Luthiery: The art of making classical guitars and string instruments

  • The craftsman that produces the Spanish Guitar is called a Luthier. A Luthier is a professional who designs, creates, adjusts and repairs instruments. The word comes from the French ‘luth’, which means lute, the most popular musical instrument at European courts during the renaissance and the baroque period. In the noble art of Luthiery many aspects are considered in creating the best sounding instruments: materials, acoustics, chemistry, artistry and technique.

    The Luthier must know how to tense and stretch the strings of the instrument ensuring maximum longevity and quality of sound. Furthermore, the Luthier must know the perfect sound of every vibration, where they come from, why they are produced and listening to the gradient and highs of the note.

    The aesthetics and assembly of the guitar are given just as much consideration; the luthier must be an expert mixer of resins, rubbing alcohol and turpentine. He must be an expert in the tools used to shape and mould the frets, fretboard, neck and tuning pegs.

    The work of a luthier is extremely complex, the work is based on years of knowledge manual skill and above all; patience. To train as a luthier you must master mathematics, carpentry, geometry and have a deep understanding of wood and strings.  With good reason, the first thing a luthier studies is the different parts of the guitar that produce sound when playing the guitar: the neck, the body, the pick ups, the nut and the bridge.

    The luthier can distinguish between guitars (or violins) that are mass produced or hand crafted by a luthier. To know if an instrument is artisan it is important to know that inside there will be a label with the name, place and date of production. If the instrument is more than 100 years old you will see a ‘graft’ on the neck to increase its size by two millimetres to reach 130mm. 

    Also, the strap will have been changed and the connecting ring will be made of ebony. It is easy to identify a more modern instrument by the colour of the wood and that the neck will not have any modifications. The most important skill of a luthier is to know the difference between an excellent instrument and a mediocre one. 

    In Alhambra we are proud to have our luthiers: Javier Mengual and José Margarit