How did you learn your trade?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by andrewd, Jan 6, 2004.

  1. andrewd


    Sep 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    as of late, i've become very interested in learning to build my own instruments. Basses in particular, of course. ;) did you go to a specialized school, study with a local builder, or just piddle around in your garage until you figured out how to do it properly? :p
  2. I'm a graphic and industrial designer by trade and I've always had a shop to work in. In 1999 my shop was producing race cars but after I got out of racing, I converted the operation to wood. There ARE differences between wood and metal but the fabrication experience was very transferrable to the new discipline.

    I did my first bit of luthiery in 1976 when I carved a brass nut from a clarinet key for my '75 Precision bass. That experience was paramount in breaking the ice of fear and trepidation. I was fortunate at the time to have another instrment repairman help me even though he specilized in horns and woodwinds. His knowledge of general repair and shop demeanor taught me patience and how important it was to plan the work and work form a plan. From that time, I learned my setup stuff and got pretty good at, at least, getting my own instruments to play well. I stopped music entirely in 1981 and for nearly 20 years pursued other interests (like the racing) but when I returned to the instrument, I was amazed at how much was available to the amateur builder as far as information, parts, and advice. That did it! My first bass was crying to be built and I did it as I've done everything I've ever tried to tackle - by my own wits and wherewithall adding my own touches as I conceived them.

    As I've often said - Building basses isn't rocket science and that's good cuz I ain't no rocket scientist!! :p
  3. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    Two good points there. The first is that you have to approach these things with some degree of confidence. Your work comes out better when you're not out-worrying yourself. Lord knows I've spent too much time staring at expensive lumber (the value quadruples the minute the hardware store closes..) but sooner or later, you just gotta put blade to wood. It's supposed to be fun, so let it be. Mistakes can be fixed, and if not, mistakes can be turned into flower boxes.

    The second point is that mentoring is a wonderful way to learn. Most of us aren't lucky enough to apprentice with skilled luthiers, but there are plenty of excellent resources out there, this being one of them. Thanks to those who keep it flowing.