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Old June 28th, 2012, 09:31 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Building from scratch - Impossible

What I was a kid, I met a man who had built his own guitar. I was very impressed, until I learned that he had only bought ready-made parts and put them together. "That's not building your own, that's just like playing with Legos", I thought.

Now I'm in my 30s, and a newbie guitar modder. I haven't assembled a new guitar from parts (yet), and I've certainly not built anything from scratch. But the growing desire to build my own guitar got me thinking: How does one build a guitar from scratch? Without relying on ready-made parts? (Because that's an essential part of the definition of "from scratch", isn't it?) Ok, so first you must go out in the woods and chop down a tree. Split it open, and put it to dry, before you can start shaping it. Ok so far. The wood part is doable.

Next; Pickups. You have to buy copper wire for the winding.... No scratch that, when you're buying ready made products, you're no longer doing things from scratch. You have to go out and dig up some copper ore. Smelt it. Stretch it to a ultra-thin wire. ... nnnno. This is not practically doable.

Tuners? Same story. You can mine iron to make your own, but then either the tuners would stink and/or be very primitive, or you'd use decades ... or you're a freaking genious on par with Leonardo da Vinci, with super-human ingenuity and skill. And steel strings? Better rely on cat guts I guess. Maybe it's just as well, as I have no scratch-built pickups for steel strings anyway.

I may have an unpractically rigid definition of the concept "from scratch", but it is what it is. I guess I'm never going to be able to build an electric guitar from scratch (unless someone can convincingly redefine the entire concept), even if I chop and dry my own wood for the body and neck. Oh well.

If you're mad because I've bored you with philosophy now, and because you'll never get those two minutes back ... I blame Carl Sagan, whose quote triggered me to actually write down these useless thoughts.
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If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 09:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ok then... you're saying it wasn't actually the real Carl Sagan that told you he built his own guitar and then you found out later he just made from assembled the parts?..

it just something that he said... that made you think of Apple Pie?...

cool... ;)... I'd like to add a few more minutes to the total of this thread,,, there's tennis on you know.. I have to look up from typing when the good natured cheering happens..

there it goes again... doh!... another minute added.... Good shot Murray... chipper what...
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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Yes, you may "have an unpractically rigid definition of the concept "from scratch".

Take cooking for instance. With your definition you would have to grow or gather the ingredients. Who amongst us grows wheat and processes it to flour?

I have planted thousands of trees. I have a tree credit built up so I can use wood from another tree. I have bought enough copper products that my copper credit has a positive balance. and so on...

But I agree that putting together parts is not a scratch build. Many times you will see a new build thread, and someone has changed a pickguard or pup, or tuners...
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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:14 AM   #4 (permalink)
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To consider a guitar to be scratch built you have to have created at least a 5 gallon bucket full of sawdust and shavings.

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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:21 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Yes, you may "have an unpractically rigid definition of the concept "from scratch".
You're probably right. But I feel that at the very least I need a consistent working definition that makes sense and is generally agreed upon.

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To consider a guitar to be scratch built you have to have created at least a 5 gallon bucket full of sawdust and shavings.
That's a good start. So ... one can buy all the hardware ready made, and still consider the guitar "scratch built" as long as one does all the wood work by oneself? Does everyone here agree to this?
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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Tuners? Same story.
You're thinking of building your own Gotohs? You're right, THAT is not realistic. But that's not the way the old school guys did it. Look at a violin. Look at a flamenco guitar. Press-fit pegs. Easiest thing in the word to make. You can even use them on an electric. In fact, I've got some violin pegs around, that gives me an idea...

Your point about the electronics is well-taken, but damn, people have been making truly scratch-made acoustic instruments for thousands of years. I've made quite a few myself. Including a couple with no power tools just to prove it could be done (I won't do that again, it's hard on your body!) You need to know wood, how it dries, how to split it along pre-existing lines, that sort of thing. But it can be done, and in fact that's the way most acoustic instruments get made.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:29 AM   #7 (permalink)
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What I was a kid, I met a man who had built his own guitar. I was very impressed, until I learned that he had only bought ready-made parts and put them together. "That's not building your own, that's just like playing with Legos", I thought.
Some people pay alot of money for these and call them "custom built".
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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:39 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Why make a guitar if all you want to do is to say that you made a guitar.... IMO - 'bragging rights' is not a great reason to do anything.

To me - it's all about conceptualizing and making a guitar that has the design elements that you wanted. I make guitars because I can't buy the guitars I wanted and I can make a guitar better than I could afford to pay someone else to make it. If it's not about making a great instrument - no matter how it was done or what someone started with - I don't see a great reason for doing it: Why not make something more useful like a chair or a cabinet?
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Old June 28th, 2012, 10:52 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I scratchbuild models .I use various non related bits and pieces like a bit of copper wire and some epoxy putty and create a tiny figurine or maybe some brass rod and sheet and and some brass master patterns for a model.This model below is scratchbuilt except for the base.I made everything else from scratch .
A parts caster is a kit of parts .So is any tune ,You assemble the notes into a form that is playable .You havnt built the format from scratch ,just the contents


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Old June 28th, 2012, 11:34 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I scratchbuild models .I use various non related bits and pieces like a bit of copper wire and some epoxy putty and create a tiny figurine or maybe some brass rod and sheet and and some brass master patterns for a model.This model below is scratchbuilt except for the base.I made everything else from scratch .
A parts caster is a kit of parts .So is any tune ,You assemble the notes into a form that is playable .You havnt built the format from scratch ,just the contents
I have an old (1960s/70s) British book on scratchbuilt modeling - in this case, cars. Phenomenal stuff. People have no idea what a really determined person can build if they put their mind to it.

