Luthier in retirement?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
knotoncall132
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Luthier in retirement?

Post by knotoncall132 » Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:59 pm

I am fortunate to be able to retire at a relatively young age. My career was in the arts so I have appreciated the beauty and craftsmanship of the guitars I have played as much as I have enjoyed their sound.
I can see myself enjoying making classical guitars in my extended retirement. Fortunately not a need for profit. Solely for enjoyment. When I first started I punched a guitar by someone who made 10 per year. That always stuck with me.
Problem is, I don't know where to start. I am in New England. I am very grateful for any and all advice.

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George Crocket
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by George Crocket » Thu Dec 20, 2018 8:01 am

Hi knotoncall132. Welcome to the forum. I hope you get some pointers soon. Meantime, please introduce yourself to our wider membership here.
George
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
2012 Stephen Eden cedar/IRW classical guitar

simonm
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by simonm » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 am

Welcome aboard. Sounds like a very fortunate position to be in especially from an arts background.

Summary:

Do a course
Buy books early
Buy tools late
Beware of dust



One of the catch`s about starting out in any new area is that you don't know the extent of your lack of knowledge. Once you get a bit further and you know a little bit, you still cannot evaluate the relative importance of different new bits of knowledge or understand what you should seek to perfect next. That is a pre-amble to saying that while I could give you a nice reading list ($800-$1,000 worth), it will be very difficult to decided what to read first/next without having background. Some books sound pricey but you get the moment back when you build jigs as opposed to buying them not to mention the knowledge.

I would say that step one is to sign up for a guitar building course. Various people offer such courses. Do a bit of research first. There are two basic types. 1) You go somewhere for 2-4 weeks and build a guitar. 2) The course is few hours at a time (like a night school) spread of 6 months or so. Nothing to stop you doing one of each. A variant is talk to a maker you like and see if he/she will do you special course. This variant is likely the most expensive one as your favorite famous maker will have a significant waiting list for guitars, and you are taking up his/her time so. However, it can work very well if you get on together.

In choosing a course I would first try and work out is there is a particular style of guitar you like, and look for a course given by a maker who is in that tradition. To give an extreme example, a builder might specialize in the Torres derived spanish style or in the Modern double top in the Smallman/Dammann type directions. These would be very different styles but if you strongly prefer one type then it should influence your choice of course. I am pretty sure there are a few course options in new england of various kinds but I am on the other side of the pond.

Do not grab a StewMac catalogue and buy everything in sight. Lots of specialized tools are "solutions in search of a problem" and you simply don't need them. Apart for some basics, buy as and when you need them.

The two extremes of guitar making woodwork are the "mini-factory" and the "totally handtool" approaches. The former is exemplified by US woodworking magazines and youtube videos (cliche I know) where it seems everyone has a 200m2 workshop and building anything involves putting a whole tree on machine 1 and moving the huge boards you cut to machine 2 and so on where as the latter approach is the person using the table in a (tiny) kitchen in a small apartment when it is not required for eating/preparing food.

For example people who use routers a lot tend to build up a collection of the things as adjusting routers, especially the cheaper ones, if extremely time consuming, so instead people buy one router for each job and it is adjusted once. Other people don't like the noise and do all those jobs with a gramil or whatever.

There are a number of threads here which discussed a basic tool kit. Do a search. Look at the Orfeo magazines (search here) to see pictures of famous makers workshops. These makers are all more in the hand tool tradition.

Buster

Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by Buster » Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:54 am

knotoncall132 wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:59 pm
I am fortunate to be able to retire at a relatively young age. My career was in the arts so I have appreciated the beauty and craftsmanship of the guitars I have played as much as I have enjoyed their sound.
I can see myself enjoying making classical guitars in my extended retirement. Fortunately not a need for profit. Solely for enjoyment. When I first started I punched a guitar by someone who made 10 per year. That always stuck with me.
Problem is, I don't know where to start. I am in New England. I am very grateful for any and all advice.
If you are prepared to travel , Stephen Hill runs a guitar making course in Granada, Spain.

Dave M
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by Dave M » Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:13 pm

Simon is right on all counts.

