Electric Guitar Specifications

This is a “top-down checklist” for the assembly of a solid-body electric guitar.
It can help you to build a guitar with specific sound and playability characteristics. Please read licence and the contribution guidelines before contributing. Awesome

Electric Guitar Specifications

Table of Contents


Sound and Playability Influencing Factors

overview

Component Sound* Playability*
Guitar Neck + ++++
Guitar Body + ++++
Guitar Electronics +++ -
Strings ++ ++
Scale Length + +
Woods (Body, Neck and Fretboard) + +

*influence ( “-” stands for little, “++++” stands for very strong)

For example, for building a solid-body ‘jazz-sounding’ guitar you have to choose (top down by importance):


Guitar Necks

Guitar Necks

Neck thickness, neck width, neck contour and fret wire size affect playability and are a matter of personal taste. Important for good playability is balanced interaction of these components. Thicker neck often creates warmer tone.

usacustomguitars.com/necks - many neck shape and thickness combinations
musikraft.com - additional information for understanding of neck features.

Neck Profile

Neck Profile is the combination of contour (C, U, V , asymmetrc) and thickness (.0750" - 1")

Contour Thickness Warmoth* Fender* Gibson*
D thin Wizard D Shape
C thin/medium Standard Thin C Shape (AM Std) Traditional C
C medium 59 Roundback Deep C Round C (1959 LP)
U thick Fatback U Shape (Vintage Tele)
V thick Boatneck V Shape (Vintage 52 Tele)
asymmetrisch medium Wolfgang Modern C

*warmoth - Warmoth Neck Profiles
*fender - see “NECK SHAPE” Filter
*gibson forum - Gibson Neck Profiles

Neck Nut Width and Nut Slot Spacing

Category Neck Nut Width e1/E6
Many Fenders from Japan 41 mm (1-5/8") approx. 34 mm
Standard 42,9 mm (1-11/16") approx. 35 mm
Acoustic analog 44,5 mm (1-3/4") 35 mm till 37,5 mm
Superwide (Warmoth) 48 mm (1-7/8") approx. 40 mm

The real e1 to E6 string spread can be controlled not only through nut width, but also by slot spread in the nut. For example, 44.5 mm wide nut can have e1 to E6 distance between 35 and 37.5 mm.

Category String spacing e1/E6 e1 to edge Neck nut width
Narrow string spread 7 mm 35 mm 4.75 mm 44,5 mm (1-3/4")
Medium string spread 7.3 mm 36.5 mm 4 mm 44,5 mm (1-3/4")
Wide string spread 7.5 mm 37.5 mm 3.5 mm 44,5 mm (1-3/4")

graphtech - sizing guide and pre-slotted nuts

Neck Heel Width and Mounting

Most guitar parts manufacturer adopted Fender’s® neck heel and neck pocket dimensions:

These dimensions are not a standard. Only careful measurement ensures that your parts will be compatible.

Strat necks have a rounded base to their heel and Tele necks have a squared-off base to their heel, which makes it difficult to interchange the two types of necks across various bodies.

neck-heel-strat-vs-tele

Standard Fender heel mounting is done with 4-Bolt Holes - 1/8" (3mm) diameter (spread of 2" x 1-1/2").

Fretboard’s Radius

Smaller radius means a more rounded shape.

youtube.com - understring radius gauges - video demonstration of three different gauges used for guitar setup and fretwork: standard, notched and understring.

Fret Sizes

Title Width Height Example
Small narrow low vintage Fender
Me­di­um narrow high many Martins
Medium Jumbo wide low many Gibsons
Jum­bo wide high moderne Fender
High Jum­bo wide very high many Ibanez

lutherie.net - provides an excellent manufacturer/sizes overview.

Common Neck Head Shapes

Tuner Holes

Small holes can be enlarged with a sunk. Big holes can be retrofited by adapter bushings.


