The Book

Background to “The Book”

The book came about almost by accident as a result of me documenting my research and development activities and making notes on how my building processes turned out. The book turned into two volumes, with original working titles of Contemporary Acoustic Guitar “Design” and “Build”.

I proposed the idea of a “proper” book to my friend and long-time luthier Gerard Gilet, who had always been interested in furthering the craft but had more than enough work to do running his busy workshop. He agreed to help out on the “Build” side so that we could cover both the boutique construction techniques I mainly use, and some of the more production oriented techniques that he mainly uses. That was back in 2007 and the amount of work involved was enormous.

The Design volume

The Design volume starts with how we hear and the tricks our ears and brain play on us to synthesise what we hear from what we sense. It explains why we can’t just rely on scientific instruments to assess guitars, because much of what we hear is an aural illusion, i.e. a construct between our ears and brains, and the usual engineering equipment doesn’t measure that too well. I then take a look at strings and how they drive the guitar soundboard. After all, if you want to build a better guitar, you need to know how the “engine” works.

I cover standard engineering principles such as resonance and resonators, how they relate to stiffness and mass and how these issues impact on the performance of a guitar. I cover in detail the mathematical modelling techniques that I developed and the acoustic analysis techniques that I use, which includes the science behind modal tuning of guitar soundboards and backs. I then take a look at how one can articulate the requirements of a guitar in terms of musicality and playability and relate those to the physical attributes of the guitar and its woodwork.

Trees, wood and the relevant material properties are discussed, along with how to measure those material properties and then use the measurements effectively to design bracing structures for tops and backs. The procedures I use to determine the appropriate thickness for the top and back panels are explained in detail. I discuss the detail design of components like bridges and necks, nuts and saddles and my compensation techniques, finishing up by explaining how to lay out a plan for a guitar to your own design with a high degree of confidence that it will all fit together.

Yes, there’s a lot of physics, engineering and mathematics in there, because I felt that was required to prove my points. Otherwise this would have been yet another book full of unscientific, unsubstantiated opinion about how guitars work and, frankly, I’ve seen too many of those. If physics, engineering and mathematics aren’t your strong suits, don’t worry! The points I make are still there, are explained qualitatively, and the concepts are still usable. However, there’s no avoiding the mathematics if you want to get quantitative. As one of my old friends in academia said, “if it was easy, someone would have written your book years ago”.

The Build volume

The Build volume puts the Design concepts into action covering in detail all that is necessary to build four different types of guitar – two classicals; one fan braced in the Fleta style and the other carbon fibre/balsa lattice braced, together with two steel string models, one X-braced in the style of a J45 round shouldered Dreadnought and the other in my contemporary Falcate style. How to bring the guitars to peak performance is explained using the modal tuning concepts and the acoustic analysis techniques that I have developed. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how small the investment is in analytical hardware and software. The majority of the software I use is down-loadable at no cost and the hardware you will likely have to hand already if you are reading this on a computer screen.

All that research, writing, photography, editing and printing happened between 2007 and 2011 when the two volumes of the book were finally published. Please feel free to download the Contents listing for both volumes here, and if you like what you see (and have read the reviews), you can purchase a copy here.

In August 2010 we were honoured by a visit from Professor Tom Rossing (Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics) who was in Sydney for the 20th International Congress on Acoustics and the International Symposium on Musical Acoustics. Tom is the co-author (with Prof. Neville Fletcher) of “The Physics of Musical Instruments”, arguably the most comprehensive and authoritative publication on musical acoustics currently available.

Trevor, Prof. Tom Rossing and Gerard in Gerard’s Sydney workshop

I had previously contacted Tom about the book and in the days he had available after the conference we discussed many of the aspects of guitar design and construction that the book covers. Having studied both the Design and Build sections Tom very kindly agreed to write a few words about the book that we included on its back cover. Here’s what he had to say:

Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build is a useful book by two experienced Australian luthiers, Trevor Gore and Gerard Gilet, which presents the science, technology, and practical aspects of guitar design and construction. It is logically divided into two sections: Design and Build. The Design section includes a discussion of basic acoustics including sound and vibration, radiation, resonance, hearing, and applications to guitars. Unlike many books written especially for luthiers, the authors use the language of mathematics wherever it is appropriate, and they use the language well.

