"I had wanted to learn to build a guitar for several years before a realistic opportunity came up between jobs this past winter. I looked at a number of different schools across the US and Canada before settling on the Whetstone School of Lutherie.
Why Whetstone? Well, I knew I didn’t want a “paint by numbers” type class - not that there’s anything wrong with those, especially for a novice like myself, but that’s just not how I learn best and not the experience I wanted. It was clear from the comments of previous students that Scott’s class and the process he’s developed are well-structured and challenging, but with enough discussion of the nuances and “what if” questions of guitar-building along the way to provide a real foundation for future exploration.
Upon talking with Scott and asking about the possibility of tailoring the build a bit (I really wanted to build a slot-head, 12-fret based on an L-00) Scott set our time up as a tutorial session, a one-on-one class of two weeks duration. This proved perfect for me, providing a true immersion course that satisfied my engineer’s mindset while providing the bonus value of being able to observe and participate in parts of Scott’s creative and problem-solving process as he guided me through my own build and worked through a first-ever build of his own on a gorgeous little 12-fret parlor guitar, creating and refining new templates and tweaking his design along the way.
We quickly settled into a rhythm and friendly banter, with me learning new skills and insights each day as the pieces came together and (usually) managing to focus on the day’s tasks rather than “the best way” for each step. Even though Scott said it clearly on Day 1, it took time for me to internalize that each hand-built guitar really is unique - which makes the journey more interesting and rewarding.
The results couldn’t have been better. I came away with a great little blues box that has stunned my family and friends with its quality of build and wonderful tone, a solid grasp of guitar-building basics, and a determination to experiment and learn more in my next build, and the next…
Even better, I’ve built a new friendship that I hope will sustain as long as the notes that spring from the guitar built under Scott’s guidance… ‘cause they just go on forever!"
"So, what constitutes the success of a classroom experience? It is the synchronized meshing of communication between instructor and student. A student must have zeal and persistence to learn. A teacher must have wisdom of subject, and 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.
I 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."
"I remember the day that I decided to learn how to make my own acoustic guitar. My search for a school of lutherie in the New England area began on the Internet. The more I looked around, the more I kept finding encouraging information about the Whetstone School of Lutherie and the skilled founder and luthier, Scott Hausmann.
The things that impressed me about the school were the testimonials on their website and the fact that the School highly recommended that students in the Acoustic Guitar Level One class have some woodworking experience. Other schools did not make that same recommendation, which gave me the impression that the Whetstone School really meant business.
I contacted Scott and told him about my academic background and my passion for building a guitar, but confided that I had “absolutely no woodworking skills whatsoever.” He suggested I enroll in the class, but also encouraged me to register for the spring semester in Advanced Woodworking at Keene State College. In my college class, we could choose a semester long project, and Scott helped me pick a project that would help me acquire the basic skills I needed to be successful in his course. I chose to build a small jewelry box, which introduced me to various aspects of woodworking including joinery, hand tools, materials, inlay, and working with stationary machinery.
Despite that experience I was nervous when I first arrived for my orientation at the Whetstone School. In fact, I remember telling my husband that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do the work required to make a decent guitar. Nevertheless, as we all got settled in I felt more at ease. Scott emphasized that the course would require focus and hard work, and he cautioned us that we would all inevitably make some mistakes. However, he went on to explain that those mistakes would be great learning opportunities, and he assured us that despite their imperfections, we would be delighted with our guitars and proud of what we had accomplished.
My first impression was that Scott was encouraging, a little stern, and honest – all excellent qualities for any teacher. In addition, his work space was immaculate. I am a biology professor, and I have rarely walked into a molecular lab as organized as the classrooms at the Whetstone School. I knew that Scott, my professor, was thoughtful and he was going to help me make the best first guitar I could possibly make.
I will be honest – the course was challenging. Scott has high expectations and he demands that his students are focused and not just going through the motions of a planned program. In other words, you are making a cut in “X” way, but why are you making the cut in that way and not another? That approach forced me to really think about each step of the process and take responsibility for my learning experience. I also made mistakes – and I had to remember how to dust myself off, get back up, and keep on working. All and all, the course was exhausting and I could barely keep my eyes open at the end of each school day.
That said, building my guitar with Scott and my classmates was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. Each and every day I accomplished things that I would never have imagined myself achieving. I walked around with a self-satisfied grin on my face and really felt wonderful after finishing every piece of my guitar (even when I made mistakes).
I was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone by taking this class, and the reward was a really amazing experience and a guitar that I will cherish forever. I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to hold my finished guitar, the one that I built with my own hands, on the last day of class. Whenever I go to parties or get-togethers, friends ask me to bring my Whetstone guitar. They love the way it sounds and plays! The products of the Whetstone course were better than I could have possibly imagined – a better me, and a great guitar."
