Natural Hollowbody DIY Guitar Kit with flame maple top and gold hardware
This was a fun project. As you’d expect a Hollowbody kit to be. Right up until it wasn’t fun (we’ll get to that). This is probably the coolest looking guitar kit I’ve ever done (IM oh so HO). I was doing some more rootsy blues stuff and I wanted something that’d be a good vibe for that. This is set up deliberately with the action kind of high because I use it for slide but it can play pretty quick. It definitely has the engine to do it- as those are a set of TV Jones Brian Setzer pickups in it. They sound INCREDIBLE for country/blues and obviously rockabilly stuff. All in all the project took around 3 months to complete.
I opted for a natural finish as you can see. I accentuated the whole flame vibe by actually burning the headstock before I stained and finished it. You do need to be careful if your’e going to do something like this because too little doesn’t really stand out and too much will compromise the integrity of the wood and we can’t be having that where all the tuning machines go! What you see here is about as far as I was willing to take it:
I’ve done this with a couple other guitars but I used plain old ink to give the flame top a rub down before applying any finish. This will make the grain and the flame really pop. I highly recommend this step for any bodies where you really want the wood patterns to show through. A dab will do ya though. Go overboard on this process and it’ll be a LOT of sanding to make it usable. I’ll be doing a tutorial on this soon (aka when I obtain some cool looking wood again).
This is the top with nothing but black ink rubbed over the top
With Finish and about 7 coats of lacquer over the ink– much 3D. Very Grain.
The center block for this is mahogany. You’ll find kits that feature basswood or alder. Generally heft is a good thing for that. If you’re going to build something like this you should know there are two steps that are challenging- First– getting the bridge posts to slot all the way in is a much harder to do with something like this vs. a solid piece of wood. I don’t really have any advice in this realm except to say tread a little lightly, use a mallet and godspeed. This is one of those moments in a project where it could go terribly wrong. Cracking a super cool maple top is a sad sad thing. And second WIRING. If you haven’t wired up a hollowbody before boy howdy you’re in for a series of teachable moments on patience. I came within a few hours of saying ‘fuck it’ and taking it to a guitar shop and making somebody else do it. But alas I found this coat hanger method and it saved the day. I highly recommend doing EVERYTHING this dude says. One note (and I suppose this goes without saying)- make sure you’ve got the ground wire slotted into the bridge post (doesn’t matter which one) and dangling out before you do anything. Also- it won’t be as clean but unless you’re like the Jackie Chan of sodering, you’ll want to make that wire longer than you normally would. I would also recommend stocking up on wire for this project because kits ship with what amounts to not nearly enough. Besides it’s just good to have around.
I popped out the nut that came with the kit and installed a proper bone one which, as I’ve mentioned with other builds, is an upgrade worth doing from a dollar-to-sound perspective. You may need to file it a bit to adjust to taste but that’s easy stuff. I also went with wooden knobs to top off the look which I think worked out really well.
Want to build a Hollowbody Guitar Kit like this?
Hollowbody Kit – GuitarKit World lets you trick this out in a number of ways. The guy is super easy to work with and I’d buy another kit from here again but fair warning- they don’t ship particularly quick. You may be waiting well over a couple months to get one from him. If you want something quicker, these DIY Hollowbody Kits are pretty common and you can achieve same except now you’ll have more of a 335 style.
TV Jones Brian Setzer Pickups (neck and bridge) – These are AWESOME. While I can’t guarantee they’ll make you play like Brian Setzer (that requires deals with demons and other things Amazon doesn’t carry), they have a noticeably punchier midrange than the typical classic. Plus they just look cool.
Bone Nut– As I mentioned you’ll want to make sure you have one of these. It’ll provide better tone and stability. From a money-to-quality standpoint this is one of the best investments for the instrument.
Black ink– Yep- just plain ‘ol black ink is all you need. Do it about 50/50 with water (you’ll need to play with this a bit) and you’re set to make that flame pop!
Minwax Stain – This stuff works surprisingly well. I’ve done a couple guitars with it and especially with the ink it really pops. Just apply as you would a piece of furniture over the ink and you’re in business.
Clear Nitrocellulose Lacquer – I’d recommend 3 cans of this minimum. You’ll be covering a lot of surface area.
That’s about it! All in I have about $700 into this project give or take. But it’s a fun guitar to have around and sounds amazing!