can a non-guitar player build a good guitar

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 06-09-2010 05:15 PM 1862 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4743 days

06-09-2010 05:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: guitar guitar kit

I’ve always thought it would be cool to build a guitar for a family member. I took guitar lessons in 3rd grade and it was probably the worst money my parents ever spent on me. I can appreciate music, but my heart was never really into playing. I’m just wondering if I’d have a lot of trouble making a guitar since I don’t play it myself.

I was definitely leaning towards a kit of some type, but I’m not sure which one. Almost all the sellers seem to say that “anyone can do it if you follow our simple steps” but I don’t know if that is marketing or reality. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this as well as their own experiences.

17 replies so far

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4210 days

#1 posted 06-09-2010 05:24 PM

Good question, I’ve been wondering the same thing.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4592 days

#2 posted 06-09-2010 05:30 PM

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5233 days

#3 posted 06-09-2010 05:39 PM

As a guitar player and a woodworker, my opinion is that one doesn’t really have much to do with the other if you are going to build from a kit. There might be a few things at the very end you would want to consult with an actual player about, like tension adjustment on the neck. But that wouldn’t impact the basic construction process.

I’m definitely planning to get around to this myself one of these days.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4600 days

#4 posted 06-09-2010 05:47 PM

I should think if a blind man can build a house totally by himself ,and it has been done. Every nail screw etc many years ago a non guitar player can build a guitar easily.If you stop for aminute to evaluate the question and turn it on it’s head does everyone making musical instrumenmts in the facories atround the world have to be able to play.It’s a technical thing at the end of the make an instrument.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View knotscott's profile


8415 posts in 4390 days

#5 posted 06-09-2010 06:03 PM

I’m sure it’d be useful if you can play, but I don’t play and built an electric guitar for my son a couple of years ago. Whether it’s good or not is debatable, but it plays well according to him and a couple of others that have tried it. There’s a lot of good info on the web, and I’m sure it’d help if you can get feedback from a veteran guitar player. I’d suggest building the body and buying the neck. It was a tremendous learning journey and a great project…hope you go for it!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View JimDaddyO's profile


663 posts in 4094 days

#6 posted 06-09-2010 06:50 PM

I am building my own electric too. Not much of a player, but I get by. Leo Fender on the other hand, built a whole company around the telecaster and stratocaster and was not a player.

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

View bunkie's profile


415 posts in 4162 days

#7 posted 06-09-2010 07:04 PM

If you’re planning an electric guitar, I highly recommend Melvin Hiscock’s book “Build Your Own Electric Guitar”. He does an excellent job of describing what an electric guitar should be. He wrote a very nice description of the design differences between the Les Paul and Stratocaster styles of guitar. On top of that, it’s a fun read.

I’d agree that while it would be nice to be able to play, it’s not necessary whereas good woodworking skills (particularly attention to detail) are required. Kits are a great way to get started, but I don’t think you’ll learn half as much as if you build from scratch.

Most guitar players that I know have little knowledge of how to adjust their guitars (called a “setup”). It’s actually not very hard to do this and the aforementioned book does cover the process. Learn to do it and you’ll have acquired a valuable skill…

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4907 days

#8 posted 06-09-2010 07:10 PM

As a player and someone who has built a few over the years, I would stay way from the cheap kits. The hardware is cheap and the bodies are mostly plywood. Yes, you can play them, but you spend more time tuning and tweaking than playing. You can buy quality bodies, necks, and hardware from places like Warmoth. This way you can just assemble and finish. You can also cut out your own body and buy quality parts from this same supplier.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 4301 days

#9 posted 06-09-2010 09:58 PM

If you build from a kit, I don’t know that not playing is a real issue, but as Charlie said, in the end the set up will depend on the opinion of a player.

There is also a huge difference between building an acuostic and an electric. Since an acuostic gets its sound from the type of wood and the construction techniques, there is more of a learning curve in creating a quality instrument. That said, a kit takes a lot of that research out of the picture. If you can follow directions, it should be relatively “easy”. There’s not even a lot of complicated woodwork involved in building a kit.

Luthier’s Mecantile and Stewart-MacDonald are also great sources for anything you need.


View Woodcanuck's profile


128 posts in 4015 days

#10 posted 06-09-2010 10:49 PM

For sure you can do it. I’m guessing a guitar is more forgiving than a violin and my uncle (who could not play any stringed instruments) built a violin which was eventually given a test drive by a concert violinist who offered him ‘whatever you want me to pay’ for it. My uncle’s response was ‘sorry, but you don’t sell your children’. :-) He eventually gave it to a friend.

I say go for it. There was a video series on that Marc edited for a guy who built a guitar for his wife. The videos are great, very informative. Part 1 of the videos is here:

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

View MrHudon's profile


114 posts in 4225 days

#11 posted 06-10-2010 12:09 AM

For what it is worth.
I asked that question about the Violin program when visiting North Bennet Street School on our NE LJ event.
I was told You do not have to know how to play the violin but it helps. All the Violin making students at the school have to take violin lessons.

-- Mark,

View sandt38's profile


166 posts in 3923 days

#12 posted 06-11-2010 12:39 AM

I have a very good friend, in fact the fella who introduced me to woodworking, who built an acoustic guitar. He is big time into bluegrass (sorry, not my cup of tea), and goes to a lot of nearby bluegrass festivals. Of course the guys in the jam sessions all joked about the guy building the guitar who couldn’t play it. He always worried about stringing it up and having it just crumple under the stresses of the strings. he said that would make one pretty fire in the fireplace were it to crumple. He did everything himself (including carving the bridge) except for making the strings and tuning machines.

Well here he is 2 years later and he still can barely play a lick, but he is taking lessons. Of worthy note, his guitar is amazing. It looks great, sounds great, and plays very well and very true. I may have some pics of it under construction if you want me to dig them up.

He started building flat top fiddles too, and has built several. He doesn’t know how to play them either, but he gives them as gifts to his friends at the bluegrass festivals, and he also used one to pay for his guitar lessons. He is currently building a classic violin for my youngest son… and no, he doesn’t know how to play it either.

But I think a good thing about him not being able to play them is, he doesn’t bear any preconceived notions on how it had to be done, how it had to be shaped, what materials had to be used… He gathered the ideas from reading several articles and pulled out what he thought sounded right out of each craftsman’s or artist’s opinions and he came up with his own instrument.

-- Got Wood? --- Somewhere along the way the people in Washington forgot that they are there to represent the people, not to rule them.

View billthekatt's profile


46 posts in 4040 days

#13 posted 06-11-2010 06:25 AM

i knew a local here that made really beautiful acoustic guitars and he did not really play at all. and also another that made violins and could not play at all (his start at $1000)..they both said the same thing to me, do not sand on the sound board. Saw dust will be pused into the poors of the wood and reduce the tone..scrape it with a cabinet scraper to get them smooth..good luck

-- larry

View tommyd's profile


77 posts in 4147 days

#14 posted 06-11-2010 07:48 AM
Yes you can build a guitar with out knowing how to play. I made this one for my son. paste http and you can listen and see the guitar.

-- Life is too short for negative drama & petty things. So laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly!

View tommyd's profile


77 posts in 4147 days

#15 posted 06-11-2010 07:53 AM

I forgot there is a picture of the guitar under my projects

-- Life is too short for negative drama & petty things. So laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly!

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics