The 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.
They 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."
Guitar 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."
For 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.
Most 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.