In honor of James Egolf’s homebrewed Esquire (page 130), this month Assistant Editor Chris Kies
takes a look at two websites that can help you build your own Holy Grail.
DIY Network – Handmade Guitar Miniseries
While most television networks fill their half-hour slots with mind
numbing reality television and commercials for things that we’ll
never need (the PedEgg, anybody?), the DIY Network has finally
done something useful with the medium. The network dedicated to
helping people repair, build and do has finally ventured into luthier
territory with a four-part special, hosted by Jeff Wilson, dedicated to
walking viewers through the process of creating a high quality acoustic guitar. Previously only available to premium tier cable subscribers
and satellite devotees, interested readers can now find info from the
The installments are neatly structured in logical order: Introduction
and Wood Selection; Top, Back and Inlays; Top, Bracing and Tone
Bars; and so forth. The series features insightful contributions from
Tennessee luthiers John Arnold, Ted Davis and Lynn Dudenbotsel, and
they rely heavily on Martin’s classic D- 28 for inspiration. As the gold
standard of acoustics, the most desirable Martin models used Eastern
red spruce – the choice of wood the three luthiers track down for their
model. For those interested in the entire lifespan of a guitar, the network even includes footage of their treasure hunt into the mountains
of West Virginia, all in the quest to find the perfect spruce.
While you cannot watch the episodes online (what’s the hold up,
DIY?), the site includes enough step-by-step guidance and photography to help even the most novice of builders. What separates this
series from any other build-your-own-guitar site is how fun it can be;
one of our favorite parts was the inclusion of historical tidbits about
the acoustic guitar, specifically the intertwining of Martin and the
Ryman Auditorium. The ultimate highlight comes when Jeff Wilson
displays a “Ryman Guitar,” which was built out of some of the auditorium’s original pews. Now that’s something I can pray to!
Start building at diynetwork.com, click on “Crafts,” then
“Hobbies,” and “Musical Instruments”
Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery
Who needs long-winded books and boring DVDs to build a guitar,
when you can attend a school in a warm climate that dedicates its
entire curriculum to such a process? If a little getaway sounds good to
you, the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery has offered renowned classes in luthiery since its inception in 1975. In 35-plus years of operation,
over 1200 students have graduated from the Phoenix-based school,
and many have gone on to do amazing things in the field.
The idea for a guitar making school grew out of an apprenticeship
program that John Roberts (1921-1999) started in 1969, called the
Juan Roberto Guitar Works; this followed an stint flying airplanes
through the jungles of Nicaragua for a wood import company. In
1973, Bob Venn joined Roberts and brought electric guitar building
expertise to the luthiery school.
While there isn’t a lot of strict how-to information here, the site has
the potential to severely stoke the flames of your mid-life crisis.
There’s a rundown of the classes the school offers – everything
from building techniques to small business seminars – and stories
of how in-demand graduates are once they graduate. The galleries
showcase student and instructor work, with everything from traditional acoustics to sci-fi influenced guitars on display. All of this
happens for students over the course of five months, meaning that
a short sabbatical might be in your future.
The school continues to expand its offerings; a class dedicated
to amp building is now also offered, and guest speakers – from
Seymour Duncan to Gerry Kowalski of Taylor – stop by regularly.
Considering that the school is accredited by the Accrediting
Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
(ACCSCT) – meaning that you are eligible for federal student aid –
I wonder why I spent the past four years at a traditional university.
Go back to school at roberto-venn.com