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Build an Electric Guitar

Updated on February 28, 2010

Guitar kits are a great way to get started in guitar building. You can get all the parts from one place, Instructions are included, and you'll need minimal tools. Electric guitar kits are probably one of the easiest to build. Most of the parts are bolt together, and they're pre-primed which means they're ready to paint. Some of them even have snap together electronics which means you don't even need to do any soldering. If you're looking for guitar kits to build, you can buy the Saga Guitar kits on eBay for around $100 for the Stratocaster or Telecaster model.

These guitar making kits come with the bodies and necks pre-primed and pretty much ready to paint guitars. You can use spray cans to paint them, automotive paint is used by many people with good results. The neck head is blank so you can cut out your own headstock shape. The electronics are snap together, you don't even have to solder them. They're easy to customize by adding aftermarket parts, if you do this though you may need some woodworking tools to get everything to fit. I customized my Telecaster guitar kit with a new bridge, knobs, tuners, pickguard (scratchguard if you're from the U.K.) and jack plate. Doing this made me have to do some modifications, the bridge I used was not as high as the stock bridge, so I had to rout the neck pocket. The Saga guitars seem to be some of the best guitar kits, as well as cheap guitar kits.

The Saga Telecaster Guitar Kit.

Saga guitar packaging.
Saga guitar packaging.

The Saga Guitar Kit

So, here's my build your own guitar kit. It was a Telecaster style and it came with everything I needed, but I decided to upgrade some of the components not because they were low quality but because I wanted to get gold components and a gold pickguard. The guitar kit came in a surprisingly small box, about the length of a neck and the width of a guitar body, everything was intact and packaged nicely. You can get Les  Paul guitar kits or whatever style you like.

I got all of the guitar parts from Guitar Fetish. Everything else I used was the kit guitar parts. The Guitar Fetsish parts were all good quality components at a good price too. Their stock seems to rotate regularly so you might not be able to find the same exact components I did, but you can find them at other places on the net. I obviously spend more on my guitar, but if you'd bought just the kit the components are just fine. In fact some of them were actually better quality than the stock replacements! So lets take a quick look at how I put the guitar together and how the non-stock parts caused any extra modification. Here's what I replaced in the kit:

  • Tuners
  • Bridge
  • Control cover
  • Knobs
  • Output jack
  • Pickguard

Building the Electric Guitar

Checking to see if the bridge is lined up straight with the neck
Checking to see if the bridge is lined up straight with the neck
Notice how much thinner the new gold bridge is?  That causes problems later.
Notice how much thinner the new gold bridge is? That causes problems later.
Marking the new screw hole position
Marking the new screw hole position

Building an Electric Guitar

Ok, lets start with the guitar body.  If you get a kit and try this put it together before you paint it!  My bridge and pickguard holes didn't line up and the neck pocket need some tweaking.  More on that later.  It was made up of laminated wood, mine was pretty well matched.  It came presealed with a very thick sealer, but very smooth and ready to paint.  Part of the sealer dripped into the output jack hole that had to be removed before the jack would fit.  I took all the electric components of the silver plate and put it on my gold one.  The knobs just pulled off.  My new knobs had a set screw so they couldn't accidentally slip off. 

Then I put the neck into the neck pocket and put two tuners in the first and last holes and attached strings to them  I then attached the strings to the bridge and lined the strings up so they were equal to each edge of the neck.  This is a common way to see if your bridge is lined up straight with the neck.  I then marked the holes and drilled them.

Next I laid the pickguard where it belonged and tried the bridge again.  It fit on the bridge end but not on the neck end.  I needed to remove a little material so it would butt flush with the neck but not have to be squeezed in.  A couple of the screw holes lined up, but most didn't.  I filled the holes that didn't match and weren't covered by the pickguard.  I then drilled or redrilled all the holes I needed to make it fit. 

Fitting the Guitar Neck

The neck sits too high in the pocket
The neck sits too high in the pocket
Here you see the router bit and guide boards I clamped down.
Here you see the router bit and guide boards I clamped down.
A little clean up with a chisel and then it's ready to go.  It's better to rout a little too small and clean it up.
A little clean up with a chisel and then it's ready to go. It's better to rout a little too small and clean it up.

Building the Guitar Neck

After I put the neck in the pocket and got the strings on I noticed they were resting on the neck - too low. So I figured I'll just raise the action by adjusting the bridge. So I screwed the guitar neck on and noticed that the screw holes didn't exactly line up with the back plate. I filled those holes and redrilled them.

With the neck screwed on properly and the bridge action adjusted as high as it would go the strings still touched the neck. Remember the original bridge was really thick? If I had used it the strings would've been higher and there would've been no problem.

So what to do? the only thing to do was put some sort of shim under the bridge to make it sit higher or rout the neck pocket deeper. That's what I decided to do. I clamped a couple of boards down as a template and ran a straight bit around it taking off about an 8th of an inch - the thickness of the original bridge. I then cleaned it up a little with a chisel.  Everything worked perfectly and the action was just right with a little adjustment.

