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Introduction To Kit Acoustic Guitars (or) Life Is Short ... Build A Guitar

By Bill Cory

Niche Publishing Co. Colorado Springs

About The Author Bill Cory (that’s me) is a 59-year old writer and kit guitar builder who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his family, and a cat. During a midlife search four years ago (not exactly a crisis), I discovered kit acoustic guitars, and a part of my life changed. It was the part where I have fun. I’ve built ten guitars since that day about four years ago, and is currently working on a scratch design for a 13-fret Small Jumbo. My “day job” is publishing a wedding magazine, but I’m very ready to sell the magazine and go into guitar building. Anyone interested in owning and publishing a successful regional wedding magazine? (Send email:

Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars (or) Life Is Short ... Build A Guitar

© 2007 by William F. Cory. All Rights Reserved. ISBN 978-0-9729567-2-7 (Print Version) Published by Niche Publishing Co. 12160 Mt. Baldy Drive Colorado Springs, CO 80921 Copyright 2007. United States and International Rights Secured. This publication is printed in the United States of America

(Also available as an eBook go to


CONTENTS Introduction ... pg 5 Guitar Construction ... pg 11 What’s In A Kit? ... pg 17 Tools and Supplies ... pg 23 Where To Build ... pg 29 Finishing ... pg 33 Summary ... pg 41 Appendix ... pg 43


Two Stewmac Triple-0’s Adirondack and Cedar


INTRODUCTION Thinking about building a guitar? Or encouraging someone to do it? Thousands of men and women all over the world are building them, and they’re excited about their home-built guitars! This little book will give you a snapshot of kit acoustic guitars. If they sound interesting to you, read detailed reviews and building guides the Complete Guide To Building Kit Acoustic Guitars, described on the last four pages of this book. So, what are kits all about? If you don’t know as much as you want to know, then in the next few pages, you’ll find out more. This book will help if you want to build a guitar, or you are the friend, relative, offspring, spouse, or sibling of someone who would like to build one, and you want to give a kit as a gift. A guitar kit can make a great gift, if you want to give a big one! It’s like giving a good book: Many hours of enjoyment that are worth more than the cost of the gift.

Why Build A Guitar, Anyway? To someone who loves the acoustic guitar, this question is already answered. But if you just know someone who loves acoustic guitar, and you are wondering: Here’s one answer.


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

Many guys like to tinker and build with wood. I was never one of them until I discovered guitar building: I could never get interested in making a chair, for example. (Not to downgrade chairs: I plant myself on several of them every day and almost always enjoy the experience.) But, creating a musical instrument that could sound beautiful, look great, provide joy beyond its material substance? That, I could get into! And, the guitar is such an intimate instrument. When we play it, we hold it close, stroke and strum it, move with it, and feel its vibration. It is an organic instrument in many ways, reflecting our moods as much as our skills. The music it creates can be wild or mellow, sensuous or irritating, in any style imaginable. It’s a unique instrument, and that must be why it is the most prevalent musical instrument on the planet Earth. Building one just brings the acoustic guitar lover into closer relationship with the instrument he or she loves to play and hear. It’s so much more rewarding, in so many ways, than a chair!

What A Kit IS NOT A kit acoustic guitar is not a perfectly matched set of parts that you just put together with glue. Being made of wood, a kit’s components are subject to changes in response to dryness or high humidity. They might expand, contract, warp, or even crack!



(If they have warped or cracked when you inspect the kit, you can get replacements free, so don’t worry. Besides, it happens only rarely.) The point is, a wooden acoustic guitar kit is real wood, requiring some real woodworking. It calls for a bit of patience—like what you try to teach your kids: To read instructions, to work slowly and carefully and not to be in too big a hurry. (You know, things we frequently ignore as adults.) But, the kit is not like a model car kit or Legos®; it isn’t just a bunch of perfect parts ready to glue or press together.

