American Lutherie


Sharing lutherie information is what the Guild is all about, and American Lutherie is our primary vehicle for accomplishing that goal. Articles come from two sources: those produced by the GAL staff in collaboration with our members (such as presentations from our conventions, and interviews with instrument makers), and voluntary submissions by Guild members themselves. Our volunteer authors are motivated by a desire to benefit others with what they have learned, and to support the give-and-take system employed by the Guild.

Our respected quarterly journal American Lutherie focuses on all aspects of the art, craft, and science of stringed instrument making and repair, and it reflects the varied interests of our diverse membership.

Rich in quality content, friendly in tone, and abundantly illustrated with full-color photos, each 76-page issue contains interviews, adventures, research, opinion, reviews, and how-to information, all of specific interest to the maker and repairer of stringed musical instruments.

In American Lutherie, we strive to publish methods, opinions, and explanations that are backed by experience. GAL members find the techniques, practices, and materials of other builders to be of value in their own workshops, whether in their own specific fields or not. This wide outlook and open attitude is basic to the success of the Guild. It seems to be working. Never has the worldwide lutherie scene been stronger, deeper, more productive, or more highly regarded. The Guild and its members are proud to continue to be a part of the ongoing advancement of the luthier’s craft.

What started as a small newsletter in 1972, grew and developed into our full-sized journal American Lutherie in 1985, and went to full-color printing in 2011. Beginning in 2000, we collected three years of American Lutherie at a time into large hardcover volumes called the Big Red Books of American Lutherie, as the back issues went out of print. We published seven Big Red Books, covering eighty-four issues of American Lutherie magazine.

Four issues of American Lutherie are the main benefit of annual GAL membership. Want to get the current issues of American Lutherie? Become a GAL member today! Members receive three regular issues (spring, summer, and winter) and a double American Lutherie anthology issue in the fall.

American Lutherie Current Issues

American Lutherie #150 – Winter 2023

A Dutch luthier makes a recreation of a quintessentially American Instrument, based on a model that is a century out of date: the Gibson L-1 round-hole archtop. Does string tension make the action of an archtop guitar get higher or lower? Kinda both, and here's the math of it. Richard “R.E.” Bruné is a founder of the GAL as well as of the American Lutherie Boom. He and his son Marshall run an important shop collecting, selling, restoring, and building fine classical guitars. Image a Dobro mashed up with a Hawaiian lap-steel into a double-neck WeissenBro. January Williams is back with more fine jigs from the estate of the late Denny Stevens, explaining them to us as he figures out their function. Professor Mark French a couple of his post-grads show us the physics behind the latest developments in electric guitar intonation improvements. A group of older luthiers hijack the shop of their woodworkers’ club to present a two-day class for kids and families to build a uke kit. Here’s a neck carving jig to make it repeatable and accurate. It’s possible to locate a buzzing fret on a guitar with a VOM, but this little gizmo project does it better. Jeffrey Elliott shows us his self-centering jig for cutting a side sound port in a classical guitar. Mike Doolin makes nice solid wood linings starting with veneer from the hardware store. The late Robert Lundberg is legendary as a lute maker and educator, but Birck Cox knew him before all that, back when Lundberg was working on fiberglass race cars. George Smith was a self-starter guitar maker in the 1950s. We offer three remembrances by people who knew him well. Harry Fleishman is back with another look at simple, small, perhaps overlooked things that help our lutherie efforts. The Hammond Glider saw is a rare and wonderful thing. Apply superglue with a quill pen that you made from a Q-tip. Make try squares and bevel squares with clear-plastic blades.

See Preview

Scheduled to be shipped to 2023 members in January

Harp Guitars: An American Lutherie Anthology – Fall 2023

You might think you know something about harp guitars, but you’ll know a lot more after reading the newest 100-page book in our American Lutherie Anthology series: Harp Guitars! Sure they’re the giant, archaic monsters we’ve seen with mandolin orchestras, but they’re also modern instruments fulfilling the musical dreams of current musicians. And someone might want you to fix or build one someday! Our new book includes a bunch of the major articles we’ve done on harp guitars, including an historic overview of European and American versions, as well as the design process behind new models of steel string, classical, and electric versions that are taking the instrument into the future. Also included are reduced versions of three of our popular harp guitar plans, drawings of a wide variety of new designs, a panel discussion from our 2006 Convention, meet-the-maker interviews with three builders of harp guitars and other instruments as well as collector/harp-guitar enthusiast (aka Pope) Gregg Miner.

