Hands-On Acoustic Guitar Making
Hands-On Electric Guitar Making
Advanced Hands-On Guitar Making
Contemporary Guitar Making
Advanced Design Features
Setup, Maintenance & Basic Repair
Small Shop Production
All classes are taught by Charles Fox, see his bio on our ABOUT US page.
CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MAKING
Class format: lecture & demonstration seminar
CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MAKING is a window on guitar making's dynamic new reality. Today’s high quality guitar making is based on an accurate grasp of the acoustical behavior of the instrument and a working knowledge of the most effective means of the craft. Armed with these two things, a growing number of world class luthiers are able to systematically optimize important qualities of their guitars, and to build enough of them to both advance steadily in their craft and make a comfortable living. CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MAKING invites you to share the understanding and the techniques that make this possible.
CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MAKING is a comprehensive five-day survey of the craft as it is practiced today. This lecture/demonstration seminar's study topics range from nuts-and-bolts skills to fundamental theory and principles, with an emphasis always on their direct application to state-of-the-art guitar making. Every aspect of the guitar's function, design and construction - both steel string and classical - is demonstrated on actual work in progress and explained in detail. CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MAKING examines the guitar's acoustical, structural, and aesthetic design factors as well as materials, construction methods, voicing, tooling, shop design, marketing, and other topics critical to the practice of lutherie in today's world.
IS THIS FOR YOU?
For the beginning guitar maker, this unique seminar is the best possible introduction to the field - a strong foundation for working ultimately at an accomplished professional level. This course will take years off your learning curve by starting you off right at the top, ready to work with a clear awareness of the state of the art. Although it's not required, some familiarity with tools and materials is useful, as this program is not a general introduction to the art and craft of woodworking.
For the more experienced guitar maker, this seminar will dramatically broaden your frame of reference. It is an opportunity to review your own approach to the craft in a new creative light; a chance to further refine the quality and direction of your work and to resolve the guitar building problems that remain for you.
For the full-time luthier, this intensive re-examination of the craft will help you both to break out of the old habits that we all get stuck in and to take your work to its next level with renewed inspiration and increased productivity. The information and techniques from this seminar should allow you to measurably increase your output.
We'll concentrate throughout on the basic physics that inform the guitar's design. Every important principle is identified, explained, and underscored by demonstrating its direct application. The aim is for you to be guided in your work by a clear understanding of the phenomena that govern the behavior of the instrument.
The creation of a guitar begins with design work and pattern making. The logic and thoroughness of this process are rewarded throughout the building of the instrument. You'll learn simple procedures that will produce an integrated design and a complete set of working patterns in just a few hours.
TOOLING, JIGS AND FIXTURES
The best choice of tools for guitar making depends on your personal style, resources and available space. We'll examine an extremely versatile and compact setup that's perfect for the small guitar-making shop. Well-designed jigs and fixtures are a key to efficiency and to consistent high-quality work. We'll explore the few basic principles around which most jigs and fixtures can be designed and we'll examine many affordable time-saving guitar making devices.
SHOP SETUP AND PRODUCTION
Working efficiently is important to anyone who values his or her time. There's more than one way to set up an efficient workshop, but there's only one best way for you to do it without compromising either the quality of your work or your enjoyment of it. We'll discuss tooling up and organizing the one-person shop for smooth productivity, with an emphasis on economy and appropriate means.
Fundamentally, there are two basic ways to build guitars: free-form on an open work board, for prototyping and other custom work, and fixed-form, using solid molds and other specialized devices, for efficiently reproducing your standardized designs.
Familiarity with both ways is essential for creative, efficient lutherie. We'll examine a variety of approaches to every construction process, from traditional hand methods to up-to-date time-saving production techniques. You'll learn ways of guitar building designed to maximize the quality of your work while minimizing your time and effort. All of these methods are presented in the context of a logical, integrated approach to the craft.
HANDS-ON GUITAR MAKING
Class format: Each student creates his
Tuition: $3800 plus materials
The craft of guitar of making is a rich collection of methods, techniques and skills that can take
a lifetime to acquire and refine on one's own. Because few of us have a lifetime to put it all together, ASL offers this unique two-week opportunity to construct a fine quality guitar while learning the guitar making methods used by today's most creative and successful luthiers.
