I’ve Frankenstein’d, modded, repaired and brought a few guitars back from the dead, but I don’t recall ever building one from the ground up.
If you’re interested in building a guitar but don’t have the confidence to go at it alone, Solo Music Gear has a line of affordable DIY kits with everything you’ll need to get started, minus a few basic tools.
If you get stuck, the company offers tech support via email or by calling the easy-to-remember 1-800-632-SOLO.
Some of the kits available come painted, but I chose the semi-hollow Tele-style guitar kit (I’m a sucker for binding) that was unfinished. A huge plus, Solo Music Gear levels and dresses the frets before shipping.
First I sanded the body down with 220-grit sandpaper, wiped it down with a pre-stain conditioner then stained it with water-based stain from Miniwax. This was the most time-consuming part of the build. It took me about a week let the stain dry completely. I hit it with a few thin coats of lacquer spray and wet sanded it with 2000-grit sandpaper.
Next it was time to wire up the electronics. The pots were already wired together; I just had to follow the wiring diagram and solder the pickups to the three-way switch and connect the input jack. Besides basic soldering skills, you’ll need your own solder and iron.
Let's get to the neck. It comes down to personal preference, but rather than put a finish on it, I taped up the fretboard and just sanded the headstock and back of the neck until they were smooth. The neck blends the chunky feel of a vintage Tele with 22 frets, a feature usually only seen on modern Teles.
Screw holes for the neck and tuners were pre-drilled. I only needed to reach for a drill to mount the string trees. Please go slow with this; I’ve seen too many people drill holes right through the headstock!
Since it was the neck’s first time with string tension, it took about a day or so for it to settle in. After that, setup was pretty straight ahead. The kit includes strings, but I used my own. I have no plans to upgrade the pickups. They sound good to me and balance well. If I were to upgrade one thing, it’d be the nut for something a little more heavy duty.
At the end of the day, I have a guitar I can take out and gig with. It cost $129.99, plus $30 in finishing supplies and a couple hours of work.
You can hear two audio clips below:
CLEAN: Here’s how it sounds through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe with a little reverb from the amp and some delay from a Boss DD-7. I start with the bridge, followed by the middle and neck positions.
OVERDRIVE: Again starting with the bridge followed by the middle and neck pickup positions, here’s the Tele-style guitar with some overdrive from a Tube Screamer.
You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but Billy Voight is a gear reviewer, bassist and guitarist from Pennsylvania. He has Hartke bass amps and Walden acoustic guitars to thank for supplying some of the finest gear on his musical journey. Need Billy's help in creating noise for your next project? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.