American Lutherie #146
Summer 2022

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On this issue’s cover, we see Cindy Hulej making an electric guitar neck of solid vintage pine salvaged from a demolished historic building in New York City.

Photo by Cindy Hulej

Remembering The Master’s Last Class

by Flip Scipio

Ten years ago, Flip Scipio attended the last of the summer seminars given by José Romanillos at his base in Sigüenza, Spain. Now, after the recent passing of the Maestro, this review is both informative and poignant.

On this issue’s cover, we see Cindy Hulej making an electric guitar neck of solid vintage pine salvaged from a demolished historic building in New York City.

Photo by Cindy Hulej

On the back cover, we see David Thormahlen’s vise for holding carved-top instrument bodies.

Photo by Sharon Thormahlen

Meet Cindy Hulej

by Max Mclaughlin

Here’s a story that will sound familiar to a lot of us old farts of the Lutherie Boom generation for the decades-old echoes that it evokes. A bold young person wants to do unusual and arty things with guitars, and they find an older mentor in the crowded back room of a New York City guitar store. That takes you back, don’t it Gramps?

The Difficult Case of Getting Too Old

by Don Barnes

Closing Up Shop

by Samuel Barnes

Remember those heroic old days when a few of us self-starting hippies dreamed of a forging a renaissance of guitar making in America? Well if you do, you are probably already past “retirement age.” What will become of all your tools and wood? Will your grandkids just toss them out? Time to start thinking about it. Sorry.

Meet David Thormahlen

by John Calkin

David Thormahlen started making many kinds of string instruments in the woodshop in college, and then made a strategic decision to focus his lutherie career on lever harps. It all worked out well, and he still makes guitars, mandolins, and bouzoukis in addition to the harps. He shows us some of his gluing fixtures which involve bicycle inner tubes; some stretched, some inflated.

GAL Instrument Plan #81:
1982 Douglas Ching Slack-Key Guitar

drawn by Tim Olsen

The Hawaiian Twin-Soundhole Guitar

by January Williams

Here’s a quick review of how the slack-key guitar got to be a thing, and a full plan drawing of a nice early example.

An All-American 7-String Guitar

by Lee Herron

Sometimes you get a customer who just wants you to run wild. Check out the design and build process of this 17.75-inch, 7-string, multiscale black-locust flattop guitar. Fun!

Measuring Mechanical Properties of Neck Blanks

by Mark French and Alyssa Fernandez

How stiff is that neck blank? You could cut all your blanks to the same dimensions and then set up a rig with a hanging weight to measure deflection and such. But hey, got a smart phone? It can listen while you tap on a bunch of neck blanks, and then tell you how stiff each one is.

“Ear”idescent Nightingales
A New Instrument Family

by Richard Bozung

Here’s a new kind of autoharp that can change keys in seconds without retuning or switching chord bars. It’s easy to build, and sounds great because you play it with your ear comfortably pressed against the frame.

Universal Side Caul

by Beau Hannam

These simple plywood squares with dowel halves glued to them can replace all the carefully shaped side cauls that thousands of luthiers have been using for decades. Sometimes one size really does fit all.

Review: Ukulele Making Course with Heidi Litke

by John Calkin

Ukes are serious lutherie projects these days. Standards and expectations are high. The same is true for instructional videos. The reviewer is favorably impressed with the instruments, the instructors, and the presentation.

The Confidence Game — Overcoming the Fear

by Aaron Cash

Lutherie is way cool. The guitars that people are making these days are mind-blowing. Standards of craftsmanship and creativity are sky high. And all that can be daunting to a sincere wanna-be. Here’s how to talk yourself into not talking yourself out of it.

In Memoriam: José Luis Romanillos Vega

by Federico Sheppard, Kevin Aram, Josep Melo, and Mónica Esparza

Romanillos was a towering figure in the lutherie field during a long and productive career as a maker and scholar. He was also a generous mentor and friend to many guitar makers. Four of those makers share fond memories of him here. Many more will miss him.

In Memoriam: G.D. (George) Armstrong

by GAL Staff

G.D. lived in Yamhill, Oregon, built a wide variety of instruments, was the repairman and proprietor of the Newburg (Oregon) Music Center, and was a regular attendee at GAL Conventions in Tacoma.

It Worked for Me

by Harry Fleishman, Steve Kennel, Mark French, Graham McDonald, and Geoff Needham

When you are pressing frets into an unmounted fretboard, it matters what order they go in, though that’s counter-intuitive. Post-It material comes in other forms besides notes, and they can be particularly useful for lutherie. Make a quick and dirty guitar humidifier out of materials you may actually have in your pocket. Make a simple jig to get double duty from a strip of ivoroid binding material. Use a lumberyard laser level to align guitar parts during construction.