The design objective is the “perfect” guitar, which should both inspire and relax the musician. Although the preferences of the authors are clear in the discussions, they cover enough material that readers will be in a position to form their own preferences and form their own design objectives to define their own perfect guitar.

In the “build” section, they look at some of the challenges in realizing the design, and this is the real strength of the book. The authors intimately link the science of acoustics and modal vibrations to the woodwork in the guitar and its resulting sound. The authors have “been there and done that” in their many combined years of experience. They discuss steel string, classical and flamenco guitars. They discuss different types of neck joints, live and non-live backs. They discuss both traditional and contemporary bracing designs and how best to achieve the desired results from them. They discuss shop practice and assembly methods in an easy-to-understand way. There is plenty of practical information for both the novice and the experienced builder of guitars.

Thomas Rossing
Stanford University

Tom, we greatly appreciated your time and wish you many more years of acoustical globe-trotting!

The first edition of the book was very well received and eventually sold out in late 2015. Whilst I had already been working on the second edition for almost a year, software issues and operating system changes meant it took me until August 2016 to get the second edition into print and available for purchase. Two guitar legends came on board with endorsements: Tommy Emmanuel cgp, who knows a bit about guitars and how to play them, and Charles Fox, one of the pioneers of bespoke guitar building and the teaching of small-shop building methods at The American School of Lutherie. Many thanks are extended to those two gentlemen and the many other contributors and customers who made the first edition such a success. 


Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build

by Trevor Gore in collaboration with Gerard Gilet

A two volume book set, now in its 2nd edition, which thoroughly covers the scientific design methods and contemporary build methods for constructing steel string and classical guitars.


The FIRST book to seriously and scientifically address the acoustics, physics and mechanics of the acoustic guitar, relating the sounds we hear to the way a guitar vibrates and to its woodwork and structure. It provides a complete methodology from wood testing to sculpturing the sound output of your next guitar. Over 390 pages of text, diagrams, charts and full colour photographs.

BUILD Volume

Addresses the construction of FOUR different styles of guitar using the principles developed in the DESIGN volume. Detailed explanations of contemporary construction methods for traditional fan and X-braced guitars; contemporary lattice braced classical guitars and falcate braced steel string guitars. Over 450 pages of text, diagrams, charts and full colour photographs of the complete building process. Full sized plans are provided for all four guitar designs covered in the text.

Brief Book Reviews

This work presents the science, technology, and practical aspects of guitar design and construction. The authors intimately link the science of acoustics and modal vibrations to the woodwork in the guitar and its resulting sound. There is plenty of practical information for both the novice and the experienced builder of guitars.

Prof. Thomas Rossing – PhD; Visiting Professor of Music, Stanford University. Gold Medallist of the Acoustical Society of America and author of over 350 books and papers on acoustics and the physics of musical instruments, co-author with Neville Fletcher of “The Physics of Musical Instruments”.

In reading your book, I found it a wonderfully detailed account of guitar design, and very clearly written, for which I must congratulate you.

Dr. Neville Thiele – OAM, FIEAust, FAES; pre-eminent acoustic theoretician, responsible with R. H. Small for the development of the Thiele/Small parameters for loudspeaker design.

I have been the proud owner of several instruments crafted by Gerard Gilet, ranging from flamenco to single cone resophonic guitars. I have played Gerard’s guitars to my own (and possibly also the listeners’) satisfaction on three continents. And these guitars have also found their way onto my various albums – both solo and with Saffire – The Australian Guitar Quartet.

Recently, I made the exciting discovery of playing one of Trevor Gore’s guitars. As I write, I have at my side a thunderingly good classical guitar – a veritable V8 of an instrument – ready to be taken out on the track. And like all fine guitars this instrument has the special stamp of a thoroughbred, spirited yet refined.

I therefore warmly recommend the work of Gerard Gilet and Trevor Gore, not only to luthiers and guitar specialists, but to all musicians, craftsmen, scientists and readers of all persuasions.

Gareth Koch – B.Mus, PhD; ARIA Award Winner 2003; Lecturer in Classical Guitar, University of Tasmania; Solo recording artist, ABC Classics; Saffire – The Australian Guitar Quartet.

