1. #1

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    I have a long history as an amateur luthier building and restoring instruments from 5-string banjos to button boxes, and old guitars but now considering having a go at an archtop guitar. I have Bennedetto's book and plans and am considering how to proceed.

    I could pick up an oriental "kit" where the body and neck are already fabricated and only needs assembly and finishing - that is the easiest but is also the lest "hand built".

    I could get CNC routed top and bottom and do the rest myself. Shaping the top and bottom are the most difficult but ends up being hand built.

    Or I can start from raw material and do it all myself.

    I still haven't decided - might end up doing a kit and then a from-scratch version (not that I need two archtops LOL!)

    As a musician, I am an absolute beginner but I am trying!

    Look forward to the wisdom of the group!

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  3. #2

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    You sound like you have a perfect background for this adventure. Also, it’s quite common for instrument builders to have little to no experience as players. If you think about it, there’s not a whole lot of overlap of skill set between the two activities. I’m sure the forum would appreciate photo updates of the process. Good luck and welcome to the forum.
    Ignorance is agony.



  4. #3

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    Go from scratch then you can say you really built the guitar. Do the whole guitar and finish yourself, otherwise it really is not completely yours as such. My late friend Bill Hollenbeck said there were 3 things on the guitar he did not build. The machine heads, the pickup if requested, and the strings........otherwise he fabricated and did it all even his own tailpiece design and inlay.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  5. #4

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    Jump in... the water's fine!



  6. #5

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    It may depend on your access to the tools you want to use for your build. If you enjoy making tools and holding fixtures and such and you plan on making more than one, then go for the full build. It will take you somewhat longer to get your first guitar done but future builds should go a little bit faster and be a little bit better.

  7. #6

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    I believe in starting from raw lumber if you have the tools. (Yes, yes. I get the irony. I use carbon fiber in my builds. But that is only in the last six years.)

    I’ve been involved with a luthier program at Palomar College for the last twenty years, and we always started with raw lumber. Starting there teaches you so much about the instrument that a kit would not. You learn what good wood really is, and frees you to choose lumber unavailable from “guitar wood” suppliers. It also means that in the future YOU decide what you outsource.

    It is also much more economical. That usually translates into freedom to start over a step if you make a mistake.

    A good resaw blade on a muscular band saw and a wide belt sander are usually the tools that keep people from starting with raw lumber. But there are makers spaces and woodworking clubs opening up that give people access to these tools. In a pinch there may be a cabinet shop that will help out for the price of some beer and good company.

    And remember, your first guitar (or two) is for learning. You’ll be very happy with it, but building your own isn’t a cheap way of getting a new custom L5. So use it as a way to get the most learning you can and don’t worry too much about how fast you can get to a finished product.


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  8. #7
    If you want to see what’s involved in doing it yourself check out the video series on YouTube by Richard Heeres. There’s about a dozen, first one below, really worth a look.



    I built my first guitar using the Benedetto book and plans, supplemented with these videos and some good advice found here by guys like Matt Cushman.

    i had built a violin first, so that experience helped (plus lots of repairs and years of woodwork experience). The result was pretty satisfying! You do need to be prepared to be inventive in building forms, templates and aids of all kinds.

  9. #8

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    I’m in the same boat. Built two flattops but looking to build an archtop with the Benedetto book. Because I like working with computers I built a CNC machine and plan to use it for roughing out the premiiminary shapes so I can fine tune by hand. I do enjoy hand planing but my hands get sore, especially with finger planes on hardwood. I do agree that working wood by hand is the best way to learn. I guess whatever route you choose, if your having fun that’s the main thing!
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