Guitar / Mandolin SetupTechnician Workshop

A four day workshop focusing on the core fundamentals of great setup work. A complete re-fret of an existing instrument covering removal, installation, compression fretting, pressed frets, hammering, bound and unbound fingerboards, nut work, bridge and saddle setup, truss rods. We’ll also cover one of the worst case scenarios: damage control and repair of prior substandard work on vintage instruments.

Making extensive use of  my “setup by the numbers” method using precise measuring systems, you’ll  have both  a tactile feel and quantitative methods that can be used to consistently replicate a great setup as used by the pros and featured in my Mandolin Magazine column, “The Luthier’s Toolbox”.

We’ll also build and fret a complete new fingerboard off the body using the same pressed fit method as used in most of the major manufacturing facilities and productions shops.

By the end of this workshop you should have the skills necessary to begin working in the setup department of your local repair shop or bring your new builds up to a professional level of workmanship. For the main re-fretting portion, we’ll be using a student provided instrument, so you’ll have a great frame of reference for the before and after. The new build fingerboard will be yours, ready to take home and install on a new neck.

4 days

Double Bass Setup Workshop

Full fingerboard  dress, relief, nut, saddle, fixed and adjustable bridge installation and setup, and soundpost installation will be covered in this workshop. As well, a complete overview of neck geometry and layout as it relates to feel, playability, and structure. An additional day can be added and we’ll take things one step further and cover removing the fingerboard, insert carbon fiber stiffening beams, and re-glue the fingerboard for the ultimate in stable and precise neck setup. Both options will also cover the use of hot hide glue repairs and gluing up any loose seams.

We’ll be using a student provided instrument for the majority of the work and will also have access to one of my fully carved new double basses with removable neck for demonstration and discussion.

4 days

Handrubbed Sunburst Finish and French Polishing Master Workshop

In this workshop we’ll cover all aspects of surface preparation, sealing, how to recreate a vintage handrubbed sunburst finish and French polishing a natural shellac finish over a completed instrument, as featured in my article and accompanying video for Fine Woodworking magazine, “Handrubbing a Sunburst Finish” . We can also cover recreating the vintage relic look.

1.5 days

Carving and Voicing and Archtop Mandolin

In this workshop, we’ll start with two book matched wedges of seasoned spruce, join, glue the plates with hot hide glue, dimension and carve to Loar  era specs, and complete the finished top by voicing either  tonebar or x-braces in preparation for final attaching to the ribs / sides.  On the final day of our session, you should be able to mount this top plate to our unique testing rig , fully string it up, and  do 95% of the actual final top voicing while playing the mandolin and then remove the finished plate and take it with you to be used on your working instrument. As far as we know, this is the only place in the nation where this is possible using a specialty designed proprietary testing rig. One additional day is suggested for this workshop in which you should be able to build a complete set of bent, lined, and blocked ribs in an outside mold that you’ll take home to attach the completed top.

4 days

Carving and Voicing an Archtop Guitar / Mandocello

This is the same basic format as the mandolin carving class listed above, but will be 5 days long with no ribs / mold option.

5 days

Ribs 101

A two day session where we will bend  a full set of ribs / sides for either a guitar or mandolin using both modern heat blanket systems and hand bending on a hot pipe. Additionally we’ll add neck and tailblocks,  linings, and bend wooden binding for the instrument.

Building A Carved Mandolin

This course will be broken into four separate workshops of five days in length, focusing on the A5 style mandolin:

1)   Top plate and ribs

2)   Binding, back plate, neck preparation

3)   Fingerboard and fretting, handcut dovetail joints, joining the neck to the body

4)    setup, finish, fittings

Kay Bass Restoration Masterclass:

Vintage Kay basses: they made close to 40,000 of these and about 90%  that I have ever played need work. A methodical approach will take one  from a beat up hard to play beast to a great playing hotrod with a ton of vintage mojo that is ready for another 50 years of touring. This will be the same approach that was  featured in the  Assosciation of Stringed Instrument Artisans 2015 Seminar, featured in a multiple issues series of American Lutherie Magazine, and for workshops at the Guild of American Luthiers 2011 summer convention.

In this ten day workshop where we’ll take a vintage bass provided by the student and go completely through it, covering everything you’ll need to get comfortable with all aspects of Kay or similar vintage ply bass restoration for getting going in your own shop or in cooperation with a working shop who need to get one of their techs fully up to speed with the major aspects of vintage bass work. You walk away with  a ton of new knowledge and a great working bass that shows off your handiwork to any shop or potential new customers.

Typically we’ll cover:

  • loose bassbars and / or replacement
  • soundpost patches and any internal grafts or strengthening needed
  • loose seams
  • all aspects of neck joints- resets, changing neck angles, rebuilding / replacing internal neck blocks, removable neck designs; broken necks and scroll issues
  • full fingerboard dressing /planing / replacement / carbon fiber reinforcing, and setup
  • carving new nuts and saddles
  • full bridge replacement and cutting /setup
  • hot hide glue and period correct adhesive and finish work
  • all fittings and tuning machines
  • lamination and ply issues
  • all aspects of soundpost carving, positioning, setup. and design

Other custom course  examples are:

–      2 day binding master class

–      guitar neck / body geometry sessions

–      jig and mould building


After almost 20  years of teaching lutherie in several different group formats- four years at Oregon State University, in small workshops, in larger master  class series seminars where I build  at an accelerated pace, and one-on-one, my general impression is that the best learning environment for you as a student is to focus on individualized attention. No distractions, no constant distractions from “that one guy” using up valuable time, just you and I focusing on your specific needs and project.

I generally try to make time for a dozen or so students per year who come to me for focused, specific information. About half have gone through  one of the large and expensive brand name schools where they may have built a nice instrument or two, but they don’t know how to think independently. They learned how to cut a piece of spruce on a highly specialized jig or to replicate a process using someone else’s production setup. When they get home and decide they want to build more instruments, they are at a loss.

By working directly in my  workshop, we get to focus on the area you are after, and you also get a look into a working luthier’s shop- see the new builds in progress, try out the hand tools, see some of the experiments that didn’t work but were valuable learning tools, see regular customer’s coming in and out who may bring in a beautiful custom instrument from another shop or a Loar era mandolin, a vintage Martin, or a 150 year old double bass,  all of whom are fantastic musicians and fun nice people.

All of these course offerings are available in a modular format where I come on sight and present them in your facility to a larger group, such as a regional university or area luthier’s club. You can also bring in another student here at a discounted rate to both of you, but realize that more people generally means more distractions and less focus. Please call to discuss these ideas further.

Today’s world offers  a wealth of information that was not available when I started building instruments 30+ years ago. An observant and detailed person has the ability to use everything that is available on the web, in print, and in other manners to build an instrument on their own. I regularly see a lot of these instruments and it has been my general experience that if you decide to do it on your own, you can usually expect about ten years and a dozen or more instruments before you start to get the hang of it. Some people have the natural ability to work well and can do it in less time; for others it is longer and more instruments. Most students that I’ve seen who seek out a mentor for help build a reasonable instrument on their first go. They sound well, play nice, and are presentable- something you are proud to show off and play out with, but is still a work in progress. Often by the third one, they can sell for somewhere in the $1500-2500 range, and they go up from there.

All current courses are based upon a rate of  $45 per hour, the same rate you would pay for a good guitar lesson.