Introduction: Self-amplified Guitar

About: I love wood and wood loves me. I think.

Let’s build a guitar. An electric guitar would be nice, but a self-amplified guitar would be neat.

I've always wanted to have an electric guitar —though I don't quite play it—, but it's (almost) no use without a proper external amplification & speaker system, which are heavy and not travel-friendly. And I wanted my guitar to have some types of wood, some particular shape, etc.
This guitar is the solution! You charge it with a USB cable and can leave your house to go playing on the beach, on the road, in the mountain... with respect for the wildlife!

Here is a warning, however:

I will explain how I did it step by step, but be warned: I'm not a professional and this was my first wood-working project. I learned how to use most of the machines in the meantime I was working on them, and I might spread some wrong ideas about how to use them. Don't hesitate to correct me if I got wrong sometimes!

Now, the steps: I will begin with the neck, then the body, the top, the fingerboard, and finally the inside electronics. Then there will likely be a huge mess of steps for all the many things to do around.

Second warning: According to the type and size of guitar you want to make, some values or details I give here may be wrong in your case. Always check on specialized websites (such as this one) to be sure you don't make any mistake.

Let's begin now if you want to finish your guitar before lunch.

Step 1: Tools and Material

There is some heavy duty wood-working coming up here, luckily I happened to have most of the tools I needed —well, at least my grand father had them, mostly.

Here is a list of the tools I used:

>> In my case, all four of them are on the same big-woodworking-machine, a Lurem C210B (see photos). Although it is not available anymore, you can find some good ones here :[...]lurem/

For the wood, there are many possibilities. Here are the ones I decided to use:

Be sure to have the same type of wood for body and neck, for a better visual.

As for the other materials and accessories, you will need:

And all the harware needed to build an electric guitar with amplification:

Always use protection. The minimum to me are glasses, face mask, and solid shoes. A noise headset is critical as well, and I am always careful not to use loose sleeves to avoid them being savagely sucked up by some fast-rotating tools.

Step 2: Keep the Dimensions in Mind

The first step is to have a precise idea of what you want to do. One drawing with all the needed dimensions is very important to keep close to you during all the process (even if you improve it a thousand times while working).

You can draw it yourself if you're used to, and if you know the critical dimensions to respect in order to have a proper sound at the end. Which was not my case.

What I did first is to design the guitar I wanted with a CAD software. I managed to retrieve part of the files and upload them here(Onshape is a great CAD-cloud software, which is free if you accept to have all your 3D files public). While this helps a lot for turning it to a drawing, I warn you nonetheless because this particular design I'm sharing lacks many details. I tried to arrange some, but it stills is not very precise.

The shape:

Many guitar shapes exist. For example the famous brand Fender created the Telecaster, then the Stratocaster, etc. This one is a Less Paul-inspired shape, my favorite!

How to know the dimensions?

Fortunately, many websites provide loads of good drawings, but you can also mix several plans to make your favorite shape, which I did. The critical dimensions are:

  • The scale length, which is the length between where the nut touch the strings and where the bridge touch the strings.
  • The distances between each fret wires (calculated from the scale length.

The respect of these dimensions will drive the tune of your guitar. The first one is easily chosen according to the type of guitar; all is explained here:[...]/scale-length-explained/. This is a must read!

Step 3: The Neck

Now let's shape some wood. Two solutions for the general shape of the neck:

Solution 1: Take a long piece of wood and glue another small one to form an angle for the head. (See 3D image 1)

Solution 2: Cut-in the length and the head in a same piece. (See 3D image 2)

I chose the second solution, because I wanted the whole neck to be as strong as possible, not knowing if glueing the head would be enough. This is why there are 3 pieces of wood glued together lengthwise.

  • Print on paper a 1:1 image of a cut-view of the neck to make a profile (see the image). Contour it with scissors.
  • Fix the paper profile with double-faced paper tape or paper glue, and cut the contour of each of the three pieces of wood with a circular saw.

>> If you want to cut the wood with a jigsaw, you can use a thin layer of plywood as an intermediate profile to guide you.

