Liutaio Mottola Stringed Instrument Design

Woodworkers' Popup Units Conversion Tool / Calculator

Calculator converts to/from decimal inches, fractional inches, millimeters. Popups must be enabled for this site. From the Liutaio Mottola lutherie information website.

Did you know ....

.... you can click on most of the assembly photos on this site to enlarge them for a close look? Also, hovering the cursor over most linear dimension values will convert the values to decimal inches, fractional inches, and SI units.

Tools, Jigs and Shop Techniques

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.

Last updated: Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hand Tools

Getting a Hand Plane Ready for First Use

Here are instructions for one way to quickly get a new hand plane set up (tuned) and ready for use, and to keep the blade sharp for continued top performance.

Sharpening and Burnishing a Scraper

Here are instructions for one way to quickly sharpen and burnish a card scraper.

Sharpening, Honing and Polishing Carving Tools

How to get gouges and other carving tools really sharp, no matter what shape they are in originally, using the kinds of sharpening tools most luthiers have around the shop.

Power Tools

Gluing a guitar fingerboard.

What to Do When a Woodworking Power Tool Motor Fails

It's never good news when a power tool motor goes. Here are some tips for figuring out whether it can be repaired or must be replaced, and descriptions of a couple of repairs you can probably do yourself.

Automatically Turn on Dust Collector

The dust collector in my shop turns on automatically whenever a blast gate is opened. Here's how it's done.

Product Review: Grizzly Industrial Pneumatic Drum Sander

A useful tool from Grizzly Industrial, a company I no longer do business with.

Product Review: Asturomec ESRV Detail Spray Gun

A great spray gun for finishing musical instruments. From Homestead Finishing Products, a company that truly understands the needs of luthiers, and a great company to do business with.

Lutherie Jigs and Fixtures

Brace Arching Jig

Since the plates of flattop guitars are not really flat but are spherically domed, the tops of all the braces for those plates must be arched before they are glued on. Here's how to make a simple arching jig that speeds this process.

A stack of uncarved spruce braces.

Building and Using the Outside Mold

With a properly designed outside mold the process of bending the ribs of an instrument over a hot pipe or bending iron is made easy, even for first timers. Here's how to build one and how to use it for a number of assembly operations, too.

Building and Using Rib Jacks

Rib jacks are like clamps that secure the ribs of an instrument under construction into the mold. They provide complete access to the edges of the blocks, allowing many shaping and construction operations on the ribs, blocks and linings of an instrument to be done accurately. They are simple and cheap to build and use.

Building and Using the Go Bar Deck

The plates of flattop guitars are not really flat but are spherically domed, and the way they are domed is by gluing on the braces while the plates are forced into dished work boards. In small production environments the braces are clamped using a go bar deck. This fixture is simple to make and even simpler to use.

Building and Using Spool Clamps

These simple clamps are easy to make and are useful for a number of lutherie clamping operations.


Getting Started with CAD, CAM and CNC

For some folks simply jumping in with both feet is the best way to learn how to use these technologies, but a more cautious and sequential approach may make the introduction easier and may also save some money. This article details the actual CAD software package I recommend.

Some lutherie hand tools.

Downloadable CAD Drawings of Stringed Instrument Parts

CAD drawings of some common instrument hardware, in AutoCAD 2000 .dwg and .dxf file formats. In most mechanical design fields the manufacturers of component parts make CAD drawings of their parts freely available as a matter of course. This is not the case for lutherie for some reason. This small collection of parts is my attempt at making life a bit easier for those that use CAD tools.

A Shop-built Desktop CNC Router

Descriptions and CAD drawings for a small and inexpensive hobby grade CNC (Computer Numerical Control, i.e. computer driven) router that is very useful for inlay, engraving, routing of various small parts, and a number of other lutherie tasks. I wouldn't recommend a light duty shop built tool like this for anyone intending to do any production work, but for occasional low precision use or as an introduction to the technology a machine like this has something to offer.

Backlash in Lead Screws

Here's a discussion of one of the bugaboos of CNC machine design. Backlash is defined and the standard ways for dealing with it are discussed in not-too-technical language. Yeah, I know this is pretty far afield of lutherie, but luthiers are very fond of shop-built machines and this is a design issue in a lot of them.

Generating Pocket and Boss Toolpaths Manually

One of the most expensive things you'll need to buy to use CAD/CAM/CNC in the small shop is CAM software. But if you only do 2.5D work you may be able to get by with free software to convert drawings to toolpaths for most applications. This page provides instructions for a simple method of drawing toolpaths for the excavation of straight sided pockets and bosses and then converting them to machine instructions. Not something I recommend for even small scale production, but this is a useful learning exercise.