On one hand lutherie is just like any other area of woodworking. But there are a number of techniques that are very specific to lutherie. Some of those are outlined here. This section does not offer complete instructions for building any one stringed instrument, but does offer detailed instructions for performing a number of typical lutherie tasks.
Last updated: August 15, 2015
Violin family instruments use traditional pegboxes with scrolls. Here are step by step instructions for how to carve one. The example is of a scroll and pegbox for an Electric Upright Bass but the technique is the same for all instruments. Note: there are approximately 1 MB of pictures here so it may take some time to fully load this page over a dialup connection.
Step by step instructions for installing aluminum action adjuster wheels in the legs of a double bass.
The plates of modern so called flattop guitars are really domed and that means the depth of the sides of the instruments vary along their length. One method that can be used to calculate the depth of a guitar side at any point along its length makes use of a contour map. Contour maps for the standard guitar plate dome radii are available for download here, and some references to articles describing how these are used are also provided.
Step by step instructions for building the neck blank for a steel string acoustic guitar, using a scarfed neck joint and built up heel. This is the first major step in the production of a neck.
Step by step instructions for carving the neck. Also includes instructions for copying the neck profile from an existing instrument or designing your own profile, and for those that don't want to do either a general purpose neck profile is given.
Step by step instructions for implementing the simple and effective butted bolt-on neck joint, as used in Taylor, Seagull, and other guitars.
Step by step instructions for installing frets in new fretted stringed musical instruments.
Step by step instructions for dressing frets. Dressing operations include cleaning up the fingerboard surface, leveling the frets, fret recrowning, fret end dressing, and sanding and polishing the frets.
Step by step instructions for building the garland; the ribs, blocks and linings of a stringed instrument. The techniques outlined here are specifically for flat top guitars, but can be simplified for use with other instruments. Side bending is discussed in detail, as is shaping sides to fit instruments that feature a tapered body and domed plates.
Step by step instructions for building the top plate of the flat top guitar. The photos show the construction of a classical guitar top but most everything here is applicable to the steel string guitar, too.
Step by step instructions for making the tiled rosette, sans making the actual tiles.
Step by step instructions for installing wood binding in a round sound hole.
Step by step instructions for building the back plate of the flat top guitar.
Step by step instructions for attaching the completed top and back plates to the completed rib, lining and block assembly.
Step by step instructions for constructing and installing a tapered end graft.
Step by step instructions for making and fitting wood bindings and purflings to the body.
How to locate and glue on the bridge of a flattop steel string acoustic guitar.
Finishing a musical instrument with thinned varnish wiped on with a rag is probably the simplest way to go. Wiping varnish is not just for beginners. In fact most of what are commonly called “oil” finishes are really wiping varnish finishes. Detailed instructions for selecting, applying, and caring for wiped varnish finishes are included. I had the honor of collaborating with master electric bass builder Jack Read on this one.