Hints on studying to become a luthier?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by akuma12, Aug 31, 2003.

  1. akuma12


    Aug 25, 2003
    Sarasota, FL
    I recently went back to being a music student after being away from it too long, and began to rekindle my interest in making and repairing stringed instruments. But of course I'm rather clueless to the whole world of luthierie, and was wondering what kind of things I could be doing to learn about the trade in the hopes of becoming an apprentice or finding a job in a luthier's shop.

    Also, how does one go about getting an apprenticeship, or even finding a luthier, for that matter? Especially ones interested in taking on an apprentice. Thank you very much for your help!

  2. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I would say that firstly, if you're not already familiar with good, basic wood working skills, that you learn that first. Learning how to make good cuts, joints, and other skills in wood using basic hand and power tools is essential, as Luthiery is built on solid wood working skills. If you're not already a skilled wood worker, find some local classes on wood working, start buying tools and practice making straight cuts and jointery and routing, sanding, finishing on various types of scrap wood.

    Also, there are many good books and other sources of learning Luthiery. Many of us here learned it through years or doing it, as well as other types of wood working.

    Start getting catalogs from Places like Stewart MacDonald (www.stewmac.com) and others. Join an organization like the Guild of American Luthiers, as they can be great sources of info.

    Read as much as you can on other Luthiers sites, buy a few "junk" pawn shop guitars and basses and practice taking off the fingerboards and glueing them back on, practice removing the frets and replacing them, then crowning and dressing the frets. Rewire them, many times! Practice setting the intonation. Break the headstock off and glue it back on! etc...etc...

    Lastly, there are many schools that have very respectable Luthier programs. Some are full time, others are only a few nights a week. Check the www.mimf.com for a listing.

    Hope this helps, even if just a little bit!

  3. akuma12


    Aug 25, 2003
    Sarasota, FL
    Thank you very much! That's just the kind of info I was looking for :)

  4. i was wondering the same things before i got started, and was considering attending one of the various schools.
    but in my experience i have found it's always more fun to just do it...if you screw up, you screw up, that's how you learn in life. if your interest is in building instruments, go to home depot and buy some cheap wood and build something. then after you get comfortable with that, you can move onto the more costly woods.
    i believe it may have been someone in a michael tobias discussion on his site that said something along the lines of "the best luthiers are the ones that know how to hide their mistakes"
    trial and error, gotta love it.

    there area also some books out there if you're into that sort of thing :)
  5. DP Custom

    DP Custom DP Custom Basses

    Feb 7, 2001
    NC, USA
    By all means, I agree with the previous poster who said to buy up old instruments, especially broken ones, and take them apart & repair them. You'll learn a lot that way.
    Then just dig in and make something ..keep it simple the first few times. A basic woodworking class at a local community college is a good idea if you aren't familiar with the tools and how wood reacts.

    good luck
    DAve P.