I want to build a guitar! How do I begin?

If you are asking this question, then you are in the right place!

At Luthiers Mercantile, we pride ourselves on making great information, direction, woods, tools, and advice easily accessible to budding makers of guitars, ukuleles, and mandolins. We want to help you get to your workshop well-prepared, well-supplied, and ready to embark on this tremendously rewarding creative journey. To get you started, we have created this easy-to-work-from list.

So let’s get started!
1. First, find out exactly what kind of instrument you want to build. Presumably, you will want to order your parts in kit form (that’s coming in a later step). Our kits, which are completely customizable, start with these basic instrument types:

  • Dreadnought steel string – This is the iconic western, flatpicker’s guitar with a strong, authoritative bass and large body.
  • OM/000– This smaller steel string guitar provides a balanced tone that is prized by fingerstyle players but is versatile enough to sound great being strummed with a pick. The smaller body is more comfortable for some.
  • Classical – This kit is also the starting point for the flamenco guitar. Both employ nylon strings. Though many folk musicians have picked up a classical, the great playability and sweet tone is the main choice of those players who embrace the beauty and challenges of the classical repertoire.
  • Parlor – An intimate, lyrical voice characterizes the smallest offering here. It is the quintessential fingerstyle steel string.
  • Ukulele – Many find the approachable uke to be a great gateway into lutherie. We offer all you need and an amazing assortment of beautiful woods to choose from.
  • F-Style Mandolin – Our F-style Mandolin kit assumes that you have a desire to step deeply into instrument making. Phenomenal woods and quality parts set the stage!

2. Choose your instructional materials. Once you know what kind of instrument you want to build, you should begin to collect the appropriate  books, DVDs and instrument plans. Some are inclined to take an online class instructed by Robbie O’Brien (available here from Luthiers Merc.) or attend a guitar-building course. In addition to these foundational directions, you can avail yourself of all the searchable videos and articles right here on the Luthiers Mercantile website at our Help Center. Once you have an idea of the process you are ready to think about tools.

Instructional Materials
3. Get some luthier tools: Your tool choices are determined by the type of instruments you intend to build and what building methods you will use. Also, of course, by what tools you already own or have access to. For example, some prefer to build with hand tools and others prefer using power tools and machinery. Classical guitar builders require certain tools for some operations and steel string guitar builders use others. This article provides a useful roadmap. Once you have a list going, consider using the LMI ToolBox feature to order tools as a set with a great discount!
LMI Tool Boxes
4. Select your woods and materials: The LMI Kit Wizard not only provides you with a nice discount, but it also walks you through the wood and parts selection process step by step with suggestions for common, appropriate choices with each part. It also allows you to avail yourself of LMI’s broad inventory of beautiful, professional quality tonewoods. It’s a fun process to pick out the exact pieces you will use in your instrument. Watch this video to learn more about how it’s done!
LMI Kit Wizard
5. Finishing the instrument: While you are working on your guitar, you can mull over what kind of finish you want to put on it. Whatever you decide, we have you covered! Waterbased, lacquer, French Polish and more. Once again, a little research (this article is a great place to start) will set you on the right path!
Finishing the Instrument
6. String it up! Nothing compares to that special day when your instrument gets its first set of strings and you hear its voice for the first time!
String it up!

After you spend some time playing and getting to know your new baby, we hope you will take a photo of it and share your work with us. We’d love to hear from you, find out how it all went and talk about your next project. There is no concealing the fact that lutherie is addictive – a lifelong path of discovery, refinement, and creativity. At every step in this journey, we look forward to helping you to get the very most from instrument making.