American Lutherie #99
Fall 2009

This issue’s cover shows a 20-string harp guitar being played by John Doan.

Photo by Lucas Jans

This issue is out-of-print.

Building for Playability

from his 2008 GAL Convention lecture by David Freeman

Long-time lutherie teacher David Freeman talks us through the fine points of scale length, neck width, neck shape, and action height. Players need to know they like a guitar as soon as they grab it, and this is how it’s done.

This article appears in our anthology book Flattop Guitars 2.

This issue’s cover shows a 20-string harp guitar being played by John Doan.

Photo by Lucas Jans

This issue is out-of-print.

On the back cover we see the common headstock for the sub-bass and guitar strings. Schaller Mini guitar tuners alternate with planetary banjo pegs. All twenty strings anchor to a common bridge.

Photo by John and Deirdra Doan

Understanding Neck Rake

by John Calkin

The exact angle of the neck relative to the top of a flattop guitar is crucially important to its playability, feel, and sound. Calkin shows how they get it right at Huss & Dalton.

This article appears in our anthology book Flattop Guitars.

Meet the Maker: David Cohen

by Roger Alan Skipper

Dave Cohen first met Michael Kasha as a graduate science student, not as a luthier. He then spent many years as a chemistry professor, and is now well into a career as a respected mandolin maker.

Dana Hears, Voices: Optimizing Steel String Soundboard Response

from his 2008 GAL Convention lecture by Dana Bourgeois

Dana’s job is making the final adjustments to thousands of fine guitars to bring out the best sound that he can. Here he tells how he thinks about the complex process.

This article appears in our anthology book Flattop Guitars.

Developing the Modern 20-String Concert Harp Guitar

by Jeffrey R. Elliott

In 1986 Jeffrey Elliott collaborated with the late John Sullivan on the design of a new harp guitar that Sullivan then built for John Doan. Since then Doan has toured and recorded relentlessly and the harp guitar has established its renaissance. Here’s the detailed scoop on the guitar that inspired a generation. (Article includes a reduced image of GAL Instrument Plan #61)

GAL Instrument Plan #61: 1986 Sullivan/Elliott Harp Guitar

Drawn by Jeffrey R. Elliott

Reduced plan image appears in article. For more information on the full-scale instrument plan, see GAL Instrument Plan #61

Electric Bass Design Considerations

from their 2008 GAL Convention panel discussion by Veronica Merryfield, David Minnieweather and Harry Fleishman, moderator and organizer

An entertaining and informative discussion of the many forms and functions of the electric bass, including both upright and guitar-like versions.

Make a Dished Workboard, Freehand

by Ryan Schultz

So, to make a dished workboard from a solid MDF sheet you need a router dangling from a thirty-foot-long pole, or else a CNC machine. Right? Nope, just grab a router and rip into it, freehand. With a little calculation and pencil marking, it can work.

Meet the Maker: John Calkin

by Lamar Scomp

Calkin walked a crooked road to lutherie, being a construction worker, a hippie, a gunsmith, a guitar repairman, and a school teacher before settling in at Huss & Dalton. It’s a fascinating story well told.

Parametric Models of Guitar Cutaways

by R.M. Mottola

Here’s the companion piece to Mottola’s article on guitar outlines. Even if you don't use CNC, this gives you straightforward tools to plan and draw cutaways.

It Worked for Me

by Luis Mesquita

Poke the controls for an acoustic guitar’s transducer out the soundport. great idea! The article also shows his slick adjustable archtop bridge that uses opposing wedges driven by thumbwheels.

Letters from our readers

Thomas Johnson writes to say that they are making ukuleles out of the original trim wood of the Titanic’s sister ship Olympic. Unexpected news.

In Memoriam: Dennis Stevens

by Harry Fleishman

Harry praises his good friend and mentor. Read his memoriam.

In Memoriam: Rob Girdis

by Rick Davis

Rick mourns the passing of a well-liked and capable luthier and teacher. Read his memoriam.