Electric Guitar Kit Review.
I was given an electric guitar kit for my birthday, which was in February. The fact that I finished in June gives you an idea of how many difficulties I had making it.
I don’t want to put anyone off making a guitar from a kit, because it’s been great fun to do and I have learned so much. I’m just pointing out that how much you already know about woodwork, finishes, and electronics, will determine how long it will take you.
The kit I bought was intermediate to advanced level. There’s a link to it below. The difference between a beginner level and one like mine is that I had to do all the soldering. The beginner’s level kits are about finishing the body and assembling the guitar.
I made lots of mistakes as I went along and here are some lessons that I learned on the way:
- ·Make sure you do your research before you buy a kit. The kit I chose came with no instructions, apart from the electronic side of things. It assumes prior knowledge and experience. And I had none! So every step I took was a learning curve, and in the end my parents learned a lot too!!
- Make sure you have the right tools, because not having them will slow you down and frustrate you. You might have to buy things, which means the cost of the guitar will go up.
- Make sure you read all the instructions for each item you use. For example the paint, the solder, applying transfers, all come with very detailed instructions, and cutting corners never, ever works! Believe me we tried and failed miserably!
- Don’t rush – accept that this may take months rather than weeks to complete. If you have an equipped workshop it will be much quicker to make. I worked in the kitchen and spray painted in the garden. I never noticed how much wind there was until I needed to find wind free days for spraying!
- Watch lots of videos before you even consider buying a kit. I watched so many. And then more after we’d bought it. Especially when it came to the electronics.
Here are some of the techniques we used that worked for us:
- For shaping the head we used a saw, file, and sand paper. Do not use a drill as a shot cut because the wood is not strong enough to take it!! Ours snapped in half and so we ended up gluing it together again!! It doesn’t show now though!
- We used a template to make the shape. I got an image of a Fender Strat head and used that. The size was hard to judge, but I got there in the end.
- The body was pre shaped. It came with a red pick guard, so I thought a red and white finish would look lovely. Choose your colour carefully because it’s really hard to change it if you change your mine. Especially changing from dark to light.
- Be careful when choosing the paints. Make sure that the varnish has the same base as the paint. For example, oil-based paint will not work with water-based varnish. We made this mistake and ended up having to spray the whole body twice. That mistake added quite a bit to the cost! But it proved to be a blessing in disguise because we chose white primer the second time, and that meant the body looked whiter in the end.
- Lightly sand each layer with 400 grit wet and dry sand paper. (This is known as wet sanding) The aim is to make each layer smooth. But be careful that you don’t keep removing the layers by sanding them too much. That’s what I did! Don’t press too hard and let the sand paper do the work. This is so important to do this even though it seems like an never ending task, otherwise the body will look like orange peel or mottled.
- The electronics were as challenging as the paintwork. We had no previous experience and You Tube helped us a lot. The diagram in the kits wasn’t that great! I can’t write everything about soldering here, but my best advice is don’t go straight into it thinking that it’s easy. Take it step by step and make sure you’re ready.
- The tools for the electronics are important. A decent soldering iron, wire strippers and a multi meter are essential. But you can get away with the cheapest ones on the market. So this is not as expensive as it sounds.
The best thing about making your own guitar, in my opinion, is playing it after it’s finished. You get such a sense of achievement, and a real rush of pride. Also, knowing what’s inside it, and how it is made makes it a really special thing. There were times when I thought it would never come together, but it has turned out to be a really beautiful guitar. I love it.
Plugging it in for the first time is really scary – and it didn’t work the first time, so we had to try to fix the problem by working out where we had gone wrong. It was just a simple mistake – we had wired the jack plug wires the wrong way round. The multi meter helped us work that out – it’s a bit like being a detective.
I got a fantastic feeling of achievement when it finally played. All the problems I had making it vanished from my mind!
I hope I have encouraged you to buy a kit and have a go and that my tips help you.
If you need any advice please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
Good luck with your guitar. I’m making a Bass next!
This is the kit I bought, but you’ll see that there are many more on Amazon.
If you are not in the UK then I would buy this one:
Here’s some of the gear I used to build my guitar:
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