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  #1  
Old 04-14-2022, 08:40 PM
CMStewart CMStewart is offline
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Default How does someone get an apprenticeship?

I am currently learning to build guitars on my own, literally because I've always wanted to do it, and find the whole process fulfilling. But I'm right at the beginning phase, and do not have everything I would need to do it on my own (I hope to soon have a membership at a maker's space to help with that). However, I feel quite alone in this pursuit, and have reached out to a few people in and outside of my area to see if they might be willing to apprentice me, or even just let me visit them and work with them for a few days to watch, learn, and gain some experience.

But it feels like a complete longshot to me, even though I know it happens for some people. Maybe I need to be more well known before someone would allow that? I guess I'm curious how anyone would ever find an apprenticeship and be chosen to be a luthier's apprentice? I do work full time at the moment, so all I'm thinking is taking a vacation to gain a small bit of experience for a short time. Has anyone else found anything, and how did it happen? Am I thinking about this wrong, and does anyone have any advice that might help? I really appreciate your help.

- Colby
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Old 04-14-2022, 09:20 PM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is offline
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Here is a quote from John Thayer’s website. He is a well respected luthier from my old stomping grounds in Kitsap county, Washington.

“About
John A. Thayer’s training in the field of Luthiery began through self-taught experience, creating several electric guitars as a teenager. In 2002 John attended the Roberto Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, Arizona. During that time he created two electric and two acoustic guitars. John spent additional time at Roberto Venn as an assistant to Robert Mazzullo, one of the past instructors at the school. As an assistant he continued his education through hands on experience by building additional guitars and completing a variety of guitar repairs. John went on to work under the guidance of world-renowned master luthier, Ervin Somogyi in Oakland, California. Ervin helped refine Johns understanding of soundboard voicing and guitar construction techniques. Now located in Bremerton, Washington John maintains a thriving business around guitar repair and restoration, and building a limited number of handcrafted acoustic and electric guitars. -Established in 2004”

I think the basic steps are build some on your own, go to a luthier school, build more guitars and impress your teachers…
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Old 04-15-2022, 06:26 AM
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srick srick is offline
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Colby -

You can certainly go the route of Roberto Venn or Galloup Guitar School. You will learn a certain style and philosophy that will get you to a base level. Even though they aren't inexpensive, they have many contacts in the industry and could probably help place you after graduation.

You might want to listen to Michael Bashkin's 'Luthier on Luthier' podcast (Fretboard Journal), where he has interviewed dozens of top luthiers and their journey. Many of them were self-taught. With the availability of countless Youtube videos and luthiery resources, learning on your own is very do-able.

One site that I have frequented in the last year is a Patreon site: IanHatesGuitars. At its heart is an open Zoom link - Luthiers keep their audio\video feeds on throughout the day while they work. Thye chat back and forth about techniques, business, and life in general. Several times a week, there will be instructional sessions and interview. Ian Davlin is the fellow behind this and he has enlisted many top luthiers in the country (and world) to teach and share. The luthier community is very giving and they love getting together and swapping stories.

So with a little more investigation, I believe it will be very easy for you to attain your goal. Good luck with this!

Rick
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Old 04-15-2022, 01:48 PM
CMStewart CMStewart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srick View Post
Colby -

You can certainly go the route of Roberto Venn or Galloup Guitar School. You will learn a certain style and philosophy that will get you to a base level. Even though they aren't inexpensive, they have many contacts in the industry and could probably help place you after graduation.

You might want to listen to Michael Bashkin's 'Luthier on Luthier' podcast (Fretboard Journal), where he has interviewed dozens of top luthiers and their journey. Many of them were self-taught. With the availability of countless Youtube videos and luthiery resources, learning on your own is very do-able.

One site that I have frequented in the last year is a Patreon site: IanHatesGuitars. At its heart is an open Zoom link - Luthiers keep their audio\video feeds on throughout the day while they work. Thye chat back and forth about techniques, business, and life in general. Several times a week, there will be instructional sessions and interview. Ian Davlin is the fellow behind this and he has enlisted many top luthiers in the country (and world) to teach and share. The luthier community is very giving and they love getting together and swapping stories.