Guitar Bodies

Guitar Bodies

The sound of electric guitar depends mainly on the vibration behavior of the string itself and the reproduction characteristics of the pickup. The vibration behavior of the string depends (very little) on wood. The body itself is very thick compared to the neck, that is why the body wood type and form have very limited influence on the sound of electric guitar.

music.stackexchange.com - how much does electric guitar’s body physics affect the tone and playability.

Body Shapes

The shape of an electric guitar can historically be divided into the following categories:

Bridge And Pickup Routing Overview

Bridge Routing

Picture left to right:

callahamguitar.com - technical specifications of some coustom parts.

Flat Mount Strat Routing

               Strat Vintage, Narrow & Standard                   
Sites holes    ...o.o.o.o.o.o...      
Bridge holes   ..o.....o.....o..     
Model E/e Sites holes Ø Sites holes distance Bridge hole Ø Bridge holes distance
Strat Vintage 57 mm (2 1/4") 3.18 mm (0.125") 10.5 mm (0.413") 3 mm (1/8") 21 mm (.827")
Strat Vintage Narrow 54 mm (2 1/8") 4.78 mm (0.188") 10.5 mm (0.413") 3 mm (1/8") 21 mm (.827")
Strat Standard 52.83 mm (2.08") 3.18 mm (0.125") 11.3 mm (0.446") 3 mm (1/8") 22.6 mm (.89")

Flat Mount Tele Routing

             Tele Vintage                          Tele Standard         
Bridge holes ..o...o...o...o..      Sites holes    ...o.o.o.o.o.o... 
Sites holes  ...o.o.o.o.o.o...      Bridge holes   ..o.....o.....o.. 
Model E/e Sites holes Ø Sites holes distance Bridge hole Ø Bridge hole distance
Tele Vintage 54 mm (2 1/8") 3.18 mm (0.125") 10.9 mm (.429") 3 mm (1/8") 21.6 mm (.85")
Tele Standard 54 mm (2 1/8") 3.18 mm (0.125") 10.5 mm (0.413") 3 mm (1/8") 32.4 mm (1.267")

Flat Mount Schaller Routing

             Schaller Flat Mount
Bridge holes ...o.....o.....o... 
Model E/e Bridge hole Ø Bridge holes distance Dimensions (LxWxH)
Schaller 47X 51 mm - 55,5 mm 3.18mm (0.125") approx. X 73 x 49 x 12(15) mm

Tremolo Routing

Tremolo "Vintage":         Tremolo "Standard":
..o..o..o..o..o...o...      .....O.......O.....
Modell E/e Holes Hole Distance Hole Ø
Mexico Strat 52,4 mm (2 1/16) 6 52,4 mm (2 1/16) 3 mm (1/8")
Vintage 56,36 mm (2 7/32") 6 55,9 mm (2.2") 3 mm (1/8")
American Standard 52,83 mm (2.08") 2 55,9 mm (2.2") 9,5 mm (.375")
Floyd Rose (“recessed”) 53 mm (2-3/32") 2 74 mm (2.913") 9,91 mm (.390")
Schaller 2000 53,5 mm 2 56 mm 10 mm
Schaller vintage 53,5 mm 2 74,3 mm 10 mm
Wilkinson (“recessed”) 54 mm (2-1/8") 2 55,9 mm (2.2") 9,7 mm (.382")

Tune-O-Matic Gibson Style Routing

             Tune-O-Matic Recessed   Tune-O-Matic "Strings through the body"
Tailpiece    ..........o......
Tailpiece    ....o............     ....o.o.o.o.o.o...
Bridge       ..o..........o...     ..o............o..
Model E/e Bridge Tailpiece Tailpiece Top Tailpiece Bottom Tailpiece Ø
Tune-O-Matic ca. 52 mm* 74 mm (2.91") approx 82 mm* 38 mm (1.49") 41 mm (1.61") approx. 11 mm (0.44")

Instead tailpiece - there may be “strings through the body” drillings.

Other Rare Bridge Variants

Pickup Routing

*Wide Humbucker (same as Seymourduncans “Trembucker” or Dimarzios “F-spaced Hambucker”) can be used for guitars with larger sting distance with standard “Humbucker Routing”. Measure from the middle of the high string to the middle of the low string, directly over the pickup. If the distance is greater than two inches or 50mm, go for a Wide Humbucker.

