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CONTEST: O'Brien DVD - Is Your Name In the Hat?
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3594
I will be receiving a second copy of "Build A Steel String Guitar With Robert O'Brien" (DVD) in a few days as part of an LMI OM kit. I already have this excellent DVD and have viewed it three times.

The new one wil be a prize in a little sweepstakes contest to be run right here in this thread.

The winner will be drawn by my daughter from names in a hat, and eveyone who answers the following question is eligible. Contest closes on June 30; DVD will be mailed on July 1 to the lucky winner.

All you have to do to enter this sweepstakes is write something in answer to this question right here in this thread: (I am not eligible, and Robbie is not eligible. (Sorry Robbie!))

Question: "Is building a kit the best way to learn guitar building? Why? What kit are you building or have you built?"

Read my review of the DVD on -- to be posted tomorrow.

Jun 14, 06 | 6:19 am
Matt Grieshop

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 27
Is building a kit the best way to learn guitar building? Why? :

I am just starting my kit building journey but here is my opinion so far:

For a person without a shop full of tools and a reasonable amount of "fine" woodworking experience (something beyond drywall screws and 2x4's) , who doesn't have the time, freedom, or geographic opportunity to go apprentice at an actual luthier shop (or enroll in a months long course like Robbie's!), I would answer yes, a (serviced) kit is the best way to start building guitars. My reasoning for this is that a kit (once again, serviced) appears to make the building process a lot more accessible by providing you with simpler tasks that require less in the way of tooling up. In addition in my (very) limitied experience having a well put together set of instructions (plans, + book, + video) that closely match the provided materials makes the process seem a lot less mysterious and scary than just reading through some of the books on the subject and buying a bunch of materials.

Does this mean that I don't think I (or anyone for that matter) could build my (their) first guitar "from scratch"? No, I think it would definately be possible, I just think it would probably not be a very good guitar (more trial and error), and it would take 1+ years to build.......and cost 2-3 times more due to bigger tooling needs and more screwups (probably several ruined side sets). I'm a big believer in crawling before you walk and walking before you run.....

Now if I were 18 (or 25 for that matter) and didn't have a family to support, I would consider trying to find a shop to apprentice at for a year or two and learn that way.....

What Kit are you building or have you built?:

I have just received a Stew Mac rosewood, bolt on, 000 and am waiting for the freaky weather to stop so I can let the wood equilibrate. Patience is a virtue I guess!!



Jun 14, 06 | 9:02 am

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 27
Is bulding a kit the best way . . .

Yes i think so , for the starters is a good way to know how the things work , and maybe after 2 or 3 kits maybe someone can think about building from scratch while persuiting the tools to do it .

What kit . . .

Im building a Stewmac Indian Rosewood , dreadnought , dovetail .

Estevao .

Jun 14, 06 | 4:08 pm

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244
Is kit building the best way to lear n and why? Yes, I think it is. With all the variety of kits and with all the options of what is "Pre-done" or "Serviced" you can choose to jump in almost anywhere on the specturm to begin. From the $99 Grizzley with the assembled body to a totally unserviced kit where you do virtually everything but cut down the tree and saw up the log. You may purchase a kit virtually wherever you feel your skills will take you. And with accomdating folks like Blues Creek you can even customize your kit further with a myriad of choices.

What kit have I built? None to date. I did build a StrumStick style instrument from scratch with my son as a school music/Science project and I've done a fair amount of work thru the soundhole on about 8-10 guitars. I've been "aiming" toward one for sometime and have been waiting for my life to settle down enough to pull the trigger. Having Bill start this site has been a great source of info and is VERY motivating?

Jun 14, 06 | 6:05 pm

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 89
Is building a kit the best way to learn guitar building? Why? :

simply put - Yes. If you have experience and tools, it's a good way to get underway quickly and learn the basics of the instrument and how it works. If you don't have a shop or many tools or even experience with wood; either way you get a better appreciation for the highly skilled artisans who create these amazing pieces. Plus you save money (and time is $ these days too) ordering most if not all of your items from one vendor.

I'm building a dread kit from LMI - it's been tough. I've learned a bunch already- and i've only gotten the tail/heel blocks glued to the sides - so much more to go!!


Jun 15, 06 | 2:06 pm

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676

Intersting responses! I do think that beginning with a kit is the way to go. It is a good way to understand and get a feel for the fundamentals of guitar building. I would not like to waste time or money on a school without having a couple of kits under my belt. They are also a way to get a guitar that is no longer being built or which is unafordable in vintage shops.

I'm building an 0-16NY Martin more or less look alike from John Hall at Blues Creek Guitars.

