My first acoustic guitar was a total mess. I would love to sit here and tell you that I did my best and tried my hardest but that would not be truthful.
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What I did was rush.
I was so excited to make my first acoustic guitar that I sped through every step. I felt like if I just finished the step I was on, the next one would be easier. I thought that I would get closer to being done each time, and end up with a good instrument.
Well, as you can assume I did not end up with anything close to what I had hoped. There was a part of me that didn’t think I could actually make an acoustic guitar. It was that voice that kept telling me to rush through the steps, because it wasn’t going to turn out well anyway. I had this preconceived notion that I could never make a guitar from a book, so I stood there and made the guitar I expected myself to make. A poor one.
What I wish I knew at that time, is that all those ideas I had about who can and can’t make a guitar were completely wrong. The truth is anyone can make a guitar. Anyone with some patience, the willingness to learn, and the understanding that it takes time at first to do everything right, can make a guitar. I wish I had given myself more credit in the beginning, because Old Number One would have turned out much nicer.
Here’s the short list of what is wrong with my first acoustic guitar. The soundboard is way too thick, and the sides do not match the top or back. The heel of the neck only goes half way down the sides, and the bridge is too short. The neck angle is too steep, and the bracing is too thick. The kerfing is missing in places, there is no binding, and the plates are flat.
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The second one went in the scrap pile, and I had to buy different sides. I couldn’t even get that right either apparently, because they were way too light in color.
The point of this painful story is two-fold. First and foremost, believe in yourself and don’t rush through things. I believe with my entire being that anyone with a little woodworking skill can make an acoustic guitar. Anyone. Not everyone will make something that redefines the art, or that they can sell for thousands of dollars, but they can still make a nice guitar.
Don’t rush, complete each step according to the book being followed, and eventually you will have a guitar you are proud of.
The second point is that it doesn’t matter where you start, it matters how you finish. I have made many instruments since my first acoustic guitar. Each one has been better than the previous, and I learned something new every time.
My guitars now look nothing like Old Number One. Thankfully, they sound nothing like it either. We all start somewhere. What you do for the distance of the race counts more than your position at the gate.
My first acoustic guitar is an example of why you should never rush through something that you care about. Anyone with a little woodworking skill and some patience can make a nice acoustic guitar.
If you have been entertaining the idea of making an acoustic guitar, you will need a good book or two. I wrote an article on the Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Making Books, where I talk about the five books that taught me almost everything about guitar making. I also mention my book, Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs because I wrote it and I’m proud of it.
My book is not a step by step book. It simplifies and explains the processes and helps you make your own tools. You will still need one of the books I mention in the article for the step by step instructions.
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I have several resources on guitar making in my Guitar Making section of the website. If you need help with finishing, my 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing makes an expert finisher out of anyone. No expensive equipment required.
Making the guitar is half the battle, finishing is the other half. I make it easy though, because there are some really good hand applied finishes available that make anyone look like an expert. A few test pieces for practice, and you will be ready for the real thing. My first acoustic guitar was finished with Tru-Oil, which was about the only thing I got right.
Do you have a good story about your first acoustic guitar? Share it by leaving a comment, and we can help encourage beginners to make their first guitar.
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