Exact specifications can be found on the manufacturer’s website like:

bareknucklepickups.co.uk - dimensions

In addition to classic HH routing (2X hambuckers), there are the following variants: - SSS (Strat, Nashville Tele)


Tuning Machines

tuning machine head

Tuning Machines Options:

Bridges

bridge

Guitar bridge has large influence on playability (mainly through string spacing). Wider string spacing is better for finger-picking style, narrow spacing gives easier control when playing leads with distorted tone. Bridge and Pickup Routing chapter above describes common bridge categories with string spacing specification.

Bridge form and material have also some influence on sound.
Good manufacturers provide detailed product information on their pages:

ABM - Aluminium, Bell Brass and Steel comparison - indicates that Bell Brass and Steel shape the guitar sound with character, while Aluminum acts largely neutral in the transfer of tone.

Hardware Parts Checklist

jackplate

The following list summarizes the accessories that are required to complete your own guitar building project

For each screw, the hole must be pre-drilled to the core diameter (not outer diameter)


Electronics

electronics

Electronics exerts greatest influence on the overall sound of a solid-body electric guitar.

buildyourguitar.com - The Secrets of Electric Guitar Pickups by Lemme - “If you know the resonant frequency and height of the resonant peak, you know about 90 percent of a pickup’s transfer characteristics. Some other effects cannot be described using this model, but their influence is less important”.

Frequency response of a magnetic pickup may look like this resonant peak and frequency

Sound group Resonant frequency Resonant peak Example Pickup
bright 3 - 6kHz high peak Fender single coils
powerful 2 - 3kHz medium high peak Gibson PAF
mellow 1.5 - 2kHz low peak Rolling back tone pot

Following topics change resonant frequency and resonant peak:

Pickup Properties

pickup properties

seymourduncan.com - pickup selector
dimarzio.com - pickup picker

Classic humbuckers are asymmetrical. They are internally wired in series (i.e. serial - brings more power) in opposite phase (less noise). The current multi-Con­ductor PUs offer the option of switching the coils differently using push / pull pots, mini switches, toggles, mega switches and rotary switches, and allow broad control over the sound directly on the guitar.

Con­ductors Connection Type Coil Split Seriell/Parallel Phase Switch Example
1x Asymmetrical Humbucker Mode Seriell No Shadow AZ48
2x Symmetrical Humbucker Mode Seriell Yes Fender Wide Range (Mexico)
2x Asymmetrical Humbucker & Single Coil Mode Seriell No Benedetto B6
3x Symmetrical Humbucker & Single Coil Mode Seriell Yes viele aktive PUs
3x Asymmetrical Humbucker & Single Coil Mode Seriell and Parallel No PRS 59
4x Symmetrical Humbucker & Single Coil Mode Seriell and Parallel Yes all 4-Con­ductor PUs

Sound Control with Switches

electronics wiring options

Switch Coil Split Seriell/Parallel Phase Switch PU switch
Toggle Switch - - - y
Blade Switch “Fender” - - - y
X-Way-Blade “Megaswitch” y y y y
Mini-Switch SPDT(ON/ON) y - - -
Mini-Switch SPDT(ON/OFF/ON) y - - -
Mini-Switch SPDT(ON/OFF/ON) y - y -
Mini-Switch DPDT(ON/ON) y y y -
Push/Pull-Pot DPDT(ON/OFF/ON) y y y -
Mini-Switch DPDT(ON/ON/ON) y y y y
Drehschalter y y y y

SP = Single Pole, DP = Double Pole, DT = Double Throw

SPDT (ON/OFF/ON):     	SPDT (ON/ON):     
0 X X | 0 0 0 | X X 0   0 X X | X X 0     

DPDT (ON/OFF/ON):     	DPDT (ON/ON):     DPDT (ON/ON/ON):
0 X X | 0 0 0 | X X 0   0 X X | X X 0     0 X X | X X 0 | X X 0
0 X X | 0 0 0 | X X 0   0 X X | X X 0     0 X X | 0 X X | X X 0

Example: “Seriell/Parallel und Coil Split at same time” are possible with 4 Push/Pull Pots, 4 Mini-switches (i.e. duncan triple shot) or by 5-Way Blade Megaswitch

open.guitars (german) - Hambucker Conductor/Coils switching options.