Then, What IS A Kit? It’s a bunch of mostly wood parts, ready for you to work into the form of an acoustic guitar. In a guitar factory, one part is made here, another over there, and another is made downstairs. They aren’t all perfect, though they are very close to being exactly right. All the parts come together at various points, where they are perfected by human beings, fashioned into bodies, necks, etc., and put together as assemblies. The assemblies are all put together. A new guitar is born. Well, the kit builder is the human point at which all the parts come together. You receive parts that are close to right, but not perfect in some cases. Your job


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

is to test fit them, make them just right for each other, and glue them together. Hopefully, in your hands they will create an instrument that can last for decades in normal use and provide enjoyment to those who play it and hear it played. It’s not just a slap-it-together process, and because of that, it is so much more rewarding than you expect it to be. I know this for a fact: Building an acoustic guitar that plays easily and sounds good is immensely fulfilling. And, yes, it can be done with a guitar kit! An acoustic guitar kit can create a very real, very good guitar. Not a toy, but an instrument to be taken seriously. Many are the people who have been amazed to find out that guitars I’ve built from kits are not mid-level factory guitars from the big factories. I say that not to brag, but to help you realize that guitar kits can create an excellent guitar. Compared to some factory guitars, their intonation can be better, their tone can be richer and louder—or whatever you want them to be. Their playability can just as good (often better), and their finish can be just as good (yes, can be — as soon as the builder masters this last, difficult, process). So, read on. A kit of some kind might be just what you want!



An Apology? Now, this bit might sound odd, but bear with me. I must apologize to those of you for whom some of this text is too elementary and is somewhere beneath your level of knowledge. Please understand this: It’s written as an introduction for those who don’t have your knowledge or confidence ... those who need a nudge in the direction of knowing that they can build a guitar from a kit. It’s also written for their spouses, whom they will need to convince that they can build a kit (which is true), that it’s worth the expense (which is true), and that it will be good for their inner soul (which is true). Maybe your spouse, too? (By the way, I don’t sell kits; I just build ‘em.)


Guitar Kit Construction Before I started building kit guitars, I had been a player for about 45 years, off and on. I wasn’t dedicated to it, and the few performing things I did were pretty minor. They included folk music groups in the 60’s and some work in Las Vegas in the early 70’s, church playing later on. Now, I’m a solitary player. But, the odd thing is, until four years ago when I was 56, I never thought much about the construction differences of the twenty or so guitars I had owned and played. Now, I wish I had: The acoustic guitar is a fascinating sound machine.

Pick That Thing! Choose any string on the guitar and pluck it. As much as possible, the energy of the string’s vibrations must be captured and magnified by the body of the guitar. There are only two points of contact between each string and the guitar: The nut (or a fret) and the saddle. Through these two points, enough energy must be transmitted to create the acoustic guitar sound we love to hear. It’s fascinating to me how this happens. The string’s vibrations against the narrow, upright saddle cause the saddle to rock and to generate torque, making the bridge rock. The rocking of


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

the bridge makes the top of the guitar move in various complex ways, which generates sound itself by pumping air around inside the hollow body of the guitar as well as directly away from the guitar. For few seconds at most, from a single note on a single string, all is a euphonious chaos of soundwaves, creating the fundamental and secondary and partial tones and overtones we hear. We don’t hear it as a single note like we do on an electronic piano, but as a complexity of tones with one main frequency and many additional frequencies. The sides and back also get into the picture, though to a smaller degree than the top. (Some time, when you’re playing, just press your forearm down onto the top right after you pluck a note or strum a chord, and you’ll realize how much the top’s movement influences the guitar’s sound. Then go online and order a John Pearce Armrest.) Though the top has the most influence on sound, the species of wood used for the back and sides has a coloring effect on the tone of the guitar. Sapele mahogany, for example, is considered “brighter” than Indian Rosewood, all other things being equal, including the strings. But, aye, there’s the rub! All other things are not usually equal. There’s no way they can be, of course, since this instrument is made of wood, and wood varies (as does build quality). The wood species of the top, itself, is of great im-

