Following on from my Professional Setup and Guitar Build experiences with James Collins at www.guitartechcourses.com it didn’t take long for me to start wondering what my own guitar building and repair business could look like in the future. Initially I thought about how the business could become a supplement to retirement (in 2019 the timeline was brought forward with redundancy…. but that’s another story). James had attended the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair in Michigan, US, www.galloupguitars.com and was very positive about the training given as well as the overall experience. In 2017 I was due an 8-week sabbatical from work, perfect for Galloup’s Journeyman Program, so in October 2017 I packed my bags and headed to Big Rapids.
Bryan Galloup has been repairing and making fretted musical instruments for over 40 years. Bryan’s understanding of the instrument and the guitar market gives him an edge for every repair he completes, every build he makes and every student he teaches.
The Journeyman Program covers a wide range of guitar building and repair topics with the goal of giving its students experience in the most relevant areas that will enable them to set up successful guitar repair and restoration businesses as well as provide a basic introduction into building, enabling students to set up small-scale production.
The course started with instructor Matt Zalewski covering guitar setups including the concept of relief, truss rods, fretwork and making a bone nut and saddle. You then get to practice these skills using Galloup’s ‘setup’ guitars or, once you are feeling a little more confident, your own or fellow student guitars.
You then progress onto your first guitar build, a kit electric, used to learn the principles and skills of finishing including the purpose of and types of finish, spray gun adjustment and use, sanding ready for spraying, steaming dents and filling gaps, before finally getting into the spray booth and spraying.
I love finishing guitars – it is an opportunity to create not only a beautiful musical instrument but also to get artistically creative using a combination of wood grain and colour.
Once the spraying is complete then the guitar is wet sanded to create a beautiful smooth finish and is then assembled, setup, and has electronics installed with 2 humbucker pickups. Finishing sees the final shaping of the nut and a final buff and polish of the body and neck before restringing and setting intonation.
The second guitar build is a hand-built Galloup Acoustic Monarch guitar. This build is used to teach a whole new set of skills including different woodworking skills with various types of hand and power tools (and using some pretty impressive industrial power tools) as well as reinforcing many of the skills used in the electric build such as sanding and spraying.
The guitar has a book-matched spruce top with maple back and sides, a mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard and headstock veneer.
There are many steps to building an Acoustic guitar and this would be a very long post if I covered them all but some of the key skills covered include:
- Joining the spruce top and maple back pieces
- Chiselling, carving and gluing the back and top braces
- Side bending
- Cutting the sound-hole and installing rosette purfling
- Installing kerfing, purfling and binding
- Hand-carving the neck
- Installing a truss rod and setting the neck
- Bridge carving and shaping
They do say pictures tell the story of a 1000-words…
Once the guitars are finished they go to the instructors for grading. Yes – this is a pass / fail course! The school has such an incredible reputation they don’t want students heading out into the industry that haven’t reached their required standards of craftsmanship.
Passing the Journeyman Program at The Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair was a very proud moment!