See Preview

American Lutherie #149 – Summer 2023

We interview Ken Parker, a giant of the American Lutherie Boom. The world knows him as the maker of the Fly solidbody guitar, but now he has returned to his first love: the archtop guitar. Ever see a nice hunk of firewood and think, "I could make a guitar out of that"? So did Lee Herron. Guitar intonation; math, music, and mojo. How good is good enough? Charlie Price brings us one step closer. Or is it one step beyond? Imagine two interviews happening at the same time. That’s what happens as we meet Rebecca Urlacher and Paul Woolson and learn about their lutherie lives. John Calkin is shows us how to get the back of a ukulele glued onto the ribs quickly and accurately, with no cleanup needed. Make a flattop guitar bridge saddle out of a rock? Robin Connaughton says, "Try it!" and collects data with an ingenuously simple plucking technique. You know that tube they put in the port of a loudspeaker? Pretty much the same thing as a tornavoz in a guitar. Mark French and Eddy Efendy give us the math. Robert Hamm made a slick little shop-built thickness sander that fills a need between a full-sized auto-feed belt sander and a Robo-sander drum chucked up in a drill press. Karl Hoyt makes a simple, reliable, and easy to assemble bolt-on uke neck joint. Jon Sevy uses cheap gizmos from Harbor Freight to measure the thickness of the sides or plates of an assembled guitar. Fit the sole of a bridge to its domed soundboard the safe and easy way, says Bob Gleason. Mark French is back with a super-simple table saw jig to taper fretboards. Fourteen years ago, Graham McDonald surveyed the steel string guitar making books of the time. He’s back with an update. Warm up that brown paper tape with a hair dryer before you pull it off. A snipped-out plan drawing makes a template. Inflatable door-hanging jack also works as a lutherie clamp.

See Preview

American Lutherie #148 – Spring 2023

Steve Kauffman builds Klein Acoustic Guitars and his own Kauffman Guitars. Steve Klein started his lutherie endeavors fifty-five years ago as a teenager in his parents’ house. Today he’s continuing to make innovative ergonomic solidbodies in his own shop. The Fibonacci Series guitar on this issue's cover is a collaborative project of the two Steves. Karl Hoyt stumbled upon a small and distressed old instrument that turned out to be made by a founding father of the authentic ukulele. Did you know that the famous Helmholtz resonance in string instruments is the note that you don’t hear? Mark Frech explains. The late Denny Stevens was an early self-taught American Lutherie Boomer. He was also a mentor to Harry Fleishman, who goes back in memory and imagination to interview Denny as he never did in life. January Williams shows us some of Denny's jigs. James Buckland reviews Seven Fine Books About the Romantic Guitar. John Calkin makes uke-sized spherically-radiused sanding dishes powered by a drill press. A 12-hole classical guitar bridge improves on the old-school 6-hole bridge, says Brent Benfield. Bob Gleason's soft side sanders look like rolling-pin sanders, but don't spin. Reviews of a new book of Graham Caldersmith’s collected papers, and Robert O’Brien's online French polish course. Harry Fleishman explains the very basics of using that brown paper binding tape, because it is OK to be a beginner. The "It Worked for Me" column covers a carving table, a brace-tapering jig, cheap and easy sanding wheels for your Dremel tool, and a sturdy electric aluminum bending iron.

