You might be a great guitar player, or maybe you’ve just heard about them, but do you know how much it takes to create this “simple” looking instrument? In this article, we are going to go in depth and learn how guitars are made from scratch.
First let’s talk some history, should we?
History of the Guitar
Guitars have been used for a very long period of time, going back in centuries. The first ones were made out of pure wood, and they have evolved from Lute and the Vihuela. The strings were made out of animal organs, such as horse hair and other parts of their body. Back then it was very hard to obtain the required elements for making a guitar, which means there were only a few of them in the market, and most of them were made for personal use. As technology evolved, people starting manufacturing guitars in mass amounts, and started making the strings out of metal since metal is available almost everywhere.
Back in the day, it took weeks to craft a beautiful guitar, and only a few people could craft them perfectly, since there was not much information available about how they work and how they are created. As technology improved and guitars became more famous, people started digging deeper into how they were created, and tried to find easier ways to mass-produce them with cheaper material and in a shorter amount of time. It took a few decades until the process became almost perfect, and then the guitar crafting process was made into a modern manufacturing process.
The modern manufacturing process includes computers and advanced machinery, which can mass-produce huge amounts of guitars in a short period of time, and with not much hand work required. The ‘modern manufacturing process’ is a controversial topic, since most people say it ruined the uniqueness of guitars, and some are thankful because it allowed guitars to become easier to obtain in a lower price.
That should be enough history, now let’s see how they are exactly made and what materials are used in manufacturing them.
The Materials Used In Guitars
As we mentioned above, almost all types of wood can be used on the guitar crafting process, but each type of wood will produce a slightly different type of sound and that’s why a lot of people and famous artists prefer custom-made guitars especially for them.
The bigger parts of the modern and most common guitars, such as the back and the sides of it are crafted with Indian or Brazilian rosewood and since this type of wood is really hard to obtain anywhere else, the Brazilian government took advantage of that and made some restrictions on its export, this of course, resulted in the price of the Brazilian rosewood to rise which results in normal and common guitars being expensive too. When this happened, famous guitar manufacturers tried experimenting with different types of wood, such as maple or mahogany, but the sound quality was too low and the costumers did not like them, so that’s when different guitar types started to be produced.
The soundboard of the guitar is most commonly made out of spruce and cedar. Those two types of wood are usually the same and it’s hard (almost impossible) to notice a difference between them in the sound quality, but the durability may vary. Spruce and cedar is used to make the soundboard (the top) of the guitar, because this type of wood becomes stronger by time, and there are even auctions for aged guitars which cost a lot, just because the wood is aged and people say it sounds better.
The Manufacturing Process
The process of making guitars is much more complicated than it seems, since every part of it is made of different wood and they need to be aligned together without any flaws, because a single scratch on the wood will ruin the whole guitar. On the biggest and most famous factories, the workers go through a training process where they learn how to do everything properly, after that they have to pass a test before they can start working.
- Bookmatching is the first thing the manufacturers do. Bookmatching is the process of cutting the wood for the top of the guitar, basically it means cutting wood into two parts and they must be equally same length and width, but only half as thick. After that, both of the parts are glued together.
- Strutting is the process of bracing the wood against the pull of the strings, controlling the way the top vibrates, and strutting has a lot of effect on the guitar’s sound.
- Constructing the sides – This is the part where the sides of the guitar are cut. After the wood is cut, they put the wood in water in order to soften it and after it’s done, they are put into molds which shape the sides of the guitar.
- The Neck/Fingerboard – As we mentioned above, the neck of the guitar is made from wood which was cut in half, and then glued after that. After the whole process of crafting the neck is completed, it get’s attached to the body of the guitar.
- The Bridge and the Saddle – The bridge is attached near the bottom of the guitar, and after that a saddle is fitted into it. The saddle is one of the most important parts of the guitar, since it plays a big role in the transferring of string vibration to the fingerboard of the guitar.
- Tuning Machine – The tuning machine is the part at the top of the guitar, most of the time with 6 rotators (one for each string). The tuning machine is one of the most delicate parts of the guitar, and it must be crafted and inserted into the guitar’s body very carefully. After it is inserted, the completed guitar is transferred to a ‘tester’ which will check if the guitar is working properly.