American Lutherie #114
Summer 2013

On this issue’s cover, Stephen Marchione shaves the braces of a classical guitar in his Texas shop.

Photo by Vincent Cléroux

This issue is out-of-print.

Hearing Voices: A Recipe for Voicing the Steel String Guitar

from his 2011 GAL Convention workshop by John Greven

John Greven is one of the most experienced hand-builders of steel string guitars in the whole darn lutherie boom. In the last fifty years he has single-handedly built 2200 flattops. So when he talks about how to make them sound good, you want to listen. He discusses the many factors that make a difference.

On this issue’s cover, Stephen Marchione shaves the braces of a classical guitar in his Texas shop.

Photo by Vincent Cléroux

This issue is out-of-print.

On the back cover, Stephen cuts a dovetail joint.

Photo by Vincent Cléroux

A Summary of John Greven’s Voicing Method

by Mike Doolin

This concise article moves on from Greven’s talk to focus on the role of top wood, bracing pattern, and brace material to tailor the sound you want. It’s a simple, step-by-step process that involves no analysis gear other than fingers, ears, and memory.

Meet the Maker: Stephen Marchione

by James Condino

As a child, Stephen Marchione moved with his family from Texas to Italy. He came back to Texas, focused on guitar playing, and moved to New York to be a jazz player. But he ended up as a luthier. Could be worse, right? Now he’s back in Texas and at the top of his game, making fine archtops, solidbodies, and classicals.

The Mandolin Family: Traditional and Contemporary Perspectives

from their 2011 GAL Convention panel discussion by David Cohen, Don MacRostie, Lawrence Smart, and moderator Jeff Elliott

These three makers are all well established in the field, and they have different ways of approaching the questions of authenticity, acoustic analysis, and innovation. Makes for an interesting and informative discussion.

GAL Instrumnt Plan #67: A.L. Smart Mandolas

by Lawrence Smart

Smart is well known for making mandolas and mandocellos as well as mandolins and 5-course mandolin/mandolas. Here he shares a drawing of his pattern for a mandola.

Let’s Catch Up with Fabio Ragghianti

by Brian Yarosh

Italian guitar maker Fabio Ragghianti has attended GAL Conventions and taught at lutherie schools in America. But what has he been up to lately? Turns out he’s a real globetrotter who has been working with Asian factories to produce innovative steel string guitar designs.

Hunting the Elusive Guitar Wolf

from his 2011 GAL Convention workshop by Alan Carruth

Al Carruth is the Bill Nye of the lutherie world. Or maybe the Neil deGrasse Tyson. I mean to say that he brings science to the sometimes-reluctant masses. Here he explains the nature, causes, and cures of the wolf tone in guitars.

Taming the Wild Wood Binding

by Tom Harper

Preparation is everything. Tom Harper has learned the hard way what happens when you wrap a straight binding around the domed back edge of a classical guitar: it can pucker. Here he shows how to bend and prefit the binding and purfling to make it snuggle right in there.

Simple Jigs for Making a Pyramid Bridge

by John C. Bartlett

An old-fashioned pyramid bridge for a steel string guitar looks relatively simple, but you need to get all those angles just right or it will not add up. Bartlet uses a few plywood jigs to keep everything aligned.

Fido’s Ass, or Making a First Guitar

by John Jackson

An experienced wordworker of a certian age tackles his first guitar, and finds it to be a challenging project. Challenging, and ultimatly rewarding.

An Automated Fret Slotting Machine

by Jim Stratton and Mark French

How would you like to have a gizmo about the size of a small suitcase that would accurately and automatically slot any fretboard to any scale with the push of a few buttons? A fully functional prototype does exist.

Savart Journal: Recent Research

by R.M. Mottola

R.M. Mottola works to build bridges between the dusty bustle of the lutherie shop and the bookish clutter of the egghead’s cubicle. (If the word “math” does not evoke a shuddering fear based on high-school humiliation, check out the Savart Journal, an online research publication hosted by the GAL.) R.M. describes, in plain English, the contents of three new articles of original research.

Product Reviews: Kahler 2415-CX Tremolo Bass Bridge

by Eron Harding

Kahler now makes a tremolo bridge for just about any guitar you can dream up, including those with fanned frets. They also make an extensive line of bass trems. Guitar repair guy Eron Harding installs a cool 5-string model on a custom bass.

Reviews: The Caldwell Collection of Viols

by Don Overstreet

Hey tech-friendlies. Here’s our first-ever review of an e-book. Actually, the review covers both the print version and the iOS app version. It’s a lovely book with lots of sound recordings. The paper book comes with a CD. If that's too old-fashioned for you, get the app.

It Worked for Me

by Fred Casey and Greg Nelson

Fred casey shows how he rescued a fractured set of highly figured uke sides by laminating a layer of wood inside them. Greg Nelson shows a nice little jig to help you clean up fret overhangs.


edited by R.M. Mottola

What kind of poplar wood did Strad use? What other strings work for an Ashbory bass? How do you control the humidity in a lutherie shop? Is it really possible to patent a hunk of lead?