The best books for people interested in guitars and guitar making

Richard Mark French Author Of Acoustic Guitar Design
By Richard Mark French

Who am I?

I’ve been making guitars for about 30 years now and love it. I’m mostly self-taught and there were some pretty rough instruments early on, but I got better with every one. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve made and my favorite is always the next one. I learned my craft from people who took the time to write about it. I’ve now written dozens of articles and three books on guitars. As a professor, I run a guitar-making lab and teach classes on stringed instrument design and manufacture. I hope to do my part to help new builders the way others have helped me.


I wrote...

Acoustic Guitar Design

By Richard Mark French,

Book cover of Acoustic Guitar Design

What is my book about?

This book is for guitar designers, builders wishing to improve their designs, and guitar fans who just want to know more about their instruments. It’s heavily illustrated and doesn’t require any technical background. The book begins with the history of how the acoustic guitar evolved over centuries and leads up to a chapter focusing on three iconic instruments that represent the most important types of acoustic guitars: classical, steel-string flat top, and archtop. Later chapters focus on the specifics of guitars that are hard to find anywhere else. The book also features sidebar contributions by top guitar designers and builders including Tim Shaw, Chief Engineer - Guitars at Fender Music; and Andy Powers, Master Guitar Designer and Partner at Taylor Guitars.

The books I picked & why

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Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument

By Allen St John,

Book cover of Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument

Why this book?

This book has almost nothing to do with Eric Clapton. Rather, it’s an engaging story about Wayne Henderson, a retired mailman who makes some of the most desired acoustic guitars anywhere. He prefers to build for people he thinks need one of his guitars. It’s impossible to read this book and not want to make a guitar. I turn to it for inspiration when one of my guitars isn’t going well and I need to remember where I’m trying to go.


Hand Made, Hand Played The Art and Craft Of Contemporary Guitars

By Robert Shaw,

Book cover of Hand Made, Hand Played The Art and Craft Of Contemporary Guitars

Why this book?

We’re probably in a golden age of guitar making. The internet has made information on how to make guitars, once rare indeed, free to anyone who wants to learn. New builders need to see what the very top luthiers (makers of stringed instruments) are building. This book is full of beautiful pictures – more pictures than words – that show the highest levels of design and construction. When I want to dream about how my next guitar might look, I go here.


Making an Archtop Guitar

By Robert Benedetto,

Book cover of Making an Archtop Guitar

Why this book?

Bob Benedetto is about as good as guitar makers get. He learned to make archtop guitars and eventually became one of the top builders anywhere. I taught myself how to make archtop guitars from this book. It’s well-illustrated, easy to understand, and breaks the process down into manageable steps. If you read this book, you are learning from a master.


Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build

By Trevor Gore, Gerard Gilet,

Book cover of Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build

Why this book?

This is very nice a two-volume set, written by Trevor Gore, an accomplished guitar maker with an extensive technical background, and Gerard Gilet, a builder of fine acoustic guitars. This is required reading for people who are interested both in how to make guitars and how they work.


Classical Guitar Making: A Modern Approach to Traditional Design

By John S. Bogdanovich,

Book cover of Classical Guitar Making: A Modern Approach to Traditional Design

Why this book?

This is a beautiful book written by a master, who wants to inspire others to make classical guitars. These nylon string guitars look outwardly like other acoustic guitars. However, they are for a different kind of music and are made differently. Bogdanovich does a great job in leading a new builder through each step. I refer to this book a lot.  It’s so nicely produced that I find myself just browsing through it, even when I’m not actually working on a classical guitar.


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