Notes from an Amateur Luthier. . .

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I build guitars. Not professionally , but as a hobby. (When I was teaching high school English, I didn't really have time to build during the school year, so I built one instrument each summer. However, now that I'm retired --- since 2012 --- I can build whenever I want!)

I started out easy, in 1987, by building a few small musical instrument kits, such as a dulcimer, a small harp, an autoharp, and a mountain banjo. After discovering that it wasn't as hard as I had envisioned it would be, I finally took the plunge and purchased a Martin D41 dreadnought guitar kit. By my standards today, that first guitar in 1994 was pretty dreadful in its appearance, but its sound was fantastic! And it didn't fall apart or anything. So, I was hooked. Since then, I've built thirteen guitars (and a few other instruments), four for actual paying customers! It is, indeed, an addictive hobby. The main reason I want to keep building them is that I know, with each one, my skills improve.


me now

I built my first four guitars from kits. If you're just beginning, this isn't a bad way to get into this hobby! To read more about building from kits, or for links to other helpful sites, click the links below:

Building From Kits

Building Links




NEW: Videos!!!


My Tools

(This is an old listing, describing some helpful tools I had when I first started in this hobby.)

A Basic Tool List

New: An Updated Tools List!!!

(much more complete than the "Basic" one above)


You don't need a huge shop or fancy tools to make guitars for fun. My former house (I moved in December 1998) was a tiny two-bedroom home with no garage and no basement. I made my guitars in a spare bedroom and a utility room. (My new house has a little room dedicated solely to guitarmaking!) If you'd like to see where I make my guitars and some of the tools and jigs I use, click on the links below:

My Old Work Spaces

My Current Workspaces!

June 2008: Check out this video of my guitarmaking room!!!

NEWER (Sept 2014-August 2015) :

Video Tour of my Fall 2014 Workroom Remodel!!!


And, for an account (originally posted on Facebook) of the actual PROCESS of renovating my workroom, with detailed descriptions, click HERE.



(This is an old page, way back from when I started my website. For a more current listing of jigs, go here.)


When I was building my fourth guitar, a D41 rosewood dreadnought, in 1995, I decided to keep a log on the process. I used a database program to log in and out, each time I began some task on the guitar, and the program automatically calculated the time spent. The total hours I ended up actually working directly on that guitar (minus waiting times) was around 168 hours. Since then, I have learned a lot, gained new tools, and changed many of my building techniques, but the log should still give a general idea of what I went through as a beginner. If you are interested in reading about the general process of building a guitar --- through the experience of an amateur builder --- mistakes and all --- then click on the link below:
Martin "Size 5" Guitar....I also built three "parlor-size" guitars, modeled after the Martin "Size 5" guitar, which has a 21.3" scale. In the course of building my second one (my third one is pictured on the Guitar Photos page), I corresponded with a few Internet friends on the progress of the guitar. If you would like to view a copy of that record of the building of the tiny Size 5 guitar, click here:

But wait . . . . there's even more!!!!


Here you will find detailed, day-by-day accounts of my projects:

*Summer 1997: My First Dreadnought Commission

* Summer 1998 : A Dreadnought and my "Weird Classical"

* Summer 1999 : A Grand Concert (00) Guitar

* Summer 2000 : An F-Style Mandolin

* Summer 2001 : A Violin

* Summer 2002 : A Stratocaster Electric

* Summer 2003 : A Concert Ukulele

* Summer 2004 : Back to the Dreadnought!!! And a lutherie/vacation trip to the Guild of American Luthiers Convention in Washington.

* Summer 2005 : The Two Tenors --- Tracy's Tenor Ukulele and My Own Tenor Ukulele

* February 2006 : A Cigar Box Ukulele!!!

* June 2006 : A Grand Concert Cutaway


* July 2007 : My (Somewhat) Traditional Classical

* Summer 2008 : Another Grand Concert Cutaway

* Summer 2009 : A Martin-style Size 5

* Summer 2010 : A Kasha Baritone Ukulele

* Summer 2011 : A Harp Ukulele!!!

* Summer 2012 : A Second Harp Ukulele!!!

* Fall 2012 : A Size 5 Commission

* Winter 2012 : Some Odd Jobs in the Interim

* Winter 2012 : A Weissenborn Guitar!!!

