STōK Garage Electric Guitar DIY

Episode 1, Wood Selection and Body Shaping

by Rodney Bowman

SToK is here for your next great idea, and we’re also here to help you along the way. The Electric DIY series is designed to teach you the basics of building an electric guitar. Starting with body design, we will cover wood selection and body shape, moving on to pickups, neck shaping, fretting, wiring, finishing and finally, sound setup.

Sip a SToK, and let’s get started

Electric DIY - Episode 1, Wood Selection and Body Shaping

What you need to complete Episode 1

If you don’t have some of the items, feel free to get creative with what you do have or can easily obtain. Experiment and have fun. See complete Tool, Part and Material List

General Tools

– router and router table with appropriate bits
– band saw or jigsaw
– sandpaper, spindle sander or hand sander
– tape measure
– double side tape

Parts & Materials

– wood for guitar body (ash)

Let’s Get Started

Wood type affects the sound of a guitar; however, how much it improves an electric guitar is up for debate. I say, if you’re going for a certain sound, why not try to make it better?

Typical electric guitar woods are alder, basswood and ash; occasionally mahogany, maple and rosewood carry the pickups. Ash was used extensively in the ’50s and ’60s for its sound quality, so we are going to roll with it. Considering its beautiful grain structure, stain instead of paint will accentuate its natural play.

Designing an electric guitar body affords a lot of freedom when shaping it. You can use a cigar box, a gas can or cut an intricate shape. As long as the distance between the nut at the top of the neck and the 12th fret is equal distance to the 12th fret and the bridge, the shape of the guitar can be whatever you want. If this is your first rodeo, templates are great to branch off of. Grab one online and lets get cutting.

Using a template, center it in your working wood body. Make a small marks on the top and bottom that correspond to the center of the template. This makes it easier to match the original position when you clean up the cut with the router later. Trace the template on your working body, remove it and fire up the band saw. Note, if you don’t have a band saw, a jigsaw can get you where you need to go.

With your band saw or jigsaw, loosely cut the shape of your guitar. You don’t have to be spot on, but try to ride the line.

Once you’ve completed cutting the basic shape, its time to pull out the router and your template. Precision here is important. Double-side tape the template to your working body, matching the center marks you made when tracing. The template will help guide the router to streamline your body. Turn on your router and ease the body in. Take your time; I like to give it two to three passes for nice curves.

After you complete routing, its time to sand the body down to near baby-smooth. I use a spindle sander and me good old hand with a bit of paper, but feel free to use what you have available.

In our next episode we’ll start designing and shaping the neck. Cheers!

What you need to complete the entire Electric DIY series

Don’t have some of the items on the list, experiment with alternatives and have fun.

General Tools

– clamps (lots o’ clamps)
– router and router table with appropriate bits
– drill press and/or electric drill with guide
– band saw or jigsaw
– hammer
– sandpaper, spindle sander or hand sander
– files and rasps
– tape measure
– soldering iron
– screwdrivers

Specialty Tools

– fretting tools (hammer, fret press, fret lever, fret files)
– radius cauls
– polishing wheel
– string gauge
– radius gauge
– fret rocker

Parts & Materials List

– wood for body (ash)
– wood for neck (walnut)
– pre-radius end fretboard (12-degree radius)
– truss rod
– double humbucker pickups
– volume and tone potentiometers
– 3-way switch
– input jack
– fret wire
– top-loading bridge
– TUSQ nut
– neck plate
– tuning machines (aka tuners)
– string trees
– control cavity cover
– strap buttons
– electronic wire
– guitar strings


About Rodney Bowman

Born south of Chicago, Rodney Bowman of Bowman Built Guitars was introduced to woodworking by his father straight out of the cradle. At his father’s side, he discovered his passion for wood — the grain, the smells, the colors and textures. Having a passionate desire to create, Rodney naturally decided to pair it with his love for guitars and music, where his creativity will sing long after he’s gone.