These guys are world leaders in guitar building.

Tommy Emmanuel – AM; multi-award winning guitarist

Full review

Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build
Review by American Lutherie

Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build
by Trevor Gore
with Gerard Gilet

Trevor Gore Guitars (
ISBN 978-0-9871174-(0-3, 1-0)
$ (Australian) 200.00 (excludes taxes and shipping)
Hard cover, 800 pages in two volumes, includes four full-size plans
reviewed by R.M. Mottola

[Originally published in American Lutherie # 109, Spring 2012. Copyright © 2012 by R.M. Mottola ( and the Guild of American Luthiers ( Reprinted here with permission.]

A copy of the book reviewed in the following paragraphs was provided to American Lutherie for review. A draft of this review was sent to the author prior to publication so that any factual errors in the review could be corrected.

Let me cut right to the chase. I consider this book to represent a major milestone in lutherie “how to” publications, and for a variety of reasons any one of which would be sufficient to warrant that assessment. Although a variety of excellent books on the construction of flattop guitars is available, Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build (which for brevity I will hereafter refer to as CAGDB or simply “the book”) includes a lengthy treatise on the design of the guitar as well. The treatment is highly technically accurate, something that is rare enough in lutherie books to warrant special mention and special praise here. The design section includes substantial background information in mechanics, stringed instrument acoustics and other technical disciplines that serve as the foundation for the design effort and an understanding of how stringed instruments actually work. Although the book will have obvious appeal for technically oriented readers, it is also very accessible to non-technical readers willing to forgo some of the math. The construction part contains excellent instructions for building modern instruments in the small shop using contemporary materials and construction techniques.

The book is presented in two large volumes, one on design and the other on construction, and details how the authors design and build their guitars. It is amazingly comprehensive in scope – a simple enumeration of the topics listed in the table of contents would take much more space than I have available for this entire review. The design volume takes a broad but practical approach to the design of the guitar. The focus of the design effort is the development of a set of specifications, formulae and other “tools” that can be used in the shop during construction. The volume begins with the presentation of much background material on general issues related to guitar design, information which will be valuable to anyone attempting a guitar design effort. Roughly half of the design volume is dedicated to technical background information. Basic physics of vibrating strings, plates and bars is presented. There are good discussions of resonance and sound radiation. A good background in mechanics is provided. The background portion finishes up with good descriptions of some basic analytical models which describe the vibration of the instrument as a whole and how the component resonances couple.

Specifically geared toward the problems of building a structure that is both strong enough to withstand static string tension loads and compliant enough to provide good acoustic output, the design volume presents derivations of equations of practical use to the builder. College level math is required to follow the derivations, but I urge readers not possessing this background to not dismiss this work on these grounds. If you can’t follow the derivations skip them – the end results are always simple algebraic equations (again, the authors’ focus is not theoretical but practical guitar making). In addition, behind these equations you will find some of the very best and most accessible explanations of the relevant mechanics and musical instrument acoustics that I have ever seen in print.

Let me point out a few examples from the many nice explanations found in this volume. On the topic of wood for the top of the guitar, the design volume points out that the great variability in mechanical properties of wood from any species of tree makes selection of top wood by species not of paramount importance. This is demonstrated in part by a very nice graphic of sound radiation coefficient of typical top species, which includes error bars indicating the variability found within each species. This is very useful information, presented in a particularly meaningful manner. The authors opt to select top wood by testing mechanical properties on a set by set basis and describe that selection process. Again, given the practical orientation of the book, this process is not particularly time-consuming nor does it involve a lot of equipment.

Another exemplary presentation is the treatment of a topic which I have rarely seen discussed in print in any comprehensive manner, the design of the top and bracing to support static string tension loads. The book carefully describes a standard engineering method, making use of the parallel axis theorem to derive an equivalent rigidity spec for the entire braced top structure. Because variability in brace material, orientation, and cross section affect the accuracy of this modeling, the book also describes a very simple mechanical check for optimal top rigidity on the finished guitar, looking at the change in bridge deflection angle under string tension. This latter operation is also a good example of something else the book does very well, which is presenting alternative approaches to design and construction issues, insofar as this operation could easily be used as the sole method for determining top rigidity if the builder is willing to approach this on a strictly trial and error basis.

