Review of Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar

This is a reprint of a full review of Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar. Written by guitar luthier, author, and educator Frederick "Federico" Sheppard, it originally appeared in American Lutherie #145, Spring 2022.

Last updated: June 03, 2022

Book Review: Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar

[Originally published in American Lutherie #145 , Spring 2022]

by Federico Sheppard

Copyright © 2022 by Federico Sheppard and American Lutherie

This new book is another fine work from the hands of frequent American Lutherie contributor, R.M. Mottola. (A companion volume, Mottola’s Cyclopedic Dictionary of Lutherie Terms was reviewed in American Lutherie #140.) The basic goal of the book is to teach someone with little woodworking experience how to construct two models of steel string guitars with a minimal set of tools. The author breaks the process down into easily manageable tasks with extremely detailed instructions, using his talents as an engineer and technical writer to shine light into the daunting process of going from dimensioned lumber to a living, breathing instrument. I found my mind drifting back forty-five years to when I was a novice, and the instructions remind me how far I have come since my first instruments. Had I a copy of this book those many years ago, my career would have advanced much more quickly.

Mottola incorporates some very clever things into the construction process, and uses five different attention icons to give warnings about certain challenges throughout the text. It is as if an experienced luthier comes along to look over your shoulder at just the right moment to help you master the craft. The book uses an online annex with QR codes for certain things like lists of suppliers, so that the book will have regular updates accessible to keep the material fresh. And to top it off, he even includes notes about constructing left-handed instruments, and includes both standard English and metric measurements. The plans that go with the book are downloadable files, as is the Errata sheet that details changes made to the text.

I believe that this book is the best of both worlds, both print and digital. And because of the exquisite detail of the instructions and the modern format, it is the new standard to which all guitar making books will inevitably be compared. A job well done, Mr. Mottola!


• Latest American Lutherie article: "Book Review: The Caldersmith Papers", American Lutherie #148 Table of Contents

• Latest research article: "Quantifying Player-Induced Intonation Errors of the Steel String Acoustic Guitar"


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