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Review: Step by Step Guitar Making by Alex Willis

Review: Step by Step Guitar Making by Alex Willis

Reviewed by John Mello

Originally published in American Lutherie #94, 2008

Step by Step Guitar Making
Alex Willis
ISBN (paperback): 9781861084095
Guild of Master Craftsman Pub. Ltd., 2008, $17.95

In the predawn (1960s) of the current somewhat optimistically termed “Golden Age of American Lutherie,” nascent craftsmen and craftswomen roamed the land, struggling on their own, haunting the few professional practitioners, and occasionally wheedling an apprenticeship, where they spent long unpaid hours in the shop, after which they trudged to their dwelling, inscribing their hard-won knowledge on stone tablets dutifully stacked at the back of the cave for future reference. Hard data was difficult to accrue; the only readily obtainable publications being the helpful but maddeningly brief offerings by A.P. Sharpe, H.E. Brown, and Joseph Wallo, and the seminal Classical Guitar Construction by Irving Sloane, an inspiration for many, but at ninety-five pages, many taken up with background info and photos of older master instruments, more a porthole view of a mysterious and beautiful island on the horizon than a detailed prescription for sonic and cosmetic excellence.

Art Overholtzer’s Classic Guitar Making, edited and published by experienced technical writer Lawrence Brock, and at 324 pages, the first method with enough detail to give one a decent shot at making a guitar even remotely like that of the author, was published in 1974, significantly followed in 1987 by Cumpiano and Natelson’s Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, a thorough exposition of the craft by working professionals, its detail and clarity setting the bar pretty high for anything to follow.

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