I am going to apologize in advance because you all are probably sick of this question. It's not gonna stop me from asking it mind you, but again, I apologize. I would love to build an acoustic guitar, but I don't have access to any classes here locally. What are your opinions on acoustic kits that are sold online? Or, should I purchase a "pawn shop special" and recondition it so to speak, replacing the frets, saddle, adjust the neck, etc. as a learning tool. Or should I just purchase a how to build a guitar book and go for it. I do build furniture, but I am not looking at sinking a fortune into something I may or may not be able to pull off. Even though it may be a tired subject, any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Doug, I started by working on beater guitars (pawn shop specials). It's a great relief to know if you learn something the hard way (i.e., screw up :) it's no big loss. On the other hand, have you tried the Woodcraft store? I did some checking and they have one in Spokane. The one here in Connecticut has an acoustic guitar building class that may be just what you are looking for, given that you already have woodworking experience building furniture.

Hi Doug-- No need to apologize for not knowing something ( " one better to ask a question,no matter how stupid it may seem, and get a stupid answer ,than to make a stupid mistake")
Now heres my 2 cents for what ever its worth-- theres a place in Athens Ohio that goes by the name of Stewert MacDonald, and they have not only kits that you can build but they have books on how to build guitars. On line at
hope this info helps-- be well,
Thank you very much for your replies. I built my electric guitar from Steward MacDonald and found them to be a great resource. I will also check out Woodcraft for classes. I must admit I have wanted to build an acoustic for quite some time, but everytime I look through books I find it very intimidating. I think I need to jump right in and try, I just don't want to spend a ton of money for a glorified kindling.
hi Doug -- When I made my first flat top I was sooooooo greeeeen about making them, although I had made plenty of electrics including carving my own necks, but thats another story.
I must tell you though-- I was a finish carpenter and cabinet maker for years before I got into making guitars.(another story there too )
I got ahold of a book that taught me quite a bit about making flat tops and before you know it I was getting in the mix and screwing up big time and having a good time at the same time.
So with that said -- dont be afraid to jump at the chance to try something new and enjoy it rather than say to your self later on in life-- "gee I should have done that when I had the chance"
BE well Doug and good luck in your desission....
The best information I've ever seen on anything about stringed instruments came from Frank Ford on his website. I've found all his information to be accurate and it features things he's actually done, not what he read in some book. My first guitar was constructed (around 1984) after reading David Russell Young's book on steel string guitars. He said a dovetail joint wasn't necessary in the neck to body attachment. He said to use epoxy glue to butt join these surfaces. I had a major failure in my neck joint because I followed his advice. (This was before it became fashionable to bolt a neck to the body) I've since learned to try things for myself instead of believing everything I read. The kits offered by Martin and others are probably a good way to familiarize youself with all the parts and processes. A Martin Blueprint is also a real good thing to have. I've personally only built 8 guitars but I've rebuilt a LOT of old Kays, Harmonys, and other cheaper boxes through the years. There is a lot to be learned from the kits or working on old guitars. Don't let it scare you. I'd encourage you to give it a try. If you complete a guitar it will teach you to have a lot of patience. There are a lot of home-made jigs that you will need to build in the process, but that is part of the fun for me. An old carpenter once told me that knowing how to correct (or cover) your mistakes was what made a good craftsman. I think there is a lot of truth in that.
Ronnie Nichols
Good Morning Ronnie,
Could you tell me more about rebuilding guitars? I think that is really where I would like to start. Any information you can give me on websites, your experience, etc. I love the idea of taking something and making it usable, rather than disposable. I did go to my local Woodcraft and there is a luthier group that meets the first Wednesday of the month that I'm going to attend. Any rebuilding info anyone can supply would be greatly appreciated, as is all of your wonderful comments. If email is better, please let me know.
I started building kit guitars last year. It is a wonderful hobby and with a little skill and a lot of patience you can build a fine guitar. If you want to go that route, I would recommend you make your way over to It is similar to this group, but specific to kit building. You've been to Stew-Mac, so you have a pretty good baseline for the price of a nice kit. It is quite likely that you'll need to buy a few specialty tools and supplies as well. Building guitars isn't cheap, but it is very rewarding.

George :-)
I can't offer a whole lot of advice, only encouragement. I too am just beginning to build my first guitar. I started down this road by buying a guitar in a garage sale for 50 cents! It was in bad shape, and I had no idea what i was doing, but thanks to Frank Ford and his web site, I managed to rebuild it into a very playable guitar. I have since done a few repairs with good success.

My feeling (and that may change as progress in my new project) is that building a guitar is going to be easier because you can't make things worse. If you mess up, you just start again. It is going to cost money, but if that's a concern you might as well just go out and buy a guitar.

I think a "pawn shop special"s a very good way to start. You can learn a lot about a guitar by taking it a part. It's good to learn about neck angles, saddle height and intonation before building a guitar and on a beater you don't have too much to lose.

