I don’t know that I’ve ever made a point saying this, but one of my hobbies is making guitars. I should specify – my hobby is to make electric guitars. I have never tried making an acoustic guitar. It doesn’t seem that terribly difficult, but difficult enough and with an upfront investment in tools and equipment that I’m not presently interested in. But yes, the long and short of it is that I like to make electric guitars. I also like to play guitar (electric and acoustic, and I dabble in electric bass). Actually, playing guitar and being rather poor in my early 20’s is what lead to my hobby of making them. I came for the cheap instruments, I stayed for the joy of making.
The very first guitar I made was pretty alright. I don’t recall exactly what the base wood was, though I suspect Mahogany. This is something that any experience Luthier (word for person what makes guitars) would absolutely know about each and every guitar that they have made, as the wood that you use to make your guitar is extremely important. It’s important structurally, sure. You wouldn’t make a guitar out of plywood. Or… hmm… actually, I might, but I’m fuckin’ crazy. To someone who’s spent some time making guitars and really thinking about the final outcome, the type of wood you use is much more affected by aesthetics. And I don’t just mean how the guitar will look with the wood chosen. In fact, at least for me, it’s much more important to consider how the guitar will sound. With an electric guitar, you might think that I’m tossin’ crazy talk out here, but maybe that’s because you’re thinking of electric guitar music as being heavily distorted – Grunge, Punk, Metal. However, the vast majority of songs out there recorded on electric guitar are not that heavily distorted, if at all. And if we’re being completely honest, there are many who would argue that you can discern the tone of an instrument even with heavy distortion in a given tune. You know what? I should really dig deeper into this and many other guitar-assed-guitar subjects going forward. But for now, let’s get to the whole thing.
I say that the first guitar I made was pretty alright. It wasn’t great. I made mistakes making it. Some of my cuts weren’t square. I didn’t always “measure twice”. I used a wood that wasn’t right for the tone I wasn’t playing at the time. The guitar body I made and the guitar neck I ordered weren’t well paired. My wiring got fucked up because I didn’t shield and I wasn’t good at soldering that didn’t involve a breadboard. I wasn’t fudging woodwork that I didn’t have the right equipment for. I was rushing things because I only had a short window to work in because I was home on leave from the Air Force. I was changing my mind on what kind of guitar I was making mid-build. In short – I done fucked that thing up somethin’ good.
But it played.
And I could get it in tune.
And I felt awesome anytime I picked it up.
Most importantly, I learned a lot, and not just about making guitars. I learned some shit while making the guitar and later while compensating for or fixing the mistakes I made during the initial build that I have been able to apply to other aspects of my life. Needless to say, the experiences was meaningful with many lessons and I am a quick learner. Thing is… some lessons I just can’t seem to learn.
You know, sometimes I feel like a real dipshit. You know how everyone ever learns not to touch hot things? Yeah, I apparently haven’t. In the past year, I have:
- Reached into a hot-as-fuck oven at an angle where my upper left arm has no choice but to touch the edge of one of the rack, burn-carving a 2-inch long and 1/4-inch deep chunk out of my stupid flesh
- Reached into the same hot-as-fuck oven at a completely other time for a completely other reason and grab onto the metal handle of a fuck-off-hot and heavy-as-cock pan, full grip, permanently fire-fucking my right palm and bottoms of that hands’ finger and OH YES the finger tips as well.
- Grab a GLOWING RED FUCKING HOT hunk of somekindametal in mid-air whilst it was falling off of a forge onto concrete that REALLY FUCKING DIDN’T need me saving it, further burning my fucking stupid right hand, which just so happens to be my favorite and most used hand.
- Snap-reacted to an out-of-place glow off my left shoulder with an irrational left-backhand-swipe into MOTHER FUCKING EMBERS of a free-standing open firepit, burning many nerve ending right out of the back of my left hand.
- Wrap my dumbass lips around BOTH a Hot Pocket and a gas-station frozen-burrito, which ANY FUCKING IDIOT KNOWS IS FILLED WITH LAVA UNLESS YOU LET IT SETTLE FOR AT LEAST TEN MINUTES, causing the faint hints of Tom Waits in my throat to gain just a little more ground
- AND MANY, MANY MORE TIMES I WAS A DIPSHIT
The lesson I should have but didn’t learn with my first guitar build was all about hardware. In the case of building guitars, hardware has to do with what I would have referred to as “parts” before making one of these things on my own. The machine heads (or tuners), the bridge, the pickups, frets, inlays, nut, pins, etc., etc. The stuff that, even if you have the means to make them yourself (and yeah, you can totally make all of those yourself), you would probably buy anyway. I mean, I could wind my own pickups. It’s not terribly hard. I’ve gone through that exercise before. But I prefer pickups made by pros.
When you buy guitar parts, just like everything else that you could buy, you usually get what you paid for. If you pay next to nothing for some tuners, you’re probably going to get some shitty tuners. Well, guess what I did? I paid next to nothing for some guitar tuners. Guess what I got? Some fucking guitar tuners that you can’t actually thread your fucking strings through.
Well, I guess I’ll return these and wait for them to send replacements and…
No swaps or replacement?
You’re motherfucking China and you don’t give two shits that you fucked up and I paid for it, even though your whole deal was “Satisfaction Guaranteed”?
Well fuck you, assholes! Imma rate you a big-ol’ Zero outta Five Stars, you shitheads!
Wait… so… you already have a trillion “Five outta Five’s” which is what lead me to buy from you in the first place… hmm… and now that I look a little closer, it sees like those numbers might just be a tad bit fixed.
I’ve been fucking duped.
Welp. At least they were cheap. Now comes a decision – do I just chuck these out and write them off as a completely bad buy, or do I actually try to salvage them by milling out the heads? What if it turns out they’re made from pot-metal and they break in the middle of a song? Do I hunt down some new tuners for a moderate price and hope I don’t get fleeced? Do I pay full price for some tuner that, honestly, I know from experience are not worth what they are charging? Either way, I am exactly one step away from finishing my best guitar so far, a guitar that I have been dicking around with for over a year and cannot wait to play. I am only a set of WORKING guitar tuners away from a great new guitar. The shit am I supposed to do to finish this thing?
tl;dr – FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK buying cheap-assed guitar parts.
Also, Mahogany is HEAVY AS FUCK. When I get down to get down, I like to strum, slap, and slink away for a good couple hours and heavy as fuck is not very conducive that this desire.