So with a little more investigation, I believe it will be very easy for you to attain your goal. Good luck with this!

Rick
Hey Rick (and Pine Cone), thank you both for some very informative replies. Since I currently work, and need to work, at least for the moment spending both the money & time for a luthier school -- as tempting as it is -- just can't happen. Other than that, I think I can follow through on your other suggestions.

I will certainly check out that Patreon, Rick. That sounds like an incredible resource. And I also agree that this time, more than any other, is one where there's more than enough resources to learn independently. I think just hearing others voice that gives me confidence that it's doable without official training.

Thank you for sharing. If anyone else has any other thoughts, please share.
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Old 04-15-2022, 02:33 PM
phavriluk phavriluk is offline
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Supercurio, I took a different path. I spent a week with Dave Nichols at Custom Pearl Inlay in Malone, NY, building a guitar under instruction. I have no idea how much of a trip that is for you, it was a day's road trip for me. I spent a week at a very comfortable bed&breakfast in Malone, NY. I learned an awful lot in that one week.
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Old 04-15-2022, 06:39 PM
Skarsaune Skarsaune is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Supercurio View Post
Hey Rick (and Pine Cone), thank you both for some very informative replies. Since I currently work, and need to work, at least for the moment spending both the money & time for a luthier school -- as tempting as it is -- just can't happen. Other than that, I think I can follow through on your other suggestions.
If you can’t spend the time for school, how would you ever apprentice with anyone? That usually entails a pretty long term involvement.

I think what you might be well served by is taking one of the weeklong classes with a good luthier where you build a guitar in their shop. Robbie O’Brien, Eric Schaefer (sp?), any number of others offer this type of situation.

Either that, or just jump in, like the rest of us. Get a kit, get a book, get started. There are tons of resources available nowadays so you can choose the style / system that suits you. I like books supplemented with online classes, occasional YouTube videos.
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Old 04-15-2022, 10:16 PM
CMStewart CMStewart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skarsaune View Post
If you can’t spend the time for school, how would you ever apprentice with anyone? That usually entails a pretty long term involvement.

I think what you might be well served by is taking one of the weeklong classes with a good luthier where you build a guitar in their shop. Robbie O’Brien, Eric Schaefer (sp?), any number of others offer this type of situation.

Either that, or just jump in, like the rest of us. Get a kit, get a book, get started. There are tons of resources available nowadays so you can choose the style / system that suits you. I like books supplemented with online classes, occasional YouTube videos.
An apprenticeship usually is paid, since you are assisting someone while you learn. But I'm even open to just spending a week with someone (I can take some time off for something like that) where I have to pay for the travel and earn nothing, but get to work and learn from someone for a brief time. Just that connection and experience would be very worthwhile (phavriluk mentioned doing something similar with Dave Nichols in NY).

School is a different animal, and a much longer investment, which I couldn't be without work for that much time -- at least right now. It's also usually very expensive. If it was only on the weekends I would be fine with that, but there are none in my area which means I would have to leave my current job a move somewhere else where a luthier school exists. Like I said, things just are the way they are right now. I hope that explains what I had in mind.

I agree with your suggestion about learning much of what I need online. Which is where I am now (even this thread is part of that). Thank you for all the helpful ideas Scarsaune

Last edited by CMStewart; 04-21-2022 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 04-15-2022, 10:19 PM
CMStewart CMStewart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phavriluk View Post
Supercurio, I took a different path. I spent a week with Dave Nichols at Custom Pearl Inlay in Malone, NY, building a guitar under instruction. I have no idea how much of a trip that is for you, it was a day's road trip for me. I spent a week at a very comfortable bed&breakfast in Malone, NY. I learned an awful lot in that one week.
Hey, this is basically exactly what I had in mind. I live in Texas, so that would be quite a haul, but I'd still be down if there was an opportunity. I know Steve Kinnaird isn't too far (in Nacogdoches, Texas -- I live in Houston). It would be so cool to be able to work with him for a week. I love his instruments.

