Home > Lutherie > Basically I’m nervous…..Is this TMI?

Basically I’m nervous…..Is this TMI?

I’m in a time of transition at Turtlecove and thus I haven’t been very productive over the last month. I haven’t posted in almost one month basically because there hasn’t been all that much to share. That said, I have been busy book learning which is a good thing in its own way. I notice it was February 2013 when I posted my first entry announcing my desire to become a woodworker. In many ways I still see myself as a beginner but realistically I have probably been socially promoted to intermediate worker simply based on “time in grade”. When I started my entire goal was to gather enough tools and experience to feel confident enough to build stringed instruments. Over 2 1/2 years later I still haven’t built any and I know that I never will unless I take those first mistake-filled, ignorant, unskilled steps. So I have decided to set sail on this new skill set in earnest which for no good reason I could have done so earlier. Basically I’m nervous….

Book Learn’d

Recently I’ve spent more time hitting the books than making sawdust. Here’s a synopsis of what I’ve read up on.

The Luthier’s Handbook: A Guide to Building Great Tone in Acoustic Stringed Instruments – Roger H. Siminoff (Author)


Despite its title, this would not be the first book an aspiring young luthier would want to tackle. Although I am new to the field, I plan on reading lots of books on the matter so I gladly read this one cover to cover. It won’t help you build an instrument but it will help you to understand how acoustic stringed instruments make sound and the factors that can and do influence that sound. Mr. Siminoff is as influential a luthier as Orville Gibson or C.F. Martin and this is a very worthwhile supplemental read. Think of this as a college physics class for instrument builders, only this time you won’t fall asleep. Learn about tension and how energy is transferred from string to soundboard to surrounding environment.

Recommended as a supplemental read for acoustic instrument builders.




Fret Work Step-By-Step –  Erick Coleman and Dan Erlewine (Author), Stewart-MacDonald (Editor, Illustrator)


Again this is probably not the first book an aspiring luthier should purchase but who can knock an informative body of knowledge by these two experts? The format of the book is to present case studies of fret jobs each covering different instruments and the unique challenges and complications these jobs presented. Extremely informative and I’m glad I have the resource which I’m sure I would need to read over and over again to understand what exactly is going on.  I do tend to agree with other reviewers that this book sounds like a Stewart-MacDonald advertisement for tools and equipment. I have purchased two other Dan Erlewine / Stewart-MacDonald published books and neither of those came off that way. In those references Dan would mention the tools that he used (or the he or others had made) and seemed to offer many solutions for the task whether it was Stew-Mac or another vendor. I won’t re-read this book for fun rather I’ll pull it out to study when faced with a particular job.

Recommended but only as a supplemental read when attempting fretwork. In hindsight, I didn’t need this reference yet at my level. Very technical and precise work using expensive tools and jigs.


Guitarist’s Guide to Maintenance & Repair –  Dave Rubin (Author), Doug Redler (Author)



“A Tech to the Stars Tells How to Maintain Your Axe Like a Pro”. Well I can’t blame the fellow for using his street credentials to market the book. Sort of like, hey you’ve never heard of me but I know what I’m talking about because I’ve toured with ……! There was a lot of useful information in this book including some what to carry with you and how to fix things in a pinch tips.  The stories are interesting but the photos are in black and white and could have been a bit more illustrative. Well worth the $11 I spent to purchase this reference, I learned that much and more. Other reviewers have called it “informative, easy to understand advice”. I would agree with that and this is a very reasonable reference for a guitar player. I wouldn’t recommend this book as a sole reference for the guitar tech or builder.

In hindsight, I would have skipped this purchase and bought The Guitar Repair Guide straight away but that’s me and what I’m looking for in a reference. It think this is a fine reference for gigging guitar players who want to keep playing on the road.



Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step – Dan Erlewine (Author), Don MacRostie (Author), Stewart-MacDonald (Editor)

I absolutely love this book and highly recommend it for any guitar builder at any level.  Notice I said builder, someone who needs to finish a guitar. Probably too much information for a player or someone who just needs to polish their axe. That is my opinion although a couple of review I just read disagreed a bit. One fellow was an absolute beginner and complained that it was a “treatise on virtually every type of wood finish used on guitars in the last century” and although AMAZINGLY complete it was a disappointment for a beginner. Hummmm, a complete treatise describes everything I want in a book. Beautiful color photographs of stain mixing formulas, recipes and techniques (sometimes multiple methods) that can be used to successfully reproduce virtually any commercial instrument finish in the last century. Sounds terrible, not! One reviewer noted that this book was last updated in the 90’s and there was no (or little) material on HVLP sprayers that are now inexpensive and common. My version was published in 2005 and although I don’t have it in front of me, I’m pretty sure this option was at least mentioned. Anyway I know about these sprayers and I actually appreciated the detail given to compressed air spraying as otherwise I’d have been left ignorant. I never got the impression that this was a Stew-Mac advertisement, Dan and Don did a great job with this reference. Did I mentioned I loved this book?

Highly recommended for any guitar builder.

The Guitar Player Repair Guide – 3rd Edition – Dan Erlewine (Author)

repair-guideIf you made it this far reading my post, then I will suppose you are interested in guitar building or maintenance/repair. Therefore I will suggest to you that is the first reference you should have purchased. Even if you are simply a guitar owner, this is the material that you will want to have at your disposal to keep it healthy and playing great. Want some interesting stories and celebrity name-dropping, it’s in this book as well but in the context of famous instruments, techniques and setup. Dan also includes sections written by fellow experts providing not just HIS experience but the best collected information on a subject that he can find. Interesting accurate, complete and very detailed. One of the reasons I have been so slow to start working in this hobby is because the there are so many specialized  tools and materials and every dang one of them is expensive. Dan doesn’t hold back telling you how to make a few of them on your own. Some reviewers disagreed with me. For a few there wasn’t a detailed enough explanation of a specific topic and for one novice reader, they found this repair guide was way too detailed to be of interest to them. I can absolutely see their points, I just don’t happen to agree. I personally like my references to have lot’s of tables (like the setup measurements for various instruments) as well as step by step instructions on their application. But if I already know what to do maybe all I need is a cheat-sheet with the numbers. You can’t satisfy every apatite. I have a few woodworking books that provided me essential information when I got started that I would now not need having already read it.

Highly recommended if you want to build or repair guitars, but especially electric guitars. Hell I think regular guitar players should have this reference on their shelves.

Thinking about it, I suppose I have been busier than I first thought. So as you see, I have been reading up and have purchased and made a few of the tools I’ll need to get started. Yesterday I received my order of aniline dyes so I can now get started coloring the PRS style kit guitar. I have also purchased parts for Les Paul Junior double-cut style that I’m tinkering with. The latter will be assembled from various parts so it will be a bit trickier than the kit. What can go wrong ….. right?

Turtlecovebrewer wants to know your favorite instrument related read.


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