Introduction: Gibson SG Style Guitar Build - My First Guitar Project

I am Ivan Huang, a student from Hong Kong. This is a school project that I did and it is my first time making a guitar and doing woodwork. Here is every step that I went through, since it is my first time I have decided to buy the neck from online as the neck can't be easily built by a complete starter.


These are all the materials that I have used for this project:

  • Mahogany wood 48mm*400mm*450mm
  • Gibson 490R Gibson 470T Bridge and neck humbucker pickups
  • Gibson Les Paul style guitar neck 22 Fret Rosewood fretboard mahogany neck
  • Tune-o-Matic style bridge Gibson lp style tuner Stopbar style tailpiece
  • Vintage Gibson Les Paul style tuner aged keystone gold
  • Three-way toggle switch 2 sets of individual volume and tone knobs
  • Prefox AC201 All neutral wood butter
  • Titebond 2 premium wood glue
  • China made guitar gloss finish spray paint

Step 1: Paper Model or Stencil

In this step, I used Exel to split a bit piece of the image into sperate sheets of the page and then printed them out to stick them together. I made sure the dimensions were right and the picture was to scale, then after sticking them together I used a pair of scissors to cut it out.

Step 2: Wooden Stencil

I made a wooden stencil out of a random piece of scrap wood, I first draw out the shape of the guitar using the paper stencil that I have made the last time. Then I used a bandsaw to cut strips into sizes with big curvatures to make it easier for the bandsaw to cut through. This step can be ignored if you already have an existing stencil but I would highly suggest doing it if you don't as it is really helpful to have when cutting on the actual wood piece

Step 3: Rough Cut and Planer

I used a planer to make the wood thinner, this was a problem to me because the wood I ordered was a bit too thick, but it wouldn't be needed if not. I would suggest making the wood piece at least 10mm thicker as it would be necessary to sand the surface later.

For cutting the shape of the guitar out, I used a jigsaw. Similarly to the previous step, I used the jigsaw to cut into the more curved areas to make the later cut easier. An important thing to remember for this step is if the wood is too thick, don't try to rush through and force the cut as it might break the saw.

Step 4: Rough Sanding

For this step, I used a combination of file, sandpaper, and automatic sander to complete this process. The rough sanding is to basically make the shape of the guitar. My tip for this step would be doing it quickly as it is very rough there won't much need to focus on detail. The guitar needs to be in the general shape and the edges need to be caved in and then it is ready to move on to the next step.

Step 5: Fine Sanding

This step there is a lot more focus on detail, in contrast to the rough sanding the fine sanding I would suggest to take it slow and make sure the edges and the surface are smooth. I used a combination of the automatic sander and sandpaper in this process, after doing the rough sanding this step was also easier as I just had to "round up the edges" because the guitar already has its shape.

Step 6: Fitting the Neck Piece Onto the Guitar

The neck I brought online(from Taobao) is a Gibson SG neck with a mahogany wood neck and rosewood fingerboard. I made the decision as it was my first time making a guitar and making the neck is a very delicate and perhaps the hardest part of the guitar, I had neither the experience nor the correct tools to make it. At the same time, my decision also possibly saved me quite a lot of time in my making process. If you are making your first guitar, I would suggest buying a cheap neck from online as well because unless you have someone guiding you, you won't have the knowledge or the correct tools to make the neck.

For this process of fitting the neck, I first coved the fingerboard with masking tape as I don't want to damage the beautiful wooden texture on it. Then I measured out how much of the neck I would have to cut away to fit inside the guitar. As I did make a mistake earlier on by making the top bit of the guitar too small in width, I would have to size down the neck to fit it inside the body. To do so, I used an electric router to cut and carve out the holes and used a chisel to make changes for the final fitting.

Step 7: Gluing and Drilling Holes for the Pickup and Bridge

To glue the neckpiece on, I used the popular tight bond wood glue. I used f clamps to hold it in place to dry for 3 hours then removed the clamp and left the guitar to dry until the next day to continue working on it.

I used the wooden stencil that I made in the start as a guild on where the pickups, bridge, and tailpieces are going to be at. As you can see in the picture, it was quite hard to do fine cuts on a thin scrap wood, so I gave up the idea and instead used my paper stencil to mark the positions. I once again used the router to cut out the opening for the pickups and the tunnel for the wires. Then I used the pillar drill to drill the different holes.

Step 8: Making Pick Guard and Back Cover

I decided to buy a huge piece of material for the pickguard and back cover so I could make it myself(Once again on Taobao). I used the paper stencils to mark out the shape of the parts that I want to cut, then I used a jigsaw to cut the pieces out as it was quick and efficient. I also used the router to cut out the back hole but the problem with that as you can see is that the fit of the back cover wasn't that good. This was partly because of me rushing it but also because I didn't make a model or stencil for the router to restrict where it cuts, I decided to do the routing freehand because I didn't want to take the extra effect to make another piece just for that. But if you want your guitar to be perfect you should definitely take the time to do that as it can also be used for your next guitar project. After cutting the pieces out, I used a hand drill to create the holes used for the screws.

Step 9: Spraying a Clear Finish

I brought the clear finish from Taobao along with cleaning kits and polishing products. As it is my first time making and painting a guitar, I didn't have an idea how to do it and what material to use. Here just to sum it up, if you want to spray paint your guitar, you would need at least 3-5 cans in a total of primary filler, color spray, and clear spray. For me, since I used mahogany, I wanted the final product to have the beautiful wood color so I used a clear finishing on my guitar. I first sanded all the surfaces of my guitar then cleaned it with a cloth, I did three sprays each with a 20mins gap in between. In terms of spraying techniques, I went from left to right trying not to overlap too much.

Step 10: Soldering

For the soldering process, I first did research online on the types of pickup and how to solder them together. It should be too hard to do it as there are a lot of resources online, I just did some research and follow the picture to do the soldering part. It was my first time soldering but I quickly got the hang of it. If you really don't want to do the soldering yourself, you can also buy pickups that don't require soldering or parts that are pre-soldered.

Step 11: Put All the Parts Together

For this step, I just simply put all my parts together from the tuners to the pickup and the different switches and knobs. I also adjusted the thrust rod as the neck wasn't really bent in the right direction.

Step 12: Put Strings On

For this project, there are a lot of things I could improve on and also areas that I made mistakes that I could avoid, here is a list so you won't face the same issues(And general suggestions):

- Make sure the wood you buy is the right size as any excess cutting would be extra work and cutting the thick wood can be quite harmful to some machines and blades

- When doing the rough cut, rather make the guitar a bit bigger then it should be. This why as you sand it down, it would get smaller while at the same time you would have to make changes to the neck while fitting it in(I faced this issue as the neck connecting part was too small)

- Double-check all the measurements such as the 12th fret to bridge and the bridge to tailpiece as it can effect the high of the string which will effect the overall quality of you guitar

- Make sure to buy the right type of paint for your guitar and decide on using spray cans or other methods early on

Multi-Discipline Contest

Participated in the
Multi-Discipline Contest