Cost of Materials to Build an Acoustic Guitar
I built three acoustic guitars, as most of the more complex projects I take on, I did it just to see if I could and if it succeeded I would have something I could use. I have documented the build process for my first guitar here:
My First Guitar Build
- How to Build an Acoustic Guitar
Since there exists plenty of information and blog type details of first hand experiences in building an acoustic guitar, I thought I'd focus more on the difficulties I encountered as I built my own.
This article will hopefully give you an idea of the price you can expect to pay for materials. I will not cover the cost of tools because that can be quite variable. You may be lucky enough to have a thickness planer, bandsaw, and drill press but you can get by without them. I have a drill press and band saw, but for the most part, I used hand tools.
You could purchase a kit and end up with a nice guitar, but less satisfying and less custom than a scratch build in my opinion. StewMac offers two different kits for $493 - $538 depending on the wood. If you want different wood, you have to search for a different kit or build from scratch.
A Word About Wood
Guitars are typically built from wood with properties that promote good tone. It usually has a tight grain structure and good tap tone, meaning if you strike a sheet of tone wood with your knuckle it will almost ring. This wood can be found in different grades from AA(low grade) to AAAA(high grade) to master grade(best). Costs can vary wildly especially when talking about exotic wood that is highly figured. These woods can make beautiful guitars.
Tonewood traditionalist will usually stick with prove types of wood
Neck – Mahogany or Maple
Top – Sitka Spruce or Western Red Cedar
Back and Sides – Mahogany, Rosewood, or sometimes Maple or Walnut
Tonewood heretics will use nontraditional types of wood that have good tonal qualities
Here is a good article:
On My Guitars I Used:
Neck – Maple, back/sides – Walnut, top Sinker Cedar
Neck – Maple, back/sides – Honduran Mahogany, top – Englemann Spruce
Neck – Mahogany, back/sides – Quilted American Cherry, top - Douglass Fir
I did not keep an accurate account of the material cost for Guitar 1, but I know it was the highest cost of the three. I spent more to get a curly maple neck and block, and more on the tonewood.
Maple 25.4 Acoustic Neck Blank
AAA Engelmann Spruce top
CURLY FIGURED HONDURAN back/side
Gotoh Large Schaller-Tuners
Sound Hole Rosette Inlay
Bridge Bone Pins Saddle Nut
Slotted Fingerboard , Rosewood
Traditional Truss Rod Kit
StewMac Medium Fretwire
Pearloid Dot, 6.35mm (1/4")
Plastic Side Dot Material
Quilted Cherry back/side
Douglass Fir top
ABALONE INLAY ROSETTE
Beyond Guitar Tuning Pegs
Rosewood Bridge Pins/Saddle/Nut
Traditional Truss Rod Kit
Pearloid Dot, 6.35mm (1/4") dia.
Plastic Side Dot Materia
Some Additional Materials Needed:
1. Titebond Original Wood Glue $6.00
2. Old English Lemon Oil $3.92
3. Birchwood/Casey Tru Oil $11.95
4. Birchwood/Casey Sealer $6.99
Cost Savings Ideas:
- make your own binding (I used maple and hickory)
- make your own kefing (I used mahogany and poplar)
- make you own bracing(I used cedar and SPF 2x4)
- make your own neck
- make your own fret board from a blank
- make your own bridge, nut, saddle
To get an idea of higher costs these could be purchased:
- Shaped Braces Sitka Spruce - $39.56
- Curly Maple binding - $14.00
- Traditional kerfing, mahogany - $18.00
- Master Grade Sitka Spruce top - $70.00
- Master Grade Ind. Rosewood back/side - $120.00
I spent more on materials for Guitar number two, so I expected it would sound better. I actually like the sound of guitar number 3 better. Perhaps its the shape, having more volume in the body or perhaps its because of the tonewood. Maybe its the construction, the thickness of the sound board or something else, I don't know for sure.
My point is that spending more doesn't always mean sounding better.
However, I may eventually replace the tuners on on Guitar 3. They work but are not smooth. They hold it in tune ok, but the tabs have some play. The Gotoh Schaller tuners on Guitar 2 are very nice.
Another point: I used Nitrocellulose lacquer on my first guitar. It is very toxic and required me to use a personal protective equipment. The Tru Oil finish is non-toxic, easy to apply and looks good.
One of the el cheapo tuning pegs on guitar #3 failed so I replaced them all with the same I used on Guitar #2. They are good quality and not too expensive and fit right in place of the old ones without having to drill new holes.