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A luthier is a maker of stringed instruments. As...
A luthier is a maker of stringed instruments. As you can see, most of our drawings are for luthiers. While I have you here, let me give you a few quick tips for using the plans.
- Make photocopies of your drawings, and paste them lightly on your wood. Then cutting them out is as simple as cutting on the lines.
- Always complete the rest of the instrument before making the fret board. Sometimes, your scale length doesn't come out right. When this happens, you can easily run a custom fret scale (see our simple scaler software under "tools") and you can still salvage the instrument.
- Use cheap wood when you are practicing. My first instrument used a two by four and a piece of shelf. It takes some practice before it is worth spending money on wood.
Hawaiian by design, these tiny instruments are a lot of fun to build and equally fun to play. They can go anywhere with you, and if you use the “Low G” tuning, can be played with your familiar guitar chords. They are small enough that you can frequently build them with scraps of materials left over from other projects. They are a great place for a beginner to start, and still a fun project for an experienced luthier.
I admit it - I am a big time mandolin fan. There is something about the small size of the instrument that makes it fun to build and play. I can also use scraps left over from larger projects to hold down the cost. Unlike the Ukulele, I feel like I have a “real” instrument in my hands when I am done (sorry to you uke fans - I don’t mean to slam your choice).
I began my Luthierie with the violin. I couldn’t decide whether to build a violin or guitar, so I went to the library and checked out books on both of them. Because of the smaller size of the violin, I chose to build it. My only problem was that the plans had been taken out of the library book. And so I guess it is fair to say that my career as a plans draftsman predated my career as a luthier. I have long since gotten rid of that plan for the first violin - you wouldn't want it!
I am still very interested in violins, and really wish that I could play them better. This site currently offers 3 different plans, from traditional to quite different.
The so called “Mountain Dulcimer” evolved in the Appalachian Mountains. It is typically played by sitting it flat on a table or on the lap. The fret scales on a mountain dulcimer are diatonic scales, as opposed to the chromatic scales on other fretted instrument. This is like having only the white keys on a piano keyboard, and not the black keys also.
I have three dulcimer plans currently available. They are the traditional hourglass and teardrop dulcimers, as well as the more modern “stick” dulcimer, popularized by the so called "strum stick." These are some of the easiest instruments to play.
I wanted a category for "Banjos," but calling these banjos is less than honest. Some day, I’d like to have some real banjo plans here, as well as historic variations such as Banjo Ukes and Bandolins. Right now, all I have are these folk instrument can plans. These are the easiest “instruments” we have. The 4 string looks great, but sounds like crap. The 1 string looks like crap, but makes a zingy sound. These are by far the easiest plans I have, and they require the least in the way of materials to build.
We have just begun to work on this section. Any plans from theis section will be large format, Thus far, we are only interested in acoustic plans. THis is not to say that you can't add electronics if you want too...
Carved top instruments begin with much thicker pieces of wood, and they are carved into beautiful and graceful shapes. These shapes are then hollowed out to thickness, and are mounted on the body. Done well, these are both beautiful to look at and to play. However, these are significantly more difficult than the flat topeed instruments.
Simpler to build, and lower cost, these plans start with thin boards. Generally, these make better starter instruments.
You can't get the job done without tools!