See Preview

American Lutherie 2022 Issues

American Lutherie #147 – Winter 2022

Brian Yarosh interviews Beau Hannam, an Aussie who has migrated to Colorado to make his gorgeous guitars and ukes. Beau then shows us in detail how he makes and uses a router jig for cutting saddle slots in bridges. Bigtime lutherie teacher Robbie O’Brien steps us through his method of setting steel string guitar action. Luthier, guitarist, and scholar James Buckland tells of the “missing link” between the 5-course Baroque guitar and the modern 6-string guitar; it's the 5-string guitar, believe it or not, and he also offers a full plan of an authentic example from 1785. Guitar tech Carl-David Hardin shows us how he does a nice bone nut replacement while on the road. John Calkin interviews Peggy Stuart, and we learn how difficult it was to make a guitar on your own in the 1970s. Michael Burton goes the extra mile to resurrect a guitar with a super-bad neck warp. Calkin is back to show us how to make a simple but essential tool, the centerline square. F.A. Jaén cleverly hides the mechanism of his adjustable pickguard bracket inside the guitar. Roger Häggström straps a vibrating aquarium pump onto a guitar to break in the sound. Brent Benfield makes tight plate seams with sandpaper and a granite slab. Bob Gleason shows us how to do more accurate small resawing jobs. Members give glowing reviews to a video course on polishing lacquer and a book on Neapolitan mandolins. In the “Worked for Me” column we get hints about shielding paint, files, thumb picks, and binding strips. We honor the memories of Jeanette Fernández and Rick Turner.

See Preview

Classical Guitars 2: An American Lutherie Anthology – Fall 2022

Classical Guitars 2, the fifth book in our American Lutherie Anthology series. It’s a full-color, soft cover, 100-page book with articles selected from the 1985-2011 issues of American Lutherie on the topic of classical guitars. Unlike the original issues of AL, this book is printed in full color.

See Preview

American Lutherie #146 – Summer 2022

Flip Scipio reminisces about the last classic guitar building seminar with his master, José Romanillos. We meet innovative New York electric guitar builder and artist Cindy Hulej. Two members with some professional cred give old-timers advice on how to manage their lutherie estates. John Calkin interviews longtime member David Thormahlen, maker of harps and a wide variety of instruments. January Williams gives us a little history into the development of the twin-soundhole guitar used for Hawaiian slack-key music, and Tim Olsen presents a new instrument plan of a 1982 Douglas Ching slack-key guitar. Lee Herron shows us how he built a special order 7-string guitar. Mark French and Alyssa Fernandez present the science behind measuring the mechanical properties of neck blanks, and they show us how using a smart phone! Richard Bozung shares a new type of instrument he developed called a “Nightingale” that sounds like a guitar but plays like an autoharp. Beau Hannam shows us his better idea for a side-clamping caul. Calkin reviews the O’Brien Guitars’ video course on ukulele making featuring Heidi Litke. Aaron Cash gives new builders, himself included, an encouraging pep talk. Plus In Memoriam for José Romanillos and G.D. Armstrong, the "Worked for Me" column, letters, and more.

See Preview

American Lutherie #145 – Spring 2022

Michael Bashkin shows us how he makes his ornamented pegheads and end grafts, using marquetry combined with veneer lines. Jeffrey Elliott reviews three of his major classical-guitar restorations. New York guitar repair guy Matt Brewster is interviewed by New York guitar repair guy Evan Gluck. Mark French visits The Musical Instrument Museum; that's the one in Arizona. Roger Haggstromm makes a simple jig to accurately radius a fretboard without using power tools. Sjaak Elmendorp explores and builds a piccolo balalaika, the rare descant member of the family. C.F. Casey makes two successful instruments from a single softwood two-by-four with a knot in it. R.M. Mottola precisely describes his process for slotting a nut, using a laser-printed template. John Calkin steps us through his straightforward, no-nonsense process of routing control cavities in solid guitar bodies. Optimizing a vertically-mounted electric bending iron. Reviews of RM Mottola's new book Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar plus a deep video on Inlay Techniques with Larry Robinson. In Memoriam: L.M. "Buzz" Vineyard and GAL staffer Jonathon Peterson. In the "Worked for Me” column, parts from pipe clamps make super-powered bench hold-downs; a non-toxic recipe for glue remover; and a vertical guitar body holder. Plus Lutherie Curmudgeon, Letters, and more.

See Preview

American Lutherie Back Issues

Back issues of American Lutherie from previous years are available to purchase individually. We currently have over 45 back issues available. See our Big Red Book of American Lutherie Series for even more American Lutherie content.

To get this year’s current issues of American Lutherie, become a member! In addition to getting the current issues of American Lutherie, you’ll get the member discount price on back issues as well as on our books and plans.