I don't know where you are at with woodworking skills but you will need to develop them further. Guitar making involves the use of very thin materials, lots of curves, and accuracy. As someone who started making furniture on retirement and then moved to guitars I was quite surprised at the different skills required.

And this is true even if you use machinery. Using them successfully also requires learning. But you will always need hand skills as well.

But of course this is the great pleasure. It is learning new skills that is enjoyable. And there is nothing like producing a musical instrument that actually works. Even better after the first few when one works really well!
Dave

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josswinn
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by josswinn » Fri Dec 21, 2018 6:53 am

To help you find reading material, there's a classical guitar making bibliography here.

As Simon says, try to find a teacher near you. This journal documents what your time with them is likely to involve and the time commitment you can expect.

There's more advice I could offer you (as someone who starting making guitars a year or so ago) but I think much depends on your own circumstances, experience, resources and available local support.

Approach each part/stage of the instrument as a project in itself and take your time. Be grateful for every mistake you make, knowing that you are less likely to make the same mistake again.
Joss Winn

vesa
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by vesa » Fri Dec 21, 2018 6:59 am

Hi
Buy Cournall (Making master guitars) and begin to build,
you will learn by doing and questions rising will be answered
in the book mentioned and e.g. by answering people in this forum.
Many here in this forum has done it this way, myself inclusive.
Good luck, building a classical guitar in a wonderful process.

Vesa
Vesa Kuokkanen

Antonio Marin nr. 813 1995 (Bouchet)
Vesa Kuokkanen 2016

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by Stephen Faulk » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:06 am

Why the hell would you want to willingly make something so fraught with problems, obstacles and outright snobbery? If it were me, I'd join a fly casting club and buy the best fly rods and single malt scotches to enjoy. Or I'd get into the new kind of sea fishing called microjigging where you catch really fat red snapper with p-line and bendy little carbon graphite rods.

Guitar making is for the birds.

That said if you need to indulge in the romantic nostalgia of making things by hand, which is entirely worthy, then I have a few admonitions that you can fart on or consider.

First, be a sport and go take a workshop with one of the folks that gives them as a month residency. Why? Because these people work at teaching the art and the deserve very very much to be patronized by guitar afcionados. Pay a person to teach you, don't mooch off established builders, pay it forward and go get lessons.

Don't take magazines too seriously.

Take women in the guitar world seriously and attend their concerts and buy their recordings as your taste see fit. Don't be another 'guitar bro' it's past time for that stuff.

If you don't have to support your family making guitars and you still want to do it, no matter which tools you get or which guitar style you make, please give your guitars to musically striving kid so can't afford to buy them.

Too many people work their fingerprints off doing this for money, so if money isn't an deterrent from travel and study, pay these deserving individuals for lessons.

You might look into Stephen Hill in Granada or contact John Ray for advice. But go to Spain if you can and soak it up right at the fountain.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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Chris Sobel
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by Chris Sobel » Fri Dec 21, 2018 8:45 pm

simonm wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 am
Welcome aboard. Sounds like a very fortunate position to be in especially from an arts background.

Summary:

Do a course
Buy books early
Buy tools late
Beware of dust
Simonm nailed it. The dust part is no joke, BTW. Wood dust is one of the most hazardous things you can breath in short of inhaling radioactive mist. Ok that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but check out some electron microscope pics of a sanded wood particle. You do not want that in your lungs! I would only add to buy tools as you need them rather than everything up front.

Chris
CE Sobel Guitars

wombosi
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by wombosi » Sat Dec 22, 2018 12:35 am

Stephen Faulk - that was a brilliant write-up. Thanks for that.

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sat Dec 22, 2018 12:42 am

I was about to delete it, I felt bad. LOL.

