A complete novice attempts to build a guitar.
Hi there guys! My name is Ross Balch, I’ve been playing guitar for arround ten years now and like many guitarists before me I have felt the need for quite some time now to build my own guitar. As a novice I’m not expecting it to be as great as a PRS private stock model, or even as good as say an Epiphone (although if I can achieve that then brilliant) but hopefully at the end of it I will have a playable instrument and the satisfaction of knowing that I built it myself. Up front I should say that I will not be building the neck. This is probably the most difficult part requiring precision work to make sure the scale length and the frets are in the correct place. Instead I purchased a cheap guitar, in my case an Onyx Les Paul copy and I will use the neck, which is suprisingly good, as well as a lot of other hardware from that which you can see below. I do have a lot of experience with setting up my own guitars so I am hoping that will help with the build.
Preparation is the most important thing for any project, and as I’ve wanted to do this for a fair few years now I have done quite a bit of reading on the internet and I also purchased myself some very helpful books, Make Your Own Electric Gutiar by Melvyn Hiscock and Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie, those two have also produced some excellent videos which I reccomend. I have admired the Mark Morton Dominion signature model from Jackson lately so I decided to plan my guitar to have this basic shape.
I will be making a few changes to this design. For starters I won’t be using the same wood for the body, the original is made of mahogany and maple with a quilted maple veneer. I didn’t want to spend too much on the build so I choose other timber that was available to me (see later post). On my model I will be colouring the back black and leaving the front with a natural look with just shellac and laqeur. I’m going to move the selector switch in line with the rest of the controls to avoid having to create too many cavities and I’m also going to go with only one volume and one tone shared between the two humbuckers. I am tempted to get a set of Mark Morton Dominion pickups from DiMarzio, but they are $119 each so I think I will go with the Power Rails from Guitar Fetish to begin with and make the upgrade if my guitar will get regular use when it’s complete.
Unfortunately I have never seen this guitar in real life and I could not find the real dimensions online so using the picture I worked out from the scale length (which is 24.75″) that the body is roughly 42.4cm high and 31.7cm wide, the average depth of my guitars is around 4.5cm so I went with that. To make sure the measurements were corect, or at least produced a decent size guitar I made a 3D cardboard representation and compared it to my other guitars, especially my PRS SE Custom 22 which is the highest quality guitar I own. It looks good so I will stick with those dimensions.
So that’s my plan. As I go along I will update the blog with more indepth discussions about the actual building process, decisions I made and other general guitar nerdery. This first of which will be choice of timber and the joinery options which (like most things I guess) is quite a contreversial topic among guitar players and luthiers.