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 #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.

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Scheduled to mail to 2022 members mid-July

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.

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American Lutherie 2021 Issues

American Lutherie #144 – Winter 2021

Swedish luthier Roger Häggström rebuilds century-old commercial guitars to make them sound and play better than they look like they might. Federico Sheppard completes his uncompromising copy of FE08, the elaborate early opus of the master luthier Antonio Torres Jurado. Robert Anderson makes beautifully carved, inlaid, and engraved banjos in a converted tobacco barn. In the concluding episode of a six-part series, Charles Fox frets, assembles, and sets up a flattop guitar. Get the best, most accurate work from your benchtop CNC router by understanding the forces at play and calculating their effects. People teach teachers how to teach STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) to high-school students by having them make guitars. Our reviewers like the SuperMax 16-32 drum sander, Michael Bashkin's online fretting course from ObrienGuitars.com, and a new book about the great Spanish master builder Vicente Arias. Find practical tips in our “It Worked for Me” column. And more.

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Flattop Guitars 2: An American Lutherie Anthology

Members will receive Flattop Guitars 2, the fourth book in our American Lutherie Anthology series, as their fall issue for 2021. It’s a full-color, soft cover, 100-page book with articles selected from the 1983-2014 issues of American Lutherie on the topic of flattop guitars. Unlike most of the original issues of AL, this book is printed in full color.

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American Lutherie #143 – Summer 2021

Federico Sheppard tells a tale of mystery, dedication, and destiny as he builds a copy of FE08, the astonishingly elaborate early opus of the master luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado. In Part Five of our series on building a guitar with Charles Fox, the fretboard is slotted, crowned, and glued to the neck, which is then shaped. Alfred Woll discusses the development of the Neapolitan mandolin by the Vinaccia family in the 18th, 19th, and 20th century, then shows us how to make the distinctive arched-and-canted soundboard. Leonardo Michelin-Salomon builds Romantic-era guitars at the craft school in Norway. Here he takes a deep dive into building with the local spruce. Although the trees are not big, the wood is very good. Mark French shows us how to quickly make a frequency-response curve of a guitar on your bench, using a hand-held digital recorder and free software. Not cheap and easy enough? He goes on to tell you how to do the whole thing on a smart phone. Harry Fleishman starts with half of one of those little bench-top drill presses and makes a vise that can clamp to any bench top and can swivel and tilt all over the place. Steve Dickerson’s first uke build used cheap wood from the home improvement store. The humble uke came out fine. R.M. Mottola gives not-too-technical summaries of two articles recently published on-line by Savart Journal. In our Letters section, we hear about meeting Julian Bream; praise for cigar-box guitar swaps; and Charles Fox tools and jigs. Lots of reviews this time, including books on Agustin Barrios, John D’Angelico, and Jimmy D’Aquisto; a tracker gizmo; and an ambitious video teaching solidbody guitar making. The “Worked for Me” column covers a quick table saw jig for narrow ripping; a junk plane body used as a temporary tool handle; a modified Zyliss vise; and a magnetic cover for truss rod nut. And more.

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American Lutherie #142 – Spring 2021

Seven luthiers remember the great classical guitarist Julian Bream. In Part Four of our series on building a guitar with Charles Fox, the peg head is shaped and drilled, the neck shaft is slotted for the truss rod, the heel is formed, and the neck is fitted to the body. Luis Colmenares, a Venezuelan luthier and musician, updates his national instrument, the cuatro. Dan Erlewine puts together a rag-tag team of luthiers to consult on the design of a specialized new shop vise. James Buckland investigates the mystery of the terz guitar, a smaller Romantic-era guitar, and presents a full-scale plan of an authentic example. Ben Haskenhoff refrets a solidbody guitar with a bound fretboard while preserving the binding nibs. Doug Hunt and Mark French dare each other to make a useful guitar for a total investment of $75. One makes a flattop, the other a solid body. Terence Warbey makes efficient use of plywood by making an entire knock-down bending form and outside mold for a flattop guitar from a single sheet. Max Krimmel explains the tuning of marimba bars and resonators, and muses on how we can clarify our thinking about guitar resonances. Bob Gleason makes a big honkin’ C clamp for pressing home a dovetail joint. John Calkin talks about when to get rid of machines that junk up our shops. Our reviewers like Jay Lichty’s online uke building course, and new books about Romanillos’ late-period classical guitars and Freeman Vines’ rough-and-ready electrics. And more.

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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.