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Commercial Graphite Acoustic Guitars

Commercial Graphite Acoustic Guitars

by John A. Decker, Jr.

Originally published in American Lutherie #31, 1992 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume Three, 2004



Why would anyone want to build an acoustic guitar of graphite? The primary reason is that wooden acoustic guitars (particularly good ones) are fragile. They are especially prone to cracking, warping, and joint separation due to heat, humidity, and water. Graphite/epoxy technology — properly employed, which isn’t easy — can maintain the sound quality of a wooden guitar while completely removing its susceptibility to heat and moisture.

During the past seven years Kuau Technology has been working with luthiers at the firm of Pimentel & Sons, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the development of acoustic guitar technology employing fiber-reinforced resins, particularly graphite/epoxy. Our approach has been to duplicate as closely as possible, panel by panel, the acoustic properties of fine wooden classical guitars, rather than attempt to reinvent the guitar de nova. This work has resulted in the development of the RainSong® Graphite Acoustic Guitars,* which we believe to be the first commercially available all-graphite acoustic guitars.

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Free Plate Tuning, Part Three: Guitars

Free Plate Tuning, Part Three: Guitars

by Alan Carruth

Originally published in American Lutherie #30, 1992 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

See also,
Free Plate Tuning, Part One: Theory by Alan Carruth
Free Plate Tuning, Part Two: Violins by Alan Carruth



The guitar is somewhat simpler acoustically than the violin, and perhaps more limited. As a result it has evolved into a number of more or less specialized forms to suit different musical uses. It is difficult to imagine a guitar that could “do it all” the way a good violin can. Rather, each guitar seems to have a “center,” a sound that is characteristic of it that suits it for a particular style or player. Good guitars do have a wide dynamic and timbral range, but they always retain their characteristic sound.

As I see it, a good part of the art in this game is deciding where you want the “center” to be, or, alternatively, how to get the “center” you want out of a given shape or set of wood. And then you want to have a broad dynamic and expressive range, good balance, and clarity or resolution; the ability to distinguish things like inner lines. No amount of acoustic science is going to tell you what priority to put on the different characteristics of the sound, nor whether you have succeeded in the end. But if you know what you’re doing, an oscillator and a jar of glitter can help you get the sound you want.

One of the main simplifying factors between the guitar and the violin is the lack of a soundpost in the guitar. This allows the top and the back to be more independent; in acoustic terms they are not so tightly coupled and can act out of phase.

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Intonation in the Real World

Intonation in the Real World

by Mike Doolin

from his 2006 GAL Convention lecture

previously published in American Lutherie #92, 2007



Getting guitars to play in tune has been a major topic of interest for many years, both for guitar players and guitar makers, and it has been a major source of frustration as well. During our current “Golden Age of Lutherie” the bar has been raised for standards of craft, playability, and tonal quality, as players have become more sophisticated in their expectations and builders have become better educated and more demanding of their own work. Expectations for accurate intonation have come along with all that: it’s no longer acceptable for a guitar to only play in tune for the first five frets, or in a few keys. Modern players are using the whole neck, exploring extended harmonies, and playing in ensembles with other instruments. They are looking for instruments that play in tune with themselves and with the rest of the musical world.

It turns out that guitar intonation is a huge can of worms, because it is really two topics:

▶What does it mean to be “in tune?”
▶How do I make a guitar do that?

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Guitar Swap!

Guitar Swap!

guitars and text by John Calkin and Steve Kinnaird

previously published in American Lutherie #81, 2005



John Calkin: When I suggested to Texas luthier Steve Kinnaird that we build each other a guitar I had no specific agenda in mind. Though I spend my work weeks building acoustic guitar bodies for Huss & Dalton, I feel it’s important to build an occasional complete instrument just to keep in practice. Company policy prevented me from building flattops for sale but not from building for trade or gift. And frankly, I had enough nice guitars sitting around the house that I didn’t feel like building another for myself.

Trading guitars with Steve sounded like fun. We were already good friends who trusted each other, and we knew each other’s work well enough to know that we were on equal footing as luthiers. Most of the fun for me was in not telling Steve what I wanted or expected in my guitar. He, too, decided that surprise would be the most delicious element of the swap.

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A Tale of Two Schools

A Tale of Two Schools

by Fred Carlson

previously published in American Lutherie #53, 1998



In 1975 I was a skinny nineteen-year-old with a small beard and a big passion for making wooden musical instruments, living in a commune in northern Vermont. That fall, I had an extraordinary experience. It was one of those experiences that we are blessed with once or twice in our lives if we’re lucky. I had the opportunity to spend six weeks studying guitar building at a small school devoted to that art, run by a man named Charles Fox.

Nearly twenty years later, in the spring of 1995, I found myself on the other side of the continent in Santa Cruz, California, my beard shaved off, still building guitars, and still using those few simple, elegant techniques I’d learned twenty years earlier. I’d long ago lost touch with Charles Fox, but in a very real way he was with me. For many years I had a tattered old blue notebook, my guitar-building bible of notes taken during those six weeks spent with Charles and five other young, crazy, would-be guitar builders. I had referred to those notes time and time again. I’m sure I had parts of them memorized. During my big move west in 1989, the notebook was misplaced, and I have yet to find it. Although I lost an old friend with the passing of that worn volume, I discovered that I had learned its lessons. I could build guitars without it!

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