In this blog and video series, I’m going to be sharing with you an overview of my most challenging, time-consuming, and frustrating woodworking project to date – building an electric guitar completely from scratch. You may be asking, “What does building an electric guitar have to do with the great outdoors?” Not much, to be honest, unless that guitar is built from wood that you milled and processed yourself from trees that you harvested directly from nature…as is the case with this guitar body. It was pretty cool to make a musical instrument with the raw materials that came from one of my favorite forests in my home state of Missouri and to have been involved in every step of the creation process from cutting down the trees to buffing out the final finish.
Now legendary guitar maker Paul Reed Smith, who I’m a huge fan of, once said that you really can’t say you built a guitar unless you also made the neck. I didn’t make the neck for this guitar, so to be more specific, this was an electric guitar body project. Let me be very clear that I am by no means an expert guitar maker. Not even close! I’ve always wanted to do something like this, and I’m glad I did, but I have to tell you, I have no desire to do it again anytime soon! It was an incredibly time-consuming, frustrating project. I made a lot of mistakes, including some MAJOR mistakes along the way, I did a lot of cussing I have to admit, and the whole thing almost ended up in the fire pit many times! It was a serious exercise of the virtues of patience and perseverance. Despite all the mistakes and setbacks though, I learned and developed many new skills along the way, which I’ll definitely be using in a variety of future woodworking projects, so stay tuned.
So all that being said as an introduction, please keep in mind that this is not a step-by-step tutorial blog and video series about how to build an electric guitar body, but rather, an overview of the project to inspire you to do something similar yourself and to hopefully avoid some of the major mistakes that I made along the way. There are lots of great videos out there that cover the specific details of guitar building and finishing, and a YouTube channel that I learned a lot from and can highly recommend is Highline Guitars, so check it out if you’d like to learn more.
Step #1 – Harvesting and Processing the Wood
The first step in this project was to harvest and mill the wood that the guitar body would eventually be made out of. This guitar is made from black walnut, white oak, cherry, and maple, all from trees that I helped cut down from an area of woods in southern MO where I do a fair amount of hunting. All of these were either dead standing trees or they came down in storms and had to be cut up and removed. So after getting the trees on the ground I slabbed out the wood with my Granberg Alaskan chainsaw mill, which I’ve featured in many other blogs and videos here at this channel.
After getting all the wood back home I had to seal it and then dry it out before I could start using it for projects such as this guitar. I also did a past video about how to dry out wood quickly for your woodworking projects which you can watch here. A year or two later, when the wood was ready to go, I selected some good pieces and cut them up into workable sections.
However, I couldn’t decide on which kind of wood to use initially. I first thought about making the guitar from one solid chunk of black walnut, so I started with that. Then, I changed my mind and decided to go with cherry. And after working with the cherry for a while, I changed it again and decided to do a white oak back and a cherry top. Sure enough, after going that route for a while, I changed my mind yet again and decided to use some of each wood. By the time I got done experimenting and changing my mind so many times, I probably could have already built three or four guitar bodies. So out of all the wood that I had originally cut for the guitar body and had already started working with, I cut it all up into smaller pieces that I could piece together kind of like a fancy charcuterie board, which is where we’ll pick up in the next blog video. Check out the video below to see more.