I went to art school and studied studio art and art history, before that I studied anthropology. I don't ever see myself being able to retire and do anything for the pure pursuit of it. I'd like to make sculpture again and make monoprints-There's a lot more I'd like to do helping others and encouraging music and art with youth, but I struggle with making money in guitar work everyday and that takes up all my time. And even though I struggle, I still feel it's a struggle of privilege. It's my inclination to tell those who are privileged enough to retire that they need to contribute too. We should never retire from social action. And buy a bigger dust collector than you think you'll need.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

MessyTendon
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by MessyTendon » Sat Dec 22, 2018 2:44 am

See Fred Carlson guitars for inspiration...there are some art guitars and exotic concept guitars that are amazing.

ernandez R
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by ernandez R » Sat Dec 29, 2018 6:42 am

Hmmm. I took my guitar building in a different direction. I built mine in two weeks knowing it was gong to be a learning experience. I've done wood my whole life. I still recall vividly drilling a hole while straddling a log whilst wearing a pair of those Toughskin jeans when I was about four years old. Let's just say I am lucky to not have become a castrati as that half inch drill bit wrapped my bits around and around. Toughskin jeans indeed!

I have a shop and know how to use a table saw, band saw, drill press, and chisels.

I basically thought about a head stock and proceeded to teach myself how to make pegs and tapered holes. It took about three iterations in about a week before I figured out my way. Afterwords I did a little research and found I had reinvented the wheel. Lucky me.

While reading about head stocks I picked up a few, then about seven, guitar building books and in 15 days, actually the morning of the sixteenth I was stringing up my first model in the white.

Knowing I might be cutting this one up in the band saw I just built it using local wood: a block of spruce using three pieces for the top, hickory for the headstock pegs and bridge, sides back and neck from white poplar, fretboard and headstock vainer out of an oak pallet leg that actually has some mudduler Rays that I used to effect. Bridge and nut from a pice of Corain I cut out of a sink. I even routed and shaved a ring for the rosette out of the yellow marbled stuff. The frets were a challenge but after twenty of them I had that wired. I toasted my first side bending but the sides were thick enough was able to sand out the brown. The other side was a snap. I think I made all the top ten mistakes and no doubt I don't know enough to know what else I buggered up.

Funny thing though, after about a week of working her for a good two to three hours every day and she is really opening up. She sounds really good and the bass really turned on tonight. I was working some old Boweres ( spelling?) with that syncopated bass line and the girl was humming loud but tight.

I am already cutting up wood for the next one. Buddy of mine says he has some old spruce logs he is going to trade for some of my stash and I'm gong to see if I can get some decent tone wood.

Anyway, it's a process with just as many ways to tackle as there are those willing to take blocks of wood and shape them into music.

I dream of a month or two in Spain with a master luthier but it's out of my price range. I dream of the perfect guitar but to be honest one needs to ask, what do we want: something to play, something to brag about, something to sell. In the end us hobbyist luthiers are on a quest where the goal is a process rather then conclusion?

My goal is a classical guitar that sounds better then all those plastic looking things you see, and I've played, in every generic guitar shop; deadwood with gloss. My goal is to build a guitar to play.

My fingers are a touch sore but I'm looking up at... Darn a name, do people name their guitars, what should I call her, standing there on her tail block, still in the nude as it were... Anyway I'm typing this on my iPad thinking I should get up and try one more time to recall those last three bars of that song whose name I still can't recall...

HR
I hate sanding wood or anything else for that matter I just happen to be good at it...

printer2
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by printer2 » Sun Dec 30, 2018 2:26 am

Able to retire at a relatively young age after a career in the arts? And I thought that is one area of endeavor that paid even less than luthiery.

I am in no means a luthier, more that I make guitar shaped objects that are playable. I picked up a couple of books that I found would have been very useful when I first started building. Mind you I would not have considered the books due to their price when I first started, but then again I never thought I would get so hooked on building. Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build by Gore and Gilet. Not necessarily a classical guitar book (although there is a set of classical plans that come with the book) but one that explains the construction of flat top guitars.

As a first step I would say pick up a tenor ukulele kit and have at it. Your first guitar will be much better for it.
Fred

ernandez R
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Re: Luthier in retirement?

Post by ernandez R » Mon Dec 31, 2018 12:05 am

I forgot to mention that I too am mostly retired, not in the traditional sense. I still need to work. When my partner used the word obsess in conjunction with my time in the shop I figured I might need to limit my time at the workbench. So now that the Mk-1 is strung up I'm playing for hours instead, ok practicing and remembering and being humbled...
New piece of neck wood, some cheap machine tuners, and an idea! It's off to the woodshop for the Mk-2

HR
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I hate sanding wood or anything else for that matter I just happen to be good at it...

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