• Layne D

What is a Luthier and what do they have to do with guitars?

Our exceptionally creative Luthier, Mitchell was fully trained in the USA and has a very keen eye for detail as well as incredible creative flair.

Mitchell makes and repairs guitars, bass guitars and other stringed instruments.

His patience is astounding and is just what you need to be doing this job.

He's repaired instruments from artists from all over the world, working with the Woodford Folk Festival, and training with experts in their fields, not to mention that in 2021 Mitch will have made his 100th instrument!

He is very passionate about creating and repairing guitars, get talking to him about guitars and you’ll see what we mean. To him guitar making, from concept to sketch to final product is not just a job, it’s an art form. He only uses the best timbers from around the world and has already produced and sold many masterpieces to many very happy musicians.

We get a lot of questions about what a luthier is and what it involves, so today we decided to answer some of those questions....

Making a uke

Firstly, what the heck is a luthier? A luthier is a craftsperson who builds and repair stringed instruments that have a neck and a sound box. The word "luthier" is originally French and comes from the French word for lute. The term was originally used for makers of lutes, but it came to be used for makers of most bowed and plucked stringed instruments such as members of the violin family (including violas, cellos, and double basses) and guitars. Luthiers, however, do not make harps or pianos; these require different skills and construction methods because their strings are secured to a frame.

The craft of luthiers, lutherie is commonly divided into the two main categories of makers of stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed and makers of stringed instruments that are bowed. Since bowed instruments require a bow, the second category includes a subtype known as a bow maker. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luthier)

How does someone go about becoming a Luthier? / How did you become a Luthier? Someone who is interested in becoming a luthier can train, either through apprenticeship or formal classroom instruction. I trained as a luthier using the apprenticeship form in the USA, training with established luthiers in Illinois. At the time it was incredibly difficult to get any sort of luthier training in Australia, and going to America was my only option. Now it is more accessible, but due to the difficulty of the craft it still isn't that popular over here.

Luthier sounds like a dream job to me, what about your work do you look forward to most every day? Every job has its ups and downs. I share the same challenges as any artist, and self doubt can be a hugely limiting factor, but the positives do outweigh the negatives for me and I do love helping people to repair their beloved instruments, but my absolute favourite part has to be creating custom guitars from scratch, it just feels amazing to work so hard on such a large project and see how it turns out in the end.

I always keep in mind the contributing members that are needed to create music.

Firstly the tree, so unique and beautiful in its colours, tones and markings, then the Luthier with his/her own unique tastes and experience, and finally the musician that gives song and life to the instrument, that lovingly brings its voice forward for us all to enjoy.

I love knowing that I can help to enrich music for us all.

What is the most interesting guitar that you have worked on?

When I went back for some more training in the USA in 2013 I worked on a Gibson L-5, they were first produced in 1922, and this one would have been from around 1929 so it was really from that golden age of Gibson. The L-5 has been the inspiration for a lot of my designs and it was incredible to get to not only get to see one in person, but to actually get to work on it!

The Gibson L-5 was actually the first guitar to feature F holes!

working on a guitar on new years eve

What’s the most memorable job you’ve had to work on?

Working at Woodford Folk Festival as the repairer I really see some interesting and memorable challenges! Most of the time the challenge is that we have a really short time frame to work on, usually the musician has just played a set and damaged their instrument, but they need it ready for their next gig in an hours time.

I've had to last minute gaffa tape guitars that have arrived shattered from England due to baggage handlers, fix broken bridges at 1am on New Years eve, and I've even run all the way to a stage just to do a last minute fix before an artist goes on stage, so it can get crazy!

One story that I will never forget is where I fixed one of the performers instruments that he really thought was beyond repair, since he had basically fallen on top of it.

Well he was so happy to have his guitar back that he played me a song on it right there and then, it was really special because all of his emotions at that time came through, and I could really feel his gratitude and love for his instrument.