Skip to main content

Four Good Books to Read on Classical Guitar Making

The chequered bark is unique, and its resemblance to a saurian hide has well earned for it the name of Alligator Juniper. So apt is the description that if you have ever heard of the existence of such a tree you identify it upon your first sight of it.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1950

Four books to read if you are interested in making a classical guitar.

Guitarmaking, by Art Overholtzer. This is not the book to use to make a classical guitar, you'd get stuck half way through and then you'd have to figure out on your own how to finish it. Overholtzer has some different ideas about guitar making, and like Bogdanovich, if you have a shop full of big huge metal or woodworking machines you can make the Overholtzer guitar. Read it for Art's opinions on wood and sound production.

Make Your Own Classical Guitar, by Stanley Doubtfire. Another book that shows you a wacky way to build a guitar. Some very interesting techniques and several good hand tools that every aspiring luthier should have in his/her tool box/cabinet. The biggest plus about the book are the interviews that Doubtfire did with the Fleta Brothers, Jose Romanillos and Robert Bouchet. If you can find a copy be ready to shell out some big bucks, it is quite collectible.

The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitar, by Manuel Rodriguez. Not so much a how to box like the previous ones, but Rodriguez wrote a book very much like Jose Ramirez III did with Things About the Guitar. He gives us a wonderful history about some of the great Spanish makers and alludes to what the guitar means to a Spanish maker. Definitely a must have for the book shelf.

The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton. Bottom line on this book: if you can get a copy of Cumpiano's book, Courtnell's book and this one by Middleton, you can build a guitar! Quirky and wacky like his predecessor, Stanley Doubtfire, this is a very English way of making a guitar. He has some great ideas for a home shop with little in the way of power tools, hand made clamps, bending iron, using bubble wrap on your bench to protect the guitar, some wonderful pointers. It's not the Spanish way of constructing a guitar, but it works. The best thing about this book is his little chapter that discusses neck relief, it's the only book in print that is widely available that talks about it. He is very much in line with Eugene Clark's definition of neck relief as presented in his 2004 Guild of American Luthiers presentation. Buy it for that!

As always, little buckaroos, remember-Hand tools rule the school!


  1. somewhere in my office I have an oddball English how-to book, published in the 50s or early 60s. The thrust of the book was steel-string spanish guitar construction but the advice was good--the author was, I recall, repair shop boss for one of the big London music stores. Not much romance-of-the-wood-and-song-of-the-box-plane to it, just straight from the shoulder advice on how to do the job. Wish I could find it....
    that sapele plank is calling to me. Can't resaw until Tuesday, though. will send pictures as the project develops!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
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…

The Guitar's Scale Length, Your Hand Size and a Chart

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

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…