  • Be sure than the faces that will be glued together are perfectly flat and clean.
  • Glue the three cut pieces with wood glue, and put several F-clamps lengthwise.
  • When the glue is dried (according to the type of glue you use), use the jointer to make the upper faces (neck and head) even.

The truss rod

The truss rod is a tool inside your guitar that can adjust the curvature of the neck to be concave or convex, in case it moves with time or with the strings' pull action. I highly recommend to collect as much information you can for this part, as I may not have done a perfect job here.

  • Measure the width, length and depth of the truss rod
  • Adapt a spindle to the wood shaper and route a groove a little bit deeper than the truss rod's depth.
  • Put the truss rod into the groove, screw downside.
  • Cut a thin strip of wood at the groove dimension to cover the truss rod, and glue it with superglue. Only glue it to the truss rod, it must not be glued to the neck.
  • The strip of wood must remain at the same level than the upper face of the neck. Use a plane to even and level the surface.

Shaping the neck and the head

  • Fix a sanding cylinder on the wood shaper. Begin with the larger diameter and finish with the smaller.
  • Sand the global shape of the head, and the bevel side of the neck. This step is very satisfying and quick enough.

Carve the tenon

  • The tenon is the part that will fit into the body.
  • Draw the lines with a ruler, a protractor and a pencil (always help you with the drawing from the 3D).
  • Fix the neck in a woodworking vise, head down, and saw along the lines with a Japonese saw.

You now have a neck. And a head. (From wood, I mean.)

Step 4: The Body

The body must have room to "store" these elements inside:

  1. The battery and the associated electronics,
  2. The amplifier,
  3. The loudspeaker,
  4. The pickups
  5. The pickup selector
  6. The potentiometers
  7. The jack plug
  8. The switches
  9. The overdrive
  10. The various wires

This means you must carve many holes. Additionally, the more holes, the lighter your guitar will weight.

Depending of the size of the wooden body part you buy, you may have to glue two parts together first, like I did:

  • Make both side surfaces in contact perfectly even, with the jointer.
  • The larger surfaces that will be at the same level must be even as well, and have a perfect square angle with the sides in contact.
  • Clean and glue both parts together, being sure that the even larger surfaces are side down against a flat table so they are at the same level.

>> If you work on a wood table, be sure to cover it with a thin sheet of plastic first, so that the parts you work on don't glue themselves to the top of the table. Make a test first to ensure that the glue doesn't actually glue the plastic. Also, the plastic must be even on the table without any fold.

  • Tighten the parts with F-clamps, evenly distributed along the sides.

Carving the holes

To properly carve the several holes in the body, I chose to print the 2D model at a 1:1 scale, and to glue it against the surface.

  • If you have a standard printer, print the hole body from your 3D model on several sheets and glue them together on the wood.
  • Choose the proper sized router-bit, and the proper speed according to the type of wood you carve. The size and color of the wood chips may indicate if you have the proper settings (burned chips is not good).
  • Fix the body part to the table.
  • Tighten straight strips of wood with F-clamps (or with paper tape), parallel to the sides of the holes you want to carve. You must measure the offset between the center of the router bit and the side of the even surface of the router, and apply it to the guides.
  • Route the holes with the router along the guides. Be sure to work layer by layer, usually no more than 2 mm thick for each pass. Carving deeper passes may damage the bit, and sometimes even the machine.
  • If the router can't go deep enough, you can drill holes at the critical points along the sides of the pre-carved holes through the wood, so that you can trace with a pencil the general form of the hole on the other side. Then offset and tighten the guides, and carve the hole on the new side in order to meet the first carved side.
  • Some holes may have complicated shapes, and you won't be able to work with guides. In that case, you will have to work the first pass following the drawing printed on the paper. The next passes will be easier because you can follow the sides.
  • On the contrary, some holes can be drilled with a hole-saw, which is easier.

>> This is a long process, because you will have to work layer by layer, taking your time.

  • Carve various grooves to link the holes of the loudspeaker, the battery and amplifier, and the potentiometers, and between the pickup selector, the pickups, and the potentiometers in order to pass wires through.


With a thick body, the contouring will be easier using a bandsaw if you have one. I didn't. This is the only part I didn't make by myself, as I asked a friend to do it for me with its bandsaw.

