Step 2: DESIGN AND PLAN
PRE-DESIGN INFO Before you can design your guitar you must know a few important rules to building guitars. The first and most important is “Know Your Scale Length”.
SCALE LENGTH What is a “Scale Lenght?” The scale lenght is the lenght the string travels between the nut at the top of the fretboard and the bridge at the mid section of the base of the guitar. To determine the scale length of your guitar you would measure from the front part of the nut where it meets the fretboard to the center of the 12th fret on the neck and multiplying that by 2. Add about 3/16″ to that on the low e string and taper that to about 1/16″ added to the high e string. This is called compensation and that is why you see that tapered line on a bridge. Go to Stewart MacDonnald for more info. They also have a Fret Calculator that helps you determine your particular scale length in addition to a page dedicated to helping you out with tons of free info for your guitar building projects.The fret is the metal of nickle wire that is raised up off the fretboard. I would suggest buying a guitar neck that has been pre made from a manufacturer that fits the design concept that you want to go with. I bought mine from Amazon for about $25. You can pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for a neck at online retailers, but surf around and make sure you are satisfied with what you get. Guitarpartsusa will tell you to buy an expensive neck if you are building an expensive guitar, not a $25 neck. But for mine the $25 neck works just fine. Once you get the neck in and you determine what the scale length is you can lay it all out on paper. I recomend buying all your hardware, pickups and knobs before you draw your final template. This will allow to place everything where you want it and know what size holes to drill for the electronics and how big the cavites will need to be for them and the pickups.
DESIGN AND PLANNING It is best to pre-plan your design concept so you can correct any mistakes on paper before you get to the wood and can’t go back. Sketch out some design concepts on paper then, once you have decided on something,lay out a couple of pieces of poster board to draw the body shape out on. You can let you imagination go wild or if you perfer stay with a more traditional design. For this particular guitar I built, I chose to go with a PRS style body design. To get the measurment correct, I pulled a picture of the guitar I was modeling it after from a guitar catalog that was taken straight on and not from the side. I then scaled up the guitar by marking out a grid on the picture and transposed it to some poster board that I had drew a larger grid on. I knew that the pickup rings measured 3 1/2″ by 1 1/2″ and thats what I used to scale the picture up and get the proportions correct. Another method is to project the image on a wall and trace it to the poster board if you happen to have a projector but I like to draw my template out freehand. You don’t have to use this method for the design if you want to come up with you own unique style. Just make sure that take all the parts that will go on to your guitar into consideration first like the neck postition, pick ups and knobs.
PLOTTING OUT THE PEICES Once you have drawn out the shape of the body you can then locate and draw the cavaties that the pickups and electronics will go and set you bridge placement. It is good to know where the center of the guitars boy is so you can make sure that the pickups and bridge are in good alignment with the neck pocket. I like to take a piece of poster board and trace the fretboard of the neck on it and cut it out, that way I can properly place my bridge according to my scale length.
For the neck pocket you will want to trace the heal of the neck where you want it to be placed. For this guitar I had to extend a peice of the body to attach the neck to since I was copying a PRS which uses a set in neck. I was using a bolt on and didn’t have much of a neck pocket to work with.
Next, make sure you give yourself enough room in the electronic cavity to fit all the potometers and switches. Also remember to add about 1/4″ of a lip that the control cover will sit on.
After your design has been properly plotted out on the poster board you can cut it out with an exacto knife. Make sure you stay as true to your lines as possible so you have a nice clean line to trace once your ready to. Then lay out the template on body blank and trace away. I like to cut the piece of poster board the same size as the body blank I am using. It makes it a lot easier to line everything up that way. Now you’re ready to move on to the next step.