The length of time that it takes to build a custom guitar varies considerably depending on the type of guitar, the tools available, the experience of the builder, and whether you are building completely from scratch, or using a kit.
Many pros and amateurs alike have reported that it can easily take between 15-250 person-hours to complete a custom acoustic guitar build. Electric guitar build is often less than that but still takes considerable time, depending on the finish.
There is no definitive answer to this question as custom guitar builds vary significantly, but the overall themes discussed will give you a framework to think about the process in more detail.
In this article, I will explore the different factors that can impact how long it takes to build a custom.
Table Of Contents
- Starting With A Kit or Starting From Scratch
- Does It Take More Time To Build a Custom Acoustic Guitar Than A Custom Electric Guitar?
- How Long Does It Take A Professional Luthier to Build a Custom Guitar?
- How Can You Speed Up The Time It Takes To Build A Custom Guitar?
- How TO Build A Custom Guitar In 12 Years
Starting With A Kit or Starting From Scratch
One of the biggest factors over how long it will take you to build a custom guitar is whether you are starting from scratch completely, with untouched chunks of wood, or whether you are starting with some kind of kit.
Kits come in various shapes and sizes, at various stages of completion ranging from just parts to parts with an assembled neck, to assembled bodies that just need electrically fitted.
If you are assembling a kit, then this could potentially be done in a couple of hours, whereas if you are starting from scratch then you could easily get to 100 hours or more.
Does It Take More Time To Build a Custom Acoustic Guitar Than A Custom Electric Guitar?
In many ways, a custom acoustic guitar can take a lot longer than a custom electric guitar.
The main reason for this is that the acoustic guitar bodies tend to be a lot more intricate have more pieces and these pieces need to be glued together.
With each different step, you then need to wait for that glue to dry before being able to assemble the next part.
But even once the body is done, there are other parts o the process that time a considerable amount of time.
Setting up the neck, and getting frets inserted and set up is a significant step that takes a lot of time. It is precision work, that must be done very carefully, and there is a lot of testing and adjusting involved.
Another part of the process that takes a lot longer than many people would guess is applying the finish.
If you are just doing an oil finish over the existing timber then that is simple and quick, but if you are painting your guitar, and especially if you are going for a layered sunburst finish or similar, you could spend days on that alone.
How Long Does It Take A Professional Luthier to Build a Custom Guitar?
Professional guitars builders and luthiers can often quote 3-4 months as a shorter time frame for how long it might take to build a custom guitar, even longer in some cases.
Obviously, they would not be spending all of this time on a single guitar, they would have multiple guitars at different stages, as there is lots of waiting involved in building a custom guitar.
Thi time could be extended even further depending on the style of the guitar.
For example, you can see the time quoted by the custom guitar manufacturer ‘Eichel Custom Guitars’ is 4-8 months for a custom build:
How Can You Speed Up The Time It Takes To Build A Custom Guitar?
There are multiple different things that can contribute to the speed of a custom guitar build.
A CNC Machine is a wood processing machine that can automatically cut and drill a piece of wood to specifications, based on instructions sent to it by a computer program.
CNC machines have been responsible for the dramatic decrease in the ost of guitars because manufacturers can use these to increase the number of guitars they can produce dramatically.
The machine cutting is so precise that it eliminates human error and leads to a very consistent result.
This video shows a CNC machine cutting the body of an electric guitar:
There are a whole range of specialized guitar-making tools that you can buy if you are taking your guitar making seriously, and these tools (including specialized clamps, etc) can make the guitar assembly process much quicker.
The number of hours you have put into making guitars will also increase the speed at which you can create a custom guitar.
Like anything, the more you practice the better you get, and once you know what you are doing each step of the way.
Your time is more productive and there is less time trying to figure out what to do, and just carrying out the required actions. There are also fewer mistakes made with increased experience (hopefully), which also saves time.
How TO Build A Custom Guitar In 12 Years
In this ‘12 Hour Guitar Build Series,’ you can watch a professional luthier try and build a custom guitar in 12 hours.
It is a great series, that helps you quickly see the complexity involved in building a custom electric guitar, and all the things that can get complicated throughout the process.