Build your own electric guitar

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Feb 2013 Build your own electric guitar

Hard-hitting 10 top tips for building your own electric guitar


1. If you like the sound of cheap guitars, BUY ONE! They are affordable enough that you won’t need to make your own.

2. Buy the best wood you can afford

Already shaped and routed Ash, Alder and Maple are the best options. Alder is relatively light and easier to work than Ash and Maple makes for a great guitar neck; strong and attractive.

3. Buy great pickups because they sound great. The simple magnetic pickup converts your strings response into electricity. Small differences in magnet composition and coil windings make a huge difference in sound. Trust innovators like Seymour Duncan, Chris Kinman and Don Lace to set you on the right track.

4. Buy quality switches, volume and tone pots. They work better for longer.

5. Make a bone nut – plastic sounds like plastic! Bone is readily available, sounds better and is naturally self-lubricating.

6. Buy a good, solid bridge assembly with a big brass trem block. These sound great on the S-type.

7. Only ever fit the best strings. They tune up and sound better for longer.

8. Dare to innovate. Add ‘stealth’ push pull pots for more pickup configurations and experiment like Brian May with ‘out of phase’ and ‘series’ wiring – find your own unique sound as he did as a teenager.

9. Customize your design to serve your style of playing. Maybe you need a high action guitar for slide playing, three humbuckers, or an ‘acoustic’ piezo bridge? Go for it!

10. Enjoy the guitar building process. Take your time and concentrate on accuracy not speed.

In his new book, author Paul Balmer tutors the budding guitar builder-player. He has also written nine Haynes guitar manuals, including Fender Stratocaster Manual and Gibson Les Paul Manual. Paul is the son of dance band drummer Bill Balmer. Paul played drums from the age of 11 in the Liverpool Merseybeat boom of the 1960s and has worked with guitars for 50 years. He built many of his instruments from bits and pieces and, having no other option, did his own maintenance. He lives in Northamptonshire.

Build Your Own Electric Guitar is available from all good bookshops and direct from Haynes at or by calling 01963 442030, priced £21.99.