It’s a new year. Many of you probably have some great resolutions to improve your life in some manner by changing certain habits and/or rewarding yourself with new opportunities. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of buying yourself a “nice guitar,” then let me give you an idea you most likely have never entertained. Come build your own guitar with me. I've searched my entire life for the elusive guitar that pleased my eyes as much as it felt amazing to my hands and fingers. Sadly, I've always found the same thing which is a multitude of manufactured guitars out there, dime-a-dozen, boring, and cost too much. Do you wanna spend a ton of money on some well-known brand name and have a guitar that thousands of others have? No, you want something unique, built for your specific hand size! I’m talking about the very special guitar which you will never get rid of. You just can’t find anything more special than the guitar you’ll build with me using your own hands. The instrument I will guide you in building can be a classical guitar of many styles. There are many legendary classical guitar plans we can work from. When you enroll, I will give you the options. You can also choose to build your guitar using any of the designs you like of mine here at Hart's Guitars.
Skills you will acquire building your guitar:
- Precision cutting, truing, and squaring of hardwood pieces.
- Use of hand planes, Japanese pull saws, chisels. and other unique hand tools.
- How to prep and use the indisputable go-to glue for any serious luthier: Hot-hide glue.
- Use of precision measuring tools.
- Use of files and rasps to shape wood.
- How to use a French curve template to make unique designs in woodworking.
- Use of metric system units when they’re more appropriate in lutherie tasks.
- Proper use of clamps to join trued surfaces.
- Use of bandsaws, drill presses, routers, and other power tools.
- Proper sanding techniques for the various stages of the woodworking process.
- How to select wood that will serve to make a structurally sound and beautiful instrument.
- General physics of how acoustic guitars make sound and the techniques luthiers use to maximize the wood’s potential.
- Precision setup of the guitar that will make it a joy to play and maintain forever. This includes shaping the guitars nut and saddle to provide the lowest string action possible for your individual playing style. Speaking of…..a guitar’s action is a very subjective area. It describes (in simple terms) how “easy” the guitar is to play to make the sound you desire from your instrument. If a nice expensive guitar from the store is not easy as pie to play, then what is it worth to you? I’ll tell you. N-o-t-h-i-n-g. Save your time from going on a fool’s errand. We will make your perfect guitar for the hands you have. Yes, in seven work days I can teach you how to build a classical guitar or “crossover” guitar (nylon string guitars that don’t adhere to strict aesthetic orthodoxy of the classical world, which is my specialty).
The guitar building intensive does not include:
- The course does not include the final finishing your guitar (such as stain, shellac, French Polish). There just simply is not enough time to complete this step. It involves too many variables requiring too much waiting, etc. You will go home with a beautiful guitar with a nice oil rub finish that will be elegant. You may choose to French Polish it, varnish, stain, etc. later at home, at your own pace and leisure.
- The course does not include a guitar case. Everyone will be building different sized instruments and each person has their own taste in case aesthetics. I will absolutely send you home with your guitar safely and securely packaged for the journey.
- This is not a business class. I’m happy to share my experiences and setups, my skills and my methods. But this class is NOT about how to run a “successful” business.
- This is not a “kit” build. We will cut everything ourselves.
- The course does not include lodging. However, there is an optional add-on of staying at my house with me for an additional $200. This is a whole other level of commitment on my part (extra work) BUT I’ll be happy to provide this service which includes: comfy bed, towels, washcloths, linens, unlimited wi-fi, coffee-and-toast breakfast each morning, endless coffee and tea all day, and complete access to a decent library of lutherie books, magazines, and videos. As an additional bonus: I’m also an avid plant medicine enthusiast with a whole apothecary of herbal material ready to make teas that you need at any given moment. I love to share my knowledge on this topic and to help people feel happy and balanced. If this bit of extra expense is too much of a burden financially and would keep you from coming to build your guitar, I am open to discussing some sort of barter exchange.
