Hi All,

I am new to this site and I am grateful to be included. I have a single acoustic guitar that I don't play nearly enough due to busy family and work life, but I am very interested in lutherie. I love guitars, and drool over them regularly. I've owned three guitars but I am down to one now (breedlove mahogany dreadnought). I also really love wood and earthy things, as well as working with my hands and building things. I enjoy the details when I clean, oil, polish and restring my guitar. I have played in my church off and on for 15 years, not that I'm that good as I've stuck mostly to chords and rhythm and a little finger picking. I discovered bluegrass and folk music though and been bit by the acoustic guitar bug for the last year or so. I have recently become interested in getting into the craft and potentially professionally eventually. 

For those of you that are actively working in the field, what advice, warnings, encouragements might you have for someone with an interest but no experience (apart from my own guitar maintenance)?

Sorry for the long post, just trying to give some background. 

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Get a kit (Blues Creek, LMII, StewMac) and see how that goes. You'll have to put together or build some tools to do that. Get some junker guitars to take apart and rebuilt to make them play. Use Frank's instructions on how to do all this, or take a build class. I learned how to do this stuff online but have always treated it as a hobby. Have Fun, and Good Luck.


Thanks Carl,

That's a good idea. There is a lutherie school here in Portland I'd love to go to some time but no reason I can't start dabbling and having fun. 

What Carll said!

The good news is that since most instruments are sold online these days, there’s nobody doing the final inspection and personal setup that used to be done by the conscientious guitar shop. Get good at basic adjustments and setup criteria and you’ll have a steady stream of work.

Greg Mirken

That's a good point! If I can get really good at setups and make a guitar play it's best that might be a good place to start. Thanks!

Good answers. Along the lines of what Greg touched on, you will learn that a "simple setup" can be one of the most maddeningly difficult things to do sometimes. Also, regardless what type of repairs you do to an instrument, a good setup is almost always the final step. The local store no longer does them at the point of sale unless the buyer pays extra for it. Beyond that store, Guitar Center is closest. There is no reason why a GC can't do a good setup if they have the right personnel, it just doesn't happen very often.

That's good to know that setups are the bread and butter. I even think my Breedlove (that was purchased from guitar center) could have better playability. It seems like the saddle is too high and it takes a lot of pressure to play. I do use 13s on it because it sounds so rich with the mahogany dread and the smallest I'd go is 12, but even so its kind of hard to push down on for long. I've made small adjustments to the truss rod but I wonder if the saddle needs a shave. Maybe I'll start there, carefully getting my own guitar playing it's best. Worst case I have to put a whole new saddle on right? 

Hi, my trip into Lutherie was as follows.

In 1963 I buy a book on how to build a guitar.

Then modifying my own instruments, eg: 6 string guitar into 12 string, 5-string banjo into long neck banjo 

In the early 1970s, I started doing repairs for others, free of charge for the first attempt at a task. The second time I charged [cos I was an expert] Haha.

I thought I would learn how to build guitars by repairing them and making notes about every guitar. But I realize now that what I learned after looking inside many many guitars was how not to build them. Haha. No joke.

The money from the repairs over four years was put into setting up a proper workshop for building instruments.

The first instruments built were dulcimers, a mandolin, and a solid-body electric guitar.

In 1977, I finished my first guitar, and still have it.

Trouble was then and still is now, that the demand on me to do repairs has never gone away, so realy I'm a repairer who builds instruments as time permits.

So the story goes...

Cheers Taff

Thanks for sharing this story! it's interesting to hear how it worked for you. And great idea getting some jobs just for the experience. I'd love to see some examples of your finished products sometime. 

Hi Chris.
You have a great attitude coupled with the motivation to pursue your goals.
I wholeheartedly recommend starting with repair work concentrating on setups. They’re the bread and butter jobs of the craft.
Although I had to retire from all things guitar 5 years ago because of diagnosed severe arthritis in my hands, I did primarily did setups for the last several years of my 45 year career.
As your skills evolve into ‘expert’ territory, word of mouth will have customers/clients knocking at your door.
The incidental work involved in a well done setup will exponentially add to your knowledge base and skill sets.
The majority of my customers were folks who had screwed up their instruments by going the DIY route and re-do’s of poor setups performed by GC and unskilled practitioners.
Yes, it takes time, research and practice to amass the needed skill sets so it wont be a “buy some tools and open for business” process.
Experience is one of the most important aspects of the craft. It’s worth the investment of time, effort and money.
Along the way you’ll encounter really great repair folks who are super friendly, passionate about the craft and are willing and eager to share their knowledge and help you out. This forum is living proof.
Let me also add the importance of developing superior diagnostic skills because if you are unable to diagnose the problem, you won’t know what to fix. That’s an item of vital importance which is seldom discussed on forums.
I agree with the other respondents who encourage you to get some cheap used instruments and start learning. In the beginning you’ll likely ruin instruments along the way but it’s happened to ALL of us. A failed job will greatly expand your knowledge. Your later successes will more than offset any self doubts you may experience.
Hope this info helps and contributes to inspiring you to pursue your dream.
Wishing you success and happiness with your venture.
Paul V.

Thanks Paul! I appreciate the encouragement and information. I'm sorry to hear about the arthritis, but your experience and advice is very valuable. thank you! 

Hi, Just to add to Pauls's fine advice on diagnostic skills.

Often the problem is easy to see as it's staring me in the face, so I also look for the possible cause, whether it is the customer's fault, a manufacturing or design fault, or a combination of the two. At times I have not only repaired the instrument but also made some modifications to the original build to prevent the problem from recurring.

Enjoy the journey. Taff


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