Welcome to the Liutaio Mottola Lutherie Information Website, the college of lutherie knowledge. The site contains a wealth of information of interest to guitarmakers, violin makers, and other luthiers. Lutherie is the process of building stringed musical instruments. This site contains a collection of resources on the subject of designing and building plucked stringed musical instruments, from R.M. Mottola at Liutaio Mottola, nonprofit provider of design, research and educational resources to the lutherie community. Information here will be of interest mostly to guitarmakers. The focus in these pages is on electric and acoustic guitars and basses, and includes information on design, construction, acoustics, and ergonomics of stringed instruments. The approach is technical but most of the content is intended to be accessible to readers with non-technical backgrounds. There is information here that should be of interest to folks who want to get started in any aspect of lutherie as well as for more experienced designers, builders and researchers. The site includes free guitar and bass plans, step-by-step instructions for building many of the components of guitars and basses, reprints of some of the author’s previously published papers, a list of recommended books and other info for first-timers, and links to other high content Internet resources for luthiers. The browse box to the right will take you to the major areas of the site.
Last updated: January 19, 2017
This section contains a list of frequenctly asked questions (FAQs) and answers, a list of recommended books, links to other high content lutherie information sites, and information for first time builders of stringed instruments, including some tips and a list of essential resources for those that want to build their first stringed musical instrument.
Luthiers use a lot of the same materials as other woodworkers (wood, glue, etc.) but we also use a number of materials, parts and supplies that are either specific to lutherie or are used by luthiers in ways that other woodworkers don't. Articles about materials and reviews of parts and supplies are collected here.
Some specific lutherie operations are detailed here, such as how to carve a neck and how to make a bolt-on neck joint. Info is available for guitarmakers (both electric and acoustic) and makers of other stringed instruments.
Lutherie is one of those areas of woodworking where a number of jigs and fixtures are required to do the job. This section details construction and use of these fixtures and jigs and also provides information on other commercial and shop built tools and fixtures that can make the job easier, quicker, and/or more precise. Some general woodworking tool techniques are covered, such as how to sharpen a number of the tools used to make stringed instruments. And there is a sub section on CAD/CAM/CNC - Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools, Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) tools, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines. Included in this sub section are downloadable CAD drawings of some common instrument hardware, in AutoCAD 2000 .dwg and .dxf file formats.
Descriptions of some of my original instruments. Some are practical, some highly experimental. Full sized downloadable plans are included for most of these. There are solid body electric guitar and bass plans, archtop acoustic guitar and bass plans, flat top acoutsic guitar and bass plans, and electric upright bass (EUB) and some others as well.
Construction details and general information about pickups and transducers and related circuitry. Mostly for the guitarmaker and bass guitar maker but there is also info here on pickups for some of the bowed instruments.
Discussions on the science behind a number of commonly held lutherie beliefs, as well as some outright debunking of lutherie myths. This is a very popular section.
Abstracts of some of my published research papers on lutherie topics.
How to contact the author of this site.
A former engineer, R.M. Mottola began building stringed instruments in 1994 after an illness left him unable to work. Since then he has been involved in a number of non-commercial activities, including research oriented instrument design and construction as well as formal research in the areas of instrument acoustics, psychoacoustics, ergonomics, materials and construction. He is a member of New England Luthiers and is the technology editor and a contributing editor for American Lutherie, the journal of the Guild of American Luthiers. The GAL is the largest, oldest and most respected organization of stringed instrument makers in the world. He is also editor of the Savart Journal, the online research journal of science and technology of stringed musical instruments. And R.M. is a guitarmaker, a bass maker, and a font (but a bit of a leaky font) of guitarmaking theory and practice.
By the way, the word Liutaio is Italian for luthier. I am American, don't speak Italian, but I am of Italian extraction and like the vibe. You can tell that Liutaio Mottola is not a commercial enterprise because no American in his or her right mind would use a word which is as seemingly unpronounceable (to non-Italians in any case) as Liutaio. It is pronounced (more or less) lew-TIE-oh (rhymes with Ohio).
This site is both composed and hosted on the cheap. Yeah, I know, it shows. Like it says up top, this effort is non-profit. The pages here are directly-edited HTML and CSS. The site is mostly static but there is a bit of PHP here and there.
The information on this site was collected (slowly) as a consequence of my own lutherie projects since about 1995. Limitations in the way I must approach things these days makes it necessary for me to do detailed planning before I set to work on a project, and to maintain much detailed information while I proceed. I try to put as much of that info as possible into a usable form on this site, but this is not always possible so there are gaping holes in the information presented here. With time and luck these holes will get smaller.
If you find the contents of this site useful please consider the following.
If you have a website or blog, or if you post to the lutherie forums or contribute to Wikipedia, or if you use any of the social bookmarking sites I would greatly appreciate a link to this site and references to the pages here. Links make the world go 'round (OK, Google makes the world go 'round, and links make sure Google is paying attention to this site). I can't tell you how important this is. Lutherie is a pretty esoteric topic, so just getting Google to fully index this site requires there to be some solid links to it. Thank you!
This site is edited by the author, which is always a recipe for disaster when it comes to errors of fact and errors of omission. I depend upon readers of this site to serve as editors. If you find anything wrong or awkward, even small things like typos and misspellings, please let me know. Thanks!
This site is dedicated to the memory of Jim Mouradian, the Boston area luthier that got me started in lutherie. His knowledge, skills and generosity continue to inspire me.
The contents of this site are copyright © 2004 - 2017 by R.M. Mottola, including all text, images, scripts and calculator results. The downloadable instrument plans and the CAD drawings of instrument parts are made available for non-commercial use and may not be redistributed. This means that copying these plans to sites like scribd, the sole purpose of which is to make ad money from other peoples' copyrighted material, is in violation of copyright. Please do not copy whole pages of this site to discussion groups - that is also in violation of copyright. Please link to those pages instead. Do you know that pinning an image from this site (and most other sites) on Pinterest actually makes a copy of the image onto the Pinterest servers and therefore is a violation of copyright? Now you do. Please don't do it. Copyright laws are complex but the basic rules of copyright and fair use are real simple. Want to quote something from this site? As long as it appears in quotation marks and appears with attribution and is not too long, that's fine. Want to copy images, scripts, pdfs or whole pages of text from this site to another one? Sorry, that violates copyright. Your cooperation with these requests (and the law) increases the likelihood that folks will continue to provide useful information on the Internet.
Here I call out some sleazebags that repeatedly copy copyrighted material from this site to their own. Note that these aren't links to these sites, I'm just naming names:
The site homemadetools.net is a real piece of work. It is a fake discussion group, only all the "postings" are made by the site owners and consist of copyrighted material copied from other sites. They even have a cute "frame" which they put over the pictures to obscure any embedded copyright notices. Sleazy! [Update: as of 1/2017 this site has cleaned up its act, replacing the fake discussion group with a series of listing pages. Although they are still copying images from other sites, they appear to be complying with at least the letter of DMCA copyright law by reducing the size of those images so that they can be considered to be thumbnails. All steps in the right direction but I will still boycott this site and suggest you do too, because they got where they are by illegally copying copyrighted material to their site.]