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How did you learn to luthier?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tobo, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. tobo


    Nov 22, 2005
    Title says it all really.. it is something I would really like to get into, professionally or just as a hobby..

    In have a book on guitars, and apparantly one famous luthier just showed up to a shop and refused to leave until they agreed to teach him :p

    I was just curious as to how you guys got into it, were you taught, self taught etc, did you have your own woodworking shop and just practiced at it? etc

    Im interested in your stories :)
  2. Arnie


    May 14, 2005
    Kingston, NY
    I have built items out of wood in the past , furniture especially, medicane chest, coffee table, entertainment center. I had a feel with woodworking actually really like it, then someone told me I could be my own bass, I ordered plans (cause I have no idea how to layout the bass accurately) and I am very happy with the progress. I am making tons of mistakes but able to correct them along the way.
  3. This forum and other woodworking experience. Not that I would call myself a luthier by any means.

  4. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Im not a real luthier. Ive built one bass and one 7 string baritone. Im working on a few basses right now.

    Everything I know I have learned from reading this forum, watching YouTube videos, and from the process of building the instruments I have already built.
  5. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    Ever since I knew how to handle basic tools I've been building something, whether it's wooden toy guns from childhood, boats and cars in my youth or instruments lately. Best way to learn doing something is just doing it. Of course help and advice from more experienced crafsmen has helped a lot. When you have reached certain level of skills it's pretty easy to learn doing something you have never done before. After all, almost everything is just measuring, cutting, joining and finishing. Methods are just different in different crafts.
  6. aronnes71


    Jan 4, 2010
    Alta, Norway
    I do not call my selfe a luthier by no means, but I like to make basses and guitars, an I have tearned a lot from this forum, reading about others builds, reading the stickies and youtube is a great way to learn how to build instruments. I have read other forums and some books about woodworking and guitar builds.

    I am stil a Novise at this, but I like it a lot. A great hobby!

  7. thebassbuilder


    Mar 7, 2012
    Spartanburg SC
    guitar builder, Meyers Guitars
    I have always been in to building things and I can never leave anything along and no instrument is perfect in design to me so I bought the Melvin Hiscock(?) book and built one. Now I try to build as many as possible when ever possible.
  8. tobo


    Nov 22, 2005
    Do you have you own woodshops? what do you reckon are the start up costs?

    thanks again :)
  9. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Follow up: what are the essential or possibly the most versatile tools you should get as a beginner
  10. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    You will need a good router (porter cable or bosch) and some good router bits (Freud and Amana). You'll need some decent files and rasps. And as much sandpaper as you can carry, from 80 grit on up to 1000.

    For router bits you'll need a 1/4" (6.35mm) straight bit and a 1/2" (12.7mm) flush cut pattern bit as a minimum. Roundover and chamfer bits are nice, but not absolutely critical.

    You will also need a hand drill and an assortment of brad point wood bits. A drill press is nice and helps a lot, but it's not critical. I have 2.

    You can get fingerboard pre-slotted and pre-radiused, so you don't absolutely need the equipment to do that.

    You will probably do a lot of borrowing and begging for help and tools. Don't be shy. make friends with a local cabinet maker. They have loads of big awesome tools, and tend to be friendly and eager to help.
  11. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    OP: check pawn shops. It will clearly require research to know what you're looking at, but I find the power tools have a great pawn shop value, at least from the buyer's point of view
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    No, the title should be "learn lutherie" :) A luthier is a person who does lutherie. Originally a luthier built lutes.

    I read lots of books on the subject. They all go about stuff a bit differently, so you can take the parts that you like. I also had a friend who worked for Tobias when they were in Florida, and he showed me how to do fretwork and stuff.

    This is important; Before you do any lutherie, get some books on general woodworking. You need to learn how to work with wood. There's a right way to glue and clamp it, and you should know which pieces of wood might be better than others to use because of the way they are cut and the grain run out.

    You don't have to build tables or chairs, but all the stuff in the woodworking books is good to know like how to use hand a power tools. I also got videos on using routers and stuff. The books also showed me the correct way to get a band saw tuned up, change jointer and planer blades, etc. Of course you might not have big machines like that, but it's good stuff to know.

    Then you need to start collecting the tools needed.

    One you think you have an idea how to proceed, draw out your plans on paper. You should do it full size. That makes it easy to see things like neck angles and stuff.