For me a major plus in the approach taken in this volume is that it follows general engineering methods when considering the design and construction of a guitar. For those not familiar with these methods please let me offer a brief explanation. Formal engineering is a requirements-driven process. Engineers do not begin work with the proverbial clean sheet of paper but rather with a very detailed list of requirements for the thing to be designed. Collecting and prioritizing these requirements is an important part of the process. As each element of the design is considered during the engineering process it is checked against the requirements. Goodness of design is determined simply by how well the finished design meets the specified requirements.

This systematic approach is taken throughout the design volume and is applied at all levels, from the selection of materials and construction techniques to the integration of all the subassemblies that make up a guitar into a cohesive functioning instrument. Wood, glue and finishing materials are considered as engineering materials and are evaluated based on their material properties.

I have praised the technical accuracy of the information in the book, and understanding why I consider this to be so important also requires a bit of background for those that do not follow the formal research. The current state of understanding of the workings of stringed musical instruments is far from complete. Although we do have good knowledge of how instruments vibrate to produce sound, particularly in the lower frequency modes of vibration, our knowledge drops off considerably when considering the higher modes. And the farther down the “signal chain” one goes, from vibrating instrument to the human brain that perceives that vibration, the murkier things get. We really don’t know much at all about what the differences between good and really good instruments are for example. This fact can be considered in terms of our basic knowledge in the field of psychoacoustics, where, although we have good understanding of human perception of loudness and pitch, we have extremely limited knowledge of human perception of pretty much everything else. This is also reflected in the fact that musical instrument physics and psychoacoustics are not major areas of research. As such, we rely on a relatively small number of papers describing modest experiments for a large portion of our understanding. The relative dearth of hard information necessitates a careful approach to the design process. As a minimum that process should make good use of all the hard data available, and the authors of CAGDB are careful to do just that. The inverse also applies of course – anything that runs contrary to established knowledge on the workings of stringed instruments should be rejected from impacting the design. Although not a primary focus, along the way the book discusses a number of lutherie myths which fall into this category.

Considering scientific evidence in the design is important of course, but how a design proceeds in those areas where good scientific evidence is lacking is perhaps of even greater importance. The book does very well here as well, including careful analysis of some of the research literature, and takes testing and observation on the part of the authors into consideration when making design decisions. It is inevitable in this field that some design decisions are made largely by informed guessing, and here too the book shines, first by making clear that this is part of the reality of doing design work in this area, and secondly by documenting where in the presented design this was done. Only by this documentation is it possible to test and validate (or invalidate) those design decisions in the final instrument.

Two design objectives feature prominently in the volume: the optimization of monopole mobility of the top, and optimising the guitar’s ability to play evenly over the fretboard and accurately in tune. Much of the design discussion is dedicated to these topics. Design results of the first include bracing patterns considered to enhance top mobility, thick and rigid top linings intended to increase impedance at the top-to-rib juncture, and a facility for mass loading of the ribs. As a late step in the construction process described in the second volume, instruments are subjected to testing to be sure major resonances are at reasonable frequencies and do not fall directly on scale tones, and the construction is “tuned” based on those test results. The tuning involves slight alteration of resonant frequencies, and a number of the design features provide for ease and predictability in those tuning modifications. The facility provided for mass loading of the ribs for example, is a large rib reinforcement patch which includes a threaded fitting into which a bolt stacked with a varying number of weights can be fitted. Features included to help optimize intonation include both per string bridge saddle and nut end compensation, performed on a setup and string set basis.

The second volume of the set is about construction and is aimed specifically at the small shop building modern instruments with modern methods and materials. As is often the case with lutherie construction books, the authors here try to keep the tool count down for the benefit of beginners that may not have well-equipped shops. Construction descriptions using hand edge tools (planes, chisels, etc.) are common, but construction jigs for use with routers are also commonly used. This volume follows construction of four instruments, full size plans for which are included. This is an interesting collection of instruments and includes two classical guitars, a fan braced Fleta style and a lattice braced Smallman style (but without the heavy internal frame); and two steel strings, an X braced Gibson J45 style dreadnought and a laminated falcate (sickle-shaped) braced OM sized guitar. Although one could quibble with the representativeness of these choices, from the perspective of guitar construction (and in particular top construction) they represent a nice and wide variety of construction techniques and use of materials. I am most pleased to see the Smallman style instrument included here myself, which I take as yet another indication that this design is already a classic.

