In 2002, David Painter had not built his first guitar. In 2005, he exhibited at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival. The photo journal presented here is a small, early part of his journey to becoming a new luthier. We thank him for his kind words, great humor, and the time he spent documenting this project. Unless otherwise noted, the text and photographs are his.  

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An Amateurs Guide to Building an LMI Guitar Kit
by David Painter

I am not a professional luthier, in fact, at the time I built this guitar, I wouldn’t even have described myself as an experienced woodworker. But I had an interest in guitars. When I first decided that I wanted to try building a guitar I spent time on the Internet researching luthiery.  I purchased books and videos and tried to learn as much as I could before actually getting my hands dirty.  I discovered a few things;

  1. There is an amazing amount of information available on the subject in the form of books, videos, and web sites,
  2. There is a whole community of people who share this obsession and they are some of the friendliest people on earth.  They are willing to share their experience and knowledge and groups such as Luthiersforum, 13th Fret, ASIA’s Forum, MIMF, and even RMMGA are wonderful places to find answers and new friends.
  3. There are Master Luthiers and there are aspiring Luthiers.  The primary differences between the two groups are experience and knowledge.  Everyone, no matter their current reputation, started out with great passion but little knowledge. Perhaps that is why there are so many great luthiers who are willing to share their knowledge, they remember what it was like to be starting out.

I was flattered to have been asked to document the building of a guitar and yet I was a bit mystified as well considering my lack of experience and the number of Master Luthiers available. The reason became obvious when it was explained to me.  Everyone knows that a Master Luthier can produce a spectacular instrument.  But to someone who is just thinking of dipping their toes into luthiery it is important to see that even an average hack like me can build a credible guitar without a gazillion dollars worth of special tools or years of experience.

So, with all that out of the way the following is a photo journal of a guitar I built from a kit of parts offered by Luthiers Mercantile, Inc.  It is not meant to be a detailed set of "how to" instructions, there are plenty of great resources available commercially written by far more qualified individuals to help you build your  first guitar.  I found Frank Finochio's set of instructional videos entitled Build along with Frank Finocchio and the book, Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology  by William Cumpiano & Jonathan Natelson to be particularly useful. [Editor's note: The O'Brien DVD's were not available at the time.]  It is difficult to say which was more useful, I found them both to be indispensable.  The techniques and methods you’ll see in this photo journal surely worked for me but they may or may not be the best, most efficient, or fastest way to build a guitar. They are based on the knowledge I’d gained to date, and I fully expect that they will change as I gain more experience, knowledge, and tools.

I hope you enjoy!

Dave Painter

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