Construction Techniques

On one hand lutherie is just like any other area of woodworking. But there are a number of techniques that are very specific to lutherie. A few of those are outlined here. This section does not offer complete instructions for building any one stringed instrument, but does offer detailed instructions for performing some typical lutherie tasks. For complete instructions for building a steel string acoustic guitar, see my book Building the Steel String Acoustic Guitar.

Last updated: December 18, 2021

For Bowed Instruments

Carving a Scroll and Pegbox

Violin family instruments use traditional pegboxes with scrolls. Here are step by step instructions for how to carve one. The example is of a scroll and pegbox for an Electric Upright Bass but the technique is the same for all instruments.

Installing Bass Bridge Adjuster Wheels

Step by step instructions for installing aluminum action adjuster wheels in the legs of a double bass.

For Plucked Instruments

The Tiled Rosette of the Flattop Guitar

Step by step instructions for making the tiled rosette, sans making the actual tiles.

Binding the Soundhole of the Flattop Guitar

Step by step instructions for installing wood binding in a round sound hole.

The Bridge Mask

Step by step instructions for making, installing, and removing a mask for the footprint of the bridge of a flattop guitar, to aid in installing the bridge.

Aligning the Bolt-on Butt Neck Joint

Step by step instructions for making special sanding boards for use in fitting the neck to the guitar body when a bolt-on butt neck joint is used. Instructions are also provided for how to use the sanding boards to fit the neck.

Guitar Fretboard Dot Marker Position Gauges

Downloadable and printable gauges that will precisely locate the centers of guitar and bass fretboard dot markers.

The “Mysteries” of Panormo

Some interesting construction features of the guitars of 19th century luthier Louis Panormo.

For All Instruments

Guitar Finishing Using Wiping Varnish

Finishing a musical instrument with thinned varnish wiped on with a rag is probably the simplest way to go. Wiping varnish is not just for beginners. In fact most of what are commonly called “oil” finishes are really wiping varnish finishes. Detailed instructions for selecting, applying, and caring for wiped varnish finishes are included. I had the honor of collaborating with master electric bass builder Jack Read on this one.


• Latest American Lutherie article: "Steel String Guitar Nut Slotting Using a Stick-On Template", American Lutherie #145 Table of Contents

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

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