Review: Serviced Guitar Kits from LMI

Reprinted below are excerpts from John Calkin’s review for American Lutherie of our OM style kit B5KOM. American Lutherie is published by The Guild of American Luthiers (

“There are all kinds of instrument kits, but they all seem to fall into two broad categories. Some are designed to make construction as easy as possible and may forego difficult joinery and traditional materials. The other category consists of parts, materials, and construction methods that make high demands on the builder’s skill in return for an instrument that fulfills all the traditional expectations for that instrument. . . . . Luthiers Mercantile International only sells kits in this class.”

“Surprisingly, the braces are furnished as billets of spruce and mahogany. The formation of the braces is left completely to the builder. This gives the kit maker the greatest amount of latitude in brace size and configuration, as plenty of stock is supplied, but I thought it might stymie the beginner. And though the kit comes with a nice blueprint of an OM “in the Martin style’’, no other instructions are included. I queried Chris Herrod [the LMI sales manager] about this. He replied that LMI carried a full line of lutherie books and was always willing to help customers choose the best instructional material [for the specific kit]. Chris also said that the kit was designed for the builder who wanted the deepest possible guitar making experience that didn’t involve starting completely from scratch, and that at the rate the kits were selling they seemed to have touched on the right prescription.”

“Building the LMI kit was a rewarding experience. The quality of the materials was very high. So little of the meaningful work is done by LMI that the outcome rests solely in the hands of the builder. The lack of instructions bothers me, but in reality any conscientious builder deserves to invest in a library of materials to draw upon for advice. Study should begin before the kit is even acquired.

“The deluxe serviced OM kit currently lists for $465, $107 more than the deluxe standard kit. The difference is well worth it, especially for the inexperienced builder who has limited machinery at his facility. Granted, it’s still a lot of money, but I sold the magnum for $2000, a sum that only represented a nice wholesale cost for such a fine guitar. A talented builder could finance a nice basic shop in just a few kits, then switch over to scratch building. Of course, this assumes a ready market for his guitars.
“If the magnum [the guitar built from the LMI kit] was my only guitar I would be quite content, and it is probably the finest acoustic guitar to come out of my shop.”