Learn Woodworking: Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie

brace carving

A student carves the interior bracing on an acoustic guitar top (above). Acoustic guitar by student Whitt Smith, Spring 2014 (left).

Smith2The Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie has been training instrument makers in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun for almost 40 years. In that time, more than 2000 students have graduated from the school’s 5-month program, with hundreds going on to work as professional luthiers.
When it comes to solo crafts people, working in their own shops, “I think we’ve produced more guitar makers than anyone in history,” says William Eaton, the school’s director.
“You do have a lot of pride in seeing people come through,” he says, “and knowing that it could change their life.”
The school’s five-month Guitar Making and Repair Course has been offered continuously since 1975, The school also offers a set of open-enrollment workshops on guitar electronics and finishing techniques.
Eaton says students start from scratch. “We don’t assume people have any background in woodworking prior to coming to our school,” he says. Students in the five-month course have the option of attending a three-day orientation to the use of woodworking machines and hand tools. Students build two guitars during the program, and repair numerous others.
Enrollment is set at roughly 40 per term, Eaton says. Most of the students are guitar players in their 20s, though some are older. The school draws applicants from around the country, he said. Faculty are all accomplished instrument makers themselves, including Eaton who began playing at age 7 and built his first guitar in 1971.
Eaton said he and his colleagues are planning several events to observe Roberto-Venn’s 40th anniversary next year.
To learn more about the program, or to enroll, visit the school’s website at http://www.roberto-venn.com.

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