Hoosier Guitar Building Workshop: ‘You learn about being a craftsman’

Guest post courtesy of newsroom intern Jaclyn Lansbery:

There are people who play guitars – and then there are people who build them.

For five days, July 11 to 15, participants at the Hoosier Guitar Building Workshop sanded, sculpted and painted their own guitars. Ten people signed up for the third annual workshop, led by Andrew Lumsdaine, a professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at IU; Richard Mark French, an associate professor in mechanical engineering technology at Purdue University; Brad Harriger, a professor of manufacturing engineering technology at Purdue University; and Nicole Jacquard, a professor at the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at IU.

guitar building

A participant in the Hoosier Guitar Building Workshop tweaks his creation.

Lumsdaine’s interest in guitar building was piqued four years ago after he attended the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in Santa Rosa, Calif., with his son to celebrate his high school graduation. Like any good intellectual, Lumsdaine researched how to create guitars from scratch, and came across French’s book, “Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice.” Lumsdaine got in touch with French, who teaches the Purdue Guitar Workshop, to discuss the idea of starting a workshop at IU.

“In these workshops, you learn a lot about how a guitar works and how to tweak and tune it – even simple things like changing your own strings,” he said. “The first thing I did after I finished my first guitar was to set up all of my other guitars to their original factory specs.”

“This has been a great class this year because everyone’s been sharing their expertise,” Lumsdaine said. “There are some people who’ve never played guitar and there are some participants who are in a band. There are experienced woodworkers and there are some people for whom this is their first woodworking project of any kind. But we also want to sneak some math and physics in, and even try to explain the basics of music theory.”

Lumsdaine eventually wants to explore offering the workshop for credit, possibly through the stringed instrument technology program at the IU Jacobs School of Music. But for now, Lumsdaine is enjoying the process of making and playing his own guitars – including the “disastocaster,” the first guitar he built (with many learning experiences) after attending the California festival.

“I think for me it’s just the satisfaction of being able to build one,” he said. “I get satisfaction out of the creative process. And really, that is what the workshop is about; it’s about much more than just building a guitar. To be human is to create. In our modern economy, we get pigeonholed into specialized occupations. But when you build a guitar, you participate in a holistic creative process from beginning to end – you learn about being a craftsman.”

Tags: , , , , ,