I suspect a kit guitar is a very good way to learn on your first attempt, but I chose not to go that route because too much of the hard work was already done for you. I mean, you gotta at least experience bend the sides to really say you built your own guitar! For the price you pay for a kit guitar, I think its an expensive way to learn. I bought all my wood rough and saved half the cost. It's going to be twice the work, and maybe more if I screw up, but that's how you learn.

I build furniture too, but I find guitars way more fun. I've made some very functional furniture that looks very nice, but none of it sounds good. There a lot of satisfaction to repairing a guitar and having it sound better than new. I suspect a completed guitar project will be even more satisfying. To me, the most fun is finding a way to do something your own way, building a custom jig or inventing a method when you don't have the right tool. Eventually, I'll buy the tool, unless I discover better way to share with everyone.

That, I am discovering is a great thing about building or repairing guitars - there is no shortage of information available. Luthiers seem to be very sharing people, more than willing to help or answer what you think is a silly question. And you're off to a good start by coming here. These guys have a wealth of knowledge and seem only too glad to help.

So I say, go for it, dive right in what even way comes to you. You won't regret it and you've come to the right place.

All the best,

Doug Collins
Doug: My first guitar rebuild was an old Kay that I purchased at a flea market around 1984 for $65.00. I had in mind that I wanted to find an old Gibson and put Martin style bracing in it. The Kay was a lot more affordable and ended up being my first project. This guitar had a solid spruce top in it. I removed the back from it (which I destroyed in the process) so I could access the top braces. I removed the old ladder braces from the top. Then I thinned the top from the inside. This top was around .150 inch thick and I took it down to around .100 inch. (approx). I then installed x bracing and a Martin style bridge plate.I made a back from some maple I had and put it back together. I also thinned the neck considerably. It did have an adjustable rod in the neck. This guitar has proven to be one of the best guitars I have owned. It just has a real pretty tone and it plays easy. I have rebuilt a lot of these old Kays and Harmonys. The Harmony Sovereign Guitars are all solid wood and often affordable. I've had good luck with them. I think you'll find that most all the U.S.A. made Harmonys are solid spruce tops. I've refrained from working on plywood topped guitars although I'm sure there are some good ones out there. I've honed my skills as I worked on these old guitars. I can't tell you that it is a money-making proposition, but it is a good way to experiment with sound. I modified Kay isn't something that most guitar players will want to buy. Most are looking for a name like Gibson or Martin. I can tell you that it is fun to take an old Kay to a jam session and make the Martin owners wonder why your guitar sounds a lot like theirs or maybe better. I've learned to do a lot of the modifications through the sound hole now and I'm still learning. I'll repeat that is the best informationI I've ever seen anywhere. When I discovered Frank's website (around 1999) I spent at least 2 weeks reading and studying all the articles and I have the CD of this site. I still refer to them often and I check for new articles on the website often. I've built a lot of the tools he shows and used a lot of his techniques. Frank is a man who has a wealth of knowledge and he is willing to share it. You don't have to wonder about anything he says. It will be right. I've probably rambled too much with this. I hope there is something here that will encourage or help you in some way. I chose to post stuff on here mainly because I'm thankful to Frank for all the help he and his website have been to me. I've posted some stuff on some other lutheir sites with disappointing results. The last time I posted something on the mime forum they promptly removed it. I still don't know why. I had a link to my website which contained an article describing the repair I was discussing. Maybe they thought I was trying to sell something. I wish you well.
Ronnie Nichols
Thank you all so much for your replies. I am going to start my search for a pawn shop special to rebuild. I have an affinity for making items out of salvaged material so this concept fits with my own philosophies (man, do I sound like a blow hard!). I am actually doing this for hobbies sake, not to make money. I also play and I would be lying if I didn't say that rebuilding a guitar and playing that same guitar would give me great satisfaction. I also build fly rods and there is nothing better than catching a fish on a fly I tied attached to a rod I built. I am damn excited to get started!! I will look for Kays and Harmony's, just hope I can find one. Also, is there some plans I should purchase so I know how I want the guitar to ultimately be structurally, etc.? I kind of forgot the part where I need to know how to structurally rebuild a guitar!
Stewart MacDonald is probably your best buy for plans:,_plans/Plans.html

I purchased Don MacRostie's Herringbone plans for $12.95 and it tells me just about everything I need to know structurally (except for exaxtly where to rout the truss rod channel for the Hot Rod truss rod, which I'm still trying to figure out.) He also has a Triple O plan too. This plans are the same that comes with the kits that Stew-Mac sells.

Doug Collins
Hi Doug,

It's very reassuring to hear others just starting out too. I've gravitated to ukuleles and have been inspired to salvage a few oldies and eventually build a few. They're certainly not as complex as a guitar but I thought a good place to start.

I recently picked one up in need of some love and with the help of Frank's generous info and the individuals here I hope to accomplish the same as you, that is to enjoy a salvage job or the pleasure of playing something built from scratch.

Best of luck to you in your adventures!



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