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Guitar building questions...

vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
I have two questions...
First, how difficult is building a guitar? Roughly how many hours?
Second, is building a selmer-mac guitar (maybe using Collins' book?) too difficult for a first time builder?

I have three generations of woodworkers above me, so I have many tools and expertise within reach. Much to their dismay, I've never had much interest in woodworking but recently I've developed this craving to build an instrument...

Genetics:?:

Vince
I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.

Comments

  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    vince wrote:
    I have two questions...
    First, how difficult is building a guitar? Roughly how many hours?

    Well, it is more difficult than building a bookshelf, but not as hard as playing like Django :lol: I've built a couple and feel like anyone with a background in woodwork, knowledge of the instrument and willingness to wade though some of the many good text out there can do a reasonably good job. Of course there can be decades of building experience between "reasonably good" and extraordinary. I've never kept track, but 200 hours not counting the learning curve comes to mind.
    vince wrote:
    Second, is building a selmer-mac guitar (maybe using Collins' book?) too difficult for a first time builder?

    Michael's book is a great resource and building in general. It does a HUGE service for those interested in building the Selmer style. There is nothing else like it and I consider it essential (Thank You Michael!). Yes, I think you could use this book as a first time builder.

    Michael tends to focus on building jigs to machine many of the parts. This is not surprising as he is a professional and this is how he builds in his shop. If you intend to build one only or are not sure of your ultimate shapes and style, you may want to work more "free form" than Michael's book suggests, at least with some tasks. Otherwise, you'll spend a lot of time making jigs. A jig to taper a fret board will save a lot of time over many guitars, but you'll spend more time making the jig than just laying out two lines, cutting them on the band saw and a couple swipes of the plane to true it up.

    Michael's book is sort of a set of plans in text form. For instance, he tells you exactly how wide to make the fingerboard as opposed to discussion of width options and how to plan for this (such as the neck width effects the exact location of the lower body side relative to the center line and you need to plan for this before you build the body). That being said, I don't think you can't go too far wrong following Michael's plan.

    If you want to go more free form or at least understand why you are doing the things Michael's book tells you to, consider reading Guitarmaking by William Cumpiano. This text is a well respected complete reference. Lots of why and what for. A good companion to Michael Collins' book. Bob Benedetto's book as another good one. There are many others.

    Also note there are some good full size plans out there. Francois Charle's plans of Selmer #807 and a Selmer 12 fret D hole (from Stewart MacDonald, stewmac.com. Michael Collins offers Favino plans.

    Selmac are not the easiest guitar to start with. The laminated sides are arguably more difficult than bending non-cutaway solid sides. The Selmer cutaway is pretty tight and takes some finesses. The sloted head is a bit tricky. The forced arched top is a bit more work than the more common flat top. If you are looking for easy, consider a dreadnought. But the Selmer sytle is certainly all doable and if you are into the style musically, nothing else will do. Selmac are fairly plain without a lot of decoration which is helpful in making an accurate copy. In this style, no one is going to care what it looks like if it blows the doors out in a jam.
    vince wrote:
    I have three generations of woodworkers above me, so I have many tools and expertise within reach. Much to their dismay, I've never had much interest in woodworking but recently I've developed this craving to build an instrument...

    Yep that's gotta help. Just learning the woodworking skills to build a guitar can take years. You've got a great head start, go for!

    Craig Bumgarner
  • vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
    Posts: 133
    Thanks so much Craig!

    That is a wealth of encouraging information. I definitely want to give it a try now. I may try a dreadnought if I can find a friend in need of one, but I much rather try my hand at a sel-mac.

    Thanks again!
    Vince
    I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,130
    Go for it!

    But remember, be safe. Don't cut off any fingers.

    It definitely helps if you have woodworking TRAINING.

    It helps if you are good with working with your hands.

    It helps if you have people around who are trained woodworkers.

    It is even better if you have people around who are trained woodworkers and have also built lots of instruments.

    Take it slow and be safe. Those tools are SHARP.
  • vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
    Posts: 133
    Indeed. Hopefully safety is genetic too - Neither of my two grandfathers, nor father have cut off their fingers despite working in wood shops for well over 130 years collectively.

    I can understand that most of the jigging would require a jig/table saw, maybe a planer, the slotted head a hand router, but it seems most of the actual guitar building is done by hand with hand saws. Is this the case?

    Vince
    I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.
  • BohemianBohemian State of Jefferson✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 303
    It is my opinion that the Collins book is not for the inexperienced, either in woodworking or instrument building.

    As a sometime builder and with an extensive collection of instrument building books, I would recommend the Collins book solely because it is the only one available.

    Definitley get a copy of Cumpiano's book and check out his web site, much info there.

    Also go the google group for guitar makers and try MIMF the Musical Instrument Makers Forum and then there is the Luthiers Forum and don't forget the GAL.. Guild of American Luthiers and their quarterly magazine and there is also ASIA.. aonther instrument makers group.

    As to plans, many sets are now availbale and a couple good ones have been listed. If ,and only if , you want to build a Favino style get the Collins plans.

    Since it appears you will be building for your own enjoyment and not commerciaily, you can take your time and make all the mistakes you want, and it is these that will help you learn

    Also check out Allied Luthiers and Luthiers Supply.

    Best of luck.
  • richdaiglerichdaigle SLC,UT✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 181
    I went from building archtops to a selmer style(much easier)but still takes ALOT of work give yourself 2-3 weeks of jig building the first one.

    I recommend you consider buying Michael's new DVD set from his website.
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    Vince,

    I just caught up with this thread. Regards power tools for guitar building, I use my bandsaw (18") and routers (large, small and Dremel) frequently. Could get by without a planer or table saw. A drill press would be nice, but I don't have one (yet). Truly sharp planes, scrapers, chisels, hand saws, rasps, etc. get used all the time. There are a number of specialty hand tools that you will find indispensable, even for a one off. Stewart McDonald (stewmac.com) is a complete "candy" store.

    Craig
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