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Buying vs. building a guitar

Fender Accessories 998003700 Stratocaster Body with Alder Vintage Bridge Mount, 3-Tone Sunburst

Above is a real-deal guitar Stratocaster body by Fender that you can buy right now if you wanted.

But should you?

Well, before we get into that, let's answer The Big Question up front:

Do you save money by building a guitar yourself from ready-made parts?

Answer: Yes and no.

No, if you want "everything Fender."

Before even before installing pickups, after purchase of the body and a Fender-branded neck, you've almost spent 400 bucks.

Yes, if you don't buy Fender-branded stuff.

An unfinished (meaning unpainted) Strat body can be had for under 60 bucks. A neck can be had for 35 bucks. A loaded (meaning all controls, wiring and pickups) pick guard can be had for under 25 bucks.

BUT...

...it's still cheaper to buy a complete cheap guitar, and then using basic tools and low-cost upgrades to spruce it up.

Examples of what I mean by "basic tools"

Examples of what I mean by "low-cost upgrades"

The tools matter more than the upgrades do

With properly leveled/crowned/polished frets, you can make even the crappiest Strat or any other kind of electric guitar play like a dream.

What matters most on a solid-body electric is the neck. If the neck isn't good, the guitar is bad, plain and simple. As long as the neck feels good in the hand, has a truss rod that works properly and a fingerboard with properly leveled/finished frets, it can be made to play great without any need to do advanced guitar building/reconditioning stuff. Before even thinking about upgrading electronics, get that neck playing great first.

On a final note, for any fret work you do, try it on a throwaway guitar first where you're allowed to make mistakes. Get the absolute cheapest electric you can find and work on that first before working on your main guitar. Along with a fret job it will probably also need a new nut (it's cheap,) but that's okay because it's worth it to learn how to do nut replacement along with fret work.

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