HANDS-ON GUITAR MAKING provides the perfect setting and means to do your best possible work and learning, whether you're a guitar-making novice or a seasoned luthier.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN
You'll learn a logical, integrated approach to the craft - a synthesis of today's most effective practices and techniques - some as old as forever and some as new as tomorrow. These methods are key to optimizing the quality, efficiency and creativity of your work. They're the logical place to start as a beginning luthier and they're essential for achieving today's extremely high standards of excellence.
You'll learn how to build a guitar of any size and shape without fixed molds and other specialized forms. Working from the raw materials, you'll create the parts, construct the sub-assemblies, assemble, shape, trim, sand, seal, set up and finally play your guitar, learning each phase of the process in turn, in real time at your workbench. The hands-on class experience is designed to prepare you for steady advancement in your continued self-learning.
WHAT YOU'LL BUILD
You'll build a traditional classical guitar based on Segovia’s famous Torres-inspired '37 and '43 Hauser instruments, the basis for so many of today's best hand made classical guitars. As an example of the classical instrument at its best, the basic Hauser platform provides a solid foundation for your future work on your own. Contemporary design features such as graphite neck reinforcement, slightly radiused fingerboard, rigid rim, and shallow spherical top and back plates are incorporated into today's modern interpretation.
You'll select from among several body styles, such as the 00, OM, Small Jumbo, Dreadnaught, etc, which cover the range of today's most popular models. While its bracing pattern will remain true to CF Martin's brilliant X-brace design, modern design elements such as narrow neck profile, compound radius fingerboards, rigid rims, and removable necks bring this traditional instrument into the present and optimized for today's
You'll make a state-of-the-art electric guitar based oneither the Fender or Gibson platform,depending on the focus of the class you select. Your instrument will include top-of-the-line hardware and electronic components, a full range tone control setup and layout of your preference, and a neck and body designed ahd shaped to be both seemlessly playable and a thing of beauty. This is not your brother-in-law's pretty-face, guitar-shaped, candy apple wet dream. This is a serious professional performance quality guitar, a legitimate, meaningful musical instrument built to deliver whatever you ask of it and blow the socks off anyone within listening distance.Everyone's ideal guitar is unique to his or her own personal taste and musical requirements. This 2-week intensive workshop is your opportunity to create your own guitar with the features and qualities that work best for you. More information
WHEN YOU GET HOME
Making a guitar here means nothing if you can't do it again on your own. Your work space at ASL is a model of compact efficiency which is designed, along with the time-saving jigs and fixtures that you'll use here, to be easily reproduced by you at home. You'll return home with a clear understanding of both what's needed to build your next guitar and how to do it.
ADVANCED HANDS-ON GUITAR MAKING
Duration: 3 weeks, Monday - Saturday
Class format: Four guitar makers will build ambitious performance-quality steel string instruments of their own design.
Advanced Hands-on Guitar Making invites you to take your game to the next level by deepening your understanding and mastery of the craft. This class is for folks with some guitar building experience, folks with a practical grasp of the craft. The 3-week format allows you time to focus in particular on the designing and voicing of guitars, while adding a few new design features to your repertoire and skill set.
Please email with any questions, or call to speak with us personally.
Tuition: $4500 plus materials
Advanced Hands-On Guitar Making builds upon ASL’s original 2-week hands-on modern guitar making class. The extended 3-week format offers additional scope for concentrating on three areas of fundamental interest throughout the building process – (1) designing guitars, (2) voicing guitars, and (3) learning optional construction features. Whether you’re creating a new guitar for yourself or prototyping a production model, this is a unique opportunity to focus full time, without interruption, on your personal project and goals. My job is to help you in every way to achieve those goals.
The ability to design an instrument from scratch and draw up accurate plans and patterns is essential for any real ownership of this craft. Knowing how to d esign a guitar allows you to become the true author of your own work, to express your own creative vision, and to advance in your work as an individual.
In this advanced class you’ll learn how to imagine and create an original instrument; define its purpose and intended qualities, determine its dimensions, proportions, materials and parts, resolve their many critical relationships, draw up plans, and create patterns to guide the project. You’ll follow a step-by-step sequence of decisions that leads to a performance quality musical instrument.
Voicing a guitar means optimizing its responsiveness, power, musical complexity, dynamic range, and other desirable sound qualities. People build guitars for many reasons and approach the work from many angles. But when one realizes that it’s really all about the music, voicing becomes clearly the most important and central part of the craft. It’s what differentiates a truly meaningful musical instrument from a perfectly crafted guitar-shaped object.
