10/10/2013

Build Your Own Electric Guitar

Paul Balmer
2013

I've been planning on building my own electric for over a decade now. I still haven't managed it, but I feel like I'm getting closer to having the time and space. So I've been stocking up on some more books about guitars. Plus I like books about guitars anyway.

I've read the Haynes Fender Stratocaster Manual and I really like the format - nicely bound, good quality pages, plenty of big, colour pictures. I also love the way that Haynes have so imaginatively branched out from automative manuals (there's even a Wallace & Gromit Cracking Contraptions Manual!)

The format hasn't changed here, and there's lots of interesting detail. I particularly like the in-depth look at "Red Special", the guitar made by the godfather of all home builders, the awesome Brian May (who also provides a foreword). There's a section on installing a piezo bridge - not that I expect to do this ever, but it's nice to know. The book is well structured and the illustrations are very clear - always a bonus, since I've seen too many fuzzy, monochromatic pictures that tell you nothing.

However, this book is not really about building an electric guitar. It's about assembling a Strat. No other types of guitars are covered, and in any case the sample guitars are assembled from ready made bodies and necks. Now, this is an excellent way of starting, and I'm sure my first guitar will be made like this, so in that respect this is a very useful book. But there's a lot more to building an electric guitar than that. So this doesn't really replace the classic of the genre, Melvyn Hiscock's "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" (which also has an introduction from Dr. May).

Other gripes? The binding, while excellent quality, means that the book doesn't stay open by itself, which would be a pain if you wanted both hands free to actually do some work on a guitar. And finally, why oh why does it persistently refer to "S-type" guitars throughout? Myriad other books have no problem referring to Strats, Stratocasters, Teles and many other trademarked instruments without having to resort to such footling around. Call a spade a spade and a Strat a Strat! A minor but persistently annoying aspect of a generally good book.

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