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Frank Riner

Acoustic Guitar – “A Success Story”

Frank Riner“So, what constitutes the success of a classroom experience?

In my view, it is the synchronized meshing of communication between instructor and student. A student must have zeal and persistence to learn, while the teacher must have wisdom of subject and the patience to work with students of varied backgrounds.

I came to Whetstone School of Lutherie expecting nothing less, and every portion of my desire for knowledge in the art of lutherie was answered through lecture and hands on applications.

Whetstone’s goal and philosophy is to provide confidence and understanding to “move forward successfully” in your own projects. Yes, it was a great experience to build my first guitar while at Whetstone. Scott was there to guide me through the process and prevent me from creating major mistakes. It is different to attempt the same feat on your own when you return home. However, I write to testify – YES! It is possible to be successful and begin to move forward with the knowledge you will obtain through Whetstone.

When I came home after taking the whetstone course I was determined to build a guitar on my own. Fortunately, I work in a cabinet shop so access to major wood working tools probably gives me an advantage over most. Nevertheless, for those who are not already into woodworking, I advise visiting your local custom cabinetmaker. If you have a cut/sand list ready to go, most shops will be glad to help out.

While I had most of the larger machinery at my disposal, I was lacking many of the small hand tools and specialized jigs and forms. I had taken a mental note of every tool we used in class, and I was very impressed with the KMG Mega-Mold we used to assemble our guitars. I’m not the kind of person who just dives into my passions – I belly flop and make the biggest splash I can!

So yes, it took a little loan to get everything I thought was necessary to do the best job I could. I made my own bending forms along with the other patterns as I went along, and I turned my basement into a mini guitar shop.

IMG_20131120_175105_02I started my Ambrosia maple guitar by following the manual we received in class, and looking back over the pictures I took of my project as we went along.

Did I have difficulties – of course!

I had to learn to control the heat blanket after charring the first side I tried to bend. I had difficulty cutting the neck scarf joint without a band saw, but I wound up using the miter box with a little innovative technique. A small place on my back binding pulled away from the body without me noticing until too late, and I had to remedy that situation.

So yes, there were many beginner challenges on making my first solo guitar. But with each trial, I stopped, assessed the situation, and asked myself what end result I was trying to achieve. I executed the move by applying what we learned in class, and in each case ended with successful results. The guitar plays beautifully, and those who have seen it have been very complimentary.

How long did it take to complete my project? That’s somewhat difficult to calculate. I worked on it after work in the evenings (sometimes late into the night) and on weekends when I could. Within five weeks of applying the skills I learned at Whetstone, I sit here and strum on a sweet sounding guitar I made on my own from scratch. I’ve already started making another, and I’ll continue onward after that, expanding my knowledge of this craft whose roots are embedded at the Whetstone School of Lutherie.

Frank Riner
Monroe, VA