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Thread: Best guitar books for beginners

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Best guitar books for beginners

    I'm slowly putting together the tools I need and getting my plate cleared of honey-do projects and would like to start a guitar build from scratch in the next 1-2 years

    I've searched this forum a few times and have seen a few recommendations, but most of the frequently-recommended luthierie books are from decades ago. The Cumpiano book is supposed to be rereleased next year and I will probably get it, but in the mean time what modern books would y'all recommend for either solid body electrics (both 6-string and bass) or steel string acoustics from scratch?

  2. #2
    Wes--

    Let me recommend a different online forum that will give you a pretty wide (and deep) variety of opinions on this, and all related, topics: The Official Luthiers Forum. Just Google it and create a profile. They are really nice folks over there.

    For my own answer to your question, and just focusing on steel string acoustics, I still think the Cumpiano book is the best one for beginners who truly want to build from scratch. I would recommend using the online updates that Cumpiano has posted, particularly for the neck/body joint. The method shown in the book has gone the way of the Dodo. After you build one following the book, you can stretch out and start incorporating other building techniques, as you see fit.

    Another great way to start is buy building a kit from Stewart MacDonald, or one of the other reputable kit assemblers. They use very decent wood, at least as good as you would find in a Martin.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Thanks Don. I emailed Cumpiano and he told me pretty much the same thing.

    I've thought about going with a kit, but I just don't think I could appreciate the finished product as much. My vision is to build guitars only from woods I can get locally, like walnut, cherry, ash and maple. I enjoy the 'log to lumber' process maybe even more than making stuff with it.

  4. #4
    Wes--

    I hear you regarding the kit. I built my first from scratch. Just wanted to toss it out as a possibility.

    A few things about woods:

    For necks, be careful about using nonstandard woods. You need the neck to stay straight, and no wood does that as well as mahogany. Others can and do work, but mahogany is best. Maple is OK, but it's heavy, and for an acoustic, that can be a problem.

    For backs, sides and tops (again, just focusing on acoustic guitars), you want quartersawn wood with as vertical a grain as you can get. If you can make that happen with local woods, that's great. If not, then I would soften your "locally grown" goal and use what is good for the guitar.

    For fingerboards, there really aren't any domestic hardwoods that work as well as ebony and rosewood.

    Good luck, and have fun!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Parker View Post
    Wes--

    I hear you regarding the kit. I built my first from scratch. Just wanted to toss it out as a possibility.

    A few things about woods:

    For necks, be careful about using nonstandard woods. You need the neck to stay straight, and no wood does that as well as mahogany. Others can and do work, but mahogany is best. Maple is OK, but it's heavy, and for an acoustic, that can be a problem.

    For backs, sides and tops (again, just focusing on acoustic guitars), you want quartersawn wood with as vertical a grain as you can get. If you can make that happen with local woods, that's great. If not, then I would soften your "locally grown" goal and use what is good for the guitar.

    For fingerboards, there really aren't any domestic hardwoods that work as well as ebony and rosewood.

    Good luck, and have fun!
    I'm thinking mostly walnut for necks and body, and maybe work in some sycamore where I can. I may end up using mahogany or rosewood for the fretboard and bridge, but locust and mesquite come to mind as potential alternatives. They are heavy, but dense and stable. I'd like to try some non-typical woods just to see how it turns out...without reinventing the wheel, of course. I've seen pear wood used for the sides and that might help balance out the heavier woods.

    I have a sawmill and a respectable stable of lumber so I can be pretty selective when it comes time to pick out woods.

  6. #6
    Martin Koch: Building electric Guitars.. He also has one on acoustics - not sure if it is in english ( I have the german version)...... Melwyn Hiscock : Build your own electric guitars...
    Search Amazon....
    Last edited by Halgeir Wold; 10-21-2016 at 6:52 PM.

  7. #7
    I would also recommend looking at the following:

    Kathy Matsushita's webpage (google it)
    Niel Ostberg's luthier webpage (ditto)
    mimf.org
    Olf is also a good resource.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    You haven't mentioned what kind of guitar you want to build.

    If it is a classical guitar,I'd HEARTILY recommend "Classic Guitar Construction" by Irving Sloane. I liked his methods very much. The way he leaves an extension on the mold for the neck is a great help for the new builder in getting the neck straight and aligned.

    Amazon sells his book.

    I have the Cumpiano book,but I don't care for his methods. They are awkward and not as sure as Sloane's. Sloane's book is not very expensive. I has excellent photographs.