  • If you don't have a band saw, you can use either a table saw or a regular saw and make several passes at different angles. You can also use a jigsaw, but be careful of the wood is too thick.
  • In all the cases, sand the contour to make it smooth with the wood shaper and sanding cylinder.
  • Sand the paper away.

Side holes

Three holes are missing, one for the jack plug, another for the On/Off and Overdrive potentiometers. The attached photos of these holes show a more advanced body, because I actually forgot to make them sooner.

  • Tightly fix the body with a woodworker vise (don't forget to use soft jaws if you use a regular vise).
  • Use a wood spade with a drill for the Jack plug hole.
  • Rotate the guitar into the vise and use large drill bits and chisels to make the On/Off and Overdrive potentiometers hole. The hole should connect with the pickup selector hole.
  • Use a file to improve and even the surface sides.

Neck mortise
The mortise shape will adapt to the neck's tenon. It must neither be too loose nor too tight.

  • Draw the lines with a ruler and a pencil.
  • Saw the sides along the lines of the mortise from the top to the upper pickup hole, with a thin saw (a Japanese saw is a good idea).
  • Withdraw the wood with a large chisel and a mallet.
  • Even the surfaces with a file.

Step 5: The Top

The top is thinner than the body, and easier to work on.

  • Clean it and choose the side you want to be upward.
  • Draw the contour with a pencil by following the shape of the body, and mark the holes of the pickups (you can print another paper with the dimensions to help you.
  • Carve the pickups holes with a jigsaw or with the router. Be sure to double check the dimensions!
  • Contour the top with a jigsaw, be sure that the contour has a larger offset by a few millimeters.

>> Save the surplus of wood for later.

  • Glue the top on the body (clean the wood and apply glue on both side)
  • Put as many F-clamps as possible and use spare wood to avoid marking the body and top.
  • Clean the glue that went out before it dries.

Neck mortise

  • Saw the neck mortise (don't cut up to the upper pickup hole). Use a hand saw.
  • Use the rotatory tool with an abrasive cut-off wheels to cut the width (see the blurry photo).
  • You can change the bit on the rotary tool to a sanding drum in order to adjust the mortise sides of the top to the ones on the body.

Speaker grooves and potentiometers holes

  • I chose to carve parallel grooves into the top, where the loudspeaker stands, to let the sound out. You can drill a matrix of holes instead, or choose any other kind of decorative holes.
  • Measure the grooves you want to make, where they start and where they end, they width and the space between them.
  • To be sure where to make the grooves, you can print them from the 3D model on a sheet of paper, then cut and glue that sheet inside the speaker hole. Then drill a hole at each groove end.
  • On the top side, draw a line between each hole for every groove, and draw the offset lines where you will position the guide.
  • Fix a strip of wood to guide the router (you will need to offset it for each single groove you carve). Tighten it either with paper tape or F-clamps.
  • Choose the router bit with the desired parameter, and begin to carve the grooves.

>> Don't forget to make shallow passes.

  • Use a bit of wood with proper thickness and put sand paper around it to sand the inside borders of the grooves.
  • Drill the potentiometer holes, and the pickup selector hole

Step 6: Top Binding and Bottom Covers


For a nice render, you can apply a bending around the top. A few millimeters of wood need to be carved away in order to glue the plastic binding.

  • Take the precise measures of the plastic binding, in order to know how much needs to be cut off (height and width).
  • Choose the proper router bit according to the width of the binding.

>> In my case, I needed a router bit with a guide that would allow me to route a 2 mm-wide shoulder on the edge of the top. I machined a cylinder at the right diameter that fitted perfectly with the right router bit, which already had a ball-bearing guide. See the photos for more details.

  • Route the binding groove around the top of the guitar with the proper depth.
  • Use acetone with a brush to glue the binding into the contoured shoulder, and quickly tighten it with big rubbers, or with a strap.
  • When it has dried, use a cutter to clean the binding.

Bottom covers

On the back of the guitar, if you want the holes covers to be at the same level from the surface, you will have to carve a few millimeters deep around these holes.

  • Draw the lines and place the wooden strips guides
  • Use the router to withdraw a few millimeters, according to the thickness of the covers
  • Take the exact measures of the carved geometry, design it in a 3D model and upload it in a CNC in order to machine the covers.

