American Lutherie #116
Winter 2013

On this issue’s cover, Trevor Healy is preparing a mahogany neck blank to receive an ebony backstrap.

Photo by Trevor Healy

American Lutherie #116 – Winter 2013


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Beyond the Rule of 18: Intonation for the 21st Century

from their 2011 GAL Convention lecture by Gary Magliari and Don MacRostie

Gary Magliari is an engineer who has taken a close look at the math of steel string intonation. He has decided that to really do it right, you need to adjust the position of the bridge, the nut, and some of the frets. Don MacRostie is convinced that the improvement is worth the effort, and he takes over the talk to show how he recuts the fret slots on a mandolin.

On this issue’s cover, Trevor Healy is preparing a mahogany neck blank to receive an ebony backstrap.

Photo by Trevor Healy

American Lutherie #116 – Winter 2013


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Additional information

Choose Membership Status


The back cover shows a comfortably cluttered workbench at Tom Cussen’s Clareen Banjos, with a large window looking out on the Irish rain.

Photo courtesy of Rick Rubin

Meet the Maker: William Eaton

by Tom Harper

Renaissance man William Eaton is a musician, composer, impresario, instrument designer, outdoorsman, and athlete. But he is probably best known to our readership as a lutherie instructor, having cofounded the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery and taught there up to the present day. But he very nearly took an entirely different career path, one that would have seen him wearing nicely tailored suits. Read all about it in this issue.

Carl Samuels: Lutherie Before the Information Age

by Tom Harper

The early foundations of the American Lutherie Boom were laid by a fascinating cast of unlikely characters, whose chance encounters and interactions have shaped the world we live and work in. Who is Carl Samuels, and why is he sending rats on acid trips?

Battling Shop Dust

by Robbie O’Brien

As an instrument maker and lutherie instructor, Robbie makes a lot of wood dust. After a short review of the relative dangers of different sizes of dust particles, he goes on a quest to improve his dust collection system. He finds a compact and cost-effective solution.

Dust Masks and More

by Linda Stuckey

Do you really need to wear a dust mask in a lutherie shop? What type should you buy? Are the expensive ones any better? Do they still work if you wear a beard? Is it OK to blow them out and use them again? Linda gets the information you need.

The New England Luthiers’ OM Collaborative Build

by Don Boivin

Wouldn’t it be great fun to get together with a bunch of buddies and all make similar guitars at the same time? You could share tips, encouragement, and pizza along the way. Then you could get some good players and have a concert in which all the guitars were played. Yeah, let’s do that! And let’s make it an annual event.

Meet the Maker: Tom Cussen

by Rick Rubin

Irishman Tom Cussen got the folk music fever back in the ’60s. He played the accordion as a kid, but when the squeeze-box broke he went for his brother’s banjo. He founded a popular folk band and has now become a banjo manufacturer. A cautionary tale for children!

Flamenco Guitar Evolution

by Mark Berry

Mark Berry got a commission from a flamenco player to build a guitar that sounded and played like a flamenco and was built of traditional material, and yet did not have the traditional look. He produced a double-cutaway guitar with two soundholes. Have a look!

Making an Archtop Pickguard

by Nate Clark

Nate Clark was restoring an older Gibson archtop and decided to make a new pickguard to replace the deteriorating original. He takes us on a closeup photo journey through the process, and it turns out pretty.

The Mariachi Humpback

by Fred Casey

Those crazy-deep, two-piece vaulted backs are the distinctive feature of guitar-family instruments often used in mariachi bands. Every try to make one? C.F. “Fret” Casey dives in and gives it a try.

Cutting the Scroll Slot on an F-5 Mandolin

by Byron Spain

That skinny little slot that forms the scroll of a Gibson-style mandolin presents a challenge: cut the back, block, and top separately and try to get them to line up when assembled, or assemble them first and then try to cut an accurate slot through a formidable chunk of material? Lefty Luthier Byron Spain shows us how he does it.

Reviews: Technology of the Guitar

by R.M. Mottola

Mottola gives an enthusiastic review to this book, intended as a college text for students without advanced math skills.

Letters from our readers

In the Great White North, Glen Friesen is still teaching kids to make guitars in his public school shop class. You go, Glen!

It Worked for Me

by Eron Harding, January Williams, Jack Johnston, Mark Berry, and Paul Weaver

Eron resurrects old potentiometers in a vintage lap steel guitar. January makes a simple gizmo to measure the height of a guitar brace through the soundhole. Jack rigs up a buffing arbor for a Shopsmith. Paul sings the praises of toothed plane blades.


edited by R.M. Mottola

How do you get rosette tiles to fit? How does silking affect soundboard grading? Why are steel string guitar fretboards radiused? Can you still get Saf-T-Planers?