Guitar Maker  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotThe guitar maker is the craftsperson who puts the right tool in the hands of a musician. Many of the sounds and tones created by different guitars relate directly to the skill and care of the guitar maker.

That means a guitar maker needs to be a skilled woodworker and craftsperson.

dotThey use machine and hand tools to cut and shape wood and fit wood and steel parts together. They also need to balance the beauty of the guitar they're creating with the science of acoustics and quality.

"There's up to 200 pounds of pressure trying to rip this thing apart," says Linda Manzer, an internationally recognized guitar maker.

"You're making something that will withstand that, yet is as light as possible, so it's sensitive.

"I use the highest quality spruce, cedar, maple, rosewood, ebony and mahogany, which are individually matched to each other to provide a harmonious, solid and visually pleasing construction."

dotGuitar makers like Manzer work alone or with the help of an assistant in a small shop. Others work in a small manufacturing business with a few employers -- most jobs are with the large guitar manufacturers making production guitars.

"It depends on what your life goals are," says Abe Wechter, a guitar maker based in Paw Paw, Michigan. "Some people want to be craftsmen and custom builders, others want to be manufacturers."

dotFor some musicians, only a handmade guitar has the quality and tone they want. For example, nearly all performing classical guitarists use handmade instruments, not production models.

Many guitar makers do other things than just build. "Many have to do repairs, consulting, and give classes just to survive," says Nicholas Von Robison of the Guild of American Luthiers (GAL). A luthier is a builder of any wooden stringed instrument -- except the piano.

dotMost master guitar makers turn out one or two instruments a month. Part-time builders, who constitute well over half of the population of luthiers, may complete only three or four a year.

At a Glance

Put the right instrument in musicians' hands

  • Use machine and hand tools to cut and shape wood
  • Many guitar makers do other things than just build
  • Music courses and a sound knowledge of woodworking are helpful