Potentiometer and Capacitor Values

cap values

Sound group Pot Cap Examples
standard hambucker 500K 0.047mF most hambucker equiped guitars
bright 500K 0.022mF some guitars (U.S. FAT Tele)
brighter 500K 0.01mF some custom models
brightest 1M 0.01mF some custom models
standard singele coils 250K 0.022mF most strat & tele models
jazzy 250K 0.047mF some teles (ASAT BluesBoy)

http://www.planetz.com/guitar-tone-capacitors-material-types - comparison of tone capacitor material types and capacitance values.

Volume and Tone Potentiometer Options

volume and tone pot

Group Pot body Ø Bushing Ø Bushing length Shaft length Example
standard 24 mm 8 mm 10 mm 19 mm most fender guitars
mini 17 mm 7 mm 10 mm ‘>’ 17 mm many jazz guitars
long 24 mm 8 mm 20 mm 27,5 mm most Gibson LP guitars

Potentiometer Knob Styles

knob

There are 3 common styles of knobs:

philadelphialuthiertools.com - Choosing the correct knob for your guitar or bass.

Electronics Wiring Schemas

electronics wiring schemas

Active Pickups Electronics

active pickups

Active Electronics tries to reduce dependancy from the shielded cable and amp input impedance. However, that needs power to operate, and that’s its biggest drawback.

Custom Buffers (german) - used to decouple the guitar electronics from the sound influencing effects on the shielded cable.

Strings

strings

Depending on following options your sound will be more bright or more mellow:

Most manufacturers use following naming convention to describe tension of string set:

Name ‘e’ site approx. ‘E’ site approx.
Extra-Light .008 .039
Light .009 .042
Regular .010 .046
Medium .011 .052
Jazz .012 .054
Baritone .013 .056

There are also other hybrid sets available - like “Light Top/Heavy Bottom” and “Balanced Tension” combinations.

daddario.com - you can choose between bright and mellow sounding electric strings.
ghsstrings.com - also bright vs mellow overview, and tension guide (pdf)
thomastik-infeld.com - good jazz and blues strings

Scale Length

scale-length

A guitar’s scale length is length of string between the nut and the bridge.

Scale has a relatively low impact on sound and playability of the guitar. (Compared with other parameters such as strings or pickups).

Longer scale length sound and playability characteristics:

Shorter scale length sound characteristics:

Common Scale Length:

Woods

strings

Woods Sound¹ Weight² Used for³ Looks
Alder bright medium T/B bright, simple
Ash bright medium T/B bright, simple
Basswood neutral light B bright, simple
Bubinga bright medium T/B/N/F red, often grained
Ebony bright heavy N/F dark
Maple very bright heavy T/B/N/F bright, often grained
Koa warm medium T/B/N dark, grained, attractive
Korina warm medium T/B/N grained, attractive
Mahogany warm medium T/B/N red
Poplar neutral medium B bright, simple
Rosewood warm medium T/B/N/F dark
Sitka Spruce neutral light T/B bright, simple
Swamp-Ash neutral light T/B bright, attractive
Walnut bright medium T/B/N gray, attractive
Wenge bright heavy T/B/N/F dark

¹ Sound: the diagram for effects on tone stands mainly for acoustic instruments and NOT for solid body guitars, where other components have much larger impact on sound. Thus, a mahogany electric guitar can sound bright despite the representations below.
² Weight may vary for the same variety.
³ Used for: T - Body Top | B - Body | N - neck | F - fretboards

frudua.com - graphical examples for body and neck woods showing relationship between wood hardness, its density and tone.