    Irving Sloane came to my 18th. C. shop in Williamsburg many years ago. He was seeking a place to do his book on guitar repair. But,we were making new instruments,not doing repairs. Besides,my job was to keep the shop open to the public in an 18th. C. setting. I couldn't have had the shop full of lights and camera equipment for months. I recommended that he go to Martin,where they do have a repair shop,and are constantly doing repairs. I'm not sure where he went as I never bought his book on repairs. However,I did enjoy his book on Classical Guitar Construction very much,and can fully recommend it. You could apply many of his techniques to steel string construction also.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Murfreesboro, TN.
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    Try these books......... the Billy Cory says kits but much applies to stick built and there are a lot of pictures and "how to's"

    http://kitguitarmanuals.com

    http://www.jsbguitars.com/classical-guitar-making-book/

  10. #10
    There are a number of books that provide decent descriptions of good guitar making methods. The reason I still feel that the Cumpiano book is the best one for a beginner who wants to build from scratch is because it provides a lot of detail about how to do specific tasks. A lot of the other books tend to give less detail. Now that I have built a few guitars, I use methods of building that are pretty different from what is outlined in the Cumpiano book, but learning how to make one the way Cumpiano outlines in his book was a great starting point. I'm not sure I would have understood everything as well if I had started out using the Kinkead book, for example. I see this as an onion with lots of layers. Learning one way of building, then digging deeper and figuring out what other ways people have done the important tasks involved in building, is to me the best way to go. But, you need to find your own path. Maybe just invest in several books first. Cumpiano, Kinkead, Sloane, Bogdanovich, Trevor Gore (that one is expensive and pretty advanced), and a few more, all have a lot of good stuff to say.

    Another way to go is to buy or rent video courses on guitar building. I can definitely recommend two: John Bogdanovich and Robbie O'Brien.

    Good luck with the learning!

  11. #11
    Put all the books aside and go to Robbie O'Brien website and purchase the Steel String Guitar how to video set. I wish he was around when I started. It would have saved a lot of wasted time and materials.

    The course is worth 3 times what he is asking for it. Everything you need to know is there and if you have any troubles his private forum will be able to answer any question you may have.
    Epilog Helix 45
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    I'm a PC...........


  12. #12
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    I bought the Koch book and read it from cover to cover. I joined the Guild of American Luthiers and soaked up their quarterly issues. Both are very informative, Koch focusing on hard body electrics and GAL focusing on acoustics. But I learned the most from members here and from videos online.

    To date I have made three hard body electrics, one hard body bass and several necks for electrics. Every build was from scratch. All of the complete builds are in this section. If you go through them you will see what I mean by all the help I got from members here. I couldn't have done it without them.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  13. #13
    Just to add some fish to the kettle:

    -There's Neil Ostberg's website on building a traditional Torres classical guitar http://myplace.frontier.com/~nostberg/
    - And Kathy Matsushita's website for steel string guitars and ukuleles: http://www.theamateurluthier.com/

    Both are great people and do a good job documenting everything.
    My only thing to add is that some of Neil's procedures would be much easier to do with power tools and jigs (like cutting the scarf joint on the neck).

  14. #14
    I'm just a beginner so take my advice for what it's worth, but I'm in the middle of building my first, and I have Kinkead, Cumpiano, and Sloane. I started with Kinkead because it comes with plans and he references the measurements from his plans in his book, so he will say "this piece has to be 4 11/16" or something like that, which seemed pretty important to me. You do have to be ok with building a guitar like his though. Kinkead seems to lack detail, especially around the neck body join and how to prepare the sides to get the proper neck angle. I really enjoy reading and looking through his book though. Cumpiano has better information in general, but I find it really boring to read. Sloane is probably the most fun to read, but the edition I have is really old and some of the methods seem outdated. But he teaches you how to make a little plane for guitar making near the beginning. How cool is that?

    I second the advice to look around at other forums, especially the tutorials and build blogs. Tons of pictures and info that aren't in books. Its a good way to get a bit confused about which methods/decisions are important though. People keep giving the advice that you should follow one method at first and not mix methods, but I don't think I will be able to follow it. For example, I want to do a dovetail neck joint, so none of my books have a really clear instruction for that. And radius dish building really makes sense to me, but none of my books feature it. So we'll see how it all goes.

    One final recommendation. My favorite guitar book of all time is "Clapton's Guitar" about how Wayne Henderson built a guitar for Clapton. No much useful information, but overflowing with inspiration and motivation. I think I've read it five times by now.

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