Guitar Kit Construction


portance. Also, change its thickness, and you change the sound. Make it thinner, to a degree, and you give it more bass response in most cases. But, make it too thin, and you lose the trebles. Proper thickness depends on the piece of wood: If it’s stiff, it can go thinner than if it’s not a stiff sample. Then, when bracing is added to the top, the most important and largest effects are heard. Adding or removing braces, shifting them, making them narrow and tall or wide and low, changing their angle by a few degrees, scalloping them or making them straight, and combinations of all these and more, will change the sound of the guitar in a major way. And, all of these very fine points depend on experience and skill. Skill that is developed over years and decades of working with and building guitars.

But ... The Construction Of A Kit ... This is where the beauty of kits arises for those without much (or any) guitar building experience. Not that the kit will match the work of the skilled, experienced craftsman—but, think about this: With a kit, the design of the guitar is done for you. Take five or ten years off the learning curve. The woods are chosen and supplied for you. Take more years off the curve. Some of the wood is processed, bent, carved, etc.


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

Remove more of the learning curve, and get rid of some expensive machines you would have needed. Instructions are provided, and, in most cases, they’re pretty good. (In some cases, not very good.) There’s another few years off the curve. So, what you get in a kit is parts created by experienced people who have invested those years of work, of trial and error. With their expertise, they have provided you with all of the materials to make a good acoustic guitar. To me, this is neat. The rest is up to you. You must follow their instructions (carefully), do a bit more research to satisfy your own curiosity, work deliberately, and you can end up with an enjoyable guitar. It’s a challenge, but not an extreme one. If you can follow instructions, concentrate on what you’re doing, and work patiently, you can build a nice guitar from a kit.

How Do I Know You Can Do It? Because, at 56, owning only a cordless drill, and having built nothing out of wood since 8th grade shop at Fremont Junior High School in Anaheim, California, I discovered kit guitars. Without describing details, I’ll just say that I did not know even the basics of any sort of wood working, wood finishing, or wood anything. I played gui-

Guitar Kit Construction


tar, some, but knew nothing about its construction or whether I could build one. I just wanted to! (Just to balance things out, I also know some accomplished woodworkers who aren’t even players: They agree with me that building a guitar just might be lots more rewarding than building a chair.) Now, after about four years, I’ve built ten guitars from kits, including more than one from every major quality kit supplier, and have begun a couple of scratch instruments based on my own designs. I’ve provided guitars for my son and daughter. One guitar was even purchased by a gentleman in Oregon who graciously informed me in an email: “This is the favorite guitar of all I have ever owned.” I must have done something right, though I feel he must have been taken by the little adirondack and rosewood Triple-O just because it was new and unique. I started four years ago and I’ve literally immersed myself in it. It’s been like a college education. If you build one, be careful ... you, too, might become addicted.

A Stewart-MacDonald Dreadnought Kit


What’s In A Kit? Basically, everything you need to build the acoustic guitar, except the glue, finishing supplies, and tools, arrives on your doorstep in a single, relatively large, 20-pound box.

All This Is In The Box Sides, prebent, usually pre-sized and profiled, except from some suppliers. A neck block, to which the sides are glued and the neck is attached, with the mortise for the neck joint precarved, though some perfecting of the mortise may be necessary inorder to properly mount the neck. A tail block, to which the other end of the sides are glued; it might be slightly oversized. Some flexible strips of kerfed mahogany lining to strengthen the rim at top and back. A couple of strips of spruce to be cut and used for vertical braces inside the rims. A top, usually already joined, and usually of sitka spruce, possibly with the soundhole cut and the channels routed for the rosette. The top is usually profiled, or cut to the basic shape of the guitar. A back, usually already joined, but not always.


