How To Build Classical Guitars

To some, learning how to build classical guitars is a natural extension of their fascination with the instrument. Not satisfied with owning and playing a guitar made by a luthier, however skilled, they get a special sense of satisfaction from building their own. 

Although it's something I wouldn't undertake myself I can certainly understand how they feel. Playing a guitar built with your own hands must be pretty special.

Guitar Making Schools

how to build classical guitars

If your budget allows and if you can take the time out a course at a specialist school is probably the best way to build your guitar. You will have the benefit of experienced staff who have all the skills necessary to show their students how to complete a classical guitar building project.

The first school I'm featuring is the Totnes School of Guitar Making in Devon, England. The school runs three twelve week courses a year and beginners mix with experienced students. Everyone leaves with their chosen guitar project completed. The school was established in 1985 and it's started many students on a lifelong interest in guitar making and some, of course, on careers as luthiers.

Follow this link for a more comprehensive look at the Totnes school and details of guitar making schools there.

Guitar Making Kits

I'm investigating guitar building kits and will be adding to this page very soon. Meanwhile if you have any experience of how to build a classical guitar from a kit or at a specialist guitar making school then please use the form and let me know about your experiences.

When shopping for guitar kits, you'll run across those for building guitars, and other classical guitar kits that include finished, ready to play instruments along with a variety of accessories. If you don't want to go to the trouble of building your own guitar, this guitar kit is the one for you.

How to Make a Classical Guitar

Fulfill the dream of owning a hand-made classical guitar by making one yourself. You don’t have to be a master woodworker to make your own classical guitar. There are some really good books and kits that will help you make a guitar that you can proudly use for many years.

What you will need

  1. The first thing you will need is a book on the subject and I recommend two. The first is Classical Guitar Construction by Irving Sloane. This is a simple and straightforward book that takes you through the process. It also includes a template for all the parts of the guitar. The second book is considered the bible of guitar construction and it is: Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology: A Complete Reference for the Design & Construction of the Steel-String Folk Guitar & the Classical Guitar (Guitar Reference) by William Cumpiano which is a much more complete reference that will also show you how to make folk guitars.
  2. You must purchase, pre-made, some of the basic items for the guitar. These are the tuning pegs and the bridge. You will also need to purchase fret wire, purfling, the mosaic inlay, and a selection of wood both used directly in the guitar and indirectly for the forms and jigs that are used to make the guitar.
  3. Tools needed. A half dozen hand tools will be needed to make your guitar and these include a plane, block saw, hand scraper, several chisels, jigsaw wire cutters, several clamps, a power drill, and a 6 inch circle cutter. The books explain all the tools needed.

The Basic Assembly process

  • The first step in building a classical guitar entails building the forms and jigs. You can’t just build a guitar out of wood. It has to be shaped in a very particular way and to achieve this shape you have to build forms to shape it around. In particular, the curved sides of the guitar have to have a profile that exactly matches the shape of the soundboard and the backboard. You also create a jig that will hold the whole guitar together when you glue it into a complete whole.
  • The second step entails individually making the five major parts of the guitar. They are the neck/head, left side, right side, Soundboard, and backboard. Note that the neck/head assembly can be done in one piece or as two pieces assembled together.
  • The third step is where you would assemble and glue the five major pieces of the guitar together.
  • The Final Step is the finishing of the guitar. This includes inserting the frets on the neck, the purfling around the edges, and the sanding and varnishing of the guitar.

What is the most difficult part?

When curving the sides of the guitar you have to soak them in water and then heat them so they can be slowly shaped to the correct curvature. This takes some practice but you don’t have to guess at the shape. You make a jig that you use as a guide for a perfect fit. If you want to avoid this step you can purchase kits with the sides already pre-bent. A little bit about the wood The wood you use is of the utmost importance when it comes to how your guitar will sound. And Brazilian rosewood is the wood of choice for most classical guitars. But there are variations on this such as Spanish Cypress, which is often used for Spanish guitars. Other woods used are maple, birch, pear and mahogany.

Don’t think you have the skill to do it all yourself?

There are many online dealers that will sell complete kits that have everything pre-cut and shaped correctly. All you have to do is assemble it and finish it. This is a good alternative if you don’t think you want to tackle the whole project. You can also buy kits that have all the selections of wood uncut and raw so you can still do all the crafting. Making your own classical guitar can be a challenge and it takes patience and some handy skills but it definitely something the average do it yourself person can accomplish. And the reward is a musical instrument that will be your lifetime companion.

For more interesting insights and information about the classical guitar or to hear pieces played by the author Wil Kalif visit his website at: The Classical Guitarist For other fun, creative and interesting projects including how to make a catapult, a trebuchet, a terrarium and even a video game visit his site at: StormTheCastle.com – Creativity with an Edge Wil kalif at search warp 

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