The biggest problem facing the first time assembler is dealing with the fretwork. I am not aware of any supplier who does much more than install the frets and bevel the ends. Aftermarket necks need some fine handiwork to get them playing well. Please note that I said "playing well" and not "playing."
Assembling guitars can be very rewarding and educational if you bring something to the table, but the frets need to be leveled and crowned and polished if you want a guitar that you will be proud to hand to a good player. The smart guy acknowledges that this is a skill niot easily or quickly learned, and he takes his aftermarket neck to a pro, and pays not too much money to get it up to the level where can hand it to someone and say "Try this one!"
It usually works best to get all or most of your components from the same supplier the first time, as there is a little Kentucky windage in the specs between suppliers. Educate yourself, expect to spend some money on tools, don't buy the cheapest components, and have fun!
I built one years ago, the problem is unless you're skilled at this kind of stuff, including the painting, etc., you can end up spending a lot of $ on something that might not be any better than something cheaper that was made in Mexico. I would never do it again. Also, as you would expect, the resale isn't great.
It is alot of serious fun. I used to enjoy it very much.
It ended up being not so gratifying (for me) once I started checking out guitars built by folks like Lentz and Thorn... then I realized that even if I got a great USACG neck and had a top flight tech do the fretwork, I'd never get a neck of the quality that "Jedi" luthiers like Scott Lentz and Ron Thorn regularily put out there... theres an extra level of quality and playability that I've found in those guitars that seemed impossible to duplicate (for me) in a Partcaster
others might be more successful than I was in such a quest... considering how expensive my tastes run (its gotta have the best woods, the best pots, the best caps, the best pickups, a bone nut, a pro fret job, etc) when I added it all up I realized it would cost as much or more than a used guitar built by a Jedi... so I went that route instead
got myself a Lentz. and once I can afford it, my next guitar will be either a Lentz or a Thorn
I think if you want something that isn't avail from a traditional bolt on, then go for it. As long as you use quality parts, spend the time assembling it right (or paying someone else to), and having it setup properly, you should end up with a very nice guitar.
Resale will be bad, so make sure you build something you will end up keeping.
Done right, it's very gratifying, especially if you're like me and want a few custom options that would cost a fortune from a builder. All my bolt ons (4) are partscasters, and I'm starting my fifth. All have sounded fantastic, and they all play great - but I do know how to crown and dress frets.
I assembled a guitar out of parts that shouldn't have fit together but did. A Warmoth soloist body, an no name import strat neck (maple w/maple board) a strat style 2 screw trem, one humbucker, one volume pot and a mini toggle for coil splitting. Now here's where it got interesting. The body was routed for a floyd rose, including a tilt in the neck pocket. So you can see a little gap by the trem cause a floyd route is wider and I have spent a fair amount of time messing with neck shims. But, all told, I love it. It's quite versatile and even with the neck shim it has great sustain.
So, long story longer, it's fun even if you don't use the good stuff. I think everyone should have one cobbled together mutt, just so they remember what a guitar is at its core.
I do it all the time. I have started to stock pile parts too. It really is a great hobby. In doing so I have learned to dress frets, cut nuts, adjust truss rods, and all. I generally build T style guitars, they're the easiest, but I have a strat on the bench and I'm gearing up to build an acustic for the first time. The acustic will be from scratch no kits or parts and no laminates either. Depending on how that build goes I may hang out a shingle we'll see.
But to answer the OPs Q yes rewarding and fun. A good way to keep the cost down is by buying in bulk stock piling parts and cannilbleizing good parts from other guitars.
It can be fun and gratifying. For me, the important part is the journey. I have learned a ton about guitars and guitar resources while researching for various parts and stuff. Likewise, I've met some gifted and great people along the way. The journey can be a blast as long as you pick and choose what you want to do. For example, I do not have any interest in finishing a bolt on guitar right now. So, I've hired TGP's Superlead to do it. He's doing a great job, and we've had some very cool conversations about guitars. In contrast to finishing, I love sourcing my parts, assembling them, fitting them, wiring them, etc. It is truly wonderful to build a guitar for yourself that meets your needs. There are some amazingly talented luthiers out there, and I have no doubt that their products are incredible. In fact, I hope to someday own their guitars. In the meantime, however, I'm enjoying this journey and soaking up all of the incredibly helpful advice these builders and others provide.
Yes, great fun, educational and gratifying. Of course, do not do this to save money because a used guitar by a builder will likely be cheaper. I have found that with a bit of wood finishing skill and a lot of time invested, you can actually end up with a nicer neck that most builders can afford to produce, even the boutique guys. That is one of the reasons I actually like doing this stuff. I also like being able to view hundreds of bodies and necks on Warmoth's site, where I know the exact grain pattern and body weight I will end up with.
Call Tommy at USACG and get the wood squared away. The rest is just picking your flavor. In the end you will have something you built, forget the resale, build to keep. A tech can help you out locally or just give me a shout, I will lend any advice I can along the way. It is a blast, you may find you are really good at it.
I build Tele bodies and buy everything else. I think it's a great process if you approach it with the right attitude. In my case, that means 1) not being in a rush to finish and enjoying the process 2) taking the time to think through options before cutting wood, and 3) always slowing down to do the job right, rather than rushing and/or taking short cuts with the wrong tools, etc.
As others have stated, don't do it to save money and forget about recouping what you spent if you sell it. Build it to keep it.
Essentially aren't all guitars really partscasters? Either you pay the manufacturer or a luthier to assemble it or you put it together yourself. The main difference is you pick the exact parts you want on it. At the same you could also easily find something that fits your taste already to go. I've done many and most for around that $700 to $800 mark. On a side note I almost can't see building a guitar that ends up being more or less the same as you could buy as a mass produced model.
+1 to take your time and enjoy the process. Mistakes are a lot more likely to happen if you don't. Regarding fretwork ... I got a Carvin neck, fretwork was top shelf off the shelf. However, I'm considering finding a bigger neck - I like the Carvin board and frets but the neck is too skinny. I now know a lot more about my preferences in necks than I did when I put this together.
Here's my Mirocaster. A friend painted the body, then I clearcoated it. Pups are Lollars, with a 4-way switch. I'm very pleased with how it sounds and looks and plays, with the caveat on the skinny neck.