You're reinforcing my stereotype that the Brits are the world's best model builders. That's a hell of a figurine.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 11:43 AM   #11 (permalink)
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There will be some parts you buy, some you make yourself. I've seen people build their own bridge on here, winding your own pups is no longer anything out of the ordinary on the HomeDepot. People build their own trussrods and I seem to remember someone making some kind of fretwire (though that may have been on the CBG forum...), but I have not yet seen anyone build their own tuners. Now, that's not saying it can't be done. But really, this may not be a goal to persue.
My mom made apple pie from scratch, I'm willing to bet she's never planted a tree in her life. Let alone driven a grain harvester.

Start by building your own guitar body and if you're up to it, a neck. Use parts as they are available and affordable to you. Only 'scratch build' those parts you can't get your hands on the 'regular' way. Good luck and have fun!
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Old June 28th, 2012, 11:48 AM   #12 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=Olav;4261817]
My mom made apple pie from scratch, I'm willing to bet she's never planted a tree in her life. Let alone driven a grain harvester.
QUOTE]

It's not enough to drive a grain harvester...you have to build the grain harvester.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 11:54 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Hey, stick around these forums for awhile. There are some pretty close to scratch builders here. If not growing own wood, there are some nice guitars here from found object wood such as old barn wood, or wood from warehouses.

I would think a uke with wooden, pressure mounted tuning pegs* would be easiest. The hardest part would be to make metal frets from scratch coming up with ore to make metal.

I think mahogany would be good for body, stained maple for fretboard and bracing and tuning pegs.

As for strings, I hate to say this, go out and find yourself a cat.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 11:55 AM   #14 (permalink)
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So ... one can buy all the hardware ready made, and still consider the guitar "scratch built" as long as one does all the wood work by oneself? Does everyone here agree to this?
I do agree FWIW, but the point remains, do you want a guitar or a spirited conversation? Socrates for example had a heck of a lot of the latter, but none of the former, then killed himself on a point of pride
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Old June 28th, 2012, 12:10 PM   #15 (permalink)
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i do agree fwiw, but the point remains, do you want a guitar or a spirited conversation? Socrates for example had a heck of a lot of the latter, but none of the former, then killed himself on a point of pride
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Old June 28th, 2012, 12:13 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I do agree FWIW, but the point remains, do you want a guitar or a spirited conversation? Socrates for example had a heck of a lot of the latter, but none of the former, then killed himself on a point of pride
The Home Depot is where we build, The Bad Dog Cafe is where we talk
The world needs all types and it's nice to have the practical, and the theoretical/philosophical. Leo built his guitar on both concepts and did so without knowing how to play the guitar. He thought way outside of the box and players had to catch up/warm up to him.

I think it's kind of interesting in thinking about a fully scratch built guitar. It would be a long term project, but who knows what ideas and innovations would come out of it.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 12:40 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Like everything...it's a matter of degree. You could go so far as to form your own fretwire...but why would you? To me it's enough to call it scratch built if you started out with neck, fret board and body blanks (pieces of wood) in the beginning. Who cares if you hang Seymour Duncan pups on the thing!!
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Old June 28th, 2012, 12:43 PM   #18 (permalink)
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The Home Depot is where we build, The Bad Dog Cafe is where we talk
I hope a moderator can move the thread if they consider it misplaced. If I started it in the wrong forum, I apologize.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 12:52 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Interesting.

I thought about this a bit ago in uke terms; it would be pretty simple to manufacture every uke part from wood in my basement. Except the fretwire. So then I started thinking about a lignum-vitae fretboard, with the frets all laid out, then scalloping the area in between (wooden frets). But then, what's the point? I'd still have to buy somebody's nylon strings.

I doubt you could make a truly scratch-built guitar in any practical combination of time, money, and resources. I'm not alone in that opinion, though; this guy tried with a toaster, and although he sort of got it done, all he was able to do was warm some bread... that he'd bought at a store. To make toast from scratch, he'd still have had to mill up some flour and go bake it; to take things further, he'd have had to make his own millstone, his own oven, and his own bread pan.

So... to me, "from scratch" for TDPRI's purposes means "from roughly squared wood stock." That's good enough for me.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 01:11 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Like everything...it's a matter of degree. You could go so far as to form your own fretwire...but why would you? To me it's enough to call it scratch built if you started out with neck, fret board and body blanks (pieces of wood) in the beginning. Who cares if you hang Seymour Duncan pups on the thing!!
Some people would want something truly original or true to form.

A scratch built guitar is kind of like Sicilian food, something very hard to do and pressured from the common ingredients (Italian food) to generalize and give in.

One local Sicilian guy, in my very Sicilian (anti-Italian) neighborhood, tried to make a 100% percent Sicilian restaurant (feta, olives, no tomato, cous cous but in Sicilian style not not typically Greek or Italian) and it failed. Not taking the later invasion of Northern Italians, he wanted to put in the native Greek and Arabic influences into the cooking. Even the local and proud Sicilian clientele wanted standard Northern Italian fare with tomato sauce and Northern Italian Chianti (from famed five Northern counties of Italy) on the menu.

Who really wants a hometown pizza on it without red tomato paste? Who wants pizza served to them either on pita bread or a 9" inch pie dish? Personally, I love these alternatives to standard Italian dishes, but nobody could survive with such an authentic menu.

Similarly, only one real Mexican restaurant, without hard chips or taco shells and without ground beef, survives in my area. The Americanized Mexican restaurants do so much better.
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