Woodworkers Are Music Lovers

Woodworkers Are Music Lovers

In last issue’s editorial, Rob asked whether, like him, other woodworkers “like to mess around making musical instruments.” The short answer: yes. – Editor


“I make hurdy gurdys. In fact, making one for my partner in life (as we couldn’t afford to buy one) is how I got started in woodworking. I am enclosing a photo of that first hurdy that I made for her.” – Jim Bruce

“I’m a high school band director, and build banjos, dulcimers and mandolins on the side.” – Dave Fox

“Although I have little musical talent myself (I only play a mean tape recorder), I have built a few things for my very talented wife. I have made a studio harp, a hammered dulcimer, a Reverie harp and a couple of music stands (all kits from Musicmaker’s Kits). I have also designed and built a stand and bench to hold an electronic keyboard.” – Michael Hanes


“Cigar box guitars are a blast to build and play. I’ve made a few with cigar boxes and a few with walnut boxes of my own construction.” – Jim Brown

“Some of us old people (ME) have tinkered with building musical instruments. Have no idea how to play it when I got them done. So gave them to my son. He plays them pretty well. Has a wall in his music room lined with instruments, of which three came from me.” – Ed Ackley

“Many moons ago, I was a drummer. Some years went by before I got into woodworking, but not long after I did, I got a contract to make tuned wood blocks. That mushroomed into tympani mallets, gong beaters, triangle clips and more for a local company that had a line of percussion instruments. I even laminated veneer onto some drum shells. I gave it up because I felt like I was working in a factory. It actually took me a couple of years to get back in the shop, I was so burned out!” – Dave Lomas


“Back in the 80s, I was looking for a set of plans to build a grandfather clock and happened to find some in Woodworker’s Journal, oddly enough. So I saved the issue and went on about my way. (I ended up making my clock from a kit and didn’t use the plans.) When my son was turning 21, I was wondering what to do for his birthday present.  He had already taught himself to play the guitar and I figured if he could do that, why not the mountain dulcimer? So I dusted off the WWJ and went to work. The hardest part was resawing the stock to 1/8th inch, and that was mostly an exercise of patience. Suffice it to say that I got it together and gave it to my son. He still hasn’t taught himself to play it but he’s got plenty of time.” – E. J. Eiteljorge


“Years ago, your magazine had plans for a folk harp. It also included instructions on where to buy the strings, pegs, and the wrench to tune the harp once built. I order the parts and built the harp with cherry wood acquired locally. I submitted it to the county fair and won a first place in wood working.” – James E. Yarbrough, Jr.


“In response to your question about musical instruments from eZine 372, I have some photos to share of a guitar I built from a Rockler kit. It’s covered in old vintage currency and beer labels. Her name is “Beer Money.” I quite enjoyed it and plan to build several more.” – Kevin Vernon


“I’ve tried my hand at several musical instruments over the years, but the most interesting are the ‘ancient’ instruments of my own design. Nice thing about building a Davidic Lyre is no one can tell you it sounds wrong. Over the years, I’ve also built tone drums with padauk heads, crescent moon harps, lap harps and even a few Irish whistles. I’ve also built a number of music stands. I can provide more pictures and information if desired.” – Dave Sandlin

“I tried my hand at a musical instrument of sorts by building a Cajon drum. Mainly I did it to see if it I could do it and if it would sound like the ones on the Internet. Since completed, I donated it to my church and it is used regularly during the services.  It is great to see my handiwork serving a special purpose and of value to the worship band. I have had a number of requests for additional instruments but I have not built any more yet.” – Ron Weerstra

There was a general agreement that building acoustic guitars is challenging – but, for some, it’s worth it. – Editor

“I apprenticed to a master luthier for a year and learned to build acoustic guitars, or at least I began to learn. He asked me why I wanted to build guitars, and I told him it was so I would be a better woodworker. It’s a fact; if you can successfully build an acoustic guitar, your woodworking skills will vastly improve. You learn to measure correctly, have patience, develop fine motor skills, measure correctly, learn a sense of design and proportion, how to apply finishes, and did I say measure correctly? Oh yes, and patience. The problem is it’s addictive. I am ready to begin my second guitar.” – Charlie Brown

“I also like to play guitar as well as build furniture, and while I’m somewhat colorblind, I am certainly not tone-deaf. The possibility of making an acoustic guitar has crossed my mind several times, but it would be expensive, and the learning curve to get a good one would be even more so. So it probably isn’t going to happen.” – Moh Clark

“I consider myself an advanced woodworker. I’ve made furniture, picnic baskets, gun cases, etc. However, last spring I started building classic, solid-body, electric guitars, and it has been the most rewarding project direction that I have taken in years. I played in rock bands back in the late 60s, and now I’m building guitars that I couldn’t afford back then.” – Greg Summers


“From ’93 to 2006, I was an instructional aide at Cerritos College in Norwalk, California, in the woodworking course. Now retired, I have my own shop at the house here in Prescott, Arizona. Just last year, I thought it would be fun to make an acoustic guitar. I did some research on the Internet, went out and purchased my wood and started construction. It was way more difficult than I imagined. I made lots of mistakes during the learning curve but managed to finish. A couple of friends of mine who play say it has a nice sound. The top is bird’s-eye maple; sides and back are sapele. I had so much fun making it that I decided to make another without the mistakes.” – Tony Celli

And some readers expressed their musical interests in ways that are a bit out of the ordinary. – Editor


“I am not in a class even close to you master woodworkers, but I have been asked to build some model musical instruments when I was just learning the wood craft. Here are a few note-less instruments.” – Michael E. Riffel

“I made a self-playing xylophone – XyloSpider. XyloSpider. You can see him in action here. Although the sequence of the foot strikes is a constant, the bars can be rearranged for different tunes. In effect, it becomes a tabletop ‘parlor game.'” -John Hutchinson


“I was introduced to Native American flute making and got addicted to it. The engineer in me put CAD drawings together, and I started turning them on the lathe. My son, the music director, brought me a piece of Asian rosewood. He was very particular about the shape of the mouthpiece, length and wall thickness. As we worked together on this flute project, he made sure that it was his design. I voiced it for him, hand rubbed in the wood cream finish, and handed it to him. He complimented me on the fine craftsmanship and handed it back to me. With a smile on his face, he said, ‘Happy Father’s Day, Dad!’ I have made many flutes since, but that has always been my favorite.” – Bruce D Koster

“There are thousands of so-called hobbyist or amateur luthiers in the world. Many really great, among the best ever made, musical instruments are being produced as handcrafted musical instruments in one-person home shops.” – Steven Ward

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