How Long Does A Custom Guitar Take To Make?

How Long Does A Custom Guitar Take To Make?

One of the most common questions we receive is ‘How long does it take to create a custom guitar? ‘While standard factory-made guitars have a consistent production timeline, custom guitars can, and often do vary significantly based on the specifics of the guitar. In the following article, we’re going to take a closer look at the factors that influence the time it takes to produce a custom guitar, how custom guitar production is typically a mix of machine automation and hands-on craftsmanship, and why the wait is worth it.

Building The Body

The process of building the guitar’s body is the first step in any custom guitar build. However, there are significant differences between building an acoustic and electric guitar body.

The process of crafting an acoustic guitar body is far more time-consuming than that of an electric guitar, primarily due to its internal structures. For acoustic guitars, a luthier must carefully select and prepare the wood, shape the soundboard, and install a bracing system to ensure optimal resonance and sound projection.

The sides of the acoustic guitar have to be heated and bent to the desired shape, which is a delicate task. Joining these sides with the back, soundboard, and neck block (an internal support structure that anchors the neck to the body) is also time-consuming, often involving specialized clamps and jigs to ensure a tight fit.

The neck block in particular must be crafted and attached with the utmost care to ensure it can adequately support the neck and, in turn, the tension of the strings. This careful alignment and attachment are vital for the instrument’s sound and playability.  Given these complexities, the process of creating an acoustic guitar body, even with modern tools, can take several days to over a week.

Neck Construction

Once the wood is selected for building the neck it is carved into the desired neck profile, whether it’s a slim “C” shape or a chunkier “U” profile.

Prior to shaping the neck’s external contours, a critical internal component must be addressed—the truss rod. This adjustable metal rod is installed within a routed channel in the neck, lying beneath what will be the fretboard. Its role is to provide stability and allow the guitar’s neck relief to be adjustable, counteracting the tension of the strings.

For acoustic guitars, the neck must be crafted with a precise heel that will join to the body at the neck block, usually with a dovetail joint. This joint is crucial for the transfer of sound and must be shaped with precision to ensure a snug fit that maintains the guitar’s structural integrity.The creation of an acoustic guitar neck, including shaping and joining to the body, can take anywhere from several hours to a full day, depending on the intricacy of the work and the drying time for the glue in the joint.

The Fretboard

The fretboard is typically a different wood type than the neck (for example, a maple neck might have a rosewood or ebony fretboard). The CNC machine can cut the fretboard, and carve out the slots for the frets with extreme precision. If inlays are desired, the CNC can also be used to carve the recesses for these, whether they’re simple dot inlays or something more elaborate. Once both components are machined, the fretboard is glued onto the neck shaft. Depending on the complexity of inlays and the precision required for fret slotting, this process will usually take an additional 5+ hours.

Flat Sanding

Finishing a guitar is a meticulous process that begins with flat sanding, where the raw wood is smoothed down with increasingly finer grits of sandpaper. This step is crucial for ensuring a flawless base, free of scratches that could mar the final appearance. Sanding alone can take several hours spread out over multiple days, as it requires a gradual progression from coarse to fine grits and careful inspection between stages.


Fretwork is a critical stage in building a guitar, typically occurring after the neck has been shaped and the fretboard attached, but before the final finishing and assembly stages. Here are the key steps in the fretwork process:

  1. Fret Installation: Frets are installed into the slots cut into the fretboard. The fret wire is cut to length, bent to match the fretboard radius, and then pressed or hammered into place.
  2. Leveling: Once the frets are installed, they are leveled to ensure that each fret is of uniform height. This prevents issues such as fret buzz and ensures consistent action across the length of the neck. For this task, the fretboard is usually masked and the truss rod adjusted so the neck is perfectly flat, before the frets are sanded to the same consistent height across the fretboard.
  3. Crowning: After leveling, the frets may have a flat surface that needs to be reshaped. Crowning is the process of shaping the fret to a rounded profile, which allows for clearer notes and better intonation.
  4. Polishing: The frets are polished to a smooth finish to allow for easy string bending and to prevent any string wear.
  5. Dressing the Fret Ends: This involves smoothing and rounding off the ends of the frets to ensure they are comfortable for the player and do not catch the player’s hands.

This stage, in most cases, occurs after the neck has been constructed and before it is attached to the body in both acoustic and electric guitars, however in some cases it is one the last steps in the entire process. Some luthiers prefer to do some of the work while the neck is free and others when it is attached to the body to ensure it reacts to tension in a similar way as it will when fully strung.

In terms of timing, fretwork can be a day-long job or stretch over several days, depending on the number of frets, and whether any complications arise during the process. It’s a labor-intensive stage that requires a significant amount of skill, patience, and attention to detail and in many cases reflects the difference between an entry-level and higher-quality guitar.


Once the wood is smooth, the first stage of finishing involves the application of a wood sealer, or grain filler. This not only further smooths the surface by filling in the grain but also protects the wood from moisture and prepares it for even absorption of the desired finishing products.

Staining may follow sealing, especially if looking to enhance the appearance of the wood grain, and this can take a few hours to apply and dry.

The guitar is then ready for the application of the finish, such as lacquer polyurethane. Each layer is applied, left to cure—which can vary from 24 to 48 hours per coat—and then sanded (fine sanding) lightly to create a smooth base for the next coat. This cycle is repeated multiple times, with the entire finishing process taking anywhere from a week to several weeks, depending on the number of coats and the curing time required by the selected finish.

The final steps include comprehensive buffing and polishing to achieve the desired sheen, from a high gloss to a subdued matte.

Appointments: Inlays And Binding

Intricate inlay work on the fretboard and rosette of an acoustic guitar, along with binding along the instrument’s body and neck, are hallmarks of fine craftsmanship that demand precision and patience.

For acoustic guitars, the rosette—a decorative inlay around the soundhole—not only adds aesthetic appeal but also reinforces the structure. Crafting and setting a rosette, alongside the fretboard inlays, can consume several days, as each piece must be individually cut, inlaid, and glued.

Binding serves both a functional purpose of protecting the edges of the guitar and an aesthetic one, enhancing its visual contours. It requires meticulous gluing and clamping along the guitar’s curved body and neck, with cure times varying by adhesive type.

Single-layer binding on a less complex instrument may add a minimum of 10 days to the finishing time, while multi-layered bindings and elaborate inlays on custom builds can extend the process significantly—potentially 20 days or more.

Final Setup & Quality Checks

The final setup and quality checks are crucial stages in the guitar-building process where the luthier ensures that the instrument not only looks good but plays well too. This stage involves fine-tuning the setup to achieve optimal playability, which includes adjusting the action (the height of the strings above the fretboard) and setting the intonation so the guitar plays tune up and down the neck.

Nut and saddle heights are carefully adjusted, and the neck relief is set. It’s important to note, that guitar necks are usually not dead-flat, as some relief is needed to allow the vibrational arc of the strings when played.

This meticulous process can vary in time, generally taking anywhere from several hours to a day, depending on the complexity of the guitar and the precision required for the particular model.

Quality control is the luthier’s final defense against imperfections, where each guitar undergoes rigorous tests to identify any issues with tone, electronics (in the case of electric guitars), and overall functionality.

The luthier listens for unwanted buzzes or dead spots and makes final adjustments to the neck, and setup as needed. This phase also involves a thorough visual inspection to ensure that the finish is flawless and all aesthetic elements meet the standards set by the maker.

While the time for this stage can be as brief as a single day for standard models, custom instruments with more exacting standards may longer to ensure that the guitar is truly complete.

Final Thoughts

Custom guitars typically take longer to make than mass-produced models due to the individualized attention required for each instrument. Unlike in mass production, where standardized templates expedite the manufacturing process, each custom guitar is a unique project, and this bespoke nature inherently means more hours of labor, resulting in a longer production time compared to the streamlined processes used for standard models.

Keep in mind the order of each task may also change based on the luthier’s preferences, and/or the particular model or type of guitar being built. Set neck and bolt-on neck guitars may differ, with regard to finishing. For example, for bolt-on neck guitars both the body and neck can be finished separately, which allows for more efficient production. For set-neck guitars, after both the body and neck are completed, the neck is glued into the body. This step occurs before the final finishing to ensure the joint is seamless.

Hopefully, taking the information above into account, it’s easy to see why we require (at a minimum) 90 days to manufacture a custom guitar.

Back to blog