Rob’s Acoustic Ambition

You’ll always find Rob Fawcett, one of our Creative Technical Managers bringing back to life discarded offcuts from our scrap bin. Here he tells us his journey to building a guitar from these throwaway bits, and how he got started.

Where did you learn to make a guitar?
I learnt by repairing a few in my teens. I inherited my fathers confidence in fixing anything, so people would come knocking. They were mainly electric, but I enjoyed deconstructing and fixing an old acoustic as its’ innards fascinated me. I then made a couple of electric guitars which are quite straight forward as they are solid bodied, but there’s still a lot of carving and sculpting of the body and neck.

I didn’t tackle an acoustic build until 1999, but it was always on my list. I’d done a bit of steam bending in the past, and I had down time on a major project as a lot of it was outsourced, so it seemed a natural progression. I then bought some plans and read a ‘how to’ book. Being a Toolmaker by trade, I knew a lot about precision and jig-making, so I disagreed with a lot of the methods and found a few of my own. My current build is only my third one.

Where would you recommend someone starting?
I would recommend Jonathan Kinkead’s book ‘Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar’ as it offers many options depending on budget. It also has a lot of ‘do’s and don’ts’ which I wish I’d known the first time, and also has plans attached.

You can also find plans from They will sell you anything guitar related, especially tools, but shop around! They also have a lot of videos online.
Here’s my list of preferred suppliers:

Some experience of woodworking is necessary as there are techniques which beginners will find daunting. An abundance of patience is also required as it’s a long process!

Key skills you need to master are: sawing, planing, sanding, routing and scraping.

What materials and specialist tools do you need?
– A good plane or two of different sizes
– A fret saw
– Carving tools such as a round and flat surform and a curved spokeshave.
– Marking and measuring tools such as a good 3ft or 1metre rule and an engineers square.
– A cheap bandsaw will save loads of time.
– A deep-throat G-clamp.
You should really invest in a bending iron, which is upwards of £250. I use an aluminium tube and a blowtorch, but this requires a lot of feel and wood knowledge. Youtube is a brilliant resource for guitar building.

What’s the process?
I start by making a mould, two female versions of the shape cut out of plywood then spaced to give it the required height.
I then plane and sand the top, back and sides to 3mm.
Bend the sides to fit in the mould (its never perfect but will be during final construction).
The top and back are glued along their centre line and are ‘bookmatched’ from the same piece of wood. The top should be spruce (for tone) and back and sides pretty much anything that will bend. Added to these are struts for tone and strength.

The two sides are joined by internal blocks, the front one having a joint for the neck. There are several choices for this.
Kerfing (notched wooden strips which will bend) is glued to the inside, top and bottom, to allow for a structural gluing surface for the top and back.
Neck can be one piece or laminated horizontally or vertically. The final shaping and sanding of the neck is the longest part of the whole process.

The fretboard (or fingerboard) should be as hard as possible, so wood choice is important. Marking and cutting the grooves is critical, and I use a home-made jig although they are commercially available for about £30.
Edges should be protected with bindings, which are hard wood or plastic, and require a groove to be routed to accommodate them.
Carve and sand the bridge and glue in place via the soundhole using a deep-throat G-clamp.
Finishing should be done with a scraper as sanding will fill the grain.
We then have several choices of protection, from spraying to french polishing. Setting up can take a very long time as the woods need to settle and acclimatise.

Interested to get started on your own? Take Rob’s recommendations to start, or have a look at the great guitar making courses available through West Dean College or London Metropolitan University