Certain features of these instruments and the jigs and construction techniques used to produce them are common among them. All instruments use bolt-on necks, either a straight mortise and tenon bolt-on neck with glued-down fingerboard extension or a fully removable bolt-on neck. Bodies are all built using an outside mold, and plates are all built using dished workboards and a go-bar deck for clamping. Two different styles of back bracing are described: traditional ladder bracing and a more readily tunable style that makes use of radially positioned finger braces.

The build volume begins with an in-depth discussion of tools and jigs. The construction techniques described are quite jig-intensive, in the modern style. Detailed instructions for building most jigs mentioned in the text are provided. It may be a bit unnerving for novice builders to see all this jig construction work that needs to be done before doing any work on the instrument at all, but this organization is quite logical and makes the subsequent instrument building descriptions a lot clearer. The jig building section is succeeded by a discussion of glue and gluing. As mentioned in the review of the design volume above, the authors consider glue as an engineering material, not as an object of veneration. The discussion contains good information on the material properties of various adhesives. Finishing materials are also discussed in a short section, but are not surveyed in depth. The book advocates the use of sprayed nitrocellulose lacquer and hand applied French polish.

A nice feature of the build volume is its use of photos. The build process is explained both in text and also in a running sequence of color photos which are usually grouped six per page. Although this guarantees that a referenced photo will almost never be found on the same page as its referring text, I found it a whole lot easier to follow most construction sequences by glancing through the grouped photos and their captions than if each photo were embedded in the text.

Let me point out here that there is only basic instruction in this volume on techniques of instrument decoration. The authors take a decidedly minimalist approach to decoration of their own instruments, and maintain that good books on subjects such as pearl inlay are readily available. Still, basic binding and purfling are covered, as are simple soundhole rosette treatments. Installation of pearl in both of these applications is also covered.

Since construction description is of four different instruments the text does need to provide alternate descriptions for a number of the major building steps. Probably the area where the divergence of build instructions is the greatest is in describing bracing of the tops. The Fleta style instrument is fan braced, the Gibson style X braced. Nice descriptions of bracing in these traditional styles are provided. But the Smallman style instrument is braced with a balsa and carbon fiber lattice and the small bodied steel string is braced with molded braces that also make use of carbon fiber. It is in the descriptions of these contemporary construction techniques, techniques not all that commonly known in lutherie, that the build volume really shines.

As is the case with the design volume, the build volume is too large in scope for me to even list the topics covered. But as I did above, I’d like to mention here just a few of the nice features I found. The book is written by luthiers with obvious depth of experience and this comes through strongly in even the smallest of construction details. The build instructions make very good use of cutoff material for example, using top cutoffs for back seam and soundhole reinforcement and back cutoffs for bridge plate and head plate. Glue squeeze out is removed with a snipped soda straw, a technique which I’ve instantly adopted in my own building. When chiseling a shallow mortise in the bottom of a fan brace to clear the bridge plate, the brace is held upside down in the vise and the top surface of the vise jaws is used as a depth gauge. Dished workboards are used as gluing cauls when assembling the body. The back is glued on first so that any glue squeeze out, which would be visible through the soundhole of the finished instrument, can be cleaned up before the body is closed up. These are small examples, but they are indicative of the level of detail found throughout the volume.

I found no major shortcomings in either of the volumes and even trivial gripes were few and far between. My only major disappointment was the lack of explicit instructions for the practical application of the mathematical model presented for string compensation. Although the model itself is presented in detail and represents a major focus of the authors’ designs, the book only goes as far as to suggest that this model can be put to use by the application of mathematical optimization techniques and suggests the reader research them. Mathematical optimization is a technology which is likely to be outside the background of a lot of readers and I could wish for more concrete application information. Although it is clear that a textual description (which necessarily involves computer programming in one form or another) would be daunting, it would be very useful if the compensation calculation program could be provided as adjunct material, possibly available for direct execution on the authors’ website or as a downloadable program. And while I’m making requests for adjunct material, it would be most helpful to technically oriented readers if key research on the part of the authors and used to support design their decisions could be published, preferably in a peer reviewed research journal. Absent that, even short descriptions of some of these experiments, outlining experimental methodology and sample population size, would be very useful.

