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Review: Classical Guitar Making, A Modern Approach to Traditional Design by John S. Bogdanovich

Review: Classical Guitar Making, A Modern Approach to Traditional Design by John S. Bogdanovich

Reviewed by John Mello

Originally published in American Lutherie #95, 2008

Classical Guitar Making, A Modern Approach to Traditional
John S. Bogdanovich
ISBN (hardcover): 9781402720604
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2007, $29.95

Classical Guitar Making, A Modern Approach To Traditional Design by John S. Bogdanovich is a hardbound 310-page volume filled with beautifully clear photography that amply illustrates the detailed text. While the back cover proclaims that the author will “help you develop all the necessary skills, even if you’ve never made anything more complicated than a school woodworking project,” a fairly high degree of proficiency in both hand and power tools is assumed, particularly regarding the use of hand planes. You’ll have to bring your own chops and/or be willing to develop them on the fly. The tone throughout is personal, almost conversational, and we are presented with a lot of biographical material and philosophical ruminations that may seem extraneous to the physical task at hand, but for someone considering a long term engagement with the craft rather than a one-off build, it’s one of the book’s strengths. As a novice, I would have loved to know how a working professional got started, influences shaping their sonic and aesthetic choices, and the many facets of the mysterious lifelong refining of one’s craft.

“Part One — Preparation” includes discussions of guitar anatomy with an emphasis on the interrelatedness of the parts, wood types and selection, and shop requirements, including brief descriptions and photos of recommended vises, benches, and generic and specialty power and hand tools. There are clear, dimensioned plans for making a number of specialty jigs, bench tools, and specialty items such as shop-made calipers and sanding disks. One small problem arises in the author’s discussion of the need for concave sanding disks of 15' and 25'. Fabricating these is discussed only perfunctorily, with uncharacteristically no illustrations, and no indication of how to obtain or make the illustrated radius sticks. If we take the author’s suggestion and simply purchase the disks we can certainly make our sticks from them, but the degree of back and top arch is an important, alterable variable, and knowing how to generate alternative radii, short of getting a 25' board, a pencil, and a big room, would be useful. This may be a little beyond the scope of an introductory tutorial, but the growing current reliance on commercial concave disks of limited selection to set the back, while a facile solution to a process Irving Sloane once described as “exacting and tedious,” may lose sight of the fact that many of the great historic and contemporary classical guitar makers did and do not set the back in a uniform dome with its attendant reduction of side depth at the tail block. End of rant. Sorry.

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