How did you go about spending a week with Dave? Was it an invitation thing, or did you have a connection with him?
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Old 04-16-2022, 08:07 AM
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I was very lucky to apprentice with Sergei de Jonge for about three years when I decided to dive into lutherie. I knew absolutely zero about building or the custom guitar world when I took his 4-week course and had a great time doing it. Before starting to buy tools, find a shop space, etc., I went back to Sergei's a year later to take the course a second time and that was when Sergei asked if I wanted to come back as his apprentice. Several things made it possible -- I was in my mid-twenties with no commitments, I was willing to stay for at least a year, Sergei saw potential, and, most important, we got along great. It was an unpaid-ish apprenticeship, but I basically became a part of Sergei's family for those three years and had almost no expenses (and Sergei is unbelievably generous with giving tools, wood, and some money when there was extra). It was important that I could at least commit to a year so that his initial investment in teaching me would pay off with the guitars I could build for him by the end. Most of the other apprentices I know went to a school (usually Galloup) and were recommended to builders when they finished the program.

Like others in this thread have mentioned, I think you're probably looking more for a short course or someone that can consult with you on your builds. If you approach a luthier asking about an apprenticeship, that implies certain things (at least for me) like a long-term commitment and that you would be building under their name.

There are lots of luthiers out there so hopefully you can find someone that you mesh well with!
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Old 04-16-2022, 07:50 PM
Pine Cone Pine Cone is offline
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You might want to check your local colleges and universities to see if they have any luthier or wood working classes. If your wood working and finishing skills are not top notch you will learn things that will help you.

I ended up in Corvallis, Oregon back in the 1980’s. One summer I discovered an extension class at Oregon State University that taught luthiery. Not a real university program, but a once or twice a week summer school class, with access to a nice wood shop for a small fee.

I learned a lot, but I also had a good woodworking background before I took the class. The instructor was not a famous luthier, but he knew a fair amount. We each picked a project with his help, ordered stuff from StewMac or Luthier’s Mercantile, and then we started to build. It was a fun summer.
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Old 04-16-2022, 10:23 PM
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You know, sometimes you can get educational or arts grants that reimburse the luthier/instructor for taking you on.
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Old 04-17-2022, 02:27 AM
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Apprenticeships are available, typically however you wont get them from a mom and pop business.

I have trained 13 people over the last 20 years, some as paid apprentices some as people interested and want one day a week training to develop basic skills.

Find a maknstream manufacturer and see if you can get a job on the build floor, develop skills, understand guitars and go from there

Steve
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Old 04-17-2022, 08:44 PM
CMStewart CMStewart is offline
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Thank you guys for all of the ideas. I will be exploring all of them, and maybe try multiple things (outside of just learning independently). There are some great online workshops and classes that have been recommended which are going to be helpful.

I am learning that some luthiers do student builds as well (of course they're paid, but they are short-term, which is the only thing I could really commit to right now). So I'm going to look into that.

There are some universities here in Houston so I can also check to see if there are any wood-working classes that may be helpful, but I fear my work schedule wouldn't be kind to such classes right now (since they're usually during the day, and traffic is hell here). I will look into it though.

If anyone has anything else, please share. Thank you all for the advice.
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Old 04-18-2022, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Supercurio View Post
There are some universities here in Houston so I can also check to see if there are any wood-working classes that may be helpful, but I fear my work schedule wouldn't be kind to such classes right now (since they're usually during the day, and traffic is hell here). I will look into it though.

If anyone has anything else, please share. Thank you all for the advice.
High School Adult Schools sometimes have shop classes at night. I built a Fender-style fretless Precision Bass out of birds-eye maple at one, including profiling the neck (with the assistance of the shop instructor). A place to become familiar with some of the tools that could be later be useful.
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Old 04-19-2022, 01:26 AM
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Seems like you have chance to meet most of you conditions working with Steve and Ryan. Don't know the cost and how they select students. Living in Texas and their shop somewhat close not sure how you could find a better situation.

Good luck on your quest.

Bruce,
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