"The LMI kit is very high end, and now includes the DVD "How to Build a Guitar with Robert O'Brien". This DVD is a great resource and you get it free with the kit. I think this adds tremedously to the value of the kit. I built my last guitar with an LMI kit and it turned out beautiful."
Detailed plans are included with all of our kits and in addition, excellent instructional DVD’s are available as a free bonus. We also recommend purchasing several books to help you understand the principles of lutherie and become aware of the many diverse construction methods. We especially recommend Cumpiano's "Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology" which covers both steel string and classical guitar construction (part number BS0S) and Kinkead’s “ Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar” (part number BS6) which only covers steel string guitars.
- What is the difference between a kit and ordering the parts individually?
Price! All of the wood, parts, and services in our kits are the exact same items we sell individually.
- Can I customize, upgrade or change an item in a kit?
There are very few limitations to the changes you can make to your kit with the Custom Guitar Wizard! You can order a kit ‘as is’ or modify any of the contents. With the world’s widest selection of tonewoods, you can easily create the guitar kit of your dreams and purchase all the things you need for your guitar at a great discount.
- What glues and finishing supplies will I need?
The best place to start is by reviewing our online articles under Finishing Options on the Articles and Tutorials drop down which can be accessed from any page at the LMI website. Many builders will opt for the KTM9 water-based finish as it is less harmful than lacquer and can be applied by spraying or brushing. The LMI instrument glue (part number FGX) is a great glue for building your instrument. There are also areas where you might use hide glue or epoxy. LMI has a large selection of adhesives.
- What tools will I need to complete the kit?
This is a difficult question to answer because many customers already own many tools and there are many different ways to go about building our kits. The best place to start is our online article Tool Recommendations. In addition to tools that we sell and those commonly available from the hardware store, you will be required to construct several simple jigs and molds in order to best complete the guitar. LMI can also perform many services for you like bending the sides or installing the rosette. Check out all the services we offer.
- Do I need any woodworking skills to complete a kit?
Building a guitar, even from a kit, can be challenging. You will have the best results if you have some basic woodworking skills to start out with, though many customers have had great success starting out with little experience. If you are unsure, order one of Robert O'Brien's DVD's, or a few guitarmaking books and determine for yourself if you are up to the task! If you feel it is a bit daunting, then you might want to start out building some ornate wood boxes (or a similar project) so you can become comfortable with your tools and learn the basics of good joinery, clamping, and sharpening etc.
- What other resources are available to me to help me complete the kit?
There are a number of fine guitar building schools, book recommendations and online forums listed in our online article Beginner’s Page. There are also links to articles about finishing, tool selection, tonewoods and more! LMI is available to answer questions about our products but we prefer that you ask general building questions on one of the online forums we link to.
- What is the difference between the OM and Dreadnought? What do these terms mean?
These are guitar model codes from the Martin Guitar Company which, because of their popularity, have become standard terms in the industry for these guitar shapes. The Dreadnought has a large lower bout, and is a popular with flatpickers. It is a standard “western” style guitar. The OM (which is very similar to Martin’s 000 guitar except that it has a 25.4 scale length) is smaller, has a tighter waist and is popular with fingerstyle guitarists. Of course, both guitars can be used successfully for both flatpicking and fingerstyle playing.
- What is the difference between a Classical and a Flamenco guitar?
The main differences between flamenco and classical guitars in terms of basic design are:
1) Flamenco guitars are lighter because of the use of the cypress instead of the heavier rosewoods. Lightness tends to reduce overall volume and adds a percussive quality to the attack of the notes and chords.
2) The bridge profile on a flamenco is usually lower than that of the classical bridge, again, sharpening the attack and facilitating the tapping of the soundboard by the player.
3) It is not uncommon for flamenco guitars to have a longer scale length, say 655 or 660mm. Normally the longer scale requires larger hands and can lead to fatigue and missed notes, however many players capo the guitar on the 2nd or 3rd fret which shortens the scale and adds a brightness to the tone of the instrument. The longer overall string length helps to reduce any negative affects the capoing up might normally produce (i.e. reduced volume and tone). The brighter, punchier, more percussive sound of the flamenco guitar is particularly suitable for accompanying dancers. Sometimes solo flamenco players play instruments called "negras", essentially flamenco guitars made with rosewood back and sides, which helps restore the sustain normally missing from the cypress instruments.
4) On most flamenco guitars the top and back plates are typically not domed or radiused, rather they are left flat. It is tradition for flamenco guitars to use pegs instead of tuning machines, but the great majority of modern flamenco builders and players prefer machines. You can create a flamenco kit by starting with a classical kit and making a few modifications.
- Do the kits come with pre-carved braces?