The timeless traditional method of voicing a guitar depends on intuitive skills that are developed over a lifetime of guitar making - tapping and stroking, flexing and weighing, listening all the while, and calculating each next stroke of the scraper, knife, chisel, or plane. In recent times, these personal skills have been bolstered by precision scales, dial gauges, and other tools, to determine solid data that adds objective insight and meaning to the highly subjective traditional means.
A more technical voicing methodology uses a signal generator and hand-held speaker to drive an instrument’s top or back plate in an effort to determine both its resonance frequencies and its behaviors at those frequencies. The vibrating plate’s otherwise invisible behavior is made visible through patterns created as a dusting of glitter or sawdust retreats from the vibrating plate’s most active areas and gathers in the plate’s inactive nodes. By adjusting the stiffness of a plate and its braces and observing its effect on the resulting Chladni patterns, ideally efficient plate behaviors can be approximated.
The most current approach to voicing guitars adds to the above tools uses a soft hammer to briefly excite an instrument’s total output spectrum with a light blow to the bridge, a microphone to feed the sound of that event into a laptop or mobile device, and spectrum analysis software to determine the guitar’s main resonances. Used artfully throughout the building process, it’s possible with these tools to place a guitar’s main resonance frequencies in a more or less ideal relationship that’s associated with fine sounding instruments.
Of course, there’s great value in all of these approaches. You’ll combine the principles of each in a methodical voicing technique that you can vary to suit your experience of what works best for you.
The modern American handcrafted guitar has evolved considerably beyond its conventional manufacturing origins. Today’s explosion of innovative design and construction features are the result of thousands of individuals building guitars independently, most of us knowledgeable in some other field and viewing the guitar freshly through the lens of our personal background and expertise.
Guitars built in this advanced guitar making class feature removable necks, rigid rims, double linings, C-shape neck blocks, compound radius finger boards, semi-hemispheric fret ends, and other high-end construction and design features already familiar to graduates of ASL’s 2-week hands-on class.
The advanced 3-week class will add to those features Venetian cutaways, side sound ports, unlimited material and trim choices, rotated finger boards, and elevated or adjustable necks, and other features that can be considered in our pre-class design conferences.
Did I mention that we have lots of fun along the way? Our work is serious but certainly not humorless. Each class is typically an interesting mix of bright and good hearted folks with diverse backgrounds, from all points of the compass - good company, lively dialog, intelligent conversation.
Reality Check – three sober notes
I very much enjoy introducing beginners to this craft but this advanced class is for folks with some guitar making experience and an ongoing involvement with the craft. Our tools and construction methods will be familiar to past ASL students but they will be new to others and perhaps beyond the reach of someone who built a guitar or two long ago and wishes now to begin again. Our 2-week hands-on program is perfect for that scenario and it’s been my privilege to host and mentor many such returnees long absent from the craft.
In spite of its emphasis on designing your own instrument, unlimited materials choices, optional features, etc, please understand this advanced class is not a ‘Build Your Dream Guitar’ jamboree with no constraints at all. The basic neck and body architecture, construction features, and the methods that we are set up for, are what they are. My commitment to you as a teacher is to be always encouraging and supportive, but I’m responsible for the class working for everyone, and for sharing my time and energy equally with each student. I dislike saying no as much as you might dislike hearing it, so please be prepared to go with the program if you register for this class. If you find yourself straining to personalize your instrument beyond the limits set out, this class may not be what you’re looking for.
Students in our 2-week hands-on class work full time to complete their guitars in the time available. This advanced class’s additional week of time is pretty well accounted for by the scheduled activities described above. As a result, things like inlay, arm rest bevels, and many other popular new design features are simply beyond the scope and focus of this intensive 3-week workshop.
ADVANCED DESIGN FEATURES
Duration: 5 days
Class format: demonstration
Advanced Design Features is a five-day lecture and demonstration seminar focused on the many new design features that are redefining the contemporary guitar.
What a great time it is to be a luthier. The acoustic guitar is in a unique period of rapid growth and transition. The luthiers involved are enjoying a deep engagement in their craft and the satisfaction of doing relevant, meaningful work. Sharing in the collective energy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not to be missed. I invite you to consider the value of bringing your own work up to speed in this area and setting it on a path to evolve naturally into the future rather than sit by and watch others have all the fun.
