LMI Help Center

LMI, Luthier Communities and the Upcoming GAL Convention – June 2014

Not so long ago, the world of guitarmaking was a solitary affair. Like many trades, instrument makers (perhaps most famously, violin makers) used to reveal their closely guarded trade secrets slowly and painstakingly within the confines of a traditionally regulated master and apprentice relationship. Those drawn to guitarmaking who could not find (or were not accepted by) an accomplished luthier to apprentice with, were forced to learn by trial and error.

It was not until the late 60’s that the techniques required to make an instrument began to seep into the guitar-loving public. Perhaps it started when Irving Sloan’s guitar building books came to the market. Around this time, we also saw small high-end shops like Gurian’s, Larrivee’s and Gallagher’s ‘taking on’ the Goliaths of Martin and Gibson, with some of their employees eventually stepping out on their own to establish their own innovative brands. Unlike the classical guitar and violin culture, the steel string world (buoyed by its alliance with folk music and it’s ethic of sharing) was unique in that it welcomed a free exchange of ideas. The information age was dawning, and for the first time competition took a back seat to artistry, innovation, and community.

Shortly thereafter, Lewis Luthier Supplies (which would later morph into The Luthier’s Mercantile and LMI), Stewart-MacDonald and a few others, would make hard-to-source materials and tools easily available to instrument makers worldwide. Charles Fox would start North America’s first guitar building school and Cumpiano and Natelson would begin work on ‘Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology’ –a popular work which would eclipse Sloan’s small volumes with a treasure trove of detailed lutherie techniques. The picture is completed with the advent (in 1972) of the Guild of American Luthiers (GAL) which gave format to this exchange of ideas with its American Lutherie periodical, national conventions and the publication of guitar blueprints.

GALTedOlsenFounderThe GAL continues on to this day with its 21st convention approaching in July of 2014. It’s a long weekend where the topic of instrument making never tires. Classes, workshops, and concerts are held (in Tacoma, WA) and attendees get a chance to see and select from a wide range of tonewoods and special tools from LMI and many other vendors. We welcome this rare opportunity to meet and talk with our customers face to face. We learn a lot about what they want and need and it’s a delight to see their excitement in finding materials that they will transform into marvelous instruments.  Visit www.luth.org if you are interested in coming to the convention or becoming a member of the Guild.

The GAL’s convention format is echoed in other events such as the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA) Symposium (where LMI regularly exhibits), Bryan Galloup’s Northwood’s Seminars and to some degree, the Healdsburg Guitar Festival. A growing number of regional guitar makers clubs and groups throughout the world have sprung up as well. Many of these groups are listed on the LMI website on our ‘Luthier 101’ beginner’s page.  Add to this the many online lutherie forums (also listed on our site) where professionals and beginners alike offer each other support and advice.

The secrets which help create truly remarkable guitars may still be passed along in private, behind closed doors between the masters who have worked tirelessly to reveal them and those few individuals they deem worthy to receive them. And surely, there is no substitute for the experiences one painstakingly gains from the construction of many, many guitars. But for those who are eager to jump in and get started, there has never been a greater wellspring of resources available. And for the dedicated professionals whose fine instruments are an inspiration to craftsman and musicians alike, the picture of the isolated woodworker, toiling away in guarded solitude, is happily, a thing of the past.