>> You can build these covers from many different way, this is one of them and maybe not the best. If the shapes are easy enough, you can make them with the router or with a jigsaw.

>> I made an ugly plastic cover at that time (you can see it on the photos), and I still don't know why I wanted to use it. I plan to replace it with nice wood soon!

Step 7: Fixing the Neck on the Body

This step is tricky. You want to fix the neck to the body, keeping it straight without any angle.

  • Position the body on a flat surface and the neck on a support, so that you can adjust the neck angle.
  • Use spare wood to make shims in order to insert between the body and the neck, along the sides of the mortise.

>> You may have to try again and again until the shims are perfectly fit for a perfect body-neck angle. Take your time!

  • Glue the neck with the shim(s) inside the body. I used a polyurethane expansive foam, more powerfull than wood glue.
  • Clean the foam when it's dried.
  • Drill a thin hole and screw a wood screw on the bottom of the body where the neck join the body to ensure a solid link.
  • The screw head must be inside the wood, so you can insert a small cylinder of wood at the bottom of it in order to cover it.

Step 8: The Fretboard

The fretboard (or fingerboard) is a huge yet very rewarding work.

You will likely need to use a tool called a radius block. At the time, I stubbornly didn't want to go look for useful guitar-making information online, all because I wanted to "discover by myself" (both stupid and fun, would totally do it again!). As I didn't even think that such a cool tool could exist, I just build one myself.
You can save some time and buy one, but it's up to you.

  • Cut the fretboard at the right length according to your drawing, with the circular table saw
  • Calculate the fret grooves. Again, some knowledge is critical and can't be improvised. This page is very useful.
  • Mark the fret grooves with a pencil along the fretboard, using a try square.

>> You may want to do this step (unlike me) before the next one, so you can properly tighten the fret board and have both long sides still parallel to use the try square.

  • Tighten the fretboard in a vise and cut the fret grooves with a Japanese saw: this tool is useful because it has a very thin kerf with straight teeth (a Japanese saw cuts on the pull stroke, instead of the push stroke).

>> I didn't use a mitre box for this step because the slot was too large. I'd rather take my time and do it manually. The first strokes are the more important and you will have to guide with your other hand.

  • Shape the sides of the fretboard according to your drawing. The top will be thinner than the bottom (see image). I used the circular saw, with an angular guide.
  • Round each corner of the fretboard with the wood shaper and a sanding cylinder.


I had the chance to have a small CNC at my work. It was almost easy to use for a 2D work on thin layers of wood, which was enough to cut the inlay-holes into the fretboard, and the inlay-bits into the rest of the top wood you saved earlier.

  • Program your CNC to cut the inlay-bits. Save some wood dust for later.
  • Program your CNC to cut the inlay-holes, they must be slightly smaller than the bits (only by 1/10th or 1/5th mm), and shallower than the bits' thickness.

>> In order to know exactly where to fix the fretboard on the CNC board, I first added the contour of the fretboard to the program. Then I executed it twice: first, on a spare wooden board that wouldn't move, then I tighten the fretboard on top of the first board so that it perfectly fits the contour marks. I changed the Z-value and executed the program again, this time on the fretboard. (See the photos for more details.)

  • Slightly sand the inlay-bits' sides so that they fit into the holes.
  • Mix wood dust with wood glue and use it to glue the inlay-bits into the inlay-holes. Use F-clamp and let it dry.
  • Carefully remove the protruding inlays with chisels.
  • Curve the top with the radius block and sand paper. Begin with 80, then gradually lower the size until at least 500 to have a smooth texture. The top of the fretboard must now be slightly convex.


  • Pre-cut the frets with a plier.
  • Put a little bit of superglue on each fret's tab, and insert them one by one, either with a mallet, either with a press and a spare piece of wood with one concave face (see photo).
  • Cut the exceeding parts of the frets with a diagonal plier.


  • Apply binding the same way you've done it with the top's binding (acetone).
  • Cut the exceeding height of binding with a cutter.
  • Remove the exceeding stains of acetone from the binding with the cutter.

Step 9: The Head

In this step, you will drill the holes for the tuning keys, after applying a layer of veneer sheet. If you got the impression from the photos that I did the step in a random order, you're right.

Head top

I used a veneer sheet that had almost the same color than the fingerboard, in order to glue it on the top of the head.

  • Pre-cut the veneer sheet at the same shape that the head.
  • Glue it on the top of the head.
  • Take a large bit of flat spare wood and some F-clamps, tighten it and let it dry.

>> As the sheet may be thin, glue can pass through it. Use a thin sheet of plastic between the veneer sheet and the spare wood to avoid a painful moment when the glue has dried to everything made of wood. I used a spare of fake-wood floor tile that I was sure the glue wouldn't stick to.

  • Carefully cut the borders with a cutter, then sand it with the rotary tool and a sanding drum.
  • Glue small bits of veneer sheets on the other section of the head (like the truss rod entry). As the surface is not flat, I used a pencil for the cylindrical entry shape tighten to an F-clamp, and let it dry (see the 5th photo).

Tuning keys' holes

  • Take the measures and mark each of the six holes with a paper pencil on the head.
  • Drill the holes with the proper drill bit diameter, adapted to the tuning keys' diameter.

>> I actually did these step in the reverse order, which wasn't quite a good idea as I had to drill the holes a second time through the veneer sheet. Don't do the same.

Head inlay (optional)

You can optionally add a decorative inlay on the head. I wanted to have a gear, and I used the CNC the same way I did the inlays for the fretboard.

  • Program your CNC with the design you want as an inlay. Like for the fretboard, there will be an inside program (for the inlay-hole) and an outside program (for the inlay-bit).
  • Use a spare part of the top and run the inlay-bit program.
  • Tightly fasten your guitar to the CNC plate. The head surface must be perfectly flat, use a spirit level to ensure that it is.
  • Run the inlay-hole program on the CNC. You can test it beforehand to be sure you won't mess it.
  • Use the same steps that the fretboard inlays to glue the bit into the hole with a mix of glue and wood dust, and to sand it flat.

>> Be careful on the sanding as the veneer sheet is very thin.

Step 10: Gluing the Fretboard to the Neck

  • Clean the top of the neck and the back of the fretboard with a moist tissue. (Ensure their surfaces are flat and sanded enough)
  • Put wood glue on either side of the truss rod groove, and on the back of the fretboard.

>> The bottom of the fretboard may not touch the body, according to the design you chose. In that case, don't put glue in this location.

  • Glue both part and tighten them together with F-clamps. Don't over-tight, it must be firm but the wood may crack if you put too much force on the F-clamps.

>> Don't forget to put wooden bits between F-clamps and the guitar, to avoid marks on the wood.

  • Remove the glue that got on the side.
  • Let it dry.

Step 11: The Electronics: Hell Is Real

The inside electronics is composed by the usual things found in a regular electric guitar, plus an additional circuit with everything needed to amplify the sound of the guitar.

As I'm not used with electronics, I got helped on this part. We will begin with the regular circuit, and then add additional circuits. For the electronics basis I used the one on the first image of this step, but there are many other possibilities.

Regarding the device for the power source, I used a power bank because it has an integrated electronics with a firmware (BMS) that prevents overheating, along with other delights. Also, it usually provides an USB plug for charging, which is neat for your guitar.

  • First, cover all the holes and grooves sides of the body with copper tape. This will be the common ground, and it will block some radio waves as well.

External test bench

For the electronics, it is easier to start with a test bench and to run as many tests as possible. As you can see on the third photos, the one I built was the exact definition of tidiness and smooth engineering.

  • Assemble and solder the regular electronic circuit (pickups, tone pot, volume pot, pickup selector and jack output), according to the first schematic. This is the "signal" circuit.
  • You can stretch several guitar strings and put the pickups under them, then plug a real amplifier to the jack and test the sound.
  • Assemble and solder the amplifier circuit according to the second schematic. This is the "power" circuit.

>> Be careful with the pots: you need a logarithmic pot for the volume (A), and usually a linear pot for the tone (B).

