I saw this 2 x 4 challenge come up and used it as the excuse i needed to build my first electric guitar body. 2x4 lumber has it's value and is frequently discarded when people consider quality woodworking. I get a lot of 2x4 scrap from helping out on construction projects and it quickly became my favorite lumber medium as it is, well, free.
Things I should have done:
-Read a book on guitar making
-Watched a video on guitar making
-Done extensive planning
But I didn't do any of these things. ADHD takes its toll on my projects sometimes. This means I ran into a few snags along the way. That said, I now have a great guitar body and am planning the neck build very soon! Enjoy.
- Around 4' of 2x4 lumber (this might change pending your design)
- Wood Glue
- Pickups of your preference
- Pickup Selector switch
- 500k - 1M potentiometer
- 1/4" audio jack
- 4" of 3/8" copper pipe
- Miter Saw
- Various sizes of clamps
- Rotary tool
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Step 1: Get Your 2x4 Lumber Ready to Go!
When working with 2x4 lumber you need to do a little prep for optimal results. The way 2x4s are planed leave them with a rounded edge. Ideally, we want to remove that edge for joining boards.
Run each side of each board on your table saw. You only want to take about /8" - 3/16" off each side.
Now you have some nice lumber ready to go.
Step 2: Joining Boards
- Take your board and apply glue to all inside edges.
- Clamp the boards together
Note: If the boards start to bow you can clamp a straight board to the top of the block to keep it flat.
Now you have a nice starter board.
Step 3: Start Giving This Block of Wood a Neat Guitar Shape!
The cool thing about building a guitar is that you can make it look however you want!
- Sketch the shape of a guitar on the wood block. You should take time to draw detailed positioning of components to be installed. Draw a center line on the board and use it as an orientation point. Drawing is much easier to do early on as you are working with a squared object as opposed to, well, a guitar shape.
- Once you have a finished sketch you can cut out your guitar body. I used a bandsaw but you could also use a jigsaw or a scroll saw.
- Take a drill and put a notch in each pickup area for routing. If you have a plunge router you can skip this part.
Step 4: Router Holes in the Guitar Top
This is where I made once of my more annoying mistakes. Before you use your router to dig holes for pickups you should examine your pickup. Only the bottom portion goes in the hole. I routed enough area for the top portion as well. First timer error...
You also need to router an area for the neck to join the guitar.
I got a little artsy with my design. I use a rotary tool to carve a design and used black wood paint for an inlay. Don't criticize me too much. I'm new at artistic carpentry.
Step 5: Don't Rush It
I really wanted to see a finished guitar body so I stained and painted it at this step in the build.
Take your time with your build and saw the finish until the end. I ended up marring the finish several times during the rest of the build. A little patience now will make you much happier in the end.
Step 6: Make an Electronics Compartment
Every electric guitar has an electronics compartment where all of the wiring comes together.
- Drill holes in the top of the body where your volume control and pickup selection switch will sit.
- Flip the body and router an area around these holes for components to live. You will need to clear this area rather deeply. You'll only have about 1/4" of wood left between the compartment and the guitar surface.
(I used a spade bit. I only have a very small router and my bits are only 3/4" long)
- Cut a thin piece of 2x4 to cover the electronics compartment.
-Trace the cover around the compartment and router the thickness of the cover so that it will sit flush when installed.
Step 7: Installing Those Pickups!
This part is a little tricky. I just kind of eyed this one.
- Drill the corner of your pickup holes toward the electronics compartment. Be VERY CAREFUL. You could very easily end up drilling through the back of your guitar instead of into the electronics compartment.
- Run your wires through.
- Take this moment to put your volume knob and pickup switch in their respective positions.
- Finally, use the screws that came with the pickups to attach them to the body
Step 8: Drill String Holes
Mark 6 evenly spaced marks at the bottom of the guitar. You'll need to leave enough space under the bottom pickup for a bridge to be installed.
- Drill those marks with a 1/16" bit
- On the back side of the guitar countersink the holes with a 3/16" bit for the string ends to settle in.
Step 9: Adding a Bridge
Guitar bridges are not so expensive but I'm low on funds and didn't have a scrap one on hand so I got creative.
- Cut a piece of 2x4 down to a 3/4"x1/2"x4" block
- Run the center of that block down your tablesaw about 1/4" deep to create a long notch
- Hammer a piece of 3/8" copper pipe flat
- Like with the pickup holes, drill a hole under where the bridge will be installed into the electronics compartment.
- All electronics will ground to the bridge so you need to drill a hole in the bottom of the block for a wire to enter
- Insert a wire into the hole and lay the wire flat into the notch.
- Tap the flattened copper into the notch on top of the wire (pin it in good!)
- Run the remaining wire through the hole in the guitar into the electronics compartment.
- Put a little glue under the bridge and clamp it into place.
Step 10: Wire It Up!
I'll admit, I'm not a great wiring guy. I found this wiring diagram online.
Be careful not to short anything out.
I added a lot of electrical tape to keep everything separated.
Step 11: Give It a Try!
I don't have a neck for this guitar yet but I had a really easy way to test it.
- Plug the guitar body into your guitar amp.
- Put another guitar up to the pickups and pluck a few strings. If sound comes through you did a great job!!!
An important final note for beginning builders such as myself. String height will be very important for pickup sensitivity as well as the action on the fret board so you will need to make a few adjustments when you attach a neck. Mainly, you'll be making an adjustment to the bridge. If you purchase an adjustable bridge this will be simple. For me, I'll just be hammering down my copper bridge to my liking.
I hope you all enjoyed this Instructable and I hope to see some pictures of others who give it a shot. Just remember. You don't need to spend an arm and a leg on prime mahogany or maple. A couple of 2x4 planks out of a contractors trash can is all you need to be on your way to rock and roll glory!