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The Best Books on Classical Guitar Making

Skilled use of the knife and ax is seldom described today because there are few persons who master these tools. Those who do are often more articulate with their hands who master these tools.
James Rudstrom, from the introduction to Swedish Carving Techniques, Wille Sundqvist, 1990



If you want to make a classical guitar these are the two books to get!

Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall is like having an old master looking over your shoulder prodding you to listen to him, because he knows the most efficient way to do it. Besides, it is tradition! I love this book!

Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jon Natelson, is "the" book that I used to make my first guitars and I still reference it. I have leafed through it so much that the pages are falling away from the binding!

I can't recommend John Bogdanovich's book Classical Guitar Making, it is for someone who already has a well-equipped professional cabinet shop that is capable of turning out kitchen cabinets at the rate of one kitchen install a day. He loves his power tools so much I was surprised to see photos of chisels and a block plane! This is not a book for a beginner, it's better suited for someone with a strong professional cabinet maker background.

Making Master Guitars and Guitar Making are the best way to get started, if you want to learn more about the nuances found in true Spanish guitars made by the likes of Santos Hernandez, Hernandez y Aguado or Francisco Simplicio please read articles by Eugene Clark, R.E. Brune and Jeff Elliot in American Luthier, published by the Guild of American Luthiers!

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Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
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Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

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I will cite the case of a marvelous concert player, a Japanese lady who is barely 5 ft. tall and with hands that are real miniatures. She plays a 664 mm 10 string guitar and demanded that I build this guitar with an action 1 mm higher than normal, which she handles with incredible ease. This is serious study!


Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990




Here is the hand size and scale length that I found on the forum at delcamp.com.

Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 250+ 664mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 230 to 250 656mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 210 to 230 650mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 190 to 210 640mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 170 to 190 630mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of below 170 615mm scale length



Here is my flexible imperial/metric ruler.




Here is my hand properly placed on the flexible imperial/metric ruler.




Today my reach from little finger to thumb is 240mm. I should more or less be playing a…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979


So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice


Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…