Blog: Building a Guitar

For a long while I’ve had the desire to make an acoustic guitar.

Back in year 12, as part of the HSC Design & Tech major work, I made a portable electric guitar that won a Design Tech Award, 2002.

The idea of that guitar was to create a small, portable electric guitar you could take anywhere and plug in headphones and practise away without bothering the neighbours. I chopped the head off a guitar neck, and put the tuning pegs on the BACK of a block of wood I crafted to make it compact. I shaped and polished a chunk of mahogany to create a small body, but I included attachable rods that extended and enlarged the body of the guitar to make it more comfortable for the user. It was a great process to go through, and I learned a lot about the mechanics of the guitar (although it now sits collecting dust in my parents’ place), but I have a feeling building an acoustic guitar will be a much more intricate process, bending the wood, creating a hollow body, making frets, crafting detail from scratch.

I have a ridiculous collection of guitars; I’m up to about a dozen. There’s something incredibly inspiring about getting a new instrument, with a new feel and a new sound. I wanted a new guitar (sound) for my next studio album, which I’d like to start recording in 2012. While I have a great love for Barnie (the Maton) and Ebony (the Takamine) which I purchased at the same time back in 2006 cos I couldn’t decide between the two of them, I want something that sounds brighter and deeper, crisp. There’s a chap called Nick Charles ( who plays the most gorgeous sounding Santa Cruz guitar. (I almost sound like I know guitars and their brands and specs, but when chaps come to talk guitar specs to me after gigs, I struggle to throw as much into the conversation). My golly the Santa Cruz he used on his 2008 Closer to Home album, is ridiculously sweet. I want one!

As I roamed California earlier this year, trying out a selection of guitars in Hollywood, from Martins to Taylors, I admired their sound, but I didn’t fall in love (this is also why I don’t purchase geetars on Ebay, cos it’s pretty much impossible to fall in love with a guitar you’ve never touched or played, and falling in love is my rule). I couldn’t justify adding to my rainforest of guitars, just because I wanted a new one. The sounds weren’t strikingly different enough to invest in.

But in the back of my mind, for some years now, has been this desire to MAKE a guitar. I remember stepping into the guitar making workshop in Montsalvat ( in February this year. My goodness it excited me. It was terrific to talk to Chris, the luthier, and one of his students. It got my blood pumping, like a whole new world was introduced to me, a new opportunity, a new life. I put it in the back of my mind, waiting for the right time.

Now is the right time.

I called Chris this morning, as I sat in my lounge room playing a song to the dog. I love Ebony (the Takamine) but…. her body is small, I want something with more beef, more depth, and a gorgeous crisp top end (a woman with bigger curves??). I want a new weapon to start the recording of my new album with. It was like an epiphany and I couldn’t find enough reasons to procrastinate any longer and leave the desire unaddressed. The Nike logo played in my mind “Just do it.” Sometimes in life we’ve just gotta take the plunge. We can keep putting our dreams off, because of time, money, other commitments, other goals, fears, insecurities, circumstances, but I don’t want to get through this life without having a decent crack at the items on my bucket list. I’ve recorded my first studio album, I’ve taken a helicopter into the Grand Canyon, the next thing on my bucket list is to make a guitar.

Gosh, there would be something so special about making your own instrument and playing it. It’s one thing to but a guitar that you’ve fallen in love with, and I find playing the guitar a way of releasing my soul. Body and instrument connect to create a passionate melody. But to build the instrument from scratch and then play it… wow. It would certainly be an amazing experience, a great learning period, and an honour.

The course runs for 10 weeks, but thankfully Chris is considerably flexible, and can work around my tour dates, gigs, and all that jazz. I have many day times available for the course, while I work mostly at night. We are kicking off on Monday, 31 October. AH!!! I CANNOT WAIT!

The course costs $3800. It’s somewhat cheaper if you don’t make a cutaway guitar. But despite his efforts to convince me otherwise, I don’t wish to make a guitar without a cutaway, as my intricate little guitar parts up the neck will not be so accessible……

Here’s to guitar making.
I’ll keep you posted, with progress, pictures, the process, what more. Takin’ me back to the days of the HSC where you have to log everything for your Design & Tech major work. Feeling quite nerdy at this stage, but quite excited indeed!

The Guitar Making Course Website: