I believe that I own a single issue of Vintage Guitar magazine. My lack of ownership has less to do with the quality, or lack there of, of said publication and more to do with my attitude towards vintage guitars which can best be described as “nonexistent.”
Not reading Vintage Guitar means that I was wholly unfamiliar with Will Kelly prior to buying How to Build Electric Guitars. This would not be the first time I’ve slept on someone/something helpful.
The first thing you should note about this book is that the title is thoroughly misleading. If you’re going to grab a body blank and attempt to build a guitar, you’re better off going elsewhere. However, if you keep seeing those Saga kits everywhere and they’ve piqued your interest. This is the book for you. Will Kelly is a consultant to BYOGuitar.com and this book is almost completely about assembling and customizing their kits.
Organized into increasingly more detailed projects; readers start out with assembling a simple, strat-styled kit then a relic’d tele, a set neck LP Junior and, finally, a Frankenstein bass/guitar double neck made from two kits sawed and re-assembled into one monstrous instrument. That last project isn’t exactly building a guitar body from scratch, but it’s damn close. Fortunately, Kelly’s writing is clear and to the point and the photography (where books like this often fail) is just as clear and easy to follow. You don’t need to know anything to going into this book to know something coming out.
Again, this is a book for hobbyist and experienced tinkerers may be tempted to skip this one. That would be a mistake. The finishing advice is worth the price of admission alone. If you’ve always wanted to re-paint your guitar or paint it to begin with, this book is money well spent. If relicing is your thing, I cannot stress this enough, buy this book, it contains a master class in how to make your new guitar look old.
I spend an inordinate amount of time on Warmoth building an arch top, 24 fret Tele with H/S pickups, a Winkinson bridge and strat controls. This book is the first step in making that a reality (because, dude, I priced it out that’s like $900 just for the body).
Garbage Recommended Essential
Will Kelly’s YouTube channel will step you through some of the items in the book and is, definitely a helpful resource.