Many builders agree that shaping one’s own braces is one of the most fascinating and fun parts of building a guitar because the shape of the braces does so much to determine the sound of the guitar. For this reason, many of our kits come with raw material for making your own braces. In addition, more experienced builders may elect to use a bracing pattern that is different from the one on the plan supplied with the kit. Of course, you can elect to substitute pre-carved braces for blank bracewood (or vice versa) if you desire.
- How much will the finished guitar be worth?
We have seen guitars built with materials similar to the ones in our kits sell for as much as $3000 or more, but these guitars were built by professionals who have established themselves in the marketplace and who have the experience necessary to bring forth the best from the woods - and whose craftsmanship is impeccable. Still many beginners have made truly fine instruments their first time around. If you are able to apply sound woodworking principles to your project and pay close attention to your instructional materials, then you can do so as well! We have had the pleasure of playing several very fine kit guitars that our customers have brought by our shop and it is really astonishing how great sounding many of these guitars are.
- How long will it take to complete the guitar?
This depends on your experience, your building methods, your tools and many other factors. First time builders will often need to make some simple jigs and fixtures as they proceed, so the first guitar will undoubtedly take longer to complete than the second. Most first timers who spend evenings and weekends on their guitar usually complete their instrument in 3 to 5 months, but it can be done in 2 months or less if you work smart and fast.
- How can I purchase a guitar kit at a discount?
By purchasing a kit you are buying all the guitar’s components at a discount. For this reason, our kits never go on sale.
- Can you add some services to the kit that I do not see listed on your website?
The serviced kits include all of our available services. We are not able to complete any other building operations for you (i.e. gluing the sides to the back, inlaying the fingerboards etc.). If you want to begin with one of the unserviced or ‘basic’ kits, you can add any of our many advertised services to your kit.
- Is the kit returnable?
All unserviced products including wood are returnable so long as you have not begun to work the wood. We do require that you get a return merchandise authorization (RMA) from us in advance. For more information on our customer-friendly return policy, please see our general policy page.
Serviced Guitar Kits from LMI —
Reprinted below are excerpts from John Calkin’s review for American Lutherie magazine of our OM style kit KLPO. American Lutherie is published by The Guild of American Luthiers. The Guild (or GAL) is a venerable, 30 year old lutherie institution that publishes this fine, informational magazine/journal four times a year. We have picked only complimentary comments from the article. To see if John had any criticisms, we suggest you get a complete copy by becoming a member at www.luth.org. We should note here that our kits now include a mortise and tenon neck that is easier to work with than the earlier dovetail neck included in the kit Mr. Calkin reviewed.
“There are all kinds of instrument kits, but they all seem to fall into two broad categories. Some are designed to make construction as easy as possible and may forego difficult joinery and traditionalmaterials. The other category consists of parts, materials, and construction methods that make high demands on the builder’s skill in return for an instrument that fulfills all the traditional expectations for that instrument. . . . . Luthiers Mercantile International only sells kits in this class.” “Surprisingly, the braces are furnished as billets of spruce and mahogany. The formation of the braces is left completely to the builder. This gives the kit maker the greatest amount of latitude in brace size and configuration, as plenty of stock is supplied, but I thought it might stymie the beginner. And though the kit comes with a nice blueprint of an OM “in the Martin style’’, no other instructions are included [Editor's note: Since the writing of this review, Robert O’Brien’s LMI Kit Building DVD has been added to most kits]. I queried Chris Herrod [the LMI sales manager] about this. He replied that LMI carried a full line of lutherie books and was always willing to help customers choose the best instructional material [for the specific kit]. Chris also said that the kit was designed for the builder who wanted the deepest possible guitar making experience that didn’t involve starting completely from scratch, and that at the rate the kits were selling they seemed to have touched on the right prescription.” “Building the LMI kit was a rewarding experience. The quality of the materials was very high. So little of the meaningful work is done by LMI that the outcome rests solely in the hands of the builder. The lack of instructions bothers me, but in reality any conscientious builder deserves to invest in a library of materials to draw upon for advice. Study should begin before the kit is even acquired. “The deluxe serviced OM kit currently lists for $465, $107 more than the deluxe standard kit. The difference is well worth it, especially for the inexperienced builder who has limited machinery at his facility. Granted, it’s still a lot of money, but I sold the magnum for $2000, a sum that only represented a nice wholesale cost for such a fine guitar. A talented builder could finance a nice basic shop in just a few kits, then switch over to scratch building. Of course, this assumes a ready market for his guitars. “If the magnum [the guitar built from the LMI kit] was my only guitar I would be quite content, and it is probably the finest acoustic guitar to come out of my shop.”