* Spring 2013 : Some New Jigs . . .

* June 2013: Another Size 5 Guitar and My Very First French Polish!!

* August 2013: A Cajón!

* October 2013: Fall Projects (The Student Cigar Box Ukulele Kit Project)

* February 2014: The GS Mini-Style Armrest Bevel Project


In the project accounts that follow, I have often included embedded Facebook posts (it has been easier to post daily to Facebook and then embed those posts on this website).

If you want to see the ENTIRE post (especially those with photos and accompanying captions), you will sometimes need to click on the BLUE "SEE MORE" LINK or the BLUE FACEBOOK ICON in the upper right-hand corner of the post.

IMPORTANT NOTE as of 11/17/2021:

I have just discovered that my embedded Facebook posts don't work anymore (for what reason, I have no idea) in the Safari browser. They do appear, however, in the Chrome browser.

* April - November 2015: Randall's OM Kit Guitar!!!

* August - November 2015: Val's Tenor Ukulele!!!

* October 2015: A Banjo Ukulele!!!

* November 2015 - May 2016: The 2015 Taylor-style Grand Concert Classical!!!

*My 2016/2018, "Fully-Loaded" Size 5 Guitar!!!

*June 2019 -- The Resurrection of the 2nd Violin Project (BEGUN IN 2001)!!!

* MY THIRD VIOLIN!! (Begun in December 2019)

* MY TEENY-TINY VIOLIN!!! (Begun in March 2020)



December 2020 - July 31st, 2021: There's Always Room for Cello!!!

My Fourth Violin

I AM IN LOVE WITH FRENCH POLISHING, WHICH I LEARNED FROM TOM BILLS'S ONLINE COURSE ( Here's a copy of the basic schedule I use when using this method: amateurluthier/htmlpages/FPSchedule.html



A Pochette!!!

A Drying Chamber!!!

A Guarneri "Plowden"




A Stradivari "Messiah"








Excerpts from My Uncle's Poston Journal








NEW for Summer 2015 ----- Guitarmaking Room Remodel!!!

NEW for Summer 2004 ----- my New Old Shed!!!

Here you will find photos of . . . .

* my new (well, new to me since 1998!) house (including my current workspaces)

* the "Shed Shop" shed I had built in Summer 2003, to house my power tools

* my wonderful pets (seen below --- they wanted to say "Hi!")

Abigail Matsushita 1987-1999


Emily 1999-2010




Some Sad News: Emily, R.I.P.

And now for some Happy News -- Meet Hannah (my new puppy!!!)


My Trip to Tacoma for the 2004 GAL Convention!!!


My Trip to Tacoma for the 2011 GAL Convention!!!


NEW: August 2014

My Trip to Tacoma for the 2014 GAL Convention!!!



Acoustic Café!!!

September 22nd, 2012 .....The church I attend asked me to bring some of my latest instruments to its second "Acoustic Café". Here's a video.

My 2009 Size 5 Guitar in Action!!!!

In December of 2012, my church's former worship leader, David Toledo, returned to his homeland of Guatemala, and, as a going-away gift, I gave him this Size 5 guitar. Just last week, he posted this little video of himself singing and playing my (his now!) guitar:



NEW: Some Tutorials!!!

Over the years, I've found some methods of completing a few common instrument-building tasks which have worked for me. However, I've realized that I've been kind of haphazard in describing these methods, when mentioning them in the various accounts of my projects.

In my latest project (the Grand Concert Classical), though, I have described them in slightly more detail, as I was posting them to Facebook. So, I thought it might be a good idea to put some links to these common tasks here:

[The link will take you to the first photo of the Facebook post -- just keep clicking to the next photo to see the entire sequence of steps.]

Preparing to attach the neck and Gluing on the fingerboard extension (9 photos with descriptions)

Levelling and dressing the frets / Locating and gluing on the bridge (17 photos with descriptions)





Feel free to email me (Kathy Matsushita) if you have any questions or comments:




I also have available a bracing plan I made for my Taylor-style Grand Concert Cutaway. If you are interested in that plan, click HERE for the details!




This website and all of its content, text, and images are copyrighted ©1997-2021 by Kathy Matsushita, all rights reserved.