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BUILDING AN ELECTRIC
By Craig A. Lindley
I built an acoustic guitar a few years back, which turned out to be
a lot of work (see craigandheather.net/cgitpage.html if you
are interested in seeing that process). I wasn't aware I wanted to
build an electric guitar until I got an email from the Stewart-MacDonald company describing what is probably the easiest
electric guitar one can construct. This guitar was simpler than
most electric guitars for two main reasons:
1. It utilized a pre-built electric guitar neck with frets already
installed and already finished. Using a pre-built neck cuts days —
or weeks — out of the guitar making process.
2. The body was a simple rectangle instead of the more complex
shaped bodies found on many electric guitars.
32 June 2013
As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to build one. I remembered that Bo Diddley played a rectangular
guitar, so I knew I would be in good company. The
Gretsch music company even made rectangular guitars
for a while. The instrument I had in mind would have the
neck and the playability of a Fender Telecaster/
Stratocaster electric guitar, with the pickups and hardware
of a Gibson Les Paul. A crossover guitar, so to speak.
If you are not familiar with Telecaster (Tele),
Stratocaster (Strat), or Les Paul guitars, look them up at
wikipedia.org. Wikipedia is also a great resource for
checking out any guitar terms used in this article that you
may be unfamiliar with.
Convinced I should build one, I immediately started
thinking about all of the individual pieces/parts that make
up an electric guitar: the neck, tuning heads, neck screws,
neck plate, pickups, switches, controls, etc. As you can
imagine, the list gets long very quickly. I toyed with the
idea of buying a used electric guitar and scavenging the
parts from that, but I couldn’t bring myself to dismantle a
perfectly good instrument.
In the end, I decided to buy all of the parts
individually even though that would cost a little more.
I stumbled upon a site called GuitarFetish.com which
offered most of the parts I would need at reasonable
prices. I made up a rather long list of components (see
Table 1) and placed the order (total of $280 in December
2012). With that
done, I started to
think about how to
build the body of
bodies are usually
made with some kind
of hardwood. Guitar
building forums have
about which woods
are best. Many insist
the more dense the wood is, the better sustain the guitar
will have. Originally, I wanted to make the guitar body out
of black walnut but I couldn’t find a board locally that was
thick enough and not seriously warped.
Instead, I purchased a beautiful, perfectly straight two
inch thick piece of Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)
wood from Woodcraft. Sapele is a tropical African
hardwood (also known as sapelli or aboudikro) used by
many guitar manufacturers because of its tonal properties.
The Sapele board I bought was not wide enough for my
guitar body, so I had to glue 1-1/2” pieces to each side of
it since the finished size of the guitar blank (body) needed
to be 9 1/2” x 17”. Photo 1 shows the clamps holding the
glued pieces together.