American Lutherie #149
Summer 2023

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On this issue’s cover we see an unusual and highly advanced archtop guitar made by Ken Parker. It reclines on one of the many benches in Ken’s large and well-equipped shop.

Photo by Mike Doolin

Meet Ken Parker

by Mike Doolin

Can you believe we have never “met” this guy? He’s a giant of the American Lutherie Boom, he was at the Guild’s 1979 Convention, and he has been a GAL member for over twenty years. The world knows him as the maker of the Fly solidbody guitar, but now he has returned to his first love: the archtop guitar.

Members can read an additional article by Ken, his candid take on the genesis of the American archtop guitar, in our Articles Online here.

On this issue’s cover we see an unusual and highly advanced archtop guitar made by Ken Parker. It reclines on one of the many benches in Ken’s large and well-equipped shop.

Photo by Mike Doolin

On the back cover are two views of a shop-built carving plane by Ken Parker.

Photo by Mike Doolin

The Firewood Guitar

by Lee Herron

You know what they say: When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you are a luthier, everything looks like it could be made into a fine handmade guitar. Like that chunk of firewood over there. It’s way too short to make sides, but we’ll figure something out.

Optimized Guitar Intonation

by Charlie Price

Guitar intonation exists at the intersection of math, music, and mojo. How good is good enough? Can we ever quite get there? Price brings us one step closer with a “money ball” approach of adding up all the errors at each string and fret position, then optimizing for the lowest total error.

Meet Rebecca Urlacher and Paul Woolson

by Rebecca Urlacher and Paul Woolson

A conversation is kinda like two interviews happening at the same time. That’s what we have in this article; questions and answers come from both of these guitar-making buddies, as we meet them and learn about their lutherie lives.

Press Your Ukuleles

by John Calkin

One operation at a time, Calkin is showing us how to make ukes in a direct and effective way. It’s all done by one worker with simple tools in a small space. Here he shows us how to get the back onto the ribs quickly and accurately, with no cleanup needed.

Effects of Saddle Materials on Guitar Tone

by Robin Connaughton

Lots of materials can work for a flattop guitar bridge saddle. Will they sound different? Connaughton tries several, and collects data with an ingenuously simple plucking technique.

Using Soundhole Inserts to Vary the Lower Resonant Frequencies of an Acoustic Guitar

by Mark French and Eddy Efendy

Putting a tube in the port of a loudspeaker box changes the lower resonances. Same deal with a flattop round-hole guitar. Makers of classical guitars have known about that for a century and a half, and they call that tube a tornavoz. French and Efendy give us the math on how it works.

Little Thickness Sander

by Robert Hamm

Sometimes you need a bicycle. That is, something between a skateboard and an automobile. This slick little shop-built unit lives in the space between a full-sized auto-feed belt sander and a Robo-sander drum chucked up in a drill press.

Uke Neck Joint

by Karl Hoyt

Hoyt found a way to make a simple and reliable bolt-on neck joint that is easy to assemble, not withstanding his large fingers.

Quick-and Dirty Magnetic Thickness Gauge

by Jon Sevy

A couple of cheap gizmos from Harbor Freight can be cobbled together to let you measure the thickness of the sides or plates of an assembled guitar.

Bridge Sole Radius Shaping Jig

by Bob Gleason

Sure, you can fit the sole of a bridge to its soundboard by putting sandpaper on the tender spruce or cedar and rubbing the bridge on it. But this jig is easier and safer.

An Easy Fretboard Tapering Jig

by Mark French

This super-simple table saw jig is a strip of plywood with two alignment pins in drilled holes. Easy to make and to use.

A Survey of Guitar Building Books, Part Two

by Graham McDonald

Fourteen years ago, McDonald wrote up a survey of the steel string guitar making books that were available at that time. More books have appeared since then, so he’s back with an update. Hit this link to read the earlier article in our Premium Online Content. Go ahead. You know you want to.

Simple Things

by Harry Fleishman

Warm up that brown paper tape with a hair dryer before you pull it off. Softens it up and makes it less likely to tear out wood fibers. That’s a simple thing.

It Worked for Me

by Steve Dickerson, Brent Benfield, Dan Alexander, Dan’l Brazinski, and Steve Kennel

A big horrible blister on a thick commercial finish could be a blessing in disguise. A snipped-out plan drawing makes a better template if you put clear tape on both faces of the edge. Those big rubber erasers for cleaning belt sanders can yield sweet little sanding blocks. An inflatable door-hanging jack also works as a lutherie clamp. A pile of scraps and misc hardware can make a swanky-lookin' fretwire roller, if you are a compulsive art sculptor. But what is a luthier, if not a compulsive art sculptor?