Thx --Jim

Jun 15, 06 | 5:06 pm

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 9
Yes I do. There are something's I believe I have the woodworking skills to perform if I built from the raw but there are something I dont think I could handle yet. I think this is the best way to start the learnig process. So I think a kits is the best first choice. I'm starting a stew-mac triple 0 kit in rosewood with a dovetail neck.

Jun 15, 06 | 7:31 pm
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
Kits are a great way to start. The biggest advatage to a kit is the parts match the build. Most don't know what they don't know and while ignorance is bliss , when building a guitar you need to know somthing to what you are doing.
Things like matching scale length to the top and the soundhole placement. Bracing laout etc. Amazingly you don't need a shop full of tools. I belive the mind is the best tool you may have. Once you have a kit or 2 under the belt and you can overcome the initial fit and finish issues , building guitars can be more than a fun hobby.
Kit come from raw matterial to serviced. Service kits are best for starters as the radiusing and some of the more technical things are done for you.
Rememeber that you want to keep it simple, and the strings fit on the outside.
john hall

Jun 18, 06 | 4:59 pm

Total Topics: 1
Total Posts: 1
Whoops. Try again.
There is no better way to learn than by doing. Attempting to build a first guitar from all raw materials is beyond the skill level of most even with handyman or amatuer cabinet maker experience. The specialized tools required at many steps also can be just too much $$ to lay out for starting out as a builder who may not want to build more than one instrument. Kits are a great way to help up the odds of actually producing a playable instrument.

I'm currently working on my first kit. A 0000 (M) mahogany/sitka kit from John Hall. Learning to fit a dovetail on my first project has been a real eye opener. Everything else is falling into place, more or less.

Jun 19, 06 | 7:36 am
Cameron Reddy

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 20

Thanks for the contest... and the forum, for that matter.

I'm not sure starting with a kit is the best way, but it certainly is a highly sensible way, to start. I am a beginning woodworker deep into the process of learning woodworking in general. Starting with rough sawn wood and ending with a highly polished guitar would be totally overwhelming to a raw beginner. I spent well over a week hand planing just one long board of bubinga, starting with a scrub plane, and ending with a #4 finish plane. At times, it had me nearly in tears. It was both physically grueling and mentally taxing--have you tried to get a perfectly flat edge that is perfectly square to a flat side--along a five-foot 8/4 piece of figured bubinga? Of course, it can be done--it's just darn hard, and involves a fair amount of craft. How about getting that first side perfectly flat to begin with? And oh my goodness do you need to learn how to get a sharp edge on your tools!! And to gently camber the blade for the finish plane so you don't leave obvious planing marks.

So, does assembling a kit that involves making a few cuts and perhaps a dado on pre-dimensioned wood teach the art and craft of working wood... clearly no. But, would you ever get a finished guitar (do you know the difference between a lacquer and a varnish? Still confuses me!)? I know I wouldn't.

The issue, it seems to me, is WHERE do you want to start the process of learning craft and, perhaps more fundamentally, how much craft do you want to learn?

I want to learn the craft. Taking a 1/1000" shaving and watching and listening to it hiss as it curls up from the plane is (or I should say, 'can be') fun. But, for me to build a guitar, it will be a kit.

And once I learn some craft... I own some wonderfully striped 6/4 and 4/4 Macassar Ebony that will make a bunch of stunning guitars...

Jun 20, 06 | 9:37 am

Total Topics: 25
Total Posts: 113
Bill, nice touch with the contest!

I think a guitar kit is a good way to start, because it helps jump start you past procrastination.

Once you make the initial investment and everything is there in front of you, you feel obligated to get started.

I think had I started by ordering wood, I might still be reading articles about side bending, etc. instead of building.

It's been said on this forum before, but it bears repeating... the best way to learn is to read a bit first, then just start.

Martin Rosewood Herringbone OM.


Jun 20, 06 | 4:49 pm

Total Topics: 8
Total Posts: 43
A kit is a great way to go to assemble a guitar. I am not sure it is the best way to learn guitar building. Let me explain. Guitar building as described by the Cumpiano book is way beyond what one does when one builds from a kit. It is definitely a step in the right direction in that it allows you to go through some of the steps of guitar building. This, hopefully, gives you enough confidence to tackle an end-to-end project at some point.
On the second question, I am in the process of building an all-mahogany 00

Jun 20, 06 | 7:06 pm

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 81
Is building a kit the best way to learn guitar building? Why?

In my case building a kit is the best way to learn guitar building. Sure I have the time and I could scrape up some money to go to a school, but I am too young to take a class because the schools that I wish to take require that I am 18. So instead of taking a school at this moment I thought I would get a head start at building a guitar myself plus score a couple of tools and some advanced experience before I am eligible for courses. Also guitar kits aren't just for expreience I want to do this for the pure fun of making guitars at my own pace.