Finishing the Neck

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use these to enlarge already drilled holes.Holes after reaming, note difference in size.Roughed out head.Now it looks like a Telecaster headstock.
Use these to enlarge already drilled holes.
Use these to enlarge already drilled holes.
Holes after reaming, note difference in size.
Holes after reaming, note difference in size.
Roughed out head.
Roughed out head.
Now it looks like a Telecaster headstock.
Now it looks like a Telecaster headstock.

Finishing the Guitar Neck

I checked the tuners for depth, they looked good. What didn't look good was the mounting holes. The holes in the stock guitar neck were too small so I was going to have to enlarge them. Most people's thoughts would be, no problem just drill them out. Don't do it! A drill bit can wander, and you'll never know if you have it completely centered. The solution is to use a reamer. It's a conical shaped tool with cutting edges and a T-handle. Because it is conical it self centers. It cuts wood pretty quick working first from the front then the back. After about 15 minutes all the tuners fit.

The last thing to do was cut out the peg head shape. I chose a standard Telecaster shape, I got the template from the MIMF forum. I printed it out a couple of times enlarged a little bit to see which one fit better. I chose one that worked traced it out and cut it.

I intended to cut it by hand with my coping saw but the blade broke right off the bat. So I used my jig saw which had a thicker blade so I couldn't match the tight curves. I came at it from a couple of different angles. It looked like a real hack job. But, with a wood file (know as a rasp) and a little elbow grease it was looking like a 'Tele neck.

Saga Guitar Telecaster Kit

Assembled Guitar Kit

Here's the Saga electric guitar kit all together.
Here's the Saga electric guitar kit all together.

Putting the Guitar Together

Ok, so now everything is done it's time to put all the parts together, including the electronics, plug it in and play it to see if everything works.  The time to work out the kinks is before you finish it.  I intended to finish the guitar black, but I kind of like the way it looks natural.  So far, I've just left it like this.  I'll probably go ahead and paint it in the future.  If you want to put together your own guitar kit, check eBay and you can get the same one I did.

Saga Guitar LP Kit

Guitar Kit Comments

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    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

      Interesting information! I have a friend who built an acoustic guitar and a violin from scratch! He used paneling for the guitar. I can't remember what he used for the violin. Both are lovely and have great tone. I can't even imagine such an undertaking! Voted up and interesting! :)

    • JP993 profile image

      JP993 6 years ago from England

      Fantastic hub, I've wanted to build my own custom guitar for years just can't decide on the colour it will end up :).

    • David Verde profile image

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Johnnie Black, I didn't use a pre-wired pickguard for this kit, it was more like "semi-prewired" The component wires were snap together, so you put them in and connected them without any soldering.

    • profile image

      Mike 7 years ago

      A buddy of mine gave me a tele kit that he couldn't finish - not a saga, but something else. Nonetheless, the quality is great. Esp. the neck pocket fit.

      Hoping to finish it out by next month.

    • Johnnie Black profile image

      Johnnie Black 7 years ago

      do you use prewired pickguards?

    • shimla profile image

      shimla 7 years ago

      Man it impressed the hell out of me that something as necessarily precise as a guitar can be built from parts like this - maybe one day I will have a go at it -- thanks for the hub!

    • profile image

      Dan Evans  7 years ago

      AWWWWWWSOME would you recommend the LP kit

    • profile image

      Genzo 7 years ago

      I am interested in guitar building from scratch and decided a kit would be a good way to get my feet wet. Great info.

    • profile image

      Axeman 7 years ago

      My nephew bought a Saga Tele kit from Ebay and built most of it himself, but came to me to put together the electronics. I was surprised how nice it was and how easily it went together. It played surprisingly well, but suffered from some cheap electronics and weak tuning heads. I fixed that with $40 worth of Wilkinson hot tele pick-ups and some decent machine heads. Now it's a weapon. Now considering getting a kit myself.

    • camo3166 profile image

      camo3166 7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I like this article . That is one thing i haven't done with guitar is build one. If you get a chance check out some of my hubs or my online magazine its all about music thanks alote man!

    • profile image

      guitar drills 8 years ago

      Hi David,

      Nice Hub. I have yet to build my own guitar yet, but I have done some intonation and action adjustments. This is probably the next project I'll tackle. Justin at

    • profile image

      Benjamin Harrison 8 years ago

      Hi. I was hoping to find a guitar kit for a Gibson Les Paul for a cheaper price. I mean finding the real guitar was bad enough. finding a guitar kit sounds even worse. So please send me back a response to See ya.

    • profile image

      Alex 8 years ago

      Hey David, great story. I got my SAGA Tele last friday afternoon. In the evening I was already playing! Great! Now, 4 days later I did al the finetuning (neck, action etc.) and did several experiments with pickups (out of phase, easy to try because no soldering; I have now mounted a Bill Lawrence single coil neck pickup from an old Gibson, sound much more alive in the SAGA Tele which has awesome sustain and clarity). Still need to paint it (but I love the sound and that's what counts for me).

      I can't wait to start my next projects: building a cigar box guitar and winding my own pickups.

      Cheers! Al

    • David Verde profile image

      David Verde 8 years ago

      Thanks, it's not too hard really, especially if you use the stock parts.

    • felipe a potosme profile image

      felipe a potosme 8 years ago from Moose Jaw Saskatchewan

      sweet skills man! I love the idea of building your own guitar from nothing. maybe one day. anyways very cool.!