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A Contrabass for the Pugo Brothers

Cuenca. They Became Self-Made Luthiers in their El Cebollar Neighborhood. They Make String Instruments.

A Contrabass for the Pugo Brothers

These Artisans had to Desecrate Several Secrets Before Making Violincellos, Contrabasses, Violins, and Guitars.

But they did it.

by Juan Carlos translated by John L. Walker

Originally published in American Lutherie #73, 2003



When Angel Pugo was a young boy he developed a phobia that never went away: fear of school. His teachers’ intolerance, according to him, was the reason that caused him to not sit near the blackboard anymore. “Those that went around barefooted were never well considered,” says Angel, now a violin maker.

His father, Miguel, had heaped rondadores, flautas de pan, pingullos, and ocarinas¹ upon his sons while he watched the corn grow on the hillside. After one of his first “traumas,” as Angel calls them, he also hung up his pingullo and headed towards the Conservatory of Cuenca. “They told me that all they did in the conservatory was repeat do, re, and mi, and that it was very boring. But solfège delighted me.”

The musical center’s director looked at him carefully and said, “You are worth it.” This same director, after sitting him in front of a piano, would choose Angel Pugo as a beneficiary of one of the thirty pianos provided by the government of Jaime Roldós Aguilera.²

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Space Bass

Space Bass

by David Riggs

Originally published in American Lutherie #28, 1991



We have all benefited from advances in technology resulting from the exploration of space. Brave Americans, along with those of other nations, have risked their lives to study the effects of weightlessness in the fields of metallurgy, botany, and others of interest to luthiers. It has, therefore, become my mission to pursue a role in which I may participate directly in this arena of endeavor.

One fascinating experiment is conspicuously lacking; the advantages of its execution in a weightless environment are so obvious it is astounding that nobody has yet done it. Yes, you know what I’m thinking — I want to build a bass in space!

They’ve sent teachers, congressmen, and the towel boy from the Y-Not Bath House. They’ve probably even sent lawyers. But have you seen one newspaper headline that read, “Luthier Loops Into Lunar Orbit”? Well, I aim for you to see that little number splash down in your bird bath one of these bright mornings.

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Sturgill on Wood

Sturgill on Wood

by David Sturgill

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #2, #6, #9, 1974, 1975 and Guild of American Luthiers Newsletter Vol. 2 #2, 1974

See also,
The David Sturgill Story by David Sturgill



Wood for Instrument Making

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have had an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with one of the greatest of the American luthiers, Herman Weaver of Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C. Our friendship grew from the time I first met him in 1940 until his death twenty-five years later. Aside from our warm personal relationship, he took a great interest in my own work and taught me many things from his own background of fifty years experience as a luthier. Many of these things I would have been years discovering for myself or may never have learned.

Herman Weaver, like most luthiers I have known, was also a philosopher, and even this was reflected in his work. He was often unorthodox in his approach to many problems which confront the would-be luthier. While he was a strong supporter of proven traditions, he did not hesitate to experiment and to discard tradition if it was not supported by his own discoveries.

Early in our friendship I started asking him about woods for musical instruments, especially violins. He answered my questions as I asked them, but one day he summed it all up in one paragraph when he said, “wood is something you can learn about, but it is almost impossible to teach anyone else except in generalities. The luthier must have an instinct about woods, he must be able to hold it in his hands and hear in his mind the tones it will produce in an instrument. He must sense the texture and the grain and the character of a piece of wood and I do not know how to teach anyone these things.”

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Bass String Choices

Bass String Choices

by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.

Originally published in American Lutherie #5, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume One, 2000



Fifty years ago, basses had gut strings, usually the top two plain gut and the lower two wound with wire. Whatever techniques a bassist wished to learn, classical, jazz, or the various folk/ethnic categories, they had to be within the limited possibilities afforded by this kind of string.

Gut strings were at their best in the deep background tones of a symphonic bass section because they had a strong, true fundamental that stayed back where it belonged. Plucked, they had a punchy jazz rhythm sound in the lower and middle register, sometimes producing a delayed response that was known popularly as the “walking” effect. For solos of any sort, the range was limited because the high notes were feeble and uncentered.

The first steel strings for bass, with a solid wire core, were stiff and had a harsh, metallic sound. But improved strings were developed with flexible, stranded cores and multiple windings. These were developed along the lines of two different design philosophies, and musicians had to choose between them.

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The Bluegrass Dobro

The Bluegrass Dobro

America’s Second Native Instrument

by Bobby Wolfe

Originally published in American Lutherie #5, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume One, 2000



There is a little ditty known as “The Duck Principle.” It says: If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Well, since the Dobro only looks like a guitar, and even in this respect with significant differences, and doesn’t qualify in the other ways, I say it’s not a duck.

Seriously, in my opinion, the mechanically amplified instrument known as the Dobro does qualify as America’s second native instrument.

This article is designed to acquaint you with the Dobro and to provide information on common repair and setup needs of the instrument. Today, in addition to the members of The Original Family building the original instrument, there are many individuals building their versions. Most of these people have their own ideas and opinions about what works best. Therefore, I am not presenting my ideas, experiences, and working practices as the “last word.”

First, let’s define Dobro. It is a registered brand name that is now also used generically to describe most resonator-type guitars. The name comes from the Dopera (Dopyera) brothers. There are five Dopera brothers. There are five letters in Dobro. The word dobro means “good” in their native Slavic language. Take your pick!

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