Musical instrument making. Guitars – starting or finishing instruments with David Whiteman

Ref: S5D32048

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About this course

Musical instrument making (S5D32045-S5D32048) – starting or continuing projects
An exciting opportunity to start making a new instrument in preparation to join our nine-day course or to continue one you have already begun. If starting a new instrument or new to ins t rument making, please contact us before booking. Instruments should be selected with advice from the tutor, though please note that this course is suitable for those with prior experience of fine woodworking. Also see information relating to the nine-day courses. Most instruments take attendance on several courses to complete depending on complexity and your woodworking experience.

Course Description

This course is supplementary to the nine-day Musical Instrument Making course, held in the spring. It enables you to have time to design and make the moulds and jigs necessary for making your chosen instrument. It will also help you to select and prepare some of the woods required. It may also be used to finish and set up instruments made on a previous course.

What you should achieve:

1. Starting a guitar or ukulele

- An understanding of the process of making your chosen instrument

- The correct use and sharpening of hand tools

- The preparation of templates, moulds and work-boards

- The selection and preparation of suitable tonewoods


2. Finishing your instrument

- An understanding of different types of finishes and their application

- Preparation and application of a French polish or oil finish to your instrument

- Fitting machine-heads

- Cutting and fitting a bone nut and saddle

- Setting up strings

Teaching is generally on a one-to-one basis, catering for each student’s individual needs, and dictated by ability, previous experience and knowledge. There will be group demonstrations where appropriate. As the course takes place in the main workshop, adjacent to the other courses in this series, you will also gain knowledge by interaction with fellow students and other tutors. Those starting certain instruments have information packs provided by the tutors. Most instruments require attendance on several courses to complete.This may depend on your skill base and opportunity to continue work at home, so we recommend you discuss this with your tutor prior to the course when they contact you.

Health and safety is discussed as an integral part of the course.

Please note: humidity levels in the workshop are variable to dry; whilst the College has addressed this, some factors are beyond our control, and instruments are brought at your own risk.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • The instrument you wish to complete
  • As soon as you receive confirmation of your place, please indicate which instrument you wish to work on by emailing: [email protected]
  • If you are new to the course, please give details of your past experience in instrument making and fine woodworking. We will pass this information to the tutor who will contact you to discuss this and the materials required. Alternatively, if you are bringing a part-made instrument, please bring the materials and information relating to this, or inform the tutor about what you need.
  • Any hand tools you may have or think you may need (marked with your name)
  • Appropriate workshop clothes and stout covered footwear (not sandals) are essential
  • Tools
  • Some woodworking tools are provided by the College, including a variety of planes, chisels, drills, etc. However, numbers are limited, so you should ideally bring your own, if you have them, to include the following:
  • Useful tools for making templates, jigs and moulds:
  • 300 or 150mm steel rule
  • Pencil
  • Engineers square
  • Scalpel or marking knife
  • Block plane
  • Half round file and rasp
  • Glue brush
  • Finishing materials:
  • Bench cloth
  • Cotton rags
  • Fine flat files
  • Nut files
  • Any tools you need in order to continue with basic construction (if in any doubt, please ask the tutor – please mark tools with your name)
  • Chisels
  • Cabinet scrapers
  • Straight edge
  • Smoothing plane
  • Low angled block plane
  • Flat thumb plane
  • Spoke shave
  • G clamps (4 if possible, 3” or 4”)
  • Sharpening stone

Available to buy

  • Available from tutor:
  • If you are making a new instrument, a charge for materials, timber and drawings, if supplied, should be paid to the tutor at the start of the course.
  • On this course, the tutor can supply most of the materials to you individually and will agree the specific requirements with you before the course starts. The charge should be paid to him directly before the end of the course by cash or bank transfer.
  • The following is a guide price for a set of wood (e.g. Indian rosewood or maple back and sides, spruce or cedar soundboard, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, fretwire, bridge blank, head veneer, struts, linings, bindings, purflings and rosette):
  • The timber costs listed are approximate to give a guide only, and final costs will depend on individual choice and grade of timber. Costs of strings, machine heads and finishing materials are not included.
  • Classical guitar £285
  • Acoustic guitar £310
  • Ukulele £110#
  • The classical guitar option is a traditional 'Torres' type instrument. The steel string option is a Martin style OM guitar. These are ideal first instrument projects; it may be possible to build another type of guitar, but this will need to be discussed with the tutor prior to the start of the course.
  • Instruments marked # are simpler to make and are suitable first instruments. While the aim is to complete these in one nine-day course, please be aware that this is not always possible and you may need to return for a subsequent course.
  • Please note that a guitar takes approximately 100 hours to make and therefore should be regarded as a major project. You may need to participate in more than two courses to complete your instrument.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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