    Then in your head think about the building process from start to finish. Get a note book and write down each step you are going to do. If you get to an operation and you aren't sure, then you can do more research. That helps prevent being in the middle of a build and realizing you painted yourself into a corner. One you think you have a clear picture of how to build the instrument, then you can start.

    The two important credos of woodworking; always practice on scrap, and measure twice, cut once!

    As an aside, I started building because I wanted a six string bass and they were all too expensive. So I ended up spending more money on machines and tools than on a bass! But then I got to make the bass exactly as I wanted, which turned out to be a five string, do to a lack of six string hardware back in the early 90s.
  13. tobo


    Nov 22, 2005
    Thanks guys, very informative, helpful posts.

    Unfortunately my favourite *tiphat smiley isnt on this site :p
  14. Praxist


    May 28, 2010
    British Columbia
    I'm also not a luthier but have done some creative remodeling, one scratchbuild guitar. I have a few basses in the works too. I learned everything right here and from remodeling other instruments. That's probably the most helpful thing for me, get an old POS bass and rebuild it. For me it taught me how the work as a system rather than an assortment of parts. The sticky threads in this forum have tons of great information and no matter what question you ask, someone will have the answer!
  15. jordan_frerichs


    Jan 20, 2008
    Trial and error. Alot of error, at least at first. I stared when I was either 15 or 16, with pretty much no experience. I can definately say you learn best from errors, and learning how to turn them around, instead of a "lucky" streak of minimal errors. I did use the woodshop at my high-school, but my teacher literally hated me (he had anger problems and a strong grudge against me from unrelated prior experiences. .. long story) so I did not actually learn anything from him. I just studied everything online, and tried my hand at what I read. He kept getting on my case, saying I used too wide of woods on the jointer and things like that, even though I researched the clearence on the specific tools they used, and I didnt even exceed 1/3 of those limits. I knew more about safely using the tools in that place then he did, which ticked him off more :D. Aside from that, I found the only other luthiery hobbies in town (also a TB member), and apprenticing under himhas helped a great deal as well.
  16. Not a real luthier either...

    I've done bits and pieces of crappy wood work before and did shop at school. However, I've worked a lot on cars and the like over the years. Quality woodwork is kinda new to me, but much less hard work than metal I'm finding. I've got a good friend that is a good amateur luthier and when I said, "I want to build some basses", he replied, "FINALLY!". lol. So I ask him, watch guys on here, try my hand at stuff and learn to do better next time. Compared to acoustic guitars and uprights, the stuff we're doing with electric basses is a long way from rocket science. :)
  17. James Mobius

    James Mobius

    Feb 28, 2011
    hmm. reasonable question. I've always made things, and with musical instruments, I've always modified them, building new ones was a natural progression from that. the first one I made, I had no training whatsoever, high school woodshop, I owned a p bass copy, knew better than to try to make a neck, lucked into an amazing one for not much money, Fender fretless p bass neck, used, but awesome $130 (in 1984), I looked at my p bass and figured, the body has to be at least that long, so the bridge is in the right place, there has to be at least enough wood to house the guts, after that I went a little wild with the design. I really had no idea *** I was doing, and weight aside, it came out great and I still use it to this day, it's been on 4 or 5 commercial recordings. (I've since added a 5th string)
    Melvin Hiscock's book is essential. I didn't find that til I was at Berklee in the late 80's. get yourself a copy. and watch your fingers, I still have all of mine.

    (addendum, wow I can't type the acronym for the World Trade Federation on this board? sorry! @_@ )
  18. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Keep safe my TB brethren!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
    I suggest you check out TBr Miziomix's or JohnK_T's build threads among many other great builds.

    Are you a detail/perfectionist type person in general? Skilled with your hands? Can you fix things by reading/studying and then doing the work? Do you have any tools now? Have you built anything before? Used any woodworking tools?

    Stuff like that would help you figure out where your skill are and your potential to success.

    Oh, and building a guitar is not a social exercise so are you and your family used to you being alone for most of the day/night for weeks on end? Otherwise it may take years for you to get skills.

    I suggest you open a document called "Everything I know about building a bass" and fill it with everything you learn. It'll give you a bench mark on how you're doing and when you make mistakes, you'll be able to input how/why they happened and what you did to fix them and/or what you should do next time.

    There are also schools that you can attend.

    Good luck.

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