So I'm sure if you've seen my channel, or my music section, you know I build guitars. Not just assembling out of parts mind you, but actually built full parts from scratch before as well.
Types of Build
There are three types of guitar builds IMHO....
  1. Scratch Built - THis means the whole thing is built, at least the neck and body, by me. I have several like this in the works, including some I cannot show yet on this website for various reasons (ie, Original Designs, some with some potential copyright and possible applications involved ;). So for right now, I'll be showing "copy" guitars for the time being as I have the last five or so I'm ever building in the works (1 Mustang, 1 Jag-Stang, 1 Paul Dean, 1 Jaguar, and a "Flying Fuji" Atari logo guitar that I may not be able to show because of some hardware ideas). I have been known to cobble together hardware too out of multiple pieces of hardware, or build my own pickups.
  2. Partial Partscasters - This is probably 90% of what I have built. Mostly because I tend to heavily modify the bodies in some way, and the necks tend to get heavily modified as well in some cases (profiles, radius, nut-scheme changed, different tuners, different headstock shape, etc).
  3. Full Partscaster - This is building a guitar out of pre-assembled parts. I consider "kit guitars" a part of this category, as is something like buying 5 Squier Strats and taking the best parts of all 5 to make one amazing one. What most people consider "building guitars" these days is this.

The benefit of a "scratch built" instrument is that you can build it any way you want. Some examples of scratch built guitars would be Paul Dean's "Dean Machines", ,Paul Reed Smith's early work, or Brian May's "Red Special", or one I'm working on of several at the moment. The intent can vary as wildly as the players who play them. This is the ultimate goal if you are starting to take this seriously. It's also one of the hardest methods to do. If you have ever built model cars in the 80's or 90's, AMT Ertl used to have a "Skill Level" rating for their model kits - this would be Skill Level 3 or "Expert".

The benefit of Partial Partscasters are numerous. First off, simple assemblies, like the body, that you can mill yourself, allow for some tailoring to individuality while still having some pre-made parts to measure off-of, making the process of getting a centerline andn getting everythingto line up, intonate, and play properly, a little bit easier than a scratch built instrument. It also can be cheaper than a "partscaster" because a lot of these guitar parts companies are EXPENSIVE as heck now. It used to be a quality, Ash or Alder body was $50, but not today, now you'll be paying +$100 for that. Here you can find a slab of whatever wood you want, conventional or not, and then construct that which you want, without having to worry about the right glue for the fretboard, or figuring out how to properly anchor a truss rod at the other end of the neck if you chose to build your own Truss Rod. Famous examples would be Edward Van-Halen's guitars (Ed did a LOT of modifications to his own bodies, necks, pickups, and whatnot), some of Paul Dean's Odysseys and his "old Funky Strat", Brad Gillis's "Old Lady" 62' Fender Strat, Kurt Cobain's Jaguar and early guitars (Univoxes and Mustangs mostly). The majority of custom guitars built by the artist who plays them are like this - myself included. It's not always obvious (Dean, Gillis), while others are very obvious (Sonic Youth).

Partscasters are a good way to learn how a solidbody guitar comes together. A lot of us started out just by taking pre-existing, very cheap instruments, and learning how to modify those first by taking them apart and switching out pieces. That's how I got started. These are basically like the IBM PC of musical instruments - necks, bodies, standard styles of pickup, and pickguards, and whatnot, can be easily interchanged with different versions offering different benefits/drawbacks. The vast majority of players on the internet who are really braggy about building their own guitars are like this. Some fine exmaples in my own collection would be my Jazzmaster, the DiMarzio bodied Strat, my Memphis 302HB w/ a Behringer neck on it, or the various Squier strats I've owned over the years.

Tools You Need
You will need tools. For most partscasters, screwdrivers, hex wrenches, a soldering iron, and maybe some decent spaanners (adjusable wrenches) will suffice. Almost all of these have obvious uses.

But once we move beyond the partscaster realm, that's when we get into the "heavy" tools. Jigsaws, bandsaws, routers, drills & drill presses, fret saws with miter boxes. The more you have to build, the more fancy stuff you need. Eventually you get to the point more accurate measuring devices like micrometers and straightedges become a real necessity. Fret leveling files, fret crowning files, fret dressing files. All that crazy stuff you see in the Stew Mac catalog that looks like a torture device or some kind of X-Ray bib for guitars.