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Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology (Guitar Reference) Paperback – August 1, 1994
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About the Author
Jonathan D. Natelson builds and repairs classical guitars and is a national supplier of tone woods for constructing stringed instruments. He lives in Philadephia.
William R. Cumpiano is a master guitarmaker and teacher of instrument building and repair in Amherst, Massachusetts, serving professional musicians across the country.
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Nowhere have I found information on building guitars as complete as in this fine publication.
Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology is very well written and what was true then still holds true to this day!
Other books (and I have them all) come nowhere near the level of instruction that you will find in this book.
Some will show you how to do a particular task but the Cumpiano and Natelson book tells you why!
Please know that one can spend a small fortune on unnecessary tools and books setting up a shop.
Most tools for acoustic guitar building have remained the same in all these years so endless updates is unnecessary.
William Cumpiano has updates at his website for those who are interested.
When one of my students ask me what should be the first book to buy? I tell them they
can't do any better in the fundemental knowledge gained from Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology
Rather than using elaborate (and expensive) body molds for shaping the sides of the guitar, this book advocates "free" building, using a guitar-shaped work table for construction rather than a form that constricts the sides into shape. If you watch the YouTube videos of Steve Dickie building a guitar, you will see this method of building.
I'm impressed with the level of detail provided while still covering the very basic knowledge that a new builder may need. Both steel string and nylon string building techniques are covered, and they are clearly notated as to which is which. If I could only own one book on building an acoustic guitar, this would easily be the one.
Not necessarily for the newcomer to a wood shop, but definitely recommended for anyone serious about building an acoustic guitar. In a field where every detail affects the eventual outcome, this book will keep you on the path to your artful best.
One could go into the shop with this book in hand and a perseverant attitude, follow it explicitly, and exit the shop with a very nice guitar. It is detailed, step-by-step, with lots of photographs and illustrations. I would characterize it as having a prescriptive do A - then B - then C approach.
By way of contrast, Siminoff [The Luthier's Handbook...], and Forbes [Acoustic Guitar Making...] as well, are NOT prescriptive, do-it-this-way now-you-have-a-guitar books on how to build a specific guitar. If you want to build a guitar, THIS is a great book. To build a GREAT guitar, you may need the latter two books, and others, as well, as a great deal more detail of "why" a specific approach might be appropriate can be very useful.
Please note that this is not intended as a criticism of Natelson's book, which is excellent for the audience described.
Again, many, many people swear by this book. I'm just saying it may not be for everyone.