American Lutherie #142
Spring 2021

You must be a 2021 member to receive this issue. Join or Renew your membership now!

On this issue’s cover we see Dan Erlewine at work on a guitar held in a free-standing vise specialized for lutherie work.

Photo courtesy of Dan Erlewine

Remembering Julian Bream

by Cyndy Burton, José Romanillos, R.E. Bruné, Jeffrey R. Elliott, Kevin Aram, Gary Southwell, and Simon Ambridge

The great classical guitarist Julian Bream was well known for supporting and encouraging contemporary composers and promising young players. Less noticed by the public, but of special importance to luthiers, was Bream’s work with a handful of classical guitar makers from whom he commissioned the fine instruments that he played. In this article, those luthiers offer memories of their interactions with Julian Bream.

On this issue’s cover we see Dan Erlewine at work on a guitar held in a free-standing vise specialized for lutherie work.

Photo courtesy of Dan Erlewine

The back cover shows two pegheads of guitars built in the Romantic-era style by James Buckland. And yes, the guitar on the left is strung lefty.

Photo by James Buckland

The Charles Fox Guitar-Building Method, Part Four

by Mark French

In this article 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. This important series continues in our next issue.

A Modern Venezuelan Cuatro

by Luis Colmenares

The traditional Venezuelan cuatro is a small 4-string instrument with a distinctive flush fretboard and wooden tap plate covering the entire upper bout. See our GAL Instrument Plan #58. The author of this article is a working musician and a member of the Venezuelan diaspora. He has developed an electric version of the instrument for playing the evolving music of the Venezuelan culture.

Uncle Dan’s Favorite New Vise

by Dan Erlewine

Good ol’ Dan Erlewine is known for finding and spreading efficient new tools and techniques for guitar makers and repairers, as well as for mentoring and promoting young talent in the lutherie field. He’s at it again in this article, as he loosely wrangles a team to consult on the design of a specialized new shop vise.

The Terz Guitar

by James Buckland

The terz guitar was a smaller Romantic-era guitar, which played in a higher range and was written in a different key. Knowing this history helps us understand several otherwise-puzzling old instruments.

GAL Instrument Plan #80 - Terz Guitar

by James Buckland

This plan drawing of an anonymous instrument from the early 19th century includes the authentic adjustable neck joint and the rule-of-18 fret spacing.

New Frets in Old Nibs

by Ben Haskenhoff

The author steps us through a full refret of a solidbody guitar with a bound fretboard where the new frets nestle right back into the binding. Save the nibs!

The $75 Guitar Challenge

by Doug Hunt and Mark French

Two luthiers dare each other to make a useful guitar for a total investment of $75. One makes a flattop, the other a solid body. There are rules, and rules are meant to be broken.

Side Bender and Body Mold Cut from One Sheet of Plywood

by Terence Warbey

Not only does Warbey make the entire bending form and the outside mold from a single sheet, but the form pops apart like a Swedish Christmas ornament and stores flat in a plastic bag.

Tuning a Marimba Bar and Resonator

by Max Krimmel

If you are luthier who does not remember the name of Max Krimmel, you might be under age fifty. Max was a pack leader in the early days of the American Lutherie Boom, before he went on to specialize in a few of his many other artistic interests. Anyway, why and article about marimbas? As Max says, “Think of it as deep background learning.”

Big Shop-Made Dovetail Clamp

by Bob Gleason

A big honkin’ C clamp for pressing home a dovetail joint can be easily built from plywood, wood scrap, cork, and a commercially available press screw. It can just as well be pretty, because that’s fun. And if you don’t see what’s fun about it, maybe lutherie is not for you.

Lutherie Curmudgeon

by John Calkin

Sometimes a bargain is no bargain, like when the work that a power tool accomplishes is less valuable than space it uses in your shop. If you don’t love something, set it free.

Reviews

Monica Esparza reviews the elaborate new book by Josep Melo, José Luis Romanillos Guitars, The Guijosa Period, 1993–2015. John Littel reviews Hanging Tree Guitars, a book about outsider luthier Freeman Vines. John Calkin reviews the online instructional video Advanced Ukulele Building with Jay Lichty.

It Worked for Me

by Steve Kennel, Reginald Beardsley, and Steve Dickerson

Sacrifice a wobbly old Workmate to make a nice guitar holding rig for your bench top. Fix finish checking with diluted linseed oil. Make your own cabinet scrapers. Assure symmetry in shop templates.

.

Letters from our readers

Quick and dirty Dobro. Lessons learned from a puppy-vs-guitar encounter. Fond memories of attending the Charles Fox guitar-making course in long-ago Vermont. Collecting frequency response data from completed guitars. Story of a workshop injury. Two luthiers trade cigar-box guitar builds.

Web Extras

View photo gallery for this issue of American Lutherie.