Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 66 Steps To Building An Electric Guitar

While building the Highline Single Cut electric guitar, I put together a list of steps to keep me organized. One of the many things I've learned while building electric guitars is order reigns supreme. For example, if I carve the top before routing the control cavity into the back of the body, I have a hard time keeping it steady. The body has to be clamped upside down in order to do the routing and if the top has already been carved out, it wants to wobble around. Another example in the neck pocket. It has to be routed after the neck is finished so that the tenon can be used to set up the template.

Anyway, here's the schedule I am following:

The neck:
1. Cut and glue the heel block
2. Cut the headstock angle
3. Plane the fretboard mating surface
4. Rout the truss rod slot
5. Cut the tenon shape
6. Sand the headstock angles to match
7. Glue on the headstock angle
8. Trim the headstock's thickness to 9/16"
9. Cut the neck's thickness from the headstock to the heel
10. Glue on the headstock ears
11. Sand or plane the top of the headstock flat
12. Sand or plane the mating surface of the headstock cap flat
13. Glue on the headstock cap
14. Cut the side taper and headstock shape
15. Shape the contour
16. Sand the contour and the headstock edges smooth to 220 grit
17. Plane the fretboard's mating surface
18. Cut the fret slots
19. Radius the fretboard
20. Deepen the fret slots
21. Cut the fretboard's taper
22. Install the truss rod.
23. Glue the fretboard to the neck
24. Install the fret wire
25. Bevel the fret wire edges
26. Drill the tuner holes

The body:
27. Plane the mating surfaces of the body halves square and level
28. Glue the body halves together
29. Plane and sand the top of the blank level
30. Plane and sand the mating surface of the cap level
31. Glue on the cap
32. Cut the body's shape
33. Sand the edges smooth to 150 grit
34. Rout the control cavity
35. Carve the top if desired
36. Rout the pickup pockets
37. Rout the neck pocket
38. Drill the wiring tunnels
39. Drill the bridge and tail piece mounting holes
40. Drill the jack hole
41. Round over the edges
42. Sand the body to 220 grit

The finish:
43. Make sure the surfaces are error free and sanded to 220 grit
44. Tint the wood with water based dye or stain
45. Fill the grain on any open grained wood used
46. Lightly sand with 220 grit to remove any raised grain
47. Seal the wood with water based sealer
48. Apply 12 coats of water based lacquer
49. Allow the finish to cure for 150 hours
50. Wet sand with 800, 1,500 and 2,000 grit 
51. Pre-polish with Menzerna yellow compound
52. Buff with Menzerna tan compound
53. Clean out the holes for the tuners and the bridge/tailpiece

The final assembly:
54. Wind the pickups
55. Solder the control connections outside of the body
56. Install the controls, pickups and finish soldering the connections
57. Install the tuners
58. Install the bridge ground wire
59. Install the bridge and tail piece
60. Level and dress the frets
61. Make the nut
62. Install the strings
63. Adjust the truss rod
64. Adjust the action at the bridge and nut
65. Adjust the intonation
66. Final inspection and testing

If anything changes during construction, I'll be sure to update the list. 


  1. Hi Chris this is such a great blog about building guitars it has got me fired up about trying to build one again after 30 years!....I made a Tele guitar at school in my woodwork lesson!
    Could you list some of the tools I would need to start a guitar build?

    Look forward to reading more! Cheers, Martin.

  2. I'm working on a list of tools, which I'll post in the next day or so.