Lutherie-specific skills you will learn during your 7-day guitar building intensive at Hart’s Guitars School of Lutherie:
Making the Neck Pt 1
- Cut pieces to make neck and heel block
- Cutting and attaching the headstock
- True angled edges of headstock and neck top
- Glue headstock to neck billet
- Cut and glue heel-block
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- Sand and true headstock and heel block in relation to the neck
- Choose and cut headstock veneer(s)
- Mark and Drill holes into headstock for tuners
- Glue headstock veneer(s)
- Draw outline and shape of the headstock
- Rough cut tuning pin channels
- Mark heel block outlines
- Cut side slots into the heel block
- Cut heel-block to its final dimension
- Rough shape-in of 85% of heel block
- Plane sides of neck true (from nut to heel block)
Top & back Plates
- Sand top and back to within 1/16” of final thickness (Soundboard final thickness: +/- .095” BACK final thickness: +/-.090″)
- Draw shape of guitar and cut soundboard and back leaving 3/16” around perimeter
- Drill sound hole center
- Route traditional Spanish rosette channel
- Cut out sound hole when rosette channel is completely finished
- Install and glue rosette
- Sand rosette down to flush with soundboard.
- Cut braces for soundboard.
- Sand braces in 30’ arch sanding dish
- Mark and Glue braces in place
- Carve/Shape/Scallop bracing
- Cut and shape tailblock:
- Glue tailblock to soundboard
Sides: prep and install, Pt.1
- Cut width of sides to desired thickness for guitar. (Height of the heel block)
- Thickness sides to +/- .065”
- Sand insides to final smoothness.
Top and back Bracing
- Make cut list and mill pieces to use as braces for guitar’s top (soundboard)
- Mark the guitars bracing pattern onto the underside of the soundboard.
- Glue braces into place
- Carve/Shape/scallop braces
- REPEAT ENTIRE PROCESS FOR THE BACK’S BRACING
- Route top of headblock to fit guitar’s top
- Glue soundboard to the headblock of the neck.
- Measure down from nut and mark the precise scale & location of the guitar’s saddle
- Glue the guitar’s bridge into its place based on the saddle slot placement & compensation marks.
- Cut and shape tailblock with a height equal to the width of guitars sides (at the back after taper)
- Glue tailblock into its place
- Bend and shape sides to fit the outline of the guitar and place squarely into position
- Glue kerfing into place to hold both sides of guitar to final shape
- Once dry, sand the bottom of guitar in the 30’ sanding disc to its final domed shape
- Glue on the back of the guitar.
- Once dry, do a complete flush trimming of guitar’s top and back, then sand all around the perimeter to remove all glue.
- With guitar sides trimmed flush and everything sanded, Measure width & height of binding to be installed.
- Sketch a plan/rendition of what the routed channel(s) will be in relation to where top and sides meet. Repeat same process for guitar’s back.
- Route the guitar’s binding channels for top and back.
- Clean the channels (remove any debris, fibers, etc)
- Do any necessary bending of the binding so that it conforms and nests easily into routed channels of the guitar’s shape.
- Glue guitar’s top binding into place
- When glue has had time to set, use sharp blades and chisels to remove excess glue.
- Repeat top for the back of the guitar.
- Clean up all glue from surfaces before it has time to dry hard.
- Sand run of neck’s surface true across plane where it meets soundboard.
- Plane and True bottom of fingerboard if necessary.
- Recheck centerline and mark placement of neck.
- Install fret markers (if desired)
- Install frets into slots, clip, and sand flush for slots that will be above soundboard (usually 12th fret and beyond). This will allow frets to be seated properly without the need to hammer surface of fingerboard supported only by soundboard.
- Glue neck into place.
- Remove excess glue.
- Install frets and clip as flush as possible
- File frets flush to fingerboard.
Prep for setup.
- Shape headstock if not already done.
- Do final sanding where necessary.
- Perform meticulous inspection of everything.
- Install tuning machines.
Setup. Pt 1
- Place nut into the nut slot.
- Use straight edge to mark rough shape-in of nut.
- Mark center of nut.
- Mark string placements across the nut
- File in initial slots at string placement marks
- Using straight edge, mark and file/sand height of bridge
- Rough-in height and shape of guitar’s saddle.
- Check with straight-edge from fretboard to saddle’s top the string height and make adjustments as necessary.
