​    Beginning this month, Woody will start to present chapters of a comprehensive documentation of the guitar-building shop, tools, equipment and processes that he has used for 45 years to build guitars in his shop. It will take 15 installments (one year+). In the end, we will all have a comprehensive book on Home-Shop Guitar building.


June 2020   

Foreword:   Guitar Building Overview

     SCOPE:   Simply stated, the scope of this Home-Shop Guitar Building Overview is to explain (through text and photos) the Guitar Building process from beginning to end. By 'home-shop' craftsmen (and women) Woody means that the guitar builder’s shop is on the same heating, cooling, ventilating and electrical system as the rest of the luthier’s home. Sharing one’s home with a guitar building workshop places restrictions and limitations on certain guitar building processes. Spraying lacquer comes to mind. Shop temperature and humidity control is, likewise, not always possible. Ignoring the fact that one’s home was designed as a family residence can lead to unhealthy situations.

      If the shop is separate from the house, so much the better. But most of us do not have that option…at least at first. Thus, the Home-Shop Guitar builder must be aware that others are smelling the same smells, hearing the same noises, and breathing the same dusty air as the luthier.

     Likewise, the processes and descriptions presented here are written for the limited-budget craftsman in that many of the fixtures and jigs needed to build an acoustic guitar can be built, rather than purchased, for the home shop.

       Retail cost of supplies, tools and fixtures are discussed in the next chapter. Luthier supplies, machines, and tools that Woody has purchased over the years are also evaluated relative to their cost, value and worth.

     POINT OF VIEW:  The name ‘Woody’ used throughout the Overview is not a real person, but an alter ego used by the author to avoid having to continuously write, “I did this…” and … “I do that” ... and “I_, I_, I … aye?”

    This author finds it easier to tell the story of guitar building as if one is observing another person build a guitar.  No fear, on most things, we (Woody and I) see eye-to-eye … eh?    

     If you find this confusing just remember that Woody is me and I am Woody, and we are also me (and vice versa). You may contact me regarding luthier issues at Woody@WoodyStrings.com

PURPOSE:  This Guitar Building Overview is written for anyone interested in guitars and how they are built and/or repaired. This book is not a novel, don’t expect to read it in a few sittings. It is intended to be a reference manual. The procedures explained are descriptions and recommendations of one luthier after decades of hands-on learning in the shop.

      Experienced home-shop luthiers may find Woody's techniques and methods to be similar to their own. This would be a good thing. The methods presented here, however, are not necessarily viable for a commercial production shop. Woody has made it a priority to present the processes of guitar building for the home-shop craftsman.

     The focus has been on the techniques and tools of hand work and 'Old Time' methods while recognizing the value of stationary machines in accurately duplicating certain processes.  Woody owns and uses a CNC machine but, generally, this Overview is about tools and practices before Computer Numeric Control (CNC) … except for the chapter on Inlay.

     On a personal note, I have here, and in the first chapter, tried to put together a few words regarding the GENESIS and context of Woody Strings which was in an era (1970s and 80s) that, I can see now, was unique.

SHOP:   Building a guitar begins by organizing the shop for that purpose. We begin with an Overview of the setup of the shop itself. Woody explains the layout of his own shop which is the result of 45 years of guitar-building and repair.  Of course, every reader will have a different shop space and layout.  Woody's presentation is meant as a guide to practical and efficient use of limited space within a home shop. As the reader will see, Woody’s first shop was in the back of a music store. By the time his current shop was built, Woody had been building guitars for 20 years. Consequently, Woody’s shop was built by a luthier, for a luthier.

TOOLS and SKILLS:   For the most part, only traditional hand tools and small-motor wood-shop equipment are necessary to build the acoustic guitar featured here. Sources of wood, tools and equipment will be noted throughout the Overview.

     The woodcraft techniques necessary to build a steel-string guitar do not require ‘expert-level’ skills. The challenge is that luthiery requires many, many diverse shop skills (from laying out and building a fretboard, to bending wood, to applying a lacquer finish, etc.). From one day to the next, these skills must be combined in the right sequence, and with enough attention to detail, for a playable guitar to be the end result.

     Woody has attempted to ensure that techniques and sequences are well explained and photographed to assist both the first-time and the experienced builder.  Process pitfalls and alternative methods are noted, and the reasoning for Woody’s choice of methods is detailed.

GENESIS:  Woody's interest in guitar building was launched by my father who, in 1974, gave me a copy of a Popular Mechanics article on guitar building (this is true). That article made it sound like one could go down to the local hardware store and lumber yard and come home with everything one needs to build a guitar. I took the bait.

     After that, I began to read just about everything published on guitar making at the time, which wasn’t much. (Irving Sloan, Arthur Overholtzer and David Russell Young, etc.) These books are quite good but out of print. I still have the originals. I also joined, in 1976, the Guild of American Luthiers which sent out quarterly newsletters reproduced on a mimeograph machine. GAL has come a very long way since then.