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A Different Way of Defining Body Shapes

A Different Way of Defining Body Shapes

by Mark French

Originally published in American Lutherie #88, 2006

As I look through American Lutherie, I am struck by the advances in the tools some of us use to make our instruments. While there will always be the traditionalists who do most of their work by hand, more of us are using computer-controlled machines to make jigs or parts. Even the musical instrument lab here at Purdue ( has its own CNC router. Large manufacturers like Taylor Guitars use CNC equipment for the majority of their building operations.

An obvious advantage of all this cool stuff is that parts can be made much more precisely. However, the parts can only be as precise as the instructions that are driving the machines. Look through your favorite book on guitar making and find the section on laying out the body shape. Even the best books, like Making an Archtop Guitar by Benedetto and Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology by Cumpiano and Natelson, offer only the most basic description of the shape. It’s pretty common for the instructions to start with something like “draw a straight line on a sheet of brown wrapping paper to use as a centerline.”

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