Setup. Pt 2
- String up the guitar
- Adjust height of saddle to meet proper string action @ 12th fret.
- Make adjustments by checking, shaping saddle, and rechecking height of individual strings at 12th fret.
- When action of guitar at 12th fret is set, file nut slots to exact depth for proper string action at the Nut.
- Play the guitar. Does it feel amazing? If you answer NO or “not sure” make another micro adjustment. Repeat until answer is YES.
- Consider type of action desired (picking versus finger style, playing style, etc) while making the final micro-adjustments.
Additional details of Guitar Building Intensive
This is not an exhaustive list of all the details, but rather gives a feeling of what your time with me will be like.
Cost of the workshop including instruction plus materials is $2350*
*If you would like to choose from the materials I have available at my shop. Here are the options (TOP: sitka spruce, mahogany, Spanish cedar SIDES: mahagony, Spanish cedar, padauk, canary wood, curly maple, or maple. BACK: mahagony, Padauk, or Spanish cedar. NECK: mahagony or Spanish cedar. Fingerboard: Ebony Macassar, Bolivian Rosewood, Canary Wood, Cocobolo Rosewood, or Padauk. Tuners: Golden Age Classical, Strings: of your choice, Rosette: traditional Spanish-style of your choice, and Binding to compliment your wood choices).
*If you prefer to pick and procure your own tone woods and other materials of your own choice, the materials cost could be more.
A deposit of $750 will reserve your spot in the class, balance due on day 1 of the workshop).
Your new instrument will be completed in 7 consecutive full workdays.
Bring a decent journal to take important notes, like a moleskin with dots on the page that helps with sketching illustrations.
What you will have at the end of this workshoP
- A beautiful guitar you made with your own hands using quality tone woods of your choice, a traditional Spanish-style rosette, with simple complimentary purfling/binding, quality tuning machines, and your favorite strings. The instrument will have a professional grade setup and sanded down to a very nice completion up to 320 grit. I choose to finish my instruments with a Mahoney’s Oil Wax rub. I prefer the non-toxic nature of this. So….If you choose to a more complicated finish, it will have to be on your own time after you return home with your instrument. There just is not enough time in the workshop for these sorts of finishes (staining, French Polish, etc) as they require repetitive steps with lots of time waiting in between those steps.
My guarantee: If for any reason you are not satisfied, I’ll give you your money back and I’ll keep the guitar. To qualify for my full guarantee, you must follow this simple set of expectations:*
- finish the course
- do the work as described
- have all major work tasks signed off, approved by me, the instructor, as an ongoing record that directions were followed throughout the entire process.
- take your guitar home and play it for 14 days.
*This is not a trick nor is it a way for me to squirm out of my guarantee. Here’s why we must agree on this: I’ve learned a painful lesson by not making this clear beforehand. I had to keep my word and give a full refund to a client who: a) did not complete the course and b) who did not follow my building instructions. I honored my policy and did not try to negotiate anything less than a full refund. Going forward from that unfortunate experience, this must be agreed upon before the class begins. I would never name that individual because I respect their wishes and privacy. In fact, we left things on good terms.
If you’re flying or driving in from far away, you will need to find a place to stay (Air BnB, Hotel, or my favorite, Couchsurfing). If you prefer, you can stay at Hart’s guitars for an additional fee of $250 (this includes a comfy bed, coffee and toast breakfast, wi-fi, all-day endless coffee).
Locals to the Atlanta area (in driving distance) can negotiate a different schedule if unable to attend 7 consecutive days.
This course is an intensive. We will work long days (at least 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) so do NOT plan to go be a tourist around the Atlanta area. Plan to arrive a few days early or stay a few days after we’re done if you want to explore the city.
*Please explore other guitar making courses to fully understand that $2350 is a very good deal. I am providing a list of such courses below.
How to reserve a spot
Pick a date that works for you and contact me: 404-971-1007 or email@example.com. If you e-mail me with a date request, send a text to the phone number to bring it to my attention for immediate response. I get so many robocalls that I don't answer phone calls. Texting me will get a better response time.