As I write this, it is more than 35 years since I first put pen to paper on the first drafts of the first edition of this book. In 1998 I rewrote it and produced the second edition. This included a lot more information and was a result of how guitar making had changed in the intervening years. Perhaps the book had an effect on this, as it had sold well; I know that when I spoke to Ken Parker, of Parker Guitars, in order to get a photograph of the Parker Fly, he told me he had started out using my book!
Since 1998 the whole subject has moved on again. Back then, the internet was not as developed as it is today and there is so much more available information available — but beware, much of this is misleading, and some of it is certainly wrong. Remember, anyone can post anything on to the internet and there is no guarantee it is correct. You could argue this also applies to books, but I would dispute that point. It costs nothing to publish something on the internet, but that is not the case with books. It takes a lot of time and effort and money to produce a book such as this and it pays back only if it sells, so there is a very definite incentive to get it right. This book has sold well in excess of 100,000 copies and continues to get good reviews, so it does have some pedigree — which cannot be said for some things on the internet!
It was also written to appeal to people who may not make a guitar but are interested in the subject. I am sure there are still some things that could be changed and more could be added, but I still feel this stands up well as an introduction to electric guitar making and there is a limit on how big the book can be.
There are also more tools to do the job and more companies offering parts and services. As a result, I needed to look at the book again but I am pleased that most of the information in here, from the 1998 rewrite, is just as valid now as it was then. I have also included the foreword to the Second Edition as I believe it still has useful information. The bottom line is that if you design your guitar properly, and make it using good materials and techniques, you should end up with a good instrument.
There is now also a bewildering number of tools available and some of them are very useful. How-ever, some are of doubtful usefulness when you can do the job just as easily with ordinary, and much cheaper, tools.
I am very pleased Queen guitarist Dr. Brian May has kindly allowed me to use his foreword he wrote for the 1998 edition and this was much appreciated. As most people will know, Brian made his own guitar with help from his father, and his record as an endorsee of his own instrument speaks for itself. My other big influence was Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, one of the few users of a ‘V’ at that time, and since the last edition I have got to know Andy and found that he made his own guitar too when he was starting out. In those days finding any information was very hard and parts were not readily available. To make any instrument then was a feat to be admired. There is also an amusing side story that Andy subsequently bought a Burns guitar from a man who won it in a competition staged by the breakfast cereal ‘Rice Krispies’. I too entered this competition, when aged about eight, and I can remember sending off my scrawled entry on the form with the required label tops. I must have come second. Andy has always been known for his use of the Flying V and it was Andy’s Flying V that got me making guitars. I loved the look of it and the only pictures I could find of a V was the photo of Andy playing his on the cover of the Wishbone Ash album Argus and a photograph of Jimi Hendrix playing his custom-made Gibson on a sample album of his music. Both photos were inspected in detail and my copy of Argus still has the pencil indentations on the photo where I traced it to work out the angles.
The last thing I will underline at this stage is that making a guitar does not have to be difficult. If you plan well, are familiar with the tools and processes and you take care you could, like Andy, Dr. Brian May and many thousands of others, make your own guitar.
Melvyn Hiscock, 2020