Many of you ask this question in the workshop. So, I’m going to gather advice here tailored to three subjective skill levels: beginner, intermediate, and professional. Making your own musical instrument is a wonderful adventure. We always remember the first notes after long adventures!
Beginner Level: If you’ve never worked with wood, don’t have tools or a workshop, don’t worry, we’ll guide you!
Intermediate Level: If the unknown doesn’t scare you, you have some tools at hand, and a small workspace, then you’re ready to dive in!
Professional Level: If you work in a different field but can follow a plan, handle tools, and have a workshop, here are some tips to speed up your research.
Note: In this article, I’ll often mention a well-known vendor in the field: Stewmac. I’ll share links to their site to illustrate my points, but I encourage you to explore other local options based on your region. Stewmac also offers a “How-to” section with a wealth of free, high-quality information. For my Canadian readers, check out Lee Valley for tools and Nextgen for electronics. You’ll find several links at the end of the article. Thank you!
To ease into it, I suggest an easy and quality project to start. Beginning this way increases your chances of success and prepares you for more advanced projects. Opt for projects that don’t require many tools or space. With a few basic tools and a corner of a table, you can start your first project. Investing in quality tools will serve you for a lifetime.
Classic / Acoustic
I suggest making a ukulele. This instrument is ideal for understanding the structure and assembly of acoustic instruments. There are different sizes of ukuleles: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The last two sizes are recommended, with the soprano being more suitable for travel. Opt for a quality kit with a nice wood selection for a rewarding result.
For those who prefer electric, a Telecaster-style guitar is an excellent choice. Less gluing, more screwing, and an opportunity to learn soldering and electronics.
A fun project: a board, a pickup, a volume knob! Do some research, salvage parts from an old guitar, or search on eBay.
Another fun project, check this site for advice. Don’t buy too many tools before you need them.