Make Your Own Wooden Electric Guitar With Basic Woodwork Tools

Do you love to play the guitar? Or is your son in a garage rock band? Do you have a friend that really loves to play on the six chords and his birthday is coming up? Well I have for you the best present you can give him. A homemade wooden electric guitar. Sounds awesome, right. The best part is, that you can design  it however you want and you can make a unique model, that no one else has.

The first part this project, as it is for most projects is to hand pick the wood you are going to use. Most commonly for guitars is used walnut, mahogany, swamp ash or alder. I personally prefer mahogany, but in this case I recommend you to use swamp ash, because of its lightweight. You will need two pieces of  8/4  stock for a body of at least 21’’x7 ½ ‘’ finished dimensions.

For the neck you are going to need about 36’’x5’’x4/4 and the finished thickness of the neck blank should be 21mm. I suggest the neck to be from hard maple or mahogany. You can also use walnut. Whatever you choose be sure it is free of knots.

For the fingerboard I recommend rosewood or ebony. This part is very tricky, so for this first project I recommend you to buy a pre-slotted and radiused fingerboard. The spacing of the frets is very important for the guitar to work properly, and right now we don’t have the time to go into specifics. If you know your music, and you are sure you can do it right, you are free to try it out.

Start by supplying yourself with everything you need. Plan ahead and buy all the hardware you are going to need before you go to the store. This will save you time and additional journeys to the hardware store. The good thing about this guitar is that it’s made only with basic woodworking tools, so probably you have them already in your shed. You will do most of the work with your router, so if you have one table router, than you are in luck. Handhold one will also do the trick, but it will be harder.

Here is a short list of the supplies you’ll need:

Plunge router and router bits

Drill and drill bits

Jig Saw

Belt/Orbital/Mouse sander

Dremmel tool

Drill press (optional)

Clamps

Soldering Iron and Solder

Flux and Wire

For the electronics you will also need:

Premade fingerboard for the neck

Bridge

String Ferrules

Tuners

Screws

Ferrules

Pickups

Pickup Rings

Plastic

Control Knobs

Potometers

Capacitors

Input Jack

Control switch

Your true work starts with the templates. Make a master body and neck template from ¾’’ MDF. The length of the neck should be about 24.5’’, but the tricky part here is the wide. At the nut the width is 1.75’’ and 2 5/16’’ at the heel. The distance between the end of the neck and the nut is 18.25’’.

The body should be about 18’’ long and 13’’ at its widest point. The rest of the design is up to you and your imagination. Keep in mind that you are doing an electric guitar, so its shape won’t affect the tones as it would on an acoustic guitar.

After cutting the MDF templates out on the bandsaw, use the spindle sander to clean up the body and headstock profile. For a perfectly straight neck edges, which are pretty important, take a flush trim template bit in the table router. After you’re done with both edges, use the disc sander to clean the neck template up. Take your time with making the templates perfect, because they are how your guitar is going to look.

Your next step is to draw central lines on both the neck and body templates. Take a ¼’’ brad point and drill some index holes on the templates. They shouldn’t be random though. On the body template you need just two index holes – both of them are on the centerline, but be sure to put them in the neck pocket and bridge pickup cavity, so they will be hidden afterwards. Those index holes are needed, so you can pin the templates on the wood you are going to use.

The neck needs three index holes. One should be on the headstock near the upper edge on the center. Another one should be positioned about 2’’ in from the heel end. This one should not be on the center line. Put a mirrored index hole on the other side just about 2’’ from the nut.

Now when you are making an electrical guitar you will need a bridge and a neck pickups so you have to curve them in the wood. But your index holes on the template are supposed to be exactly where the cavities are, because you don’t want to have holes on your guitar’s body. So what you need to do is take a 21’’x4’’ piece of clear acrylic, draw a centerline on it and make it match the template’s. Cut out the neck pickup cavities 3,5’’ from the top of the guitar body, and the bridge pickup must be 2,5’’ apart from the first one.

The Neck Pocket is the tricky part here. You can do it either with a mallet and a chisel or with the router. I prefer the router, because it’s more precise and faster. For the neck pocket you will want to take ¼’’ bit. This time it’s best to use the hand-held router. To know exactly how deep you need to curve, measure the thickness of the heel of the neck. You need to measure the height of the bridge and add about 1/8’’. After you have the measurements subtract the height of the bridge from the overall thickness of the neck and you will have a pretty accurate knowledge how deep your cavity should be.