In book reviews I like to provide at least a little information on presentation, writing style, and other details that impact on accessibility of the material presented, and to suggest audience groups for whom the book may be particularly valuable. Let me close with a few remarks on those subjects. The presentation here is very straight forward and as mentioned makes good and extensive use of graphics and photos. The book is formatted in a simple, clean, single-column style. The writing style is direct, conversational, often opinionated, but always clear and to the point. Chapters begin with classy full page photos of guitars or production processes. As I’ve also mentioned, complex technical topics are covered in a manner that makes them accessible to a wide audience. American readers should be aware that the authors are Australian, and the book is written in Australian English and uses SI units. As far as suggested audience groups go I can recommend this book to all lutherie audiences without reservation. To say that there is something here for everyone would be a gross understatement. The size, scope, and level of detail presented in Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build provide substantial information to anyone involved in the design and construction of acoustic guitars.

Charles Fox Foreword

Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build
Foreword to the 2nd Edition by Charles Fox – Guitar Maker

Among the few perks of growing old is the satisfaction of viewing the long arc of something that matters to you; watching it grow from birth to maturity, from fragile seed to rooted tree now itself bearing seeds.  This excellent publication from Australia, Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build by Trevor Gore and Gerard Gilet, is a pleasure to me along those lines, for reasons I’ll share with you, to explain why I’m so proud of these authors and their accomplishment.

As recently as the 1960s in Australia as in North America there was no tradition of independent artisans handcrafting guitars. The occasional lone guitar maker notwithstanding, the craft was generally unknown. In the mid/late ’60s however, empowered by the time’s zeitgeist and inspired by the music, a number of us who would become the first generation of today’s popular guitar making culture spontaneously began building our own guitars. By the early ’70s I had established a school in New England where hundreds of others were introduced to the craft, and among our earliest students from around the world were some intrepid young men from Australia, who travelled to our far corner of a distant continent to discover how they might go about building their own guitars. Among them were Robin Moyes, Jim Williams and Teen Goh, from whom the co-author of these books Gerard Gilet learned the basics of guitar making. Those pioneering craftsmen, young men in full and entirely on fire, returned home to help lay the foundation for what is now, forty years later, one of the most fertile and influential guitar building centres in the world. Thus, my long term interest in their story and my satisfaction with how it’s turned out.

Fifty years ago, just the passion and creative energy that we early independent luthiers brought to our work was enough to set the guitar on a path of rapid change and refinement, and only a couple decades later the instrument was transformed, made finer in every respect.  But for all that, it felt then as though we’d pushed the emerging modern guitar about as far forward as was possible on the strength of inspired intuition alone.  The low hanging fruit was gone and the next big steps would require the skills of more technically literate builders; folks for whom full time curiosity, data gathering, objective analysis (i.e. the tools of a deeper understanding) would come more naturally and be brought to the workbench.  In fact, since then the field has seen an influx of new guitar makers with solid backgrounds in science, engineering and other technology – and without a doubt, the craft of lutherie has become more considered and nuanced.  

And that brings us finally to these landmark volumes from Gore and Gilet, which I regard as the strongest evidence and highest expression so far of the maturing state of our craft.  Landmark is not too strong a term for what these books are and what they represent.  Between these covers you will find nothing less than a complete guide to the contents of an ideally prepared luthiers mind.  Please read that sentence again, slowly.  This is exactly what you want, and you can begin wielding this valuable knowledge almost immediately instead of waiting a lifetime to attain it.  You need merely to create in your psyche a mental cupboard labelled ‘Luthiers Mind’ and deliberately install the contents of these books therein.  The hard work has all been done and you have only to study the material to the point of comprehension to enjoy a level of ownership of your craft that‘s been hardly possible until now.

A quick scan through these volumes’ extensive Table of Contents will explain why I’ll avoid getting into specifics.  There’s much more here than I could fairly cover in a description of any length, but the word comprehensive would feature prominently in any such attempt.  Instead, I’ll just say a bit about each of these two volumes and then leave you to it.