"I have just completed the Banjo Building course at the Whetstone School of Lutherie and it was truly an amazing, enriching experience. The course was taught by Will Fielding of Fielding Banjos, who is not only a knowledgeable and creative master builder but is also a kind, generous, and all-around great guy.
Before I started the course, I had virtually no experience building instruments and very little woodworking skills in general. Before each phase in the building process, Will gave the class clear and understandable explanations of what we would be doing and the skills needed to accomplish each step successfully. With Will’s guidance I was able to get through the process and build a instrument that I'm proud of and is a joy to play.
Will has a great sense of how much help to give. In class, he would explain what needed to be done and perhaps jump in and briefly demonstrate a technique but the actual work was left to me. For example, before we carved the necks of our banjos, Will explained and demonstrated the basic concepts and skills necessary. When I looked down at my block of wood that I was to make into a smooth, perfect neck, I really doubted that I had the talent to do it. But I followed his instructions, working slowly at first and gradually more aggressively. Soon, almost magically, the desired neck shape began to appear. As I worked, I regularly asked for Will’s feedback and he would make suggestions to take off a little here or there, to pay more attention to this part or that, and with his help I was able to make a neck that feels great in my left hand and is very easy to play.
Lastly, the director of the school, Scott Hausmann, is very helpful and accommodating. I felt welcome from the moment I arrived and I feel that I have not only completed a course but have made longtime friends. I cannot say enough good about my experience at the Whetstone School of Lutherie. I am so glad that I took this course. It was the experience of a lifetime."
"I loved it! I knew going into the class that I would emerge with an understanding about how a guitar was built, but I was truly amazed at how good it sounded, and that I was able to make a guitar of that quality on my very first try.
It was really because of Scott's expertise and teaching ability that it went so smoothly. Even though there were a couple bumps in the road, he was able to turn those events into positive learning experiences for everyone by demonstrating how to deal with the unforeseen obstacles that inevitably crop up in guitar building.
At times the class - to me anyway, was much more than a workshop on how to make an acoustic guitar. It was also a master class in woodworking skills and techniques, and a great opportunity to learn about jig and pattern making. I value and admire Scott's openness insofar as your homemade jigs and techniques are concerned. These are areas where some people might leave others to fend for themselves in trying to get started making guitars, and I was impressed and very happy about his willingness to share so much information and "trade secrets" so to speak, with everyone.
Scott, I can't say enough good things about your teaching style too! Some people are very good at what they do, but they can't convey to others how to do what they do. You are not only very skilled, but you also have a natural and understandable way of taking a very complex process and breaking it down and explaining it in a way that anyone can grasp and understand. You my friend are a natural teacher who is very easygoing and at times "patience personified" as you modeled many times in our class.
The shop at the Whetstone School is top notch! It is very well laid out in every aspect and detail from the personal workstations to the placement of all the machinery. It is open and well lit and allows for easy movement around the machines and workbenches. Whetstone's shop lacks nothing - the machine room was very well equipped with first rate machinery and dust collection, and I love the new bandsaw and the Hammond trim saw. The personal workstations were well equipped with all the tools needed for each student to work independently and also very well lit - not only with great lighting, but also with big windows to let in natural light.
You asked us for any suggestions about improving the class and the program in general, and that's a tough one - you really don't need to improve on much. Everything about the class and the shop seems to have been very well thought out, and I think you have set the bar pretty high in terms of a well equipped learning environment, a great program/curriculum, and a teaching style that delivers more than promised.
I'm looking forward and counting the days to the Acoustic Guitar Level Two course in July."
South Boston, MA
"I just brought home the fruits of my labors from the one-week ukulele building course with Scott Hausmann at the Whetstone School in Brattleboro, Vermont.
The result of Scott’s expertise and hands-on approach to teaching was a uke which is easily a match for any other in my collection. It was made as a gift for my wife but we are constantly fighting over who gets to play it…
This is not a kit-building experience - you will start with bits of wood, so expect to learn side bending, neck carving, fretting, a little inlay (for the rosette and side dots) and a host of other skills. Whether or not you are familiar with using tools, Scott provides fantastic instruction and you will leave the course with a lot more confidence and ability than you had when you started it.
The workshop is comfortable and very well equipped, so the week you spend there will be a pleasure as well as a learning experience. There were three of us on the course, and such was the standard of teaching that all of us left with great sounding ukes, which none of us really believed we were capable of building at the start of the course. Scott uses high quality woods - Honduran and African mahogany, rosewood, and Sitka spruce. The design is elegant and something you will enjoy showing off. The instrument boasts an innovative top bracing pattern and a radiused back, not features you will find on any budget ukulele.
I would not hesitate to recommend this course as an introduction to lutherie, as well as a fun course for those already making instruments. I will be signing up for Scott’s guitar building course next and I am certain that I will once again be on a steep learning curve, albeit with a great deal more confidence having built this uke."
