American Lutherie #151
Spring 2024

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On this issue’s cover we see a guitar built by Felix Cambio under the tutelage of Todd Cambio. It’s a ladder braced instrument in the style of the plentiful and inexpensive American-made “catalog” guitars of the early 20th century.

Photo by John Maniaci

Finding Inspiration in Early 20th-Century Instruments

from his 2023 GAL convention lecture by Todd Cambio

For decades, it was received wisdom that the inexpensive steel-string guitars, made in the millions before WWII in American factories using American woods, were crap. Todd Cambio has been taking another look, and finds a lot to like and even to emulate. Hear him out; it’s a ripping yarn.

On this issue’s cover we see a guitar built by Felix Cambio under the tutelage of Todd Cambio. It’s a ladder braced instrument in the style of the plentiful and inexpensive American-made “catalog” guitars of the early 20th century.

Photo by John Maniaci

The back cover shows a classical guitar by Tobias Braun. Note that although it is made with a Spanish integral heel, the back has been glued on before the top. And the top transverse braces have already been fitted and glued to the sides.

Photo by Joshua Alexander French

The Historic Solera of Santos Hernández: An Attempted Reconstruction

by Tobias Braun

How do you explain that the glue squeeze-out in some fine old guitars by Spanish masters drips the wrong way? Seems like that could only happen if the top was glued last, face-up. The key to the mystery may be an unusual century-old workboard from the shop of Santos Hernández. Tune in for the rest of the story.

Guitarreria Ottenschlag

by Joshua Alexander French

Imagine the fun of attending an intensive seminar where nine builders build fine classical guitars from scratch with an instructor whose strong background qualifies him to carry on the teaching work of José Romanillos. Now make the setting an authentic castle in Austria. With a gourmet restaurant. What a wonderful world.

My First Twenty Years

by Jay Anderson

Innocently attending a James Taylor concert, an Art major learns to his surprise that guitars are made by people. It’s an epiphany that changes his life. He has a day job as a building contractor, but he transitions to a full-time maker of fully functional musical sculptures. Along the way he finds himself established as the fun “uncle” of talented group of young musicians.

A Posthumous Interview with Seymour Drugan

by Harry Fleishman

As a fourteen-year-old kid, Harry Fleishman was lucky enough to find a kindly and perceptive mentor in Seymour Drugan, an older legit jazz player who was running a guitar store. Although Seymour passed away long ago, Harry imagines a present-day interview in which he expresses his gratitude to “Mr. Drugan.”

A Day with Luisa Willsher of Madinter

by Federico Sheppard

An Art-school girl from the UK goes to Spain as a flamenco dancer. There she meets a guy who has a business selling wood to local luthiers. Things go well. The business grows and gets bought by StewMac, and now she’s VP of Global Sales. And if you go to their sawmill, you can pick up pelletized fuel of the finest rosewood.

Measuring the Breaking Strength of Steel Guitar Strings

by Mark French

It’s amazing what you can do with a smart phone these days. Think you would need an anvil, a block-and-tackle, and a bathrom scale to measure the breaking strength of a guitar string? Nope. There’s an app for that.

A Kerfed Lining Fixture

by Lee Herron

Author Herron tinkered together this bandsaw jig to cut the kerfs in lining strips. He explains the construction and capabilities of his time-tested design.

Electronic String Action Gauge

by Geoff Needham

A cheap mail-order gizmo for measuring tire tread wear; a pair of nippers; a scrap of plexi; a bottle of superglue. Put them all together and you’ve got a sweet tool like the cool kids use.

In Memoriam: Frank Ford

by GAL Staff, William Eaton and Dan Erlewine

Frank Ford was an icon of the instrument repair field and an overachiever when it came to sharing information with this fellow luthiers. He had legions of friends and fans. Two of his frequent collaborators, each a giant in the field, take this moment to praise his name.

Letters from our Readers

A reader asks about the swing-arm binding router shown among Denny Stevens’ tools in AL#150. Author January Williams gives an informative answer.

It Worked for Me

by Mike Doolin, Steve Kennel, and Spiros Mamais

Mamais made a steel jig to quickly join the halves of a guitar top or back plate. It’s double-sided, so you can do two plates at once. Kennel decides that commercially available soapstone slips are superior to white art pencils for marking on dark-colored wood. Doolin makes custom nut-filing guides out of acrylic on his laser cutter.

Web Extras

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