Guitar Building Institute

What happens when you and your students build an electric guitar? They’ll be inspired to seek answers to questions about materials, technology and design. At the end, they’ll not only have their own guitar—made with their own hands—they’ll walk away with knowledge and skills for all areas in their lives and careers. And you… you’ll be a GBI Champion!


A guitar build is a really good way to address topics in mechanical, electrical, and physical science properties. Design principles covered: mass, weight, density, surface area and dimensions measurement, technical sketching, calculation (for frequency, scale, etc.), the rule of 18, diagram interpretation, application and treatments of surfaces for specific purposes (i.e. protection, strength, etc.). Processing technologies covered: lathing, machining, tooling, sanding, lamination and milling, part attachment and assembly, bending, soldiering, fabricating, coating, sealing, spraying. In addition material properties, selection and application principles are covered:

  • Wood

    Wood is used in the:
    • Head stock
    • Neck
    • Body

    Woods used are hardwoods vs. softwoods due to their density, composition, and the microscopic structure (pores). Luthiers believe that the type of wood used actually affects the tonal quality of the guitar; hence the term "tonewood."

  • Metals

    Metal is a key material used in the:
    • Frets – Determine the positions for the correct notes and make it easier to play chords accurately. The distance between frets determines the instrument’s scale.
    • Strings – Strings determine the sound (chord and timbre) output when plucked, sound is recorded as a frequency
  • Electronics

    Electric guitars require:
    • An amplifier to project sound.
    • A pickup that converts the string vibration to an electric signal in the form of a frequency. Pickup types studied include single-coils, P-90, and Humbucker.
    • Speaker magnets to send a current to the coil.
  • Polymers

    Polymers are made up of a poly + mer. Polymers have a dual role, decorative and to serve a purpose:
    • The finish coating (paint) of the guitar is a polymer.
    • Glue is used in assembly of the guitar.
    • One of the most popular developments in strings is to coat them with a microscopic layer of a polymer to prevent corrosion.
  • Ceramics

    Ceramics are an integral part of the electronics as insulators, and specifically in the pickup. They can also be used in the:
    • Tuning pegs
    • Top Nut
    • Fretboard
    • Bridge/Tailpiece
    • Volume and tone control (knobs)
    GBI activities include attaching tuners to the headstock and body. Learners answer the question: What physical properties of a ceramic make it a conductor; make it an insulator?


The GBI opens up pathways for teachers, and K-12 and higher education students to employment and exciting career/directions in areas of manufacturing and STEM. No matter where you are; your level of understanding in these areas, GBI positions you to move through levels of competence and experiences you probably never dreamed of. At the core of our competencies are the knowledge and skills required to do a job. The GBI competencies have been aligned with 3 skill sets in the aerospace industry


There is a GBI for teachers, students, and even a GBI that honors and develops future GBI leaders. Teachers of STEM and the arts can expect to be inspired and to develop the competence and motivation to teach STEM in new and innovative ways. School administrators are exposed to new ways to approach STEM curriculum. Hobbyists and lutherie enthusiasts... well just sit back and enjoy and get your creative side on.