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Building an electric guitar from recycled material for less than $50 Part 2

Updated on October 2, 2014

The guitar neck made from an old palette

Tools you may find helpful.

You will need something to shape the guitar body and neck with: A good coping saw will suffice but a jigsaw or better yet a band saw will make the work much faster.

Guitar design

One of the reasons I chose to talk about Guitar design in part 2 and not pat 1 is that I wanted you to start looking for materials first then design your guitar around what you have found. I found old broken hardwood pallets for free so I am using them but like I said in part one you are not limited to just wood. You will also need or have access to some hand and power tools.

Thing to consider.

Now that you have got you materials you will need to think about the size and shape of you guitar body and neck, if it’s made from wood or Plexiglas how long and wide is the body going to be, most wooden guitars are 16-18” long 11.5-13.5” wide and 1.5-1.75” thick. If it’s made from old pipe or a bicycle frame how am I going to attach the neck and pickups? If it’s made from and old skateboard deck or a truck fender is there room for nobs and switches? You will also want to consider what type of music you are going to be playing as it will most likely influence the style of your guitar.

The chunk of wood I used to make the guitar neck from

Design: start from scratch or premade?

If you choose to make your guitar from wood then you may want to consider making a template first, a template can be made from a pieces of cardboard or plywood and you can use it to lay out the entire design. You can also search the internet and find many templates that can be printed out for free and used for personal study.

Neck first?

Most guitar builder’s start out making the guitar body first as it is considered by most to be the foundation of the guitar but most of the time I start out by making the guitar neck first. For me it’s easier to mark where the bridge go’s with the neck attached then it is to adjust the heel of the neck because it’s too long or too short. Most guitar builder use standard size parts and it’s much easier to figure out where things go but I make custom scale necks a lot and there are not any blue prints for them I have to do all the work myself, I do use the fret scale calculator that can be found at stew-mac.com. my guitar is using a 23 3/8" scale.

The neck peg head marked out

Marking the neck

First I figure out what scale length of the guitar that is going to be then I draw a center line on the piece of wood that I am going to use then I mark where the nut and heal of the neck are going to be then and I mark out there width at this point as well. I mark out the neck and head stock shape and I also marked out where the tuners are going to go.

The heal marked out

The neck with nails still stuck in it

Lets start cutting.

Now that I have ever thing marked out it’s time to start cutting I still have some nails left in the wood that I was not able to get out so I will have to be careful and cut around them and pry them out afterwards. As you can see in the photos I was able to cut a round the nails and chip off the wood that was left behind with a chisel. The nails came out without a problem after that. I only cut down one side of the neck at this point because as you will see this makes marking and cutting the fret slots much more easy.

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Fretting tools

My fretting tools

The tool I use for fretting are a square a customized flush trim saw, flush trim saw a pair of modified heavy duty wire cutters a rubber dead blow hammer and a metal square.

Cutting the fret slots

This is the point that I mark and cut the fret slots, it’s much easier on me to leave the bass side of the neck uncut and square, it’s much easier to hold the square agents the neck and keep it square. I don’t need an expensive miter box and special saw. at this point I also drill small pilot holes for the tuners that can be enlarged later.

Cutting the rest of the neck

Now that I have the fret slot cut I cut out the rest of the neck

Cutting the head stock to thickness

Before I cut the bass side of the neck down I mark out and cut the head stock down to the proper thicken

Bass side still square

As you can see I leave the bass side of the neck square for a good reason it is vary simple cut on the line with it left square.

It looks like I made a mistake but I did not

Now I cut down the head stock and the rest of the neck. I use the cut off piece of the head stock as a template for the bass side of the head stock.

Just about done

I have cut down the neck and now I just have to cleaned up the edges with a belt sander and its time to tap those frets in.

Time to fret

Hammering in the frets is Farley simple I use a rubber dead blow hammer and it makes it much safer

Trim the fret ends

After you have pounded the frets in you will need to trim off the excess fret wire. I use my modified wire cutters to trim off most of it. Most builders use a large file to file the fret ends flush with the neck but I am crazy so I use a small hand held router and an old flush trim bit to do it its way faster and I think it dose a much better job.

DIY fret nippers

Things I did an things I did not do?

As you can see I did not use a truss rod, carve the back of the neck or putt a radius on the fret board, the reason for most of this is the type of music I am going to be playing is the blues the action can be a little higher and I do a lot of string bends so no radius on the fret board should work out. I only use a 1/2" round over on the treble side and a 1/4" on the bass side because I think that a thick neck adds to the tone and sustain of the guitar. one other thing to consider is that the guitar is only 23 3/8" scale so there is not a lot of string tension that's another reason for not having a truss rod. In part 3 ill be hard at work on the body. see you then!

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