The Design volume is unlike anything else on the subject; a great example of science and craft so well blended, on the page as, doubtless, in the person of Trevor Gore, the lead author of this half of the work.  UK born and educated, Gore brings to the craft exactly that uber-qualified background in science and engineering that we are seeing more of recently.  And now thanks to his efforts to understand his craft and to share that understanding through this undertaking, we have available to us a complete treatment of the physics-based principles and facts that govern the essential qualities of the guitar – what they are and how to control them to create an instrument of real musical value.  Readers without a technical background be forewarned.  You’ll encounter lots of math and formulas, but they needn’t give you pause.  Everything is explained clearly and, as always when reading an unfamiliar science, it helps to look to the opening paragraph for an outline of what’s to come, then to the concluding summary, and then read the paper or chapter in light of that overview.  In this case the important thing to know is that the emphasis is always on practical application, not theory.  The math and formulas are included to establish Gore’s credibility with his technical peers, but he writes for all of us, explaining the guitar’s invisible domain, that finely calibrated inner realm of physical values, structural relationships, and acoustic behaviours that are there to be understood and controlled.   In short, you’ll find here an organised understanding of the elements, principles, facts and processes upon which our craft is based.

The Build volume is principally the work of veteran luthier Gerard Gilet, and like its companion book, it would have been a serious gift to our craft all on its own.  Without it, we would still enjoy an overabundance of instructional guides to the handcrafting of guitars, but few of them, if any, present the guitar construction process as an integrated, systematic set of procedures with a clear line of internal logic running through it.  The building methodology presented in this book is just that.  Beginning luthiers could start right here, embrace it whole, and be both on very solid ground and well ahead of the game.  Experienced guitar makers will find in this volume a wealth of useful ideas, processes and solutions to problems that will enhance their current routines.  The numerous jigs and other shop-made tools presented here are all easy to build, clear in their application, and the value of their contribution to the quality of the work is obvious.  An approach as logical and accessible as this could not come to us from a person still young in the craft.  Its elegant simplicity is a distillation of Gilet’s lifetime of work at the bench.  The volume’s ultimate value though, lies in its demonstrating the concrete application of its sister volume’s more conceptual material.  What might seem abstract and less easy to grasp in the Design volume is brought right down to earth in the Build volume, made real and literally graspable on the bench top.  

These two volumes are quite different from one another, representing as they do such polar dimensions of the craft, the conceptual and the concrete.  And, they are utterly complimentary in the whole that they make up together, representing as they do the necessary unity of those two realms.  I can only imagine that the authors themselves are reflected in these qualities.  Their work will advance our craft by no small amount and I say to them, thank you.

Charles Fox, Guitar Maker

American School of Lutherie
Charles Fox Guitars

Gernot Wagner Foreword

Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build
Foreword to the 3rd Edition by Gernot Wagner – Double Top Guitars

Writing a foreword for a book is probably one of the rarest events for almost everyone.  It’s also not something you do on your own initiative.  As a rule, you are asked to do it.  Such a request naturally also creates the feeling of enjoying the author’s special trust, but also the assessment that you have the necessary competence.

When Trevor Gore asked me to write a foreword to the third edition of his two-volume work “Contemporary Acoustic Guitar, Design and Build”, I knew that this would be a great challenge, but also a very exciting task.

From the very beginning, there was a guitar maker who was an absolute role model for me whose approach was largely determined by the inclusion of scientific, especially acoustic aspects.  This was Daniel Friederich, who died quite recently (November, 2020).

When I started building guitars myself, there was only Irving Sloane’s work, “Guitar Construction”, which is well known to all colleagues of my age.  First published in the sixties, it was certainly a helpful, if rather cookbook-like guide to guitar building for generations of professional guitar builders, but also for those who were just hobbyists.  Since then, more or less similar books of this genre have followed.

A search on the Internet for the keyword “guitar building” already returns 402,000,000 entries, and 364,000,000 under the keyword “guitar acoustics”.  When Trevor Gore began his “Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build” project, he was obviously confident in his ability to condense this “universe”.  Of course, his work is not simply a condensation of the legion of entries on the internet.  Rather, it is based on an enormous reservoir of his own existing knowledge of physics and acoustics in particular, coupled with his practical experience as a luthier.

