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Working towards making my first guitar

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I am in the process of getting ready to arrange my first guitar build and I will be building from a kit. Do LMI's kits come with pre bent sides? From reading and this forum I have leaned especially towards Stew Mac as my first guitar build. Hopefully someone can provide some more useful information (as if I didn't have enough already)

Jan 01, 08 | 4:37 pm

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Total Posts: 23
As I am in the middle of building a LMI guitar, I can tell you that it is simpler to go with Stewmac for your first guitar. Yes, LMI can bend the sides for you if you buy the serviced kit, or, I guess you could by the unserviced kit and pay their price for bending the sides "a la carte". In the serviced kit they give you a pre-cut neck, slotted and radiused fingerboard, joined back and top with a basic rosette and back strip installed. However, it is definitely not a "paint by numbers" kit. You have to understand what you're doing, or figure it out, much more with the LMI kit. You will have some deciding to do, as the plans lend themselves to more than a specific guitar, and allow for certain variables to be decided by the builder.
With the Stewmac kit, you just follow the instructions. There are no instructions with the LMI kit, but you can buy a DVD from them documenting a guitar being built, although perhaps not the exact type you will be building. You also can download the Stewmac instructions for free from their website, and us them to help you with your LMI kit, although not everything is covered or applies. For example, Stewmac will give you pre-carved braces. LMI requires you to decide what radius to use, and then make your braces.
That said, once you get through a LMI kit, you will have a much better understanding of what your guitar is all about; the why, not just the how.

Jan 01, 08 | 4:53 pm
Ken Hundley

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Total Posts: 2169
Good for you Jess, can't wait to see what you do with your kit. As to what direction you head, that will depend on a few things. Do you want to build a custom guitar with different woods or fitments than a very standard guitar? If so, LMI might be the way to go, with the added upcharge for services you know you cannot easily or reasonably perform or have performed yourself. If you are going to build a typical mahoganey or rosewood dred or 000, then stewmac might be better. The plans and instructions are better than anyone else out there, but the selection is very limited as far as customizing the kit.

More than likely, you will be purchasing or borrowing more books than you think on this subject. Not every instruction or plan tells you all you need to know, and though many of the books offer different approaches, having the extra sources gives you a better understanding of how it can be done, and allows you to make the best decidions for your specific abilities.

You should also try talking to Ken Cierp or John Hall about specifics for your kits, they may be able to approach your kit differently than the other suppliers out there, and may be able to supply you with tools and molds specifically for the kits they provide. Both are members of this forum and would be happy to help you, but to answer your question, I think we need a better idea of what you are capable of. Tell us a little more about yourself, your woodworking ability, your shop, and what tools you have or intend to get, and someone here may better be able to guide you. Also, TAKE PICTURES! We like that here. Good luck.

Jan 01, 08 | 7:20 pm

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Well I have a full shop at my disposal, smaller in size but with plenty of counter space and many tools needed for the building process besides specialty tools specifically for the guitar building process. I have extensive knowledge of working with softwoods of sorts but very little knowledge working with hardwoods. My primary concern more than anything is in regards to side-bending and bracing. I have a lot of knowledge from several sources already, I just hope I can condense all of them into one focused thought process and move forward with it. Thanks for the comments so far - will be looking forward to more.

Jan 01, 08 | 8:50 pm

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Total Posts: 567
Welcome Jess!

I have built both Stewmac and LMI kits and both are great products. Stewmac sells their kits in a 'what you see is what you get' type of format. In other words, they have them already boxed up and ready to go so they don't allow changes. LMI on the other hand has the Kit wizard that allows you to change everything and anything in the kit, including what services you want done. That includes side bending. If you go with their basic serviced kit as a starting point, it includes top and back jointing, thickness sanding, side bending, and a pre-carved neck and neck block. I also believe it has the rosette is installed and soundhole is cut.

Really, the amount of servicing you want depending on your experience, skill level, and available tools. Some people (like me) want to do everything so I don't allow any services which in real language means you get a box of rough lumber. Since you have a shop and some woodworking experience, I would suggest getting everything un-serviced except the side bending. All of your soft-woodworking experience will carry over into the guitar building.

You might want to check my blog and go to the beginning of the journal. The first guitar I blogged was a serviced kit from LMI and it shows exactly what arrives if you start your order as I suggested. One thing that I learned however, with LMI for some reason they don't automatically bend the perfling and there is no option in the wizard to ask for it. Make sure you ask them to bend the perfling along with the bindings (if they are wood) and sides in the comments box. They don't charge for it, but you have to ask seperately for the service. If you read my blog you will see that I didn't know that and had to build a bender for the perfling strips.

Good luck and welcome to your new obsession!

Jan 02, 08 | 5:07 am
Bill Cory

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Total Posts: 3584
Jess -- Welcome to the forum. A lot of what I wrote on is aimed at the brand new builder (which you are) without many tools or much woodworking experience (which you are not). I'd say you will have no problems, especially with the Stewmac kit. I personally recommend using the Stewmac kit as the first build for almost anyone, though, because it is accompanied by the best set of construction instructions in the business.

Soon, though, Martin-style kits will have a manual available that equals Stewmac's -- I'll have it in print by the end of February of this year.


Jan 02, 08 | 5:15 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Sounds to me as well that the only thing you may be lacking then is sidebending tools and experience, something most of us lack. I would go with whatever kit gives you the best components you want for your build then, and just make sure that either the sides come bent, or that you add the service to the kit. Take a look at LMII's Kit wizard, at the very least, it is fun to "build" your dream guitar and see what it will cost you, and what needs to go into it.

Bill's got some great tips and advice on the differnt areas of this forum and website, take advantage of all of them.

Jan 02, 08 | 6:05 am

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