So, you order a kit guitar.

... What do you get?

You receive all the parts necessary to create one acoustic guitar. (I’m sorry, electric guitar fans ... this website only deals with acoustics for now.)

In about a week, a large box appears on your front porch. It is an object of curiosity for everyone in the house.

Bracing and woods for inside the guitar. From top of photo: Maple bridge plate, package of top braces, package of back braces, kerfed cedar lining.

Martin and Stewmac send braces pre-shaped. LMI does not pre-shape them, allowing you to shape them to your own specs, or follow the patterns on their full-size plan.

A package of small parts. Clockwise from top right: String set, tuners, small wood braces, fretwire, pickguard, truss rod wrench, binding, extra peghead veneer. (Center of photo, small parts): Bridge and pins, saddle and nut blanks, ivoroid butt wedge blank, neck heel blank, small bag with pearl dots for fingerboard.

Martin sends strings and tuners; LMI sends Tuners; Stewmac doesn’t send strings or tuners.

Neck, etc. The neck, usually pre-shaped and routed for truss rod except in some basic LMI kits, the truss rod, the pre-slotted fingerboard (ebony or rosewood) and shown here, the dovetail neck block for the body.

Certain kits include dovetail or bolt-on necks: Stewmac offers both, Martin uses bolt-on for laminate kits, and LMI offers both, depending on type of kit selected.

Back and Side Woods, and Body Blocks: The sides, the back, and the blocks for neck and tail.

All Stewmac and some LMI kits provide the back already joined. Martin and some LMI kits send the back as two pieces, to be joined by the builder. Usually, the sides are trimmed so that you can begin assembly without measuring or trimming, but always measure to be sure.

Shown is Brazilian Rosewood from Blues Creek Guitars, rejected by Martin in the 1970’s because of the sapwood.

Top: The top for all kits comes joined. In most kits (except the “Basic” LMI versions) the soundhole is drilled. In some, the rosette channels are routed (Stewmac) and in some (Martin and more advanced LMI kits), the rosette is already installed.

Shown here is the Adirondack Spruce top that goes with the Brazilian Rosewood above. Most kits come with Sitka Spruce. Substituting any wood you want for a provided top is as simple as ordering the wood separately. From LMI, it can be ordered joined and rough-sanded.

Manuals, Plans, etc. Shown at left is the documentation that comes with Martin kits. It is a 16-page booklet, commented on further here, in the Martin Kit Review. Except for their documentation, Martin kits are very good. (A good manual, written by Yours Truly, is available at my website:

In the next photo (three items) are three of the documents you receive with a Stewmac kit: The VHS video, showing the construction of a Dreadnought model with dovetail neck mount; the full-size plan, from which you could build a guitar from scratch; and the 36-page manual (specific to the kit you buy) — the best available from any kit manufacturer. (Also included in Stewmac kits are a pattern from which to make their internal molding system (an elegant, inexpensive solution), and a full-size vellum brace pattern for easily marking the brace positions for the top and back of the guitar.

In the bottom shot is the DVD you receive with an LMI kit. “Build A Steel String Guitar,” “Build a Classical Guitar,” and “Guitar Finishing,” all were created by Robert O’Brien, who teaches guitar building classes at a Colorado college. Based on the LMI kit, the steel-string and classical DVDs are a series of hundreds of well done, close-up still photos along with O’Brien’s excellent, even-toned narration of each step. It is more current and more detailed in some ways than the Stewmac video. (O’Brien’s other DVDs are equally as excellent as the steel-string version.)

Also included with the LMI kit is a full-size plan for the model you are building. LMI doesn’t currently provide a printed manual. An additional online tutorial is available for LMI kits; you can view it from the LMI kit pages.

If you are like me, you need good printed materials to read over and over, make notes on, etc.: Since Stewmac is the only one currently providing a comprehensive, illustrated printed procedural manual, their documentation package gets a 9/10 rating. But LMI’s, with the DVDs, is right at 8.5/10. Martin’s is not as good.

That’s it. You order a kit, this is what you get. Enjoy!


What Comes In A Kit?

Kit Shown: 000-28 Brazilian

    Rosewood from John Hall


Top: Adirondack Spruce

Back: Brazilian Rosewood

Sides: Brazilian Rosewood

Braces: Sitka Spruce

Scale Length: 24.9”

Same general configuration as any Martin kit, but its 30-year-old back and sides of Brazilian Rosewood (pre-CITES*) would be hard to find anywhere else.

(*CITES: “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna”)