Guitar Making; Tradidtion & Technology


   I was alive in the forest

  I was cut by the cruel axe

  In life I was silent

  In death I sweetly sing 

  -Inscription on the face frets of an Elizabethan lute

I have a strong suspicion that I’m apart of a vast  group of amateur luthiers who pay a daily tribute to the work of William R. Cumpiano & Jonathan D. Natelson. This book which has been accurately categorized as the “Bible of the craft” by none other than C.F. Martin IV, takes an eager mind through every aspect of guitar making one can imagine. It’s safe to assume that many who take up guitar making have some sort of back ground in furniture or cabinet making, and understand grain direction and how to look for a plank that has been quarter sawn from one that is flat sawn. Even if I’m wrong on this, Cumpiano & Natelson throughly explain how to seek out such planks. The book begins with some ideas on the tools you’ll need and some work bench appliances you can build that you will use throughout the project. From here you move through every stage, including finger tapping for tone, building and carving the neck, hand planing the sound board to the correct thickness, making and cutting rosettes, fret work, and the  finish. There is much I left out, but hopefully you can get a picture of how complete this book is.

The two guitars being built for the book was steel string,and a classical. How do I find tips on building my Bass from a book like this? The chapter on making and installing a truss rod is one example I’m using now. I could buy truss rod, and a super special router bit that is only for cutting the slot for the truss rod I just bought, all this for about $40 plus shipping/handling. Or I can go buy a piece of 3/16 for about $12. You know the same place that will sell me that truss rod and bit will also make me a pre-slotted, pre-radiused fret board in ebony for about $45! While I’m at it why don’t I just scrap what I’ve poured my soul into and buy a guitar kit! That might work for some people but I’d rather spend my money on some more tools, and rest at night knowing I made this Bass. I use handtools where I can, and  believe in making something as far away from a production/factory setting as possible. This idea too was something that I had, and after reading this book I was amazed at how unwavering this thought had become. If you own a copy of this amazing book then by know you’ve already seen the quote up above.

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