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

Sometimes the marquetry strip is already inlaid or glued into the back, sometimes not. The back is usually profiled. Braces or brace material. Depending on the supplier, you will receive braces as just wood billets which you then cut and shape, or you will receive packages of already-shaped braces, which are glued to the top and back according to the provided plan or drawing. (You can them modify them in any way you wish.) A neck, precarved. Depending on the supplier of the kit, the neck might arrive at its prescribed width, or it might be slightly oversized to allow you to leave it or carve it down to your own specifications. The peghead is usually not yet drilled for tuners; the tenon (of either a dovetail or bolt-on joint) is precarved, but will need to be perfected when mounting the neck. A truss rod, which goes into the neck to allow you to counter the curve of the neck caused by string tension. A fretboard. Depending on the supplier of the kit, the fretboard might require some additional work to shape it, but in a kit, it is always accurately “pre-slotted.” You might need to insert fret markers on the fretboard and in the side. Fret wire: It’s always prebent, in long pieces. You cut it to the lengths of the fretboard slots and in-

What’s In A Kit?


sert it with a fret hammer. Tuners: These are included in most kits; one major maker doesn’t include them, allowing you to order the kind you want. Binding and Purfling Material: You will, after gluing the top and back to the rim, rout channels for these and glue them on. In kits, they are almost always plastic or fiber. Bridge: A preshaped bridge is included. Saddle and Nut Material: Usually bone, these are ready for you to shape. Miscellaneous parts and documentation. And, that’s about it. One maker includes strings of their own brand. (Starts with “M”. Been in business since 1833.)

Assembly You assemble all of these items, using various glues (not supplied), tools (not supplied) and finishing materials (not supplied) ... and you have a guitar. Almost always, it’s a better guitar than you expect. Assembly of the first kit normally takes from 60 to 120 hours. It’s easy to see how much time and experience has been put into these guitar kits. They are ready for the average Joe at home to build, and some of


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

them are absolutely stunning. I have seen kits that could compete on an appearance basis with the finest guitars at the biggest custom shows. Of course, I can’t vouch for their playability, intonation, or tonal characteristics. But a lot of them look really good. In my larger book, Complete Guide to Building Kit Acoustic Guitars, you’ll find a detailed analysis and review of specifically what is included in each supplier’s kit, the strong and weak points of each, and a detailed review of the kit documentation and how it affects you as a builder. Don’t forget, you get a discount. See the last four pages of this book. Brazilian Rosewood from a kit from

Kit by

A Martin kit (Laminated 000)


An LMI OM kit (Deluxe Serviced)

Another Martin (jumbo) Kit

Clamps: The more, the better.


Tools And Supplies You don’t need a double garage full of machines and tools, or even a complete shop in any sense. You can build a kit guitar with a very limited collection of tools, most of which can be purchased from hardware stores, and a few that will need to come from LMI or Stewmac. My last kit was built entirely on a card table. The whole process was carried out on a card table, in my garage, just to prove it could easily be done. (The only two parts not done on the table were fretting, done on the solid floor of the garage, and finishing, done in a small draped-plastic cubicle in my basement.)

Tools? You could invest a lot if you felt like it. But, you can get by on a short list if you just want to try out kit building. Who knows? You might stop at one kit, or you might decide to start a long career of guitar building: It starts with just one guitar. If you can’t find a tool at your local hardware or home store, you can get them online, Luthiers mercantile (, Stewmac (, Martin (, Luthier Suppliers (luthier-


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars, Blues Creek Guitars (, KMG (, my own site at, and others (including some good eBay sellers) have a selection of tools. Prices vary, so shop around.

