The Luthier’s Blog

Welcome to the Lehmann Guitars blog! I'm Matt (alias: The Maestro) and this blog is a collaboration between me and Bernie Lehmann, guitar maker extraordinaire. Master luthier Bernie Lehmann has been building stringed instruments based on reliable and true models since 1971. I'm lucky enough to know one of the world's greatest guitar makers and this blog is my attempt to share some of his unique craft with you.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Start to Finish

Hi, I'm Matt and I'm going to start writing some posts in this place based upon some interviews with Bernie. I wouldn't rely on anything too regular here but it has to be better than the frequency of posts so far! I'm far from being an expert on the craft of lutherie so I'm looking forward to learning about what Bernie does on a day to day basis too. Feel free to post comments with questions you would like me to ask Bernie or anything about the blog, the website, Lehmann guitars, or whatever.

So, the first topic that occurred to me is to ask about how long it takes to make a guitar. Bernie makes his guitars from scratch - starting with rectangular hunks of lumber and shaping, carving, gluing, etc. until he has an instrument. He builds each instrument by hand and to the specifications of the buyer so the time it takes can vary considerably based on the type of guitar, the amount of custom detail work, and even the weather.

The first thing Bernie does when building a guitar is to sit down with the customer and have a discussion about what he or she is looking for in a guitar. This can be accomplished fairly quickly if the customer knows exactly what he wants while some customers have been known to take months of looking at photos, trying other Lehmann guitars, and talking with Bernie to nail down the precise type of guitar, features, details, and extras. With this information the luthier is ready to make some wood chips.

To build one of his flattop or gypsy style guitars it takes him about two weeks worth of work, or about 80-100 hours. He says this time is usually spread over at least a month because the process includes some inevitable down-time for things like waiting for glue to dry or waiting for a layer of finish to set up. This includes everything from the initial shaping of the wood to stringing up the finished product. Additional detail and ornamentation work, like you can see in abundance on his new Model 1887 Deluxe, with all its engraved inlay, can add an additional 30-40 hours. That means the guitar featured on his website under Headstock News took Bernie around 130 hours, or three weeks worth of work to hand build!

Bernie's arch top guitars take even longer than the standard flattop. He estimates that they take about an additional week worth of work, for a total of between 130-150 hours! Most of this extra time is because he has to carve out the top to a precise curve and with exact thicknesses. Also, he makes an ebony tailpiece for each arch top that requires considerably more work than the flattop's bridge.

The others pall in comparison to the Model 2000 however. It can take between four and five weeks of work, or between 160-200 hours! As Bernie says "it's just loaded with details and all those take a lot of time." The back, the sides, everything takes additional time with the Model 2000 - it comes with all the bells and whistles. You get every imaginable detail, all the trimmings with the Model 2000 and they all take time.

Well, that's it for now. Add your comments and look here for more from Bernie soon!


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