The experience of building two custom electric guitars and some things I learned along the way.
I recently undertook making a custom electric guitar for myself. I don't know how to play guitar, but I was hoping that building myself one would be the inspiration I needed to buckle down and actually learn. So far it hasn't worked out that way, but the most positive outcome of this experience is learning that I'm actually pretty good at making a custom electric guitar and that other people think I'm pretty good at it as well. Before I had even finished making my electric guitar, I had 5 people at work asking if I could also make them a custom guitar. I wasn't thinking at the time that I may want to turn this into a side career or even eventually a full-time occupation so I just kept telling everyone, "yeah, sure, no problem, what kind, what wood, what design?" but never stopped to think that people pay some pretty good money for a handmade custom electric guitar. Then I finished my guitar and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out.
On my guitar, I followed the pattern of an old broken electric guitar I was given, and used all the old electronics from that guitar, along with the neck because trying to create a neck from scratch looked like it would be an endeavor that would be very painstaking and aggravating. I blogged about the entire process of building that first electric guitar on my blog and have some more pictures of it there as well, along with writing a lens (that's basically a blog on squidoo) about the experience. While I didn't stray much, or really at all, from the original guitar design, I felt like I could build just about any style and that maybe there was a demand for someone who would take the time to listen to what people want and how they want to customize their guitar. One of the people at work that had asked for a guitar brought me in his son's old guitar and a few pictures he found on the internet. One looked relatively simple, like a triangle with a spike or two and the other looked much more difficult. It was a BC Rich Draco. I decided I wanted to try to build something that difficult and if I could do that, I could do just about anything.
Building the second custom guitar was easier and it was harder. I had already built a guitar, so I had an idea of the steps and the order and what I was to expect as far as building it. The difference was, I had no pattern for this guitar to follow. I had a picture, a small picture, and the electronics used in the picture were much different from the electronics I was being asked to squeeze into this electric guitar. I started with the body which I knew would be a certain shape and attached the neck and bridge and then spent almost two weeks just trying to figure out how to get all the pickups, pots and the lever onto the guitar and still make it look cool. I went through 3 different designs for the second pick guard that would hold the pots and lever and finally came up with a design I liked. From there it was easy again, just making the holes, routing it out and putting it all together. At this point I haven't hooked up the electronics inside the guitar, but I wanted the guy to see it before I finished it, and once he did he was amazed at the job I'd done and actually told me "wow, I think I have to pay you for that guitar!" Now that I have his approval, I'll take it apart, sand the body and pick guards up and stain and polyurethane everything up so I can put it back together and be completely done with custom electric guitar number 2.
I know I've only built 2 electric guitars so far, but I have learned some very important lessons already about some things to do and some things not to do. First and foremost, have fun, as long as the electronics fit in, you can make it look however you want, dream it and build it, take your time and plan ahead. That is my "to do" list. Don't route too close to the edge of a thin piece of wood, don't expect to be able to just throw it together without any problems, don't limit yourself to something easy and just like all the rest and don't be afraid to make a few mistakes. I know I made more than a few mistakes and wasted a little wood, but it also helped me learn how to make a better guitar and a better design. The only questions I have now are, "Can I make this a business, will it be something I grow tired of quickly ( I don't think it is), and is there a high demand for someone building custom electric guitars?" I'm hoping the answer to these 3 questions are yes, no, yes respectively, but only time will tell. I would love to hear what you think about the guitar I have pictured or my first attempt.