Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find plans for a particular instrument?
by R.M. Mottola

The Questions Column of American Lutherie receives queries all the time from folks looking for instrument plans. We get so many of these questions that we cannot print them all in the column, and frankly we rarely get answers to these questions anyway. We do want to help you find the plans you are looking for though, and have put together this FAQ to help in the search. Be aware that you may have to put some serious effort into this quest. Also be aware that plans are simply not available for a large number of instruments.

The first place to look of course is the Instrument Plans list on our website. We publish an eclectic collection of plans, and we add to that collection regularly. Also on our home page, check out our list of other sources of instrument plans. To search these sources you will probably have to go to each of the sites listed there and search each one individually.

These days any search for anything must include an Internet search using a search engine such as Google. If you don’t find plans when searching for the specific name of the instrument you are looking for (“requinto plan” for example), try searching for less specific terms. These may turn up some sites that have plans you may be interested in.

There are two factors that make searching for plans difficult. The first is that there are no large comprehensive sources for instrument plans, just relatively small collections. The second factor is that a very large number of the places that have plans available do not provide Internet search engine access to the listings of those plans. This last factor is most unfortunate, as it makes listings of those plans unavailable to Internet search engines. This means you have to root out a lot of sources of plans yourself. Our listing of sources of plans helps a lot, but you may want to continue your search in a few other places as well.

Lutherie suppliers of parts and materials often have plans, usually for the most popular instruments. A number of the online discussion groups for luthiers also sell plans to support their operations. Again, they usually have plans for the most popular instruments.

Museums with collections of musical instruments will often have drawings of some of those instruments available. In general though, it is tough to find out what drawings a museum has. If you can’t find anything on their website, you may want to contact the musical instrument department directly and ask what they have. While on the subject of museums, let me point out that, if you are looking for plans for an instrument that comes from a certain country your best bet may be contacting a museum in that country.

If you are looking for plans for an unusual instrument it is certainly possible that no such plans exist. If you run into a dead end in your search one thing you may consider is making your own drawings of a real instrument. It generally takes some amount of time to make drawings like this, so it would be ideal if you can locate an instrument that you can have ready access to. And measurement of bracing and other features on the inside of acoustic instruments is difficult or impossible, so ideally you’d want access to an instrument that is disassembled for repair. About the only likely place you’d find such an instrument is in a repair shop, so consider searching for repair shops that specialize in the type of instrument you are looking for and asking any that you find if you could come and make drawings of instruments. But don’t be surprised if your request is turned down. A repair shop is a busy place and time really is money in the repair business.

It is also sometimes possible to arrange to make drawings of an instrument at a museum. If you go this route, be prepared for a long list of restrictions on how you can handle the instrument.

Best of luck in your search.

Top of Page