The Bare Minimum Tool List Files: A good set that includes a half-round semicourse (bastard) file, a fine mill file, a 1/4” square fine file, and a wood rasp Set of cabinet scrapers Razor Saw Razor Knife Coping saw (or band saw) Chisels: 1/8”, 1/2” Hand Drill (or drill press) Brad-point drill bits Centerpunch (a sharp nail does the trick) Laminate Router with Guide and Bits Nut-slotting files Fret Wire Cutters (flush end cut wirecutters) Fret Hammer Fret Leveling bar/file Fret crowning File Small Fret Dressing File



Bridge pin reamer (or rat-tail file) 24” straightedge; ruled at 1/64” Caliper Carpenter’s Square Artist’s Square Wooden clothespins (100) Heat gun or hair dryer Feeler Gauges (auto store variety) Capo Rubber bands, large and small Wood for various cauls Clamps: You can study what kind of clamps you will want to work with, but the more commonly used are these: Cam clamps (large size, four minimum); 8 to12 squeeze clamps (3” size); clamps for gluing down the top and back using cauls. Bench Vise

Supplies for Building: Wax paper Plain vanilla masking tape Blue Painter’s masking tape Green tape or binding tape from Stewmac or LMI Double-stick tape Glues: Wood glue (Titebond® or LMI White Instru-


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

ment Maker’s Glue, Weld-On cement for plastic binding and purfling, cyanoacrilate medium and thin) Rags and paper towels Sandpapers: A supply of 60, 80, 100, 150, 180, 220, 320, 400, 600, plus higher grits for sanding during final finishing steps. (If you decide on a water based finishing system, be sure to get non-stearated sandpaper; it has soap in it. Also, don’t use real steel wool at any point in sanding, etc., if you are using a waterbased finish.) You’ll run across a few more items you will need, but this basic list can actually do the whole job.

A Place to Work. See the next chapter.


Chisels, razor saw, reading glasses ...all essential

Fret nippers and Fret hammer

My 5’ x 7’ workshop. My back is against the corner, but I can easily reach the bench. Built 4 guitars here!


Where To Build The nice thing about building a kit guitar is that you can do it in a small amount of space. As mentioned in the introduction, a card table will do it. The point is, it doesn’t take much room.

Work Space Features • Someplace where you can work without a lot of distraction, sudden noises, etc. • A place where your work can be undisturbed by running children, curious pets, cleaning spouses, or partying friends. (You’ll often need to leave things out in the air, clamped together, so glue can cure for a few hours. Kids and pets in motion can cause problems.) • Solid working surface at least 24˝ x 28˝ at a level where your back won’t act up if you work for awhile. It’s best if you can work on 3 sides of it. • Some shelves, drawers, or tool boxes. • Good lighting. • Correct humidity: Get from Radio Shack a hygrometer (relative humidity meter) for about $20 to monitor humidity. You want to build in about 40% to 50% RH. • Someplace where you can make a mess, and noise,


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

by sanding, drilling, and routing. I’ve found the garage to be perfect. If you can set aside the corner of a bedroom with a card table and a few shelves, or a corner of the garage, you’ll be in good shape. For years, I have left my car outside, even in the snow, in favor of my garage-based guitar building activities. The car is none the worse for the wear. (Just my back, when I need to shovel Colorado snow to get to the car to leave in the morning.) Just as the building of a guitar kit doesn’t take a lot of space, neither did this chapter! Draped plastic area 3 x 4 feet: Used for wipeon finishes.

Just Out of The Box

Built On the card table

In the hands of its happy new owner.



Finishing Finishing has been called “The Achilles’ Heel of Luthery,” for good reason. A guitar can play wonderfully, sound great, and actually be a guitar that will open up and become an incredible instrument in years to come. But if its finish is below par, it will never be seen as a great guitar. It takes a lot of work to get the kind of finish you see in big guitar shows or on many factory guitars, but it is worth working for. If you have ever examined a mid-range or highend guitar from Taylor, Martin, Santa Clara, Larivee, Goodall, Collings, Yamaha, Froggy Bottom, or one of the several hundred topflight luthiers worldwide (such as James Olson, Kevin Ryan, Mike Doolin, Al Carruth, Kim Walker, Linda Manzer, Kathy Wingert, et al) you have seen a beautiful finish. Probably a flawless finish. Can you get that kind of finish on a kit guitar? Well yes, you can, if you are already a master finisher. Frankly, it’s very difficult to do, and it probably won’t happen on your first kit. However, even if you aren’t a master finisher, there are ways to get a very good finish, even though you might not have the facilities those companies and builders have.


