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What is a Luthier? Discover the Skills & Art Of Crafting Musical Instruments (2023)

In this article, we answer the question: What is a Luthier? What do they do? Where the name came from? And how you can get yourself into the industry.

Quick Summary

A luthier is a skilled craftsman who builds and repairs stringed instruments, such as guitars, violins, and cellos. The term “luthier” comes from the French word “luth,” which means lute, a type of stringed instrument that was popular in the Renaissance era.

Luthiers use a combination of woodworking and musical skills to create instruments that produce high-quality sound and are visually pleasing. They carefully select and shape the wood, attach the neck and fretboard, install the hardware and electronics, and apply the finish to the instrument.

Additionally, luthiers may also perform repairs and maintenance work, such as replacing broken strings, repairing cracks, and adjusting the instrument’s setup.

Let’s get into it!

What is a Luthier?

The term ‘Luthier’ is used to describe an artisan who makes musical instruments, and some people use it as a synonym for the word “maker”.

However, this article will explain what a luthier actually does, how they work, and why you should care about them.

A Luthier is someone who works with wood in order to make musical instruments. They are skilled craftsmen or women who can build any instrument from scratch, or repair and restore existing ones.

What Is A Luthier

A Luthier is a person who builds stringed instruments. The most common type of luthier is a guitar maker.

But there are many other types of luthiers that include bass makers, violin makers, mandolin makers, banjo makers, ukulele makers, viola makers, cello makers, harp makers, etc.

Keep reading to find out more!

How Do Luthiers Work?

There are two main ways that luthiers work: by hand and by machine.

Hand-made instruments usually take longer than machine-made instruments because they require more skill and time.

A luthier may spend months making one single instrument. Machines can be very fast, but they lack the skill and craftsmanship that is required to create beautiful and functional instruments.

Hand-Made Instruments

When a luthier creates a new instrument, they start with a blank piece of wood. This is called a stock.

Then, the luthier takes their tools and begins carving away at the wood until they have created something unique.

For example, when a luthier creates an acoustic guitar, they carve out the body shape and then add details such as frets and sound holes.

The process of creating a new instrument is known as shaping. Shaping involves taking a block of wood and removing material so that the final product looks like the desired shape.

The next step is to finish the instrument. Finishing includes applying finishes (such as lacquer), adding hardware (like strings), and attaching accessories (like pickguards).

Once the instrument has been finished, it goes through several tests before being considered ready to sell.

These tests include playing the instrument and checking its tuning. If the instrument passes these tests, it is sent to a customer.

Machine Made Instruments

In contrast to hand-made instruments, a luthier uses a machine to cut a blank piece of wood into the shape of the instrument.

The luthier then adds details to the instrument using various techniques.

For example, a luthier might use a router to cut out parts of the instrument, such as fretboard edges. Or they could use a lathe to turn wooden rods into necks.

After all the details have been added, the instrument is sanded down and polished. Finally, the instrument is coated with a clear varnish.

What Tools Does a Luthier Use?

A luthier needs many types of tools. Here are some examples:


Used to cut wood.


Used to drive nails.


Used to drill holes.


Used to remove material.


Used to smooth surfaces.


Used to finish wood.


Used to polish wood.


Used to paint wood.


Used to create intricate shapes.


Used to shape metal.

Carpenter’s Square

Used to measure angles.


Used to check if something is straight.

Tape Measure

Used to measure distances.

Wood Chisels

Used to split wood.

Metal Hammers

Used to pound metal.

Wood Pliers

Used to bend metal.

Electric Drill

Used to drill holes into plastic, etc.

Related Article: How guitar strings are made

Where Did The Name Luthier Come From?

Luthier comes from the French word for “lute”. A lute was a stringed musical instrument used in Europe during the Middle Ages.

It had two or three courses of strings and was played by plucking them with fingers.

Today, the term luthier refers to someone who makes stringed instruments.

How Can I Become A Guitar Luthier?

If you want to become a luthier, you need to get your hands on some training. There are three levels of training available for guitar makers.

Apprentice Level

An apprentice-level luthier learns the basics of building guitars. They learn how to hold a saw, hammer, drill, chisel, plane, file, and other basic tools.

What Is A Luthier

They also learn about materials, including wood, metals, and plastics. And they learn about different finishing techniques.

Related Article: How to paint a guitar

Luthier Level

At this level, a luthier becomes familiar with the tools used in the trade. For example, they know how to make a neck joint, which requires a special tool.

And they know how to apply finishes. They also learn about stringing and setup.

Master Level

At this level of expertise, a luthier knows everything there is to know about guitars. They know how to build them from scratch.

They know how to make every part of the guitar. And they know how to tune and set up each instrument.

Related Article: How to clean a guitar fretboard

Becoming A Guitar Maker

There are two ways to become a luthier: apprenticeship or certification.


An apprenticeship is a formal program where students work under the supervision of experienced luthiers. Students learn by doing.


Certification allows a person to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. It’s similar to passing a test.

To become certified, you must pass a written exam. In addition, you must show that you can do things like install a bridge, repair a broken fingerboard, and tune an instrument.

You may be able to find a program at community colleges, vocational schools, or online.

To become an apprentice, you will need to complete a program. This usually takes 3 years.

Related Article: How to make guitar inlay stickers

How Long Might It Take To Become A Full Luthier?

It depends on what kind of job you want. Some people start making guitars when they are very young. Others wait until they have more experience.

The average time to become a full luthier is 5-10 years.

Final Thoughts

A luthier makes musical instruments. That means they use tools to craft beautiful pieces of music.

In fact, one of the first stringed instruments ever made was created by a luthier. The first violin was crafted by Antonio Stradivari. He spent his life perfecting his craft.

Today, luthiers continue to improve upon the art of crafting guitars, with many still using the same tools as he did hundreds of years ago.

Passionately invested in the music world for over 20 years, Jake studied music for 14 years at the Royal Conservatory Of Toronto. He has a degree from Champlain College & Bishop’s University in Business & Music. He is the owner of Fly Away Music & Media Studio in Montreal since 2014, with over 500 happy artists recorded, mixed and mastered.

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