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Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar

R.M. Mottola

Soft Bound, 503 pages, 8.5"x11"x1.14",
1089 photos and drawings
ISBN 978-1-7341256-1-0

$28.99 (from
See below for other retailers.

Do you want to build your own acoustic guitar? Here is the book that will show you how it is done.

The definitive reference on acoustic guitar construction, and the result of over twenty years of research to identify, catalog, and assess acoustic guitar construction techniques, Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar is the most comprehensive source of modern steel string guitar construction information available. Designed specifically to be accessible to the first-time guitar builder, information is presented as a series of small and well-defined construction operations. Historical information and background theory is provided where appropriate for each of these operations. Construction is presented using tools that most woodworkers already have, supplemented by a minimal set of special-purpose guitar-making tools. The construction techniques make heavy use of simple jigs and fixtures which help achieve precision results. Guitar construction operations that novice builders find to be difficult and confusing are broken down into easy-to-understand parts and are explained in step-by-step detail. Commonly made construction mistakes are pointed out, along with instructions for fixing them. Important details of construction that may not be obvious to first time guitar makers are carefully described.

This lavishly illustrated book has over 500 pages and contains more than 1000 photos and drawings. Features of the book include:

  • Small, discrete, well-defined construction operations
  • Includes links to download free plans and templates for two different guitars
  • Both USA (Imperial, English) and metric units of measurement are presented
  • Limited use of special purpose tools
  • Limited use of complicated jigs and fixtures
  • Extensive use of quick-construction, disposable jigs and fixtures
  • Construction is detailed for left-handed as well as right-handed instruments
  • Math free
  • Use of traditional woods as well as domestic species
  • Modern alternatives to traditional shell inlay decoration are presented
  • Glossary of lutherie terminology is included
  • Alternative construction techniques are offered for some parts, to make use of different woodworking tools and skills
  • Commonly made mistakes are pointed out, and instructions to fix them are provided
  • Attention to important details of construction that may not be obvious to beginners
  • Includes a comprehensive index
  • Explains unfamiliar construction operations in step-by-step detail, including:
    • Fret slotting
    • Neck carving
    • Side bending
    • Making the rosette
    • Binding and purfling
    • Neck fitting
    • Application of hand applied finishes

Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar was written by R.M. Mottola. The most prolific writer of articles on guitar construction, he is a long-time contributing editor for American Lutherie, the widely-read journal for stringed musical instrument makers. He also maintains the guitar making information website.


Endorsers of the book comprise a veritable Who's Who of modern international guitar builders. Here's a sample of what guitar makers throughout the world are saying about Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar:

"Painstakingly detailed in every aspect, this will become the new go-to book for the novice guitar builder."

- Graham McDonald (Australia- frequent American Lutherie author, and author of the books The Bouzouki Book, The Mandolin Project: A Workshop Guide to Building Mandolins, The Mandolin: A History, and The Ukulele: An Illustrated Workshop Manual)

"This book is impressive in it's amount of detail and accessibility to the dedicated novice. It is thoughtful in the details, especially the helpful tips that prevent small discouraging moments that can really derail an early builder. The photos and illustrations are relevant and demonstrative of the written process."

- Leila Sidi (Canada- guitar luthier, founder of TunaTone Instruments, She Shreds author)

"What a great book! I wish I had something like this to work with when I was starting out. It's great that it specifies so much detail. The diagrams, photos, text, and organization are excellent."

- Jim Buckland (USA- educator, guitar maker, frequent American Lutherie author)

"A thick and wonderful book with a high level of information."

- Tim Olsen (USA- founder, Guild of American Luthiers; editor, American Lutherie)

"This book is fantastic. Truly monumental in depth, breadth, and detail. This is the acoustic guitar construction book we've all been waiting for."

- Leonardo Lospennato (Germany- guitar maker, educator, author of the books Electric Guitar and Bass Design and Electric Guitar Making & Marketing)

"Congratulations on a monumental work. This is the most detailed guitar construction book I have seen to date. Having read it, I will build better instruments from here on."

- Sjaak Elmendorp (Netherlands- guitar maker, frequent American Lutherie author)

"Because of the exquisite details of the instructions and the modern format, it is the new standard to which all guitar making books will inevitably be compared."

- Frederick "Federico" Sheppard (Spain- educator, guitar maker, frequent American Lutherie author, coauthor of the book The Diary of Agustín Barrios Mangoré)

Read Federico Sheppard's full review, originally published in American Lutherie #145.

"R.M. Mottola's tome is the most realistic book for the beginning acoustic guitar maker on the market. It offers complete, succinct details of construction. Completing a fine guitar is within the reach of most intelligent, determined people. Here is how to do it."

- John Calkin (USA- guitar maker, frequent American Lutherie author)

Read John Calkin's full review, originally published in American Lutherie #145.

"This book breaks down the process of making an acoustic guitar into clear, manageable pieces that will work for beginners. New guitar makers with basic woodworking skills can use this as a foundation for moving on to their own, unique instruments."

- Mark French (USA- educator, guitar maker, design consultant, frequent American Lutherie author, and author of the books Engineering the Guitar, Technology of the Guitar, and Acoustic Guitar Design)

"I wish I had this book when I started building. R.M. Mottola has accumulated a wealth of information and put into practice everything that has passed through his hands during the many years he has been an American Lutherie contributing editor. This book puts all this knowledge and experience at the service of guitar builders. Its clear information, attention to detail, comprehensive explanation of each part of the process, and lavish use of photos and drawings make this book a tool that every guitar building workshop should have."

- Anamaría Paredes (Colombia- guitar maker, American Lutherie author)

"I just purchased your most comprehensive book on acoustic guitar making. I just wanted you to know that I think you have greatly contributed to the guitar making community. It is a wonderful book, especially for beginners, but also for those that have been at it for years. New ideas always have a place in my shop!"

- Sylvan Wells (USA- guitar maker, educator, Baystate Guitar Company)


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