HANDS-ON ELECTRIC GUITAR MAKING
HANDS-ON GUITAR MAKING
Each Hands-on Electric class is focused on either the Fender or the Gibson design style.
Duration: 7 days
Class format: Each student creates his or her own instrument, as each step is explained and demonstrated. Enrollment is limited to four participants. We work long hours, Sunday through Saturday (seven workshop days bracketed by two travel days = five days off or away from one's day job). Some lutherie or woodworking experience is a plus, but not required. Please email or call us with any questions.
Tuition: $2700 plus materials
The field of custom solid body electric guitar making is flourishing with creative energy and innovation. Now is the best possible time to learn this craft. Join in the excitement and add your own passion and ideas to the mix.
During seven high-energy days you'll design and build a performance quality solid body guitar while learning the skills used to create today's finest hand made instruments. You'll learn a versatile, efficient system forbuilding both one-of-a-kind custom guitars and small shop production instruments, without investing in expensive specialized equipment. This system allows you unlimited creative freedom as well as total precision and control.
This is not a kit building class. You'll work from the raw materials to create your own unique professional quality electric guitar. You'll learn the important qualities of the best solid body guitar woods and how to work with each of them for best results. After using all the hand tools and modest power tools of the trade, you'll know exactly what you need to set up shop at home and what you can safely ignore.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN
Design - learn to optimize every aspect of the guitar for tone, playability, ergonomics, visual beauty, and ease of construction
Materials - learn the.visual, structural and tonal qualities of various electric guitar woods
Hardware - learn the pros and cons of standard hardware components - their individual qualities, types, and styles - to be able to select the best parts for every custom guitar project
Electronics - learn to design custom guitar circuits, learn professional soldering, wiring and shielding techniques
Tools - learn to use all of the hand tools, power tools, and standard machine tools used to make electric guitars
Woodworking skills - learn professional techniques for gluing, carving, routing, drilling, milling, sanding, staining, spraying, buffing, etc.
Jigs and fixtures - learn to design specialized, easily built guitar making devices to maximize your instruments' quality, precision and repeatability
Templates - learn to design and create your own precision router templates for body shape, pickup and neck pockets, rear tremolo and control cavities, etc
Setting up shop - learn how to design the best layout for your own work space, how to install basic shop systems and purchase basic tooling on a budget
Bodies - learn best methods for gluing-up, thicknessing, cutting to shape, contouring, sculpting, drilling, routing, sanding, and finishing
Necks - learn best methods for laminating neck blanks, installing graphite rails and truss rods, tapering and shaping arms, shaping and drilling peg heads, creating and installing compound-radius fingerboards
Fitting neck to body - learn how to align and join neck to body at any precise angle, and how to blend neck into body seamlessly
Fret work - learn professional techniques for preparing, installing, leveling, dressing, shaping, and polishing frets for the most effortless playability
Assembly - learn to quickly and safely install hardware and other components - pickups, bridge, strap buttons, shielding, pots, switches, and output jacks, plus knobs, pickguard, cover plates, etc - without scratching or otherwise marring the finished body and neck.
Setup - learn to fine-tune the nut, neck, bridge, strings, and pickups for balanced output, perfect intonation, and seamless playability.
WHAT YOU'LL BUILD
You'll make a state-of-the-art electric guitar based on the basic Fender and Gibson platform/guidelines. Your custom hand-made instrument will have top-of-the-line hardware and electronic components and will be wired for full-range tone control of your own design. This is not your brother-in-law's pretty-face, guitar-shaped, candy apple wet dream. This is a serious, professional level guitar built to deliver whatever you ask of it and blow the socks off anyone within listening range. Everyone's ideal guitar is unique to his/her own personal taste and musical requirements. This 7-day intensive workshop is your opportunity to create your own personal guitar with the particular features and qualities that work best for you.
Your design options - body shape, hardware, pickup types and combination, tone controls, switching, etc.
And your design constraints (Oh, no!) - non-laminated body face, inlays done later at home, oil finish here or spray finish at home.
Reality check: This is not a one-shot 'build-your-dream-guitar' experience. Your continued self-directedlearning, a foundation for which this class is designed to provide, is assumed. In spite of working long hours and using the most efficient building techniques, we do run up against a limit of what can be accomplished in seven days without compromising the value of your learning experience. Our week-long time-frame allows neither laminating and carving of face plates, inlaying fancy dragons, nor applying a full-on sprayed finish. Regarding finishing alone, the hours required for sealing, filling,masking, staining, practicing with the gun, spraying color coats, top coats, etc, plus the weeks required for the finish to cure - all this before final leveling, buffing, assembly and setup - are clearly beyond the scope of our time together. Be assured, we'll supply all the information and other resources you'll need to master on your own anything not addressed directly in class.
Note: Each Hands-on Electric class is focused on one of two electric guitar building styles described below. The 2012 sessions concentrate on the Fender style.
FENDER or GIBSON STYLE?
Virtually every solid body guitar is built on either one or a combination of two basic templates,defined early on by Fender'sand Gibson's very different approaches to building solid body guitars. What are these two fundamental templates?
Fender guitars are designed to be made as efficiently and affordably as possible. Their interchangeable necks and bodies are made separately from flat plank stock, finished separately, and finally joined by simply bolting them together. A Fender style neck is parallel to the plane of its body and, as a result, Fender bridges are low to the body to optimize string action. The standard Fender neck is maple with an unbound fingerboard, its peghead extending parallel to the fingerboard. The Fender body is usually alder or ash, unbound and painted, with rounded edges and sculpted to fit the player's body. Its pickups and controls are mounted on a separate face-plate/pickguard.
Hand-made and other non-Fender guitars built along these lines might have set necks, fancy hardwood face veneers, control assemblies mounted from the rear, etc, but regardless of a Fender style guitar's individual shape and other details, its most defining characteristic is its shallow flat profile; its peg head and neck being parallel to the plane of the body.
Gibson's original solid body designs were in some ways similar to the acoustic archtop guitars that the company had been making for decades. With its neck angled back from the body as on an acoustic guitar, the Gibson bridge is elevated up off the body to allow for proper string action. The Gibson neck is mahogany with a bound fingerboard and its peg head is tilted back from the neck, again in the manner of acoustic guitars. Gibson's signature Les Paul body is mahogany with a maple face overlay that's thick enough to be contoured, and its top edges are bound, not unlike the face of an acoustic archtop instrument. Its pickups and controls are mounted directly onyo the face of the guitar, while its wiring and other circuitry is housed in a covered rear cavity..
Hand-made and other non-Gibson guitars built along these lines might have sculpted edges with no bindings and perhaps a flat body with no hardwood face laminate, but regardless of a Gibson-style guitar's individual shape and details, its defining characteristic is its articulated profile; its peg head-to-neck and neck-to-body joints are angled, not in plane.
WHAT YOU'LL TAKE HOME
Besides the skills and knowledge to make more guitars on your own, you'll return home with your own hand-crafted custom guitar - electronics solidly installed, frets polished to a mirror finish, set up fine-tuned and strings perfectly intonated; ready for playing, performing, touring, or just showing off to your family and friends. Speaking of touring, your guitar will be designed for bullet-proof stability - a guitar that you can count on, that can take most anything you can you can throw at it. Unlike a Gibson, its peg head won't snap off if it falls over. Unlike a Fender, it won't hum or pick up stray radio waves on stage. Its signal won't buzz or crap out due to poor shielding or sloppy wiring, nor will its strings break mid-performance because of a poorly executed nutslot. A quality electric guitar is not a fragile guitar and you'll be proud to have created such a solid, all-around performance-quality tone machine, your first time out.