Weekly Features


'When you build a guitar, you participate in a holistic creative process from beginning to end'

Jaclyn Lansbery and David Rust

July 25, 2013

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

For five days, the 10 participants at the third-annual Hoosier Guitar Building Workshop sanded, sculpted and painted their own guitars from July 11 to 15 in a studio of IU Bloomington's McCalla School.

The workshop is led by Andrew Lumsdaine, a professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at IU, along with 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.

Lumsdaine became interested in building guitars four years ago during a father-son trip to the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in Santa Rosa, Calif., on to celebrate his son’s high school graduation. Like any good intellectual, Lumsdaine researched how to create guitars from scratch, and in the process came across French’s book, “Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice.” He 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 and tune it --
 even simply things like changing your own strings," Lumsdaine said. "The first thing I did after I finished my first guitar was set up all of my guitars to their original factory specs."

Lumsdaine said the students in this year’s class shared their personal areas of expertise with one another. “There are some people who've never played guitar and 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, he’s 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.

Lumsdaine said he gets satisfaction out of the creative process, something he likes to share with others.

"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. And that's what the workshop is about. It's about much more than just building a guitar."

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