however I did a hollow bodied "thinline" with lots of carving, that (being a bit of a perfectionist) took me 2 years to make. It actually turned out rather well if I do say so myself, and even won GOTM

If you fancy a bit of woodwork it might be an idea to buy a ready made neck and build yourself a body for it. As long as you get the neck to fit in the pocket snuggly and get the bridge in the right place, there's not much else to mess up - certainly none that the good PG members here couldn't help you fix

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Everything said so far is excellent. I will say though, that while you can go budget on lots of individual things in guitar building, the process of guitar building isn't really an economical one. You will end up purchasing tools and materials that will probably put you well inside the price of a guitar. Much depends on what you have on hand already, and the processes of building you use. 

Somebody was in my shop and asked how much money I had in my build, and I did a quick mental tour of "well, the bridge was this much, the wood was this, I had to get this . . . . ", until I was thinking OHCRAP. 😬

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Thanks all- very helpful.

Another question- I did check out guitar fetish site, and saw the premade bodies and the necks.  I’m not sure how to tell what neck will fit with what Body?  I know strat style and lo are different and I know it makes a difference with the Floyd rose bridge, what’s the best rule of thumb in matching a premade body with a premade neck sold separately?

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27 minutes ago, Wildman Guitarist said:

what’s the best rule of thumb in matching a premade body with a premade neck sold separately

Any good luck charm will do.

If there's good blueprints of both giving the exact measures you can print them in real size and lay on top of each other. Comparing photos is the next best option. Of course if they're of same brand they should be compatible but if they're from different makers Lady Luck is your best friend.

Matching separately sold necks and bodies requires that the vendor really knows his stuff. Let's take a Strat as an example. I have one original Fender neck to which I made the body and I have a cheap copy. Swapping the necks is out of question since the scale lengths don't match. If you get a kit, choose one where you can move the location of the bridge to suit the scale length.

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Ok, so took the first step today and purchased some Poplar wood for the first build.  This was the only type available in my area.

I have 4 pieces  (18 inches long x 11 inches wide all together).  An inch thick was the only option available.   The width is shorter than usual- but this is mostly a project for learning- is that width a problem?  Should I glue more?

Any way I’m attempting to glue all four pieces together for the body.  Anything I need to do before gluing?  Just regular wood glue?! (I apologize again- as I am really venturing into an area I know little about.

 

As usual, any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

 

thanks!

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Edited by Wildman Guitarist
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The planks are a tad on the short side which means it's plenty for a dual cutaway LP Junior, well enough for a single cutaway LP Junior or Tele but barely enough for a Strat. Accuracy in gluing is the key here.

Another thing to consider is the look of the wood. A two piece top is a valid option even without being bookmatched, just choose and position the adjacent pieces so that the seam isn't too obvious. Laying sapwood to sapwood in the seam is ok, as is heartwood to heartwood. The one with the knots in the center looks like it's from somewhere in the middle of the log which makes it a poor match with any of the other three. If I see right the foremost and the third on the upper picture both have a pale stripe of sapwood so those two might match best regarding continuity for a nice looking top. Another thing is to look at the ends, symmetrical growth rings not only look good, they also add to stability or at least predictability of potential warping. For a four piece body I'd also lay the top and bottom opposite to each other. See sketch....

As for glue, TiteBond Original is a good choice as it doesn't shrink or swell and is hard and solid when dry. The regular carpenter's or school glues work well with wood but can be "plasticky" and flexible when dry which will dampen the sound to a degree. Polyurethane glues like Gorilla create much foam when drying, requiring heavier clamping. The join can also break due to a shock like if you accidentally drop the glued piece - even after years!

As for gluing order, I'd glue the flat faces first as planing the the narrow edges is much easier than leveling a wide board.

image.png.9a56195d3cf224c8fa409df7c161dc01.png

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4 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

The planks are a tad on the short side which means it's plenty for a dual cutaway LP Junior, well enough for a single cutaway LP Junior or Tele but barely enough for a Strat. Accuracy in gluing is the key here.