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

What You Probably Won’t Use You probably won’t be using nitrocellulose, as many factories and pros do, because it can be dangerous if not used in an absolutely spark-free environment. (Translation: No light bulbs, no heating elements, no electrical switches, air moving through and out, using fans that are “explosion proof,” pushing the fumes out where they will do no harm and not be exposed to sparks or flames.) So, nitro is a great finish, but tough to use. And besides, just using it doesn’t guarantee a perfect finish: That’s still up to the finisher.

Use Compatible Finishes Whatever you use, here’s a tip: Use a finish that is part of a finishing system. It will have already been tested by its manufacturers for compatibility at each stage. This is important as your instrument is subjected to heat, cold, sweat, etc. These conditions bring out the weaknesses in finishes. Layers of finish that aren’t compatible can peel or crack or have other problems. (“Checking,” like the crazing on antique porcelain, is something that happens to lacquers when they are subject to sudden, extreme temperature changes. It isn’t a finishing flaw.)



What You Can Use Besides Nitro A great variety is available. Among the finishes used by home builders are some solvent based oils and varnishes, shellac, polyurethanes, and waterbased finishing systems. And, most of them won’t explode.

Waterbased/Waterborne Finishes We’ve seen great advances in waterbased and waterborne finishes in the last few years. They are available in spray and brushable formulations. Waterbased pore fillers, shellacs, sealers, stains, urethanes, and lacquers have reduced the worries of home guitar builders about toxicity and chemical allergies, not only to themselves but to their families and neighbors. Waterbased materials can be shipped without the restrictions regularly imposed on solvent-based liquids, making shipping cheaper and air-shipping possible. They are not necessarily less expensive to purchase than solvent-based liquids, but they may end up costing less overall because they require only water cleanup, etc. The waterbased lacquer finishing process doesn’t necessarily save time. It just saves your brain cells, possibly, and completely eliminates the risk of fire or explosion. (Still it’s a good idea, if you spray it, to use a mask or respirator. Why lacquer the inside of your nostrils and bronchial tubes if you don’t have


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

to?) The finishing procedure followed using waterbased materials is basically the same as that you would follow with a nitrocellulose or other solventbased lacquer. After preparation of the surface, porefilling and sealing, you apply several (6-8) coats of the lacquer, level it, maybe apply some more coats, level it, and polish it. Sources of WaterBased Finishing Materials: Stewart-MacDonald ( Luthier’s Mercantile Int’l Inc. ( Target Coatings Oxford Line (www.targetcoatings. com) Waterbased polyurethanes (Target Coatings) Crystalac Waterborne Finishing Products (www.

Polyurethane (Solvent based) Okay, it’s plastic. But, it can create a nice, thin, shiny finish on your home-built guitar. It is very quick-curing, and it is durable. The main difference between the polyurethane process and the lacquers is this: Polyurethane requires almost no sanding, but it is not thick enough to build up and then level and polish (as is done with the lacquers). What that



means to the finisher is that the preparation of the surface prior to the top coats is where all the work is concentrated. Every flaw of the surface prior to the topcoat steps will show. Every little dip, unfilled pore, scratches from prior improper or incomplete sanding, etc., will be magnified. But, this stuff is sure easy to work with! I’ve applied it and gotten a great finish with a cotton cloth wrapped around a couple of cotton balls, just laying down one long stripe of it after another, and letting it dry for three hours before applying a second (usually the final) layer. The kind I like when I use it, Minwax® Wipe-On Poly®, is available in gloss or satin. With this, you can completely finish a guitar in a couple of days, after getting the surface ready.