"A comfortable New England workshop, cedar plank walls, a gentle snow falling outside, coffee brewing in the corner. And in front of you a piece of wood which in two short weeks will become a beautifully hand crafted instrument. That’s the Whetstone School of Lutherie. It may not be Heaven – but it’s damn close.
Having previously made nothing more sophisticated than a crude magazine rack, I was skeptical about my ability to create something of such complexity. I had never spoken of widths in terms of thousandths of an inch or concerned myself with spaces measured in sixty-fourths. I do now.
A master craftsman expertly guided our small class of three. Through the maestro, Scott Hausmann, the entire process was demystified and the seemingly impossible happened before my very eyes. We were shown proper tool usage, exposed to jig making, measuring tips, woodworking tricks, problem solving and how to fashion and create an abundance of pieces, the majority of which are curved, bent or odd shaped, and magically join them all together.
It was an experience that was profoundly satisfying. I have since made another guitar in my meager garage workshop, of which I am quite proud, and the next is on the drawing board. Thanks Scott for introducing me to this marvelous craft and teaching me skills I will carry with me the rest of my days. Your class has greatly enhanced my life."
Judge William Peterson
"My experience at your school was one of the most treasured times I've had in my adult life. I learned so, so much, and I'm truly thankful to you and Will for all your support and help along the way. I will always tell others of what a great program you have created for musicians out there, and how hospitable everyone was to me - I really loved being there!"
Santa Cruz, California
"As someone with limited woodworking experience, it was quite intimidating to be presented with a pile of neatly laid out mahogany and Sitka spruce on our first day of class. How on earth was I ever going to turn this into a soprano ukulele that represented anything like the one Scott had showed us?
From the get go, it was clear that Scott is both a master luthier and an inspirational teacher. He had thought through each step of the process, and had created numerous jigs, templates, and cauls to help simplify the various tasks. With patience, and the wisdom to step in and take charge when things were getting off kilter, Scott kept us on schedule and helped us avoid any irreversible mistakes.
Although Scott warned us from the beginning to expect a good but not perfect instrument, I was delighted that the end result was a very credible and playable instrument. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Whetstone School Of Lutherie to anyone looking to augment their interest in acoustic instrument building."
"I had been considering building an acoustic guitar for almost 10 years, having poured over some of the classic texts on the subject. I'm glad I waited for the Whetstone School of Lutherie to come along.
The guided experience I found there was perfect for someone like myself with a minimal level of woodworking experience, yet a considerable passion for the instrument. I learned more than just how to build a guitar at the Whetstone School. I learned about tackling problems with patience, and I gained a broader understanding of tools and how to use them efficiently and effectively.
The shop and teaching space is clean, roomy, and comfortable, and it has all of the tools you could ever want. During my time with Scott I learned a great deal about designing and constructing jigs, what tools are absolute necessities, and what tools would be good to own, but not indispensable. I also got some great ideas for setting up my own workspace at home.
Scott has vast experience and knowledge about techniques and methods, and his building process is well thought out and organized. That said Scott always made a point of explaining alternative methods for accomplishing the task at hand and pointing out the pros and cons of different approaches.
Not only was my experience with Scott rewarding on its own merits, but the mahogany back, spruce top L00 that I built is on par with many upper end instruments in guitar shops. I couldn't have expected anything better, and to know that I built it myself makes it so much more valuable to me than any instrument I have ever purchased. In summary, I couldn't be happier with my experience at the Whetstone School. I would recommend the school to musician's, woodworkers or anyone else who wants to learn about the craft of lutherie from a master craftsman. It was more than I could have ever hoped for!"
"I have known Scott Hausmann for about thirty-five years; we met each other as the result of our both having worked for Michael Gurian and Gurian Guitars.
I have had the pleasure of working with Scott on a variety of projects, but also have held him as one of my closest friends for these many years. I am grateful to have a sense of the whole person.
Scott is a master woodworker, and quite simply put, one of the finest and most versatile craftsmen I know. He's been pursuing craftsmanship in woodworking literally since childhood, and it shows.
This is evident in both what he builds and in how he relates to his tools, his materials and those he works with. His patience, dedication and humility are truly inspiring.
Watching Scott learn through his building of instruments has been both helpful and enjoyable to me. He is an excellent problem solver, has a refined sense of design and is always developing and refining his processes as both builder and teacher. I find Scott thoughtful, incisive and playful. He's aware of the people he works with and his long-term romance with the guitar, as both builder and player, serves him well in sharing what he knows and loves.
The shop at the Whetstone School is comfortable, well equipped and just plain feels good. I expect that over the years it is going to be a very special place for those who pass through its doors. There will be much learned and earned there which I know can be found in precious few places. Students there will be in the best of hands."