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Make Your Own Electric Guitar

Melvyn Hiscock
Published by Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1706-8 (see note below for ordering details)

Melvyn Hiscock, although not one of Britain's best-known guitar makers, has been on the guitar making scene for several years, accumulating the experience which he's distilled into this excellent book. We've lost count of the number of letters and 'phone calls we've received from readers asking us for a title like this, a step by step guide to making guitars. At last, we've found it! In fact (hard as it may be to believe) this is the only worthwhile book on the subject, Donald Brosnac's 1978 'The Electric Guitar' being too limited, too American and too out of date to be of much use.

Make Your Own Electric Guitar is just what its title suggests: a simple guide (in 159 pages) to DIY guitar building. The well written chapters cover such areas as design considerations, choosing parts, tools, woods, truss rods, fretting and scale lengths, finishing, wiring and setting-up. All of them are clear and concise, well detailed in pictures and easy to follow.

As a practical examples, Melvyn gives three fully detailed instruments you can make yourself: a left-handed, Gibson-like guitar (nice to see southpaws getting a look in!), a 'sort of' Tele and, oddly chosen perhaps, an 8-string bass. There is, however, method in Melvyn's apparent madness, because the constructional methods involved in making these instruments can be chopped, changed and combined to allow the successful builder of any or all of his first three types to move on and later vary the techniques he's explained to build instruments of their own design.

Really well illustrated, detailed in its advice (with some well compiled attention paid to safety considerations), this book should take any reasonably dextrous would-be luthier right through the various stages of guitar building till they are fully capable of designing, making, finishing and setting-up their own instruments. Even given that the majority of guitar players won't fancy their chances as a second JayDee, Manson brother or Orville Gibson, we nevertheless feel that this book should be compulsory reading for every player, whether or not he or she ever intends building a guitar of their own. As much as an understanding of how a car works will inevitably make you a better driver, so a copy of this book will help any player understand what is happening in their instrument and what makes, say, a straight-through necked bass perform so differently from a bolt-on necked type. Moreover, the author's advice on setting-up and re-wiring will be useful to all players. Any book on electric guitar making would have been welcome, not a single other one of note being available to help the beginner, but this really is a tour de force, and answers a need which has been growing like wildfire for the past ten or twenty years. Guitar building being the individualistic topic it is (how else with such subjective instruments as guitars and basses?), it may well be that other guitar makers will disagree with some of Melvyn's opinions. Be that as it may, what counts is that a book like this exists, and if other makers want to argue with some of Melvyn's ideas they should publish their own views. What matters most is that his basics are perfectly sound and will guide any would-be guitar maker to finishing his or her own playable, fine sounding instrument.

At £5.95 in paperback (a hardback version is available), this book will have pride of place on our shelves alongside Adrian Legg's 1981 title 'Customising Your Electric Guitar', Tom Wheeler's The Guitar Book' and a bare handful of other titles.

'Make Your Own Electric Guitar' is essential reading. Buy it!


Any reader experiencing difficulty obtaining copies of books reviewed in IT should quote the ISBN number to any reputable bookseller, who will be able supply any title, given this info.

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