Shellac The lac bug will never go out of style. The primary use of shellac on most guitars is as a sealer, or wash coat. However, one of the finest types of finish uses shellac. It’s a method of finishing called “French Polish,” and uses shellac and a drop or two of olive oil in a specially prepared pad to create a beautiful, extremely thin finish. The process is time consuming, and most people don’t do it for their first guitar. But, it sure is beautiful when done right. Another benefit is that it doesn’t crack or check.


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

TruOil® TruOil® is called a varnish by some, and an oil finish by others. It makes a great finish and is easy to use. It comes from Birchwood-Casey, and is actually a gunstock finish that has been used by home guitar builders for years. It is also used by some furniture makers. TruOil® is applied by padding, or is available as a spray in rattle cans. It thoroughly cures to a hard, glossy finish in 3-4 weeks, but it becomes cured enough to use in a couple of days. TruOil® is a polymerized tung oil, meaning that its curing process was started at the factory, so it takes only three or four hours to cure for the next coat, instead of a couple of days with regular tung oil. This cuts down on dust problems, etc. TruOil® is available through Luthiers Mercantile (

Spray or Brush? I’ve done both, and the worst finish I did spraying (using TruOil® rattle cans) was better than the best finish I did by brushing, except for polyrethane. Why the exception for polyurethane? Even though it was “brushed” (padded, actually) and not sprayed, it provided a very good, thin, hard finish with a high gloss. When a fast, tough finish is needed, it’s hard to beat.



A Finishing Process Finishing your guitar involves the following steps, pretty much in this order. The neck and body are usually finished separately. First, prepare the surface by sanding all of every surface to 220 grit. (Some go to 320, even 400.) 1) Pore filler for the neck, back and sides. Sanded to the desired smoothness; possibly a second application. (Don’t forget the peghead.) 2) Stain on the neck, back and sides, if you’re going to stain. Check compatibility with the pore filler. 3) Sealer over the pore filler and stain on back and sides. Sealer also on the top. 4) If you’re doing the body glossy and the neck satin, this is where you start using separate materials. 5) Neck: A satin finish can be created by using TruOil® or shellac, and 0000 steel wool. 6) Back, sides and top: Sand and smooth to prep for the topcoats. 7) Apply topcoats. Depending on material used, the methods will vary.

The Very Best Book On Finishing: Guitar Finishing, Step-by-Step, 2nd Edition by Dan Erlewine. Available through LMI, Stewmac,, and others.


Summary Interested? I’m not surprised. Thousands of people have discovered the joy of building their own guitar. To build a guitar, you no longer have to do an apprenticeship with an accomplished luthier, or change your entire life to learn all of the skills required. As described earlier, you can take advantage of the years of experience and knowledge provided by the suppliers of quality kits. Will your guitar match an Olson or Ryan, a Taylor or Martin?, it won’t. But, it will be special to you because you built it, and as I stated earlier, everyone (yes, everyone) I’ve talked or corresponded with who has built a kit guitar, enjoyed the process, and enjoys the guitar! The guitar will be easier to build than you probably imagine; it will also probably sound better, too. Regardless of how well you build the kit, trust me: You will be proud of it.

Which Kit For You? I am asked this question often, and I really wish I could provide a good answer. I’m afraid I have to talk like Lawyers do, and say, “It depends.” It depends on your experience, skill, love of a challenge, etc. You can get a “kit” from one supplier


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

that is nothing but the raw wood and a full-size plan. It is just like starting from scratch. Or, you can choose a kit from most manufacturers with some of the servicing done—sides bent, rosette installed, soundhole cut, top and back thicknessed and joined, etc. From one tool and kit supplier, you can even get a kit where the body is completely assembled, the fretboard is fretted and you have very little left to do. (Remarkably, the one I built is an excellent-sounding guitar, though it took a bit of extra work to make its action good.) All of these are reviewed in the Complete Guide to Building Kit Acoustic Guitars. There’s a kit for your skill level, no matter what that level is. Life is Short: Build a Guitar.



