American Lutherie #136
Spring 2019

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On this issue’s cover we see legendary lutherie teacher Charles Fox during an intensive two-week session at his American School of Lutherie.

Photo by Mark French

A Smashed Top and a Shattered Headstock

from his 2017 GAL Convention slide show by Kerry Char

A cool old guitar got well and truly smashed in an incident involving large and excited dogs. Better call Char! Kerry Char, that is. He jumps right in to remove the top, take off the braces, and then put the whole thing back together and polish it up nice before you can say “Kalamazoo!”

On this issue’s cover we see legendary lutherie teacher Charles Fox during an intensive two-week session at his American School of Lutherie.

Photo by Mark French

The back cover shows part of the workshop of the late Robert Ruck.

Photo by Federico Sheppard

Bob Ruck as I Knew Him

by Federico Sheppard

Robert Ruck was one of the young self-starters who founded the American Lutherie Boom, and he remained a leading light in the movement until the end of his life. Federico Sheppard was an aquaintence and admirer who became closer to Ruck when they spent time together at Federico’s place on the Camino de Santiago in Spain one summer. In this article, Federico presents a photo tour of Ruck’s shop in Eugene Oregon and explains some of the tools and techniques we see.

Mechanical Impedance

by Mark French

We all know what “impedance” is, right? It’s that stuff... the force that... well, what is it really? Turns out it’s something like pushing a kid on a swing at the wrong time. And it has a lot to do with the resonances of acoustic instruments, which has a lot to do with how they sound. Anyway, Professor Mark gives us the scoop.

Our Man in Manhattan
The American Guitars of the Tatay Family

by January Williams

Before there were cheap Spanish guitars from Asian factories, there were cheap Spanish guitars from hard-working Spanish luthiers using traditional methods. If there was an inexpensive classical guitar kicking around your house or dorm room before about 1965, it might very well have been a Tatay. The family business was in Valencia, Spain, but they had an outpost in New York where one of the brothers turned out instruments at an amazing pace.

Tatay Instrument Identification and Dating Guide

by January Williams

There are Tatay guitars, and then there are Tatay guitars. They could be from Valencia or New York; from one of four generations of the family; from one maker or his brother, father, son, uncle, or cousin. This article helps you sort them out.

Meet the Maker: Shaun Newman

by Mike Gluyas

Although he had fallen in love with the classical guitar the first time he heard one as a teenager, Shaun Newman was already well along in a career as a language teacher when he first tried to make one. He was lucky enough to find a mentor in his corner of England, and he has been making and restoring an impressive variety of fine instruments for the last thirty years.

Case Study of a 1935 Guitar by Cremonese Luthier Luigi Digiuni

by Massimo Maddaloni, Lizabeth Jane Hella, and Giacomo Parimbelli

From the time that the violin was invented, Cremona was the world center for the highest quality string instrument making, until it gradually became known for lower-quality mass production of fiddles. After its dark age, Cremona has more recently seen a renaissance of its lutherie heritage. This article looks at an unusual guitar made by a Cremonese luthier in the 1930s and sees echoes of the old masters in its design.

Measuring Scale Length of Fretted Instruments

by R.M.Mottola

What’s the scale length? Isn’t it just twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret? Yeah, kinda, but there can be a lot of complicating factors when working on old instruments. Like maybe the nut position was compensated, or just cut wrong. Or maybe the 12th fret was a little off. The fret positions might have been calculated using the old rule of 18. Here’s how to find out what’s really going on.

Delrin Frets

by Harry Fleishman

Many years ago, innovative classical guitar maker Richard Schneider made instruments with frets made of rod stock set in wide saw kerfs. Fleishman updates the idea by having round-bottomed slots cut by CNC and laying in Delrin rod.

A Guitar is Born
Attending Charles Fox’s “Hands-On Guitar Making” Course

by Mark French

Author Mark French has made a lot of guitars over the years, but when he wanted to up his game he attended an intensive two-week course by the dean of all American lutherie teachers, Charles Fox. Four students each built a guitar in the white from scratch and strung it up.

It Worked for Me

by Steve Dickerson, Peter Grafton, and Doug Berch

A shallow secondary outside form can be helpful for making cutaway guitars. A table saw can fuction as a jig to clamp top and back plates while joining their center seams. Inexpensive golden taklon pain brushes are great for glue.

Review: Martinez’ 34 Classical Guitars in Life Size

by Peter Tsiorba

It’s called a book, but the format is a box of thirty-four folded sheets, each one a life-size photo poster of a famous guitar. Our reviewer takes a close look.

Letters from our readers

Guitars don’t always have twelve equally-spaced frets per octave. They almost always do, but not always. Here’s another take on the possibilities, which attempts to come closer to the beautiful dream of just intonation.


edited by R.M. Mottola

What’s the deal with deep V-shaped necks on old guitars? Can you still get Bradley signal generators? How much clamping force do different types of clamps exert?