You should take your time with the neck pocket and be very careful once you start routing it. You don’t want to make it too big, because there will be gaps and this will ruin your guitar. Just to be sure, rout a little at a time and measure each time. When the neck fits properly rout just a tiny bit more, because there will be paint and that will make the hole to shrink a bit.

The same instructions go for the Pickup cavities. Measure them twice before you start your work. After you calculated how deep the cavity should be, place the acrylic pickup template and place it on the body. Be very careful to place it right in the middle, so the cavities would be at the right place. Use the ¼’’ bit for these cavities as well.

The Control Cavity is also a very, very important part of the job. Take a piece of plastic that will become the cover of the control cavity, and using a jigsaw cut a previously traced pattern. You should use a fine tooth blade so that there won’t be any chipped edges on the plastic. Turn the guitar body and on its back trace the plastic template you’ve just made. There you are going to cut off this cavity. Be sure to leave a ¼’’ along the side where you are going to put the screws that will secure the control plate. Once more you should be very careful when you rout this cavity. One mistake and the whole project can be busted. You should stop curving when you are about ¼’’ away from the other side. Be very careful not to cut the whole way through. If you want you can make a wooden cover. Just take the plastic template and cut a thin wooden panel cover.

Your next step is drilling the holes for the neck, pickup ring, bridge, string furreles, the control panel and all other holes you will need on your guitar body. Needless to say this is a very precise job and you should take your time with it. The most important thing here is to make sure you use the right bit size for the drill. A good strategy is to drill with a smaller bit than your screws and once you see they don’t fit, use the next one. Also you should be very concerned with the depth of the drill.

Be very careful when you drill the holes for the cables that will connect your control panel, pickups and the input jack. Start with the pickup rings. It is a good idea to assemble them first and drop them in the cavities. They shouldn’t be crooked so be careful when you line them up. Most importantly, before you start, check if the scale length is correct and is lined up with the neck as well.

When you drill the control holes, be sure to make them in the right spot. For that purpose make a small marking where they should appear. To make the jack hole use a ¾’’ drill and connect it with the control cavity. After you are done with all the holes, you will need to test fit all parts before you get to the painting.

THE NECK

While your body is drying up it’s time to get started with the neck. It needs to be 21mm thick. The width and length may vary depending on your design. Center your neck template on the wood and clamp it. Be sure it is centered or you will waste a perfectly fine piece of wood. Begin the carving of the wood by making your heel and headstock transitions. After you are done start with the shaft. It should be 14 to 15mm thick at the first fret and around 18mm at the 12 fret.

The Tuner holes are essential part of the work, so don’t forget them. They are usually three on each side on the headstock. The E string tuner should be 1 ¾ ‘’ from the center, the next ones are 1 ¼’’ inch apart from the center and the top once are 1’’ from the center.  Use the 1/64’’ brad point bit to drill the holes. Drill till you almost go through the other side, and at the end turn the neck around and drill from its backside. This way you will prevent chipping.

For this project, as I already told you, we will use a ready finger board, so all you have to do is glue the fingerboard on the neck.

It’s time to scallop the headstock and give it a more presentable look. Saw the headstock to 16mm. just to take the top few mm of the headstock. It is crucial to stop the sawing once you get to the E-string toner hole. Back out very carefully without damaging the headstock. After you are done take the neck to the stationary belt sander to remove all marks from the bandsaw. This will create a scallop which should begin right from the nut’s edge. Be very careful not to sand too much. There should still be a 3 1/6’’ flat space, where the nut will lay. The final thickness of the headstock should be 15mm.

The stationary belt sander will come in handy when you are making an angle at the bottom of the heel. The neck of the guitar must be 4 degrees from the body.

The tough part is over and it’s time to paint the neck and place it in the pocket in the body. Apply G2 epoxy mixed 3:2 to the neck and the pocket. Set the neck into the pocket and clamp them together. Be sure not to damage both the neck and body of your new guitar. Clean up the squeezed out mix.

Your guitar is ready. All you need to do now is connect the pickups and the controllers, install the saddles, string tuners, take some strings, and some more accessories and you are ready for your rock concert.