Here are the Contents pages for the Complete Guide To Building Kit Acoustic Guitars. The cover is shown in color on the back cover of this book. This newly published book, at under $30, might be a great and supportive gift for someone you know is interested or for someone who has just ordered or started a kit: And you get a discount! The book is detailed, full of photos and tips. Just go the the web link below to get more info or to order it in coil (la-flat) or square binding. (It is 8.5”x11”, 240 pages and 491 photos.) Here’s the link to get the discount:

Contents of the “Complete Guide ...” Introduction... pg 6 Why I Wrote This Book • What's So Great About Kits? • What You'll Learn From This Book • Kits and the Mystique of Luthery • Mistakes?

FAQs p14 Why Should I Trust This Book? ... and 30 more

A Guitar? In A Kit? p24 Many Decisions Made For You • What You Don't continued


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

Learn From Kits • What You Do Learn From Kits • My Own Experience • When You Finish The Kit • What's Cheaper: Parts? or Kits?

What Will You Need? p34 How Much Space? • Space For Finishing • Tools • Time • Knowledge

Where To Get The Kit p42 Luthier's Mercantile Int'l, Inc. (LMII) • StewartMacDonald (Stewmac) • C.F. Martin & Co. (Martin) • Grizzly Tools • Blues Creek Guitars • Kovacik Guitars • Kenneth Michael Guitars(KMG) • Additional Kit Sources • A Note on Instructions

Tools p64 What's Wrong With Tool Lists • The Right Tool At The Right Time • Educate Yourself • Air Quality • A Tool Primer - List of Tools and Devices • Generic Woodworking Tools • Other MiscellaneousItems • Steps in Building Kits, Tools Needed (Tables) • A Sample Tool List

Step-by-Step Building Sequence p80 Dry-Fitting • Starting Out • Humidity • The Rim, Mold and Sides • Back and Top • Attaching Top and Back To The Rim • Neck and Fretboard • The Neck Joint • More Info on Bridge Placement • Finishing • Final Steps (Setup)

Keeping A Journal Record p104 Why Keep A Record? • Complete Annotated Journal



Tools & Devices You Can Build p136 Guitar Vise • Radiused Sanding Sticks • Shooting Block • Side Shaping Procedure • Protective Top Pad • Wingnut Wrench • Binding Router Guide

Notes On Finishing p148 Oil & Water • Cautions • A Building Caution • Just A Primer! • Prepping For the Finish • Top Coats • Finish Coat Types

Glossary of Luthery Terms p160 Resources p170 Accessories • Building • Cases • Festivals • Finishing • Intonation • Luthiers • Schools • Tools & Parts • Wood • Books • DVD's • Forums

Two Detailed Building Logs p188 Martin Jumbo • Stewmac Dreadnought

Seven Days In May (+3) p212 An Experiment: Building of a Martin kit in ten days

The Finer Points p220 Appendix p225 My Websites • Wood's Toxic Qualities • Care of Your Guitar • Photos From Kit Guitar Builders (From back Cover) • Photography Tips

Index p234


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

The 27 guitars shown above were built by kit builders all over the world; the guitars are shown in color on the back cover of the Complete Guide, and proďŹ led inside. (All are from members of

The book is available from with coil binding to open and lay at, or with the square binding shown. Same price. (Bookstores and Amazon can only offer the square binding.)


The photos inside the book were chosen from over ten thousand photos shot of kits being built and completed. The pages above show one way of trimming the back edge of unproďŹ led guitar sides to match the shape on the plan. (Photos are of an LMI kit.)

To see more, go to, where you can view the entire introduction and other excerpts. Remember the $3.00 discount if you order one from that website! Thanks for spending time with me!


Introduction to Kit Acoustic Guitars

Introduction to Building Kit Acoustic Guitars  

A short (52-page) book to tell what acoustic guitar kits have in them, what tools you will need, what kind of space is required, etc. It's a...

Introduction to Building Kit Acoustic Guitars  

A short (52-page) book to tell what acoustic guitar kits have in them, what tools you will need, what kind of space is required, etc. It's a...