How do Luthiers learn?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by macmax77, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. Malinoski

    Malinoski everything wrong possible

    Aug 6, 2009
    Maryland, USA
    Not the bible for building, this one is the set-up bible and one that every guitar owner should have and read and apply the knowledge to know how to twist all those screws and such to get your guitar the play and feel the way you like it.
    superstratjunky likes this.
  2. JamesNylen

    JamesNylen Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    It has totally changed at mimf .

    The stew mac build a strat tape by any chance? Jeez I probably watched that 25 times.
  3. superstratjunky

    superstratjunky Member

    Mar 30, 2015
    Western PA
    98% are practitioners, but the last 2% are just gifted something. Even still, you have to practice something else {money, time, & CS} to be successful at it. You just have to dive in to find out.;)

    You can also cheat & let someone else build the hard parts like the neck. & then F'up by not routing the channels before the top goes on. Ask me how I know.:facepalm:)
  4. Laurent Brondel

    Laurent Brondel Supporting Member

    Dec 9, 2011
    West Paris, ME
    Most are self-taught, a few have apprenticed with more seasoned builders and/or production shops, younger generations may have been to one of the few luthiery schools here in the US (Red Rock, Roberto Venn etc.). Or a combination of a few or all.
    I am self-taught, had literally no prior experience of woodworking except doing a bit of carpentry on the side (which was useful if only to learn how to operate tools), and got a gig at Pantheon Guitars (Dana Bourgeois) after I had built a few guitars.

    Very rarely in our time, I only know a few examples, and they encompass only 2 generations.

    There are plenty of resources on the Internet, books etc. There are also vendors who sell kits at different levels of difficulty and support. If you have the will, you can certainly learn how to build guitars much more easily now than 25 years ago.
    derekd likes this.
  5. Jim S

    Jim S Silver Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Jan 6, 2002
    Incline Village, NV (Lake Tahoe )
    I paid for the Ian Anderson Instructional video. Still waiting for the proper box to have the DVD shipped.
    K-Line, derekd, dougk and 2 others like this.
  6. bsacamano

    bsacamano Member

    Jun 24, 2012
    As with anything, you go to YouTube and search “How to [fill in the blank]”.
  7. Jazzandmore

    Jazzandmore Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 22, 2011
    Learning to do something has become easier as there are lots of resources out there. Being quite good at something takes a lot of hard work, and persistence.

    Being amazing at something requires more than just practice and resources. Even as kids, and certainly in High School, late teens-early twenties, and as adults, we all started some new skill at the same time as a group of other people. And within a fairly short period of time it was easy to see who stood out. It wasn't just the ones spending more time, there are just some folks that have that extra something.

    A perfect example is military flight school. There is a syllabus and it defines the number of flights, the type of flights and what you need to accomplish during that flight to move on from Primary. Plenty of students have never been at the controls of an airplane before they start flight school. It doesn't take that many flights for an instructor to know which students are going to be adequate and which students they can say "kid really has a feel for the plane". It's not hours in the plane because they all started at 0 hours and have to do the same syllabus. And this is something that is often evident before the person even learns to solo in the aircraft.

    It's nice that some of the well known luthiers that are participating in this thread are humble and just point to practice. And maybe it's tough to know that you have a gift, that extra creativity, artistic vision, etc. But the reason they are well known is not because they are 100 years old and just cut up wood a lot ;)
  8. John Hurtt

    John Hurtt Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2002
    Northern California
    I dunno....someone said here that it's easier than ever to build a guitar. Just throw wood in one end of a CNC and a finished guitar comes out the other. Doesn't seem hard at all.

    All kidding aside, there are some incredible craftsmen out there building fantastic instruments. I cannot imagine the skill involved.
  9. lendryesky

    lendryesky Member

    Aug 31, 2012
    I learned from this guy:
    derekd and Da Geezer like this.
  10. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Building a guitar from raw materials requires the specialized ends of several disciplines: Woodworking, paint/coating application, electronics (if it has a pickup), inlay/craftwork, possibly machining, plus the skills needed to finely adjust and fine tune the instrument for playing, like fretwork, nut slotting, setup, etc.
    An eye for design and aesthetics doesn't hurt.
    Any one of those requires some aptitude and some amount of time and effort to rise to a basic level of competence but put all together it's years of experience that allows someone to make a guitar without some deficiency.
    Most builders hide their weaker areas by delegating or subbing out work. I have customers who build nice guitars but can't do the electronics. I've really seen nice finish work from a guy who should not have been allowed near a fretting hammer.
    Taken to its extreme, having specialists each contribute is the factory method.
    I've been modding and repairing instruments for about 30 years now, but have no desire to build a guitar from the ground up. I still have areas where I'm building skills and others where I realize my skills are far above others.
    How do you learn? You DO. Read up, there are tons of videos, books, and sites. Then build something. Woodworking is really the basic skill. Make a Tele body. Does it look like a factory Tele body, even from a low end guitar? No? Make another and don't make the same mistakes as last time. Lather, rinse, repeat.
    DevRock likes this.
  11. DevRock

    DevRock Member

    Jul 10, 2009
    Watch as many how-to videos you can possibly watch. And watch them all again 5 times (I particularly like Visit other forums like this (,, <- luthier's forum, etc.) and just start practicing. I also got some templates from Expect to mess up a LOT. A LOT. My first Gibson V build (I posted it here a few weeks ago) has, somewhere, every screw-up possible. I can't tell you how many time I had to re-do something. In the end, it came out pretty good. But I messed up the neck angle by a few degrees and the action is ridiculously high. But, you get the point. Each build, you'll (hopefully) screw up less and less. The ONLY way you'll truly learn is to simply do it. Good luck!!
    Jim S likes this.

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