Mark (TheCraftsmansPath.com) on March 8th, 2008

Now that I am in the final stages of the Queen Anne Side Table project (more to come on that in a future post), it’s time to start thinking of what should be the next project to tackle in the shop. I have several furniture projects that I am considering but, I won’t start those until the current project is finished and out of the shop.

I have been thinking about something to bridge the gap between major furniture projects and also something that might be able to continue in the background during downtime. In the past, I would often do some turning during these periods because most turning projects can be accomplished fairly quickly. However, I’m always looking for a new challenge so, I have been considering some other things.

Guitar_Kit_.jpgBeing a guitar player from way back and of course, also a woodworker, I have always wanted to make a guitar. I have done a fair amount of research on lutherie but, I was always reluctant to take on a project. In the past I’ve evaluated both building from scratch and building from a kit of parts. A couple of years ago I went as far as purchasing a kit of parts for a dreadnought-style acoustic guitar from Stewart MacDonald. For whatever reason, I never started the project after receiving the parts. Though, I always had this nagging feeling that I should! As you may have already guessed, I’m going to use this opportunity to finally build a guitar. Starting now, between projects and continuing on in the background of my next furniture project.

Lutherie is a unique brand of woodworking. It involves some different skills, techniques and strict attention to detail. Though I will be starting with a kit of parts, don’t let that fool you. There is a lot of woodworking involved in producing a quality instrument even without milling the parts. Essentially, the basic head start that the kit gives you is as follows:

  • All of the parts are preselected and available rather than having to acquire them separately
  • The guitar sides are pre-shaped so that you are not required to bend them on a hot pipe
  • The stock for the guitar top, back and sides is pre-thicknessed to a uniform dimension
  • The guitar neck is rough shaped and the fingerboard is pre-slotted for the frets

So, you get the basic pieces but you still need to perform all of the joinery to create the guitar. The body needs to be built and all of the braces and blocking need to be joined and hand shaped. All of the binding channels must be routed and the bindings must be applied. The neck must be shaped and set with the truss rod, the fingerboard must be applied and fretted and the bridge must be set and the string action adjusted…and the list goes on.

Dreadnought_Guitar.jpgI decided to go the kit route with the hopes of getting my feet wet, honing my skills and then transitioning to a scratch-built guitar in the future. The guitar I am building is a dreadnought styled after the highly desired vintage C.F. Martin guitars. The picture shows a representative view of what it will look like when completed. I chose the kit with the Rosewood back and sides, Mahogany neck and spruce top (shown on the left in the picture). I’m hopeful that I will be able to complete this project without the need to purchase a lot of specialized tools. We’ll see how I do in that department…

I’m looking forward to traveling this new path, acquiring some new skills and hopefully building a top-quality instrument. I’ll be posting about my efforts here along with whatever else is going on in the shop. So, please follow along and let me know what you think. Who knows, when this new guitar is complete I may even start playing regularly again!

7 Responses to “Looking ahead: How about lutherie?”

  1. Hi, Mark.

    The guitar will be a great project! I have NO idea how to build one; but I have watched many episodes of Handmade Music, and was totally enthralled by the skills shown by the artists making the musical instruments! I will follow your build from beginning to end.

  2. Hi Al,

    Thanks for the support. I’m looking forward to this project. I’ve watched Handmade Music as well – inspiring to see those artists/craftsmen working and producing such beautiful and functional instruments. They are not only visually beautiful but, also beautiful to the ear when played.

    Please let me know what you think as I progress with this one.

    –Mark

  3. I will be taking notes too, Mark!

    Our granddaughter # 2, who is now 7, and our son-in-law, both play the guitar, so there might be some luthier work for me at some point in the future.

  4. Hey Mark:

    All caught up now……….looking forward to the finiah on the QA Side Table.

    My brother plays guitar and is always sending me links about guitar manufacturers and guitar makers, now I have one for him.

    Lutherie……This will be cool to follow…………Neil

  5. Hey Neil,

    Thanks. It should be an interesting journey.

    –Mark

  6. Guitar making can be both a frustrating, and rewarding experience, starting with a kit is probably a good idea. In woodworking, there is satisfaction at the end of a project, but in guitar building, the reward comes when you make music on your creation. There is nothing like it.

    Good Luck.

  7. Eric,

    Thanks for stopping by the site. I certainly can attest to the rewarding feeling when finishing a project. I’m looking forward to that extra special element of being able to keep creating music on the creation after it is complete.

    Please continue to visit the site.

    –Mark

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