Unfortunately, the incompatibility between purely scientific, research-based theories on the one hand and the experiences of practitioners on the other is often a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to synergetic effects.  In the person of Trevor Gore, a synthesis of these disparate worlds has been achieved.  A stroke of luck for the world of guitar making.  The contents of his Design volume in particular are not just a collection of individual anecdotal experiences. They contain many analytical insights and a multitude of scientifically proven facts.

He has a special ability for structuring. He also had an uncanny ability to recognize the questions that actually arise in the daily work of most guitar makers, and answers them; comprehensively.

I have had the experience myself on more than one occasion of Trevor directing me to look at specific pages of his work for questions that arose while I was working.  Of course, the topic in question was almost always covered.

His two volumes make it possible for the individual guitar maker to avoid or at least reduce speculation in his work. The number of uncontrollable interactions between individual components in the complex “guitar” system is still large enough.

Even if the two volumes are reminiscent of coffee table books in their external dimensions, they by no means share the fate of many coffee table books of being merely decorative.  They are excellent handbooks.

Gernot Wagner, Double Top Guitars

Frankfurt, Germany

Contents and Introduction


To download the contents pages as a PDF file for either the DESIGN or BUILD volume of the book , click on one of the icons below:-


To download the Introduction to the books as a PDF file, click on the icon below:-

Reader Reaction

Just a very small sample of the very many positive comments I have received about the books:

I believe that this book is the most solid handbook on guitar building that has been written up to now, and that it will stay unsurpassed for quite a bit more than just a few years for its great practical value I see in it.

Markus Schmid; Switzerland

Congratulations Trevor, this is the best book on lutherie that I have ever read and I’m pretty sure I have them all…including the Journal of Guitar Acoustics.

Randy Reynolds; CO, USA

I just received the books! Wow! I can’t wait to read these cover to cover. I just browsed through them. Great work! Anyhow, I love the books and can’t wait to spend more time in them. Congratulations!!! These two volumes are the best I’ve seen for luthiers.

David Schramm; CA, USA

I received your 2 volume book set shortly after ordering and have spent the last few weeks going through them. Both books have proven to be interesting and concisely written. You have achieved a good balance of in-depth technical engineering data, interjected with common sense building prowess, to provide the reader with information that appeals both to be the technical mind and practical builder. Congratulations on a marvellous and successful reading adventure applicable to new and veteran guitar builders alike.

Tim McKnight; OH, USA

Books arrived 10:30 this morning in the wilderness of Northern California two days after leaving Down Under! Amazing! They are as beautiful as everyone has said.

Many thanks!

Jim Housman; CA, USA

Just a note to let you know that I received the books yesterday (fast!). I browsed through them last night and it is a monumental piece of work. Even from a cursory scan you have answered a few questions on building technique that I’ve been puzzling over. I particularly like the practical approach and the openness you seem to have brought to the work (there may be fibre breakage but you can fix it with a little glue). Most other books seem to assume a super-human woodworking ability in a world where sides never break and planes never tear out grain.

I know how I will be spending this weekend, and many others most probably.

Thanks and congratulations,

Richard Chapman; Monreal, Canada

Many congratulations on the publishing of your fine books. Beautifully done. The external quality and the printing reflect the quality of the contents, so well researched and with a wealth of combined experience from master craftsmen. I thank you for your considerable efforts in producing such fine works. I will no doubt use them for reference for the rest of my guitar building days.

Garry Petrisic; NSW, Australia

My wife (god love her) bought me your books on guitar design and build for my recent birthday. Can I congratulate you on a thoughtful, well written and fantastically illustrated tome. As, at best, a very amateur luthier, I am learning more than I could discover for myself in 20 years.

Well done!

Geoff Drummond

Magnificent work! I have rarely, if ever, felt that I’ve gotten something of such true quality and utility as your design and build opus, and offer again my sincerest thank you.

The work by yourself and Gerard Gilet is absolutely magnificent, and certainly stands beyond any other reference guide for guitar builders to date I know of. Perhaps the nicest result of receiving your books is to know that a rare effective bridging between the worlds of science and engineering and those of empirical woodworking craftsmen in lutherie now exists, and I for one am deeply grateful that you and Gerard have made it happen, and that I have been able to get an edition from you.

With great respect,

Robert Simon; CA, USA