As someone who always wanted to learn to build guitars, I naturally started by trying to assemble a kit. My first kit ever came from thefretwire.com, and was the ES-335/Trini Lopez model pictured in the About page.
That guitar proved to be incredibly challenging and trying to wire a semi-hollow body guitar as my first ever attempt was a bit naive. After the months of mistakes and lessons learned, it led me to write this article for Ultimate-Guitar.com. My goal was to come at kit building from an inexperienced point of view, after all, if I could do it than so could my readers. What followed was the incredibly fun and educational process of building four Tele kits one after the other where I learned a lot of great things about guitar assembly and guitar kits.
You’ll Mess Up
Doesn’t seem like an appealing reason? Truth be told, we could all use a humbling experience now and then, and you learn more from mistakes than you do from success. The key point here though is that kits are both inexpensive and often easy to modify/fix, making them much better options for you to practice wiring, neck setting, or finishing on. No matter how motivated you may be, it’s always scary taking apart a cherished main instrument or expensive dream guitar. Messing up your Gibson or Fender is going to hurt your wallet and soul a lot more than it would if you screw up these kits.
You’ll Learn How to Fix Your Own Guitars
While some big fixes may still require a trained or certified guitar tech, you’ll be far more comfortable with the internal and external features of electric guitars after assembling a kit. Hear a new buzzing sound? You’ll know what connections to check within your internal wiring. Feel something jiggling around loose? Hopefully you’ll feel more confident knowing what can be tightened via screwdriver. Anytime you gain more knowledge about fixing your own gear, you’re saving yourself money you’d have to spend on a guitar tech.
You’ll Get Away From the Screen
Ironically I write this on a screen that I so badly want you all to look at. But realistically, we all need some time to check out from email, text, Instagram, or Netflix. Assembling a guitar (and playing the guitar) is a great way for you to keep yourself occupied in the dark, cold winter months, or sweltering summer heat, while learning new skills and traversing the rewarding path of building something by hand. While elitists may argue you are not truly building a guitar, you still are taking pieces of wood and metal, and turning it into a working instrument. That process in itself can be quite valuable.
You’ll Learn How to Value Guitars
This one is bit more opened ended but for me, it was eye opening to understand these expensive guitar I lust after are just wood, strings, and metal. I could go out and buy the same after market parts, put them on a Squier, and get 90% or more of the same sound. A lot of guitar purists will push back on that, but I strongly believe most of your tone comes from your hands and your playing style, and you shouldn’t have to buy a $2000+ guitar to sound professional. Next time you try out a new guitar at a store ask yourself, is there something in this guitar that I cannot add to my current guitar or a modified cheap guitar? Sometimes the answer is yes, and then you know that the guitar is worth spending your money on. But sometimes, you’re spending hundreds of extra dollars for a brand name on the headstock or a color.
You’ll Have a Unique, Custom Instrument
Sometimes if you want certain features on a guitar you just have to build them in yourself. Especially if you have to stick to a budget, it can really limit the number of models with certain specs you can own. For example, I’m in the middle of making my dream Telecaster (you’ll see more on this project soon!) because I realized to get the pickup combination I wanted in that specific Tele body shape would cost me thousands or would be too cheap and unreliable. So, I’m retrofitting the Fretwire thinline kit above into something truly special with my exact specifications and preferences.