  • Solder the output of the first schematic to the input of the second schematic, the "signal" to the "power" circuits.
  • If necessary, solder the step-down voltage regulator to the + / - of the power circuit, and plug the battery or the power bank to it.
  • Solder a switch to the power source, with enough wire so that you can put the switch through the groove up to the top of the body, in the hole near the pick selector.
  • If you use a power-bank, take off its plastic case.

>> The step-down voltage regulator must have the specs to transform the voltage from the battery or the power bank to the input voltage of the amplifier (here 6 to 16 V.). The version will change according to the output power of the device you want to use.

Because it wasn't complicated enough, I chose to add a Llama overdrive into this mess of wires. You can also put any pedal effect you fancy. Be sure to plug it to a second switch with enough wire, and put the switch next to the power on-off switch.

Before to put all this devil machinery inside your guitar, I advise you to go through the next step.

Step 12: Dye, Finish and Sand

Before dyeing

  • Put the covers on their place and drill holes into them and through the body.
  • Put insert nuts into these body drilled holes
  • Draw with a pencil and a ruler the places where you need to drill the bridge's and the stop tail's holes. Don't forget to use your drawings and to check the length online.

>> The bridge is slightly angled to compensate the sections of the guitar strings. Again, dimensions are very important here.


  • Cover the plastic binding with paper tape
  • With an old but clean coton shirt that you may never use again, dye the body with the color of your choice. This is an optional step, don't do it if you want to keep the original color of the wood.
  • Let it dry, then sand softly with a fine sand paper.

Finishing / sanding

You will now have to apply finish layer by layer, and sand with sand paper finer and finer.

  • Apply a layer of finish everywhere on the guitar, except on the fretboard.

>> I hanged the guitar in a doorway for each layer finish pass.

  • Let it dry one full day minimum.
  • Sand the finish very softly. Each time you sand after finishing, you will have to take a thinner sand paper.
  • Clean the guitar with a soft and moist tissue.
  • Repeat the previous steps at the very least 6 times (I did it 9 times).
  • If dye or finish got on the plastic binding, remove it gently with a cutter.
  • For the last sand pass, use sand paper up to 1600 or 2000, with a bit of water, the clean it.
  • When you have finished with these steps, apply linseed oil on the fretboard and let it dry (it usually takes time).

Step 13: Hardware and Electronics Integration

Electronics inside the guitar

Before to put the electronics inside the guitar, keep in mind that all the ground wires must be soldered together, to the copper tape. If I remember well, I isolated the ground of the first schematic (signal) from the second (power). And of course, no other bare wire should touch the copper tape.

  • Put all the electronics into the body of the guitar. Try not to accidentally summon a demon while doing it. You can add a metal grid between the loudspeaker and the inside top of the guitar.
  • Fix the covers for the pickups with small screws.

Body hardware

  • Fix the potentiometers with thin bolts, and put the knobs on their top.
  • Fix the pickup selector and the jack (you may need to use screws for the latter).
  • Cut a thin metal sheet to the dimensions of the hole on the side of the guitar, and drill two holes for the overdrive and power switches. Use screws to fix it.
  • Fix the inserts for the bridge and the stop tail.
  • Fix the jack cover with screws.
  • Drill two holes and insert the strap buttons.

Head hardware

  • With a rotatory tool, shape the bone nut. You can inspire yourself from internet drawings. Carve six notches the size of each of the six strings.
  • Screw the key tuners.
  • Fix the cover-truss-rod part with small screws.
  • Insert the bone nut, the bridge.

  • Put the strings.

I think you deserve a good meal.

Step 14: The End

One day, I decided I wanted to build an electric guitar out of pallet wood. As soon as I began to use my grand father's wood-working machine and learn from him, I realized I was getting myself into something big. I quickly abandoned the idea of pallets and decided to use good quality wood instead.

Believe it or not, this was my first wood project. Even if that means a lot of work, and even possible failure, I was motivated to learn wood-working. I had access to the machine and to the tools only on week-ends, and I went through blank periods. This whole project took me more than 2 years...

I really hoped you enjoyed reading this Instructable (that my English was readable), and that you will try it out (share your projects' photos!). I'm waiting for a ton of comments to correct me on the details, steps order, ugly truth and beautiful mistakes, etc.

Thank you for reading!

Woodworking Contest

Second Prize in the
Woodworking Contest