Until recently, the evolutionary pace of the acoustic guitar has been conservative, advancing more through the refinement than through innovation. Suddenly though, that's all changed. Yesterday's small band of luthiers experimenting with the guitar's further possibilities has mushroomed into today's large number of luthiers whose collective work has influenced the craft and the industry in major ways. This explosion of design creativity has already changed the guitar forever, and created a market that rewards innovation instead of resisting it.
The evidence of this is all around us - double tops, bevel arm rests, sound ports and adjustable necks .....Players have embraced these revolutionary newguitar designfeatures for the very real value, enhanced musicianship, that they derive from them. Compound, scalloped and double cutaways, elevated finger boards and 'trap door' access panels are offered as options and even standard features by more and more luthiers and manufacturers.
Information on these new developments is hard to find. Their attraction and value is clear to most luthiers and players who've experienced them, but the theory and how-to of these various design elements is not always obvious. Advanced Design Features provides an opportunity to study and understand each of the following:
- Removable necks
- Spiral fret boards
- Adjustable necks - hinged angle, vertical screw
- Rigid rims
- Double linings
- Solid laminated rims with foam/cedar core
- Access panels
- Scalloped cutaways
- Sound ports - adjustable, non-adjustable
- Arm rests - bevel insert, bent soundboard
- Cantilevered fingerboards
- Elevated fingerboards
- Compound cutaways
- Wedge shaped bodies
- Semi-hemispheric fret ends
- Headless necks
- Braceless tops
- Off-center sound holes
- Double tops - nomex core, lattice core
- Internal baffles
- Removable bridges
- Adjustable tone bars
- Double cutaways
- High tech bridge & saddle materials
- Fan frets, multi-scales
- Lateral compression
- Pinless bridges
- Alternate body architecture
- Ventilated, relieved braces
- Laminated rims
HANDS-ON SETUP, MAINTENANCE & BASIC REPAIRS
Duration: 7 days
Class format: This 7-day intensive hands-on workshop is designed for guitar owners, guitar techs, guitar dealers and budding luthiers. Previous lutherie or wood-working experience is useful but not required. Some past hands-on craft experience though is strongly recommended.
Tuition: $1900, includes practice instruments and other materials
SETUP, MAINTENANCE & BASIC REPAIRS is your introduction to the skills and techniques used by professional guitar techs and repair persons to keep guitars in good condition and playing at their best. You'll learn how to trouble-shoot instruments and do what's needed to optimize their performance (Setup), how to keep them in excellent over-all condition (Maintenance), and how to correct the most common problems that full-time repair persons deal with (Repair).
You'll learn to do professional quality fret work, to fine-tune string action and intonation, make nuts and saddles, clean and replace controls and pickups, fix dents and scratches, re-set loose bridges and braces, repair broken pegheads, and much more.
.IS THIS CLASS FOR YOU?
Most of what you now depend on others to do, to correct problems that develop and to keep your guitars looking and playing at their best, are really quite easy to do yourself once you know how. If you own one or more guitars that really matter to you, consider the satisfactionand the practical value of caring for them yourself. No one cares as much as you do for their ultimate well-being, and no one knows better than you when your instrument is playing at its ultimate best. Only you can fine-tune your setup in real time, as you play, until it's absolutely perfect for you.
Players write checks for what makes them a better player. So, learn to do a fret job that far exceeds commercial standards - one that actually extends a player's musical reach. Deliver that fret job with an excellent setup, at an affordable price, and you could be in business based on that alone. Add to that the routine maintenance sevices that every guitar needs, do them well, and players (guitar shops too) might very well be writing those checks to you. If you're already a guitar tech, why not become one of the best and write your own ticket? Doing work at a level that sets new standards should do the trick. We'll show you what that looks like and how to do it.
GUITAR SHOP OWNERS & EMPLOYEES
Every guitar store needs to setup and maintain both the instruments in the shop and those of its customers; but not every guitar store can support a full time in-house service person. One solution to this problem is for you, the proprietor, to learn the necessary skills and personally provide these important services. Anothersolution is to provide training for an employee who will do the work, or who is already doing so without the benefit of formal training.
It takes time for new luthiers to learn to produce guitars of the consistantly high quality required in today's very competitive market. While you're refining your guitar making skills you can become active in the field early on by providing your musical community with the setup, maintenance & basic repair services that all guitar players need. When you'reready to introduce your own hand-made instruments, your reputation, connections, and customer base will be invaluable - plus, the design of your instruments will reflect a deeper understanding of what guitar players really need and value.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN
Learn to create the most perfect playability and intonation on any guitar by adjusting neck, frets, strings, nut & saddle expertly.