Another thing to consider is the look of the wood. A two piece top is a valid option even without being bookmatched, just choose and position the adjacent pieces so that the seam isn't too obvious. Laying sapwood to sapwood in the seam is ok, as is heartwood to heartwood. The one with the knots in the center looks like it's from somewhere in the middle of the log which makes it a poor match with any of the other three. If I see right the foremost and the third on the upper picture both have a pale stripe of sapwood so those two might match best regarding continuity for a nice looking top. Another thing is to look at the ends, symmetrical growth rings not only look good, they also add to stability or at least predictability of potential warping. For a four piece body I'd also lay the top and bottom opposite to each other. See sketch....

As for glue, TiteBond Original is a good choice as it doesn't shrink or swell and is hard and solid when dry. The regular carpenter's or school glues work well with wood but can be "plasticky" and flexible when dry which will dampen the sound to a degree. Polyurethane glues like Gorilla create much foam when drying, requiring heavier clamping. The join can also break due to a shock like if you accidentally drop the glued piece - even after years!

As for gluing order, I'd glue the flat faces first as planing the the narrow edges is much easier than leveling a wide board.

image.png.9a56195d3cf224c8fa409df7c161dc01.png

Wow!  Thank you so much, VERY helpful.

A couple of clarifying questions....

1.  Regarding the body side, I may go for the LP Jr.  Although, I was looking at the Bo Diddly rectangle option- as that fits the size as well.  Any issue with the rectangle option?

2.  You mentioned to glue the flat pieces together first.  What do I need to do- if anything to prepare for gluing?  When does planing/sanding come into the picture?

 

thanks again!

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The shape is up to you, if you prefer a Bo Diddley type rectangle then rectangular shall it be. The only issue with a rectangle is the ergonomics. There's no curves to hold her on your lap if you're sitting and your forearm may not rest nicely on the corner. The shape doesn't affect the sound, at least not significantly.

For gluing the flat pieces, make sure they're really flat. Any cupping should be leveled. If you can close a gap with two fingers, it's small enough not to cause any major issues even if you just clamp it. You didn't mention the tools you have, anyhow there's plenty of options for leveling. The basic tool is a longish hand plane. A planer-thicknesser or sanding thicknesser is also good if you have one. You can also make a sled for your router to run along a pair of leveled rails of sorts. Or you can take a leveling beam of sorts and run that on similar rails - obviously that is for very minor work.

 

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Or if you have a bit more time and a lack of machinery, glue several sheets of sandpaper to a thick sheet of MDF to make a sanding table. Cover your surface with pencil marks, then sand them all away again - it should be flat then, and your "bingo wings" will be nicely toned :D

Use a fairly course grit - 80 would probably do, or you'll be there all year 

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Understood, thanks.

that brings me to my next question.  When and how should I sand using poplar?  I read somewhere that prepping for paint is different than stain?

Is it best to sand everything now at the beginning?  When do I know I’m done sanding?

Regarding tools, I have a jigsaw, circular saw, electric sander (drill tip).  Though I’m not how good the sander is, may end up sanding by hand. (Friend that has tools isn’t available with this Covid 19 going on- ironically it’s the best time to do this project as my boys and I have time on our hands...

 

thanks again for all your help!

Edited by Wildman Guitarist
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20 hours ago, Wildman Guitarist said:

Ok, so took the first step today and purchased some Poplar wood for the first build.  This was the only type available in my area.

I have 4 pieces  (18 inches long x 11 inches wide all together).  An inch thick was the only option available.   The width is shorter than usual- but this is mostly a project for learning- is that width a problem?  Should I glue more?

Any way I’m attempting to glue all four pieces together for the body.  Anything I need to do before gluing?  Just regular wood glue?! (I apologize again- as I am really venturing into an area I know little about.

 

As usual, any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

 

thanks!

just one suggestion - I don't thin anyone mentioned (if so - sorry)... might want to use a couple screws or nails or what not to keep the slip sliding to a min while you glue up.  also on that poplar... usually the edges are tore up or rounded from the store... might want to trim them with a straight edge b4 glue up to get a clean joint.  also... if it were me... I'd try to grain match them as much as possible and then do a frontside/backside cut of each set of two to get a perfect seam.  just some thoughts.

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