What Guitar are you building or have built?

I have just recently got my 000 Stew mac guitar kit and am now just looking for a job since i spent all my money on the kit itself. Also I got finals to finish up infact my last final/ last day of school for the year will be tommorow then I can start my plan on finding a job and building my first guitar! Who knows, after this kit I may move on to a dreadnought or a mandolin kit.


Jun 20, 06 | 11:58 pm

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244

To everyone...sorry for this side trip!

If you would like some additional inspiration go to the Taylor website and look at their timeline and read about how Bob Taylor built his first guitar in shop class. If he can do it, you can too!

Jun 21, 06 | 4:34 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
I think everyone will agree how great it is to see a young guy like Louis fall in love with guitar building. Louis, have a great time with your Stewmac 000, and send pictures, too!

Now back to our regularly scheduled ... contest.


Jun 21, 06 | 8:23 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Sanjiv - I agree, building a kit is much different from scratch building. Many processes, design decisions, skills, tools and jigs are needed from scratch, not to mention the experience needed to mentally follow a plan for your instrument as you work on each step.

Still, the building of a kit shows a novice what's what in a guitar. For those of us who didn't know much about the inside of a guitar during decades of playing, that's the value of the kit. After building one, we can at least appreciate what went into the creation of the instruments. And, it's a glimpse of what might be required if we decide to build from scratch.


Jun 24, 06 | 4:32 am
Robbie O'Brien

Total Topics: 38
Total Posts: 110
Bill, I sure wish I was eligible for that DVD. I hear it is pretty good! haha

I am with JOhn hall on this one. Kits are a great way to start! Most people have no idea what it really takes to build a guitar. A kit, especially the serviced ones, allow you to have most of the technical and difficult stuff done for you. This cuts down on the learning curve as well as the investment in tools and jigs. All of the materials come from one supplier in one box and usually at a discount over buying everything seperate. Not only that, most kits on the market today come with instructional material to help you with the build. With that, and the plethra of knowledge available on forums such as this one there is no better time to build your own guitar!
Good luck with the contest everyone.

Jun 26, 06 | 8:02 pm

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 81
Now that the contest will be done i am going to go offside.
KTHOM, I have been reading Bob Taylors history so far I am at year 1974 it is so cool to see how Bob with little experience of building guitars get into a shop. I cant wait to start my stew- 000 so later I can uild one on my own. maybe that will be my ticket to getting my foot in the door of the music industry.

gonna keep reading on its great thanks for the site. I strongly recomend for anyone who is intrested in Taylor guitars.


Jun 30, 06 | 2:36 pm

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244
Yuu bring up an interesting point about "Scratch" Building.
The one thing about all the choices that must be made, etc. I'm sure there are planty of Luthiers who cut down the trees, split and saw the planks and then re-saw to thickness, etc. However if one looks at sites like Stew Mac, LMI etc. even luthiers can buy their supplies in a somewhat precut fashion.

Side bending seems to be one of the dividing lines...otherwise one could choose to build a myriad of guitars from assembled supplies and not really deviate from a kit that much. Theres a TON of Dread stuff out there if you just wanted to build them. From a production standpoint it might be worthwhile to assemble the parts as such and spend your time building it with your dkills and the manner you may have developed as a Luthier.

There's a broad range of supplies and places to jump in the process. Building a kit doesn't have to make one seem like a second class citizen!


Jun 30, 06 | 7:20 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584

(After drawing from a hat using only one entry per person who posted here ...)


Kevin -- send me your earthbound address and I will send you Robbie's DVD, still in the wrapper from LMI!

Congratulations! :-)


Jul 01, 06 | 7:58 am

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 244
You've taken away all of my excuses! Now I will have an excellent video to help me thru whichever kit I choose.

So, IF I may ask...was it my fabulous prose...or my doggedness in replying 3 times to this post? All were great answers. a testament to the excitement generated by this cool site and the commited participants!

If ya'll wanna come over to view it in my soon to be finished basement...I'll pop the popcorn!

Jul 01, 06 | 2:02 pm

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 81
LOl way to win KTHOM CONGRATS and enjoy it eh!

Jul 01, 06 | 8:00 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Kevin ... since it was a sweepstakes drawing, uh, it was your name on a slip of paper drawn out of a salad bowl... :-)

You're right about the answers... they were all SO good, as you say, that the only fair way to get a winner was to put each person's name on one slip of paper and let my daughter do the drawing.

Thanks everyone!


Jul 04, 06 | 3:16 am

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