A luthier, whose name is derived from the French word for lute (luth), is a person who creates or repairs stringed instruments. Luthiers also make mandolins, banjos, violins, cellos, dulcimers, ukuleles, and other stringed instruments. To those outside the lutherie world, the term may be most closely associated with acoustic guitar making, but luthiers also make mandolins, banjos, violins, cellos, dulcimers, ukuleles, and other stringed instruments.
Luthiers sometimes distinguish between two types of instrument making: plucked or strummed instruments versus bow-played instruments. A luthier does not always make instruments; in some cases, he or she only repairs or adjusts them.
Luthiers stand out as Old World craftsmen and craftswomen in our modern age of automated engineering, assembly lines, and prefabricated products. Making and repairing stringed instruments has been practiced since antiquity, evoking a passion for the craft that goes beyond a need to make a living. A good luthier is a musician’s best friend, ensuring that his or her stringed instrument remains in excellent playing condition for the duration of its life.
Many amateur musicians may be unaware that luthiers exist or that instruments can (and should) be adjusted over time. Constant string tension, environmental factors, and other factors can all work together to push an instrument out of its ideal range over time. This lowers the instrument’s playability, but a trip to the luthier is all that’s required to get it back to its “personal best.”
Many types of physical damage can also be repaired luthiers. A dented soundboard (top of guitar) or back is a common type of damage. This is usually due to physical trauma that has penetrated the instrument’s finish and entered the wood. A luthier can clean, seal, patch, and refinish the damaged area to hide it while protecting the wood from further decay.
A luthier is the person to call if strings buzz, if the action is high, or if a valuable or sentimental instrument is simply dirty from years of storage, misuse, or neglect. Your instrument can be revived and continue to provide years of enjoyment not only for you, but for future generations as well, in the hands of skilled, caring hands.
Luthiers are frequently found in music stores, and luthiers such as Fret Not Guitar Repair can also be found online. A reputable luthier should be happy to speak with you over the phone or via email about the issue or service. You can request a price quote or a ballpark figure if a price quote is too early. You should ask for references if your instrument is valuable and the luthier was not recommended a trusted source. Before-and-after photos of the luthier’s repair work can be helpful if you’re interested in having physical damage repaired.