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Luthier schools and/or specialized training?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by seang15, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    Hi folks, hope you're all well;

    I saw another thread (not in Luthier's Corner), whereby an OP was opining regarding having his bass gouged up by an incompetent tech. Now, what he described was truly incompetent (as he witnessed said gouging), and I do believe I am already beyond performing such atrocities. However; another poster, suggested asking this "professional" (and any other repair expert and/or luthier) to provide credentials of what schooling they received in the field.

    I just started "building" (Not much fabrication yet, but very proud of my first "build!") I will put the word build in quotes until I actually fabricate all the parts made of wood! Hopefully, eventually, I will also create the electronics, but one step at a time. The wood part I would be thrilled to 100% create, for the foreseeable future, and utilize others' (metal and electrical) parts. (I am partial to Kent Armstrong, Audere, Aguilar, Babicz, Hipshot, Schaller, Carvin, SD, DiMarzio, etc. etc.) But I digress.

    I do love learning! And I really enjoy sitting in a formal classroom environment, and learning from those who "have been there," and are still there, and relevant. These forums are great (and free!) and it's a great way to learn, IME and IMHO. But, can I simply tell a future customer (as I fully plan to make money doing this; building and/or maintenance, eventually) that I learned all my luthier skills from his forum, books and trial-and-error methods. (I know these methodologies are imperative, no matter the way the trade is learned.) But I do wonder if it's absolutely imperative to go to a school, trade school of some sort, etc.?

    Now, here are a few points (summary), perhaps reinforcing one from above:

    1). I LOVE SCHOOL! But I am also limited with funds (isn't everybody?), and time (time is money)! I have a family, a mortgage, etc. and it's hard getting way, and very difficult getting funds for this type of schooling.

    2). DO I NEED SCHOOL to be a formidable, respected, and accepted luthier and repairman? How have you all gone about getting your experience and training?

    3). WHERE ARE THE SCHOOLS, if indeed it's absolutely necessary? Do some builders do a 1-week class? I know there's a school in Atlanta, I believe it is (or just outside the city) that is 5-weeks long. I know that would be GREAT! The price seems reasonable for what it is (~$6,500) but the time is even more difficult to get, than choking up the dough.

    I also remember the NGSW class that was about 6 weeks long.

    These two aforementioned schools not withstanding; anything that's 1-week long, etc. would be very beneficial, as would any and all recommendations be appreciated.

    Thanks for any and all consideration and assistance!

    All the best,
  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I am presently working on a bass for my first and currently only paying customer. He is getting my 5th build. He asked me how I learned how to do what I do, and I told him 1) talkbass luthier's corner, 2) youtube videos, and 3) a lot of trial and error practice on cheap scrap wood.

    But as for being imperative to go through formal education...no. I am 99.99% sure that Carl Thompson never had any formal training, and in some of his YouTube videos, he plainly rejects the notion that traditional education and apprenticeship programs are the way to go about breaking into lutherie.
  3. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    If you are good at what you do, your work will speak for itself, and word of mouth will help develop your business. Luther schools are a great option and can provide skills you may not acquire on your own. Working with a skilled luthier in a shop or as part of a school can only be bnefiscial. As for someone seeing credentials, they usually know nothing more than there are schools out there and do not have a clue how most repairmen come to exist in this business.(usually by doing the work or/and working under another experienced tech/repairman)
  4. PaPaVB20


    Aug 19, 2008
    Hi, I live in Costa Rica, so my situation is similar but for me a lutherie school is close to a imposible situation, because it implies going to another country and spending too much money...I am learning the craft, after spending almost 5 years trying to get someone that will give me an oportunity as an apprentice, finally I have 2 master builders teaching me, so I work 2 days on classical guitar and violin construction, and 3 days on electric guitars and basses repair and construction... In those 5 years I was reading every book, watching every video, reading every thread here, everything related to luthierie, so I know all the theory, and now my masters are giving me the practical knowledge, plus living in the shop enviroment, with customers coming unexpected, etc... is the best school for this subject...And now I have to amazing luthiers in the US that are giving me detailed information about the way they do stuff, so for me having 4 master luthiers, every one with a different view of life and musical instrument construction is a dream come true... I will try to get the best of all of them and my own ideas to make something original and exiting...
    I think the best way to learn, is working on stuff, you will make mistakes, everyone does! and finding ways to correct those mistakes and learn from them, is what makes masters luthiers what they are.... Try to get to a luthier shop, if you have time issues, maybe helping on weekends or a couple of hours a day could be a good star point...schools are good, and you will learn a lot, but with all what I experienced, I preferr to spend that money on tools, and be an apprentice for 3-4 years in a real life situation...Just my 2 cents
  5. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    Thanks for the fantastic, and gracious, replies! Great info, advice, and specific examples...much appreciated! -Sean.
  6. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    Greetings! Any other ideas/comments/suggestions/opinions on this matter? I really do like the responses I received, and they are appreciated.

    Just wondering if further comment?

    Thanks again! Sean
  7. Praxist


    May 28, 2010
    British Columbia
    i'm in the process of learning lutherie right now too and i'm mostly learning it autodidactically. I'm in my forties and want to have instrument building as a hobby that can pay for itself at some point but i'm a long way! :D

    I've been reading every thread in this forum for about five years now and many on tdpri and other forums. in that time i've also made relationships with three local wood suppliers, two guys on my street with better shops than me and all the local music related businesses that stock parts. I've also talked with a few luthiers locally but most, understandably, want to work alone.

    ive been stockpiling tools and little jigs and making lots of sawdust on junker basses and guitars. I've built a few instruments from parts and pieces also. I'm in process of building a couple and posting them here as they go.

    There are some really good books on lutherie and I recommend getting them and read a bunch on woodworking too. I was surprised how many my local library had in stock and they had tables big enough for me to work on my full-sized bass drawing. with a 3 foot ruler. in public. :D

    This forum also has a gazillion great build threads. some of my favorites are by wilser, redeemer bass, son of magni and ledbelli. I've left off a hundred others taht can be slowly gone through to support the learning. This is an AWESOME COMMUNITY of teaching and learning right here.
  8. preside


    Aug 7, 2010
    Scottsdale Az
    Ya know OP I've thought about this too. I have been looking into classes at the local community college on furniture building. Yes I know a couch ain't a guitar but I figure learning tool saftey and jig making might be the two most important parts. This site and all the great builders here can fill in some more, and last, diving in and turning some fine wood into splinters and dust will be the rest.
  9. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    Thanks guys! These last two replies are truly useful as well...great ideas, thanks for sharing your info and experiences...GREAT idea regarding Community College! I agree, the safety (i.e. keeping fingers) is a HUGE part of it for me, and I would suppose everybody.

    And yes, creating jigs seems to be the #1 advice I read or hear about constantly and consistently. Lots of useful info here on the forum re: jigs as well!

    Thanks again all, best of luck in your own endeavors,

    Happy Trails! And keep it low,
  10. Brado


    Oct 19, 2005
    Buda, TX.
    I learned by trial & error. Also by paying attention. Any time you can get in the shop with an experienced luthier, soak it up. I can vouch for an earlier comment on "word of mouth" spreading your business. When people find out that you do good repair work, more & more work starts coming your way. The same goes for building. Another luthier (who I work closely with) went to luthier school. I would tell him every now & then, "I wish I had gone & done that too....earned my certificate & hang it on the wall..." His response, "there's nothing they could teach you that you aren't already doing now." He's actually mentioned how hard it was to un-learn some of the things he was taught in school. Save/ get some tools. Start. Gradual growth. Quality work speaks for itself.

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