Learn to level and buff lacquer and other finishes; clean and replace tuning machines, nuts, saddles, pickups, etc; do a partial or complete fret job, upgrade bridge pins, strap buttons, output jacks, etc; and everything else that needs doing.
Learn to fill and spot-finish dents and other surface injuries; re-glue loose braces, bridges and pickguards; remove andreplace cracked bridges and bridge plates; reset necks and repair broken pegheads.
While it most certainly goes without saying, let's just say it for the benefit of any dreamers: considerable committment and practice is required to master the skills and techniques you'll learn in Setup, Maintenance & Basic Repairs. This relatively brief, intensive workshop is designed to minimize your learning curve by setting you in the right direction on your path toward achieving professional quality work through your own continued self-learning.
SMALL SHOP PRODUCTION
Class format: Interactive lecture/demo
SMALL SHOP PRODUCTION is a five-day workshop focused on boosting both the accuracy and consistency of your work, and your output, while minimizing wasted effort and time. The goal is to achieve higher levels of quality and efficiency by incorporating specialized jigs, fixtures and other useful devices, dedicated work stations, and proven organizational patterns into your work routine. I'll demonstrate these things as they apply to every phase of guitar making and I'll explain how to adapt them to suit your own workspace, intentions and resources. We'll also visit some of Portland's finest luthiers and learn what they do to maximize the quality and efficiency of their own work.
RAISING THE BAR
Making guitars of any quality, at any pace, is challenging enough for most of us. At first, we're happy just to be doing this marvelous work and we find satisfaction in each new accomplishment. But add a commitment to higher quality and productivity and the limitations of our original skill set become apparent. We can't simply work better and faster at what we're already doing to produce the more mature work that we envision.
The growth of lutherie skills is episodic, advancing from one instrument to the next. As a result, progress along the path toward mastery depends largely on the number of guitars you can complete in the time that's available. If your procedures are limited to the methodology of whatever class, book or DVDs you followed to get started, they are almost certainly not focused on efficiency and productivity. Indeed, they're likely not the methods best matched to your personal strengths and as a result probably not the ideal skill set for realizing your full potential as a luthier.YOUR OWN BEST WAY
Somewhere between making guitars one at a time with hand tools, and using computerized machines to produce a steady stream of product, there's an approach to guitar making that's just right for you - an approach that maximizes both your output and the quality of your work while providing personal satisfaction and inspiring personal growth. There are many ways to set up a shop for increased production, but the best way for you to go about building guitars won't be exactly like anyone else's approach.
WORKING BETTER, FASTER
Every luthier enjoys saving precious time and energy, but being more prolific becomes absolutely critical for anyone who would earn a living building and selling instruments. Once you've minimized your costs and found the price for which you can sell all the guitars that you can make, you can increase your bottom line by producing more instruments in the time that's available. How to do this without either compromising the quality of your work or losing your enjoyment of it is a question that each luthier must consider carefully.
Tooling - We'll examine all of the hand tools, power tools and woodworking machinery that make up the luthier's tool kit, along with specialized easy-to-make guitar making jigs and fixtures that will increase both your output and the precision and consistency of your work. We'll discuss the few basic principles around which most jigs and fixtures can be designed, and we'll examine many examples of affordable time-saving guitar making devices and dedicated work stations.
Processes - There are so many different ways to do every guitar making task, but most luthiers are unaware of alternative processes from the manufacturing world and from other cultures. We'll review options at each stage of the guitar making process and identify choices that offer high productivity and are easily adaptable to our space and means.
Organization - Even the smallest workshop can be organized around the sequential stages of the craft. Where space is limited, one or two versatile generic work stations and a system of specialized work boards can turn a few square feet into a compact, highly productive work space. Tools, jigs, etc. can be organized to minimize their setup and teardown time. Materials and supplies can be stored to minimize the effort of inventory tracking and timely re-ordering.
Work Flow - Guitars can be built either one at a time, a few at a time overlapping, in small batches, large batches, or non-stop every-station-filled 'like piglets through a python'. We'll look at the pros and cons of each approach. Similarly, we'll study a number of ways to track and record each instrument's progress, from the order through shipping, and determine what approach might be most appropriate depending on the scale and style of your work schedule.
Occasionally weekend workshops may be added to the teaching schedule. These one and two-day workshops are focused on topics and methods important for the creation of professional, performance-quality guitars.