Building a Guitar with William Cumpiano Page 2

I just had to insert this paragraph that is taken from a disscussion on the Luthierforum website. This is Mr. Cumpiano in a bit of a rant. This is not a reflection of his usual, easy character but I just liked the point he makes here. Mr. C. writes, "I feel very strongly that what keeps aspiring students stuck in the dilettante level, and from progressing towards professionalism, is this very inspirational-sounding, romantic quest for perfection. Perfection: phooey! Perfection is the enemy of the Good. I've seen too many indulging this illusion, get stuck fine-sanding each kerfing chip and then crash-burning out of the craft. I know many professionals and they all had to get past this perfection-quest to become successful, world-class luthiers. I'm unimpressed by perfection: A machine run by a complete nincompoop can cut a microscopically flat surface on a piece of wood, far flatter than any Old World Master ever could. Far more difficult is to create a guitar with Soul, with artistry, with uniqueness, with Magic. And to get there you've got to build many, many guitars. Perfection keeps you stuck forever trying to finish your fifth guitar. Leave perfect for the engineers. Leave art for the Artist".

There are few teachers I have had that were able to inspire their students. Although admittedly, I already had an interest in the subject matter, I was surprised and captivated by Mr. Cumpiano’s curriculum which was much more than I expected.

The first few visits were more lecture style than tooling wood. As W.C. mentions, these lectures did answer many of the questions that a first time builder may have. Also providing basic knowledge of the history of the craft and of acoustics and string technology. One of the highlights of these lectures was his demo of what a string does when plucked. We stretched out a slinky across the shop and plucked it, making note of its motion and its forces. You could feel the tug and pull of the complex motions. Pretty wild demo but it really showed how (in slow motion) a string, like a spring, flops all over in every direction. These forces effect the bridge in every direction making it like "a boat on the water". Great stuff. I hope I remember it for the exam.

As we entered into the realm of technique, weather referring to wood choice or building approach, Mr. Cumpiano offers the disclaimer that this is what he has come up with as a solution to a set of challenges confronted with when making a guitar. If you ask another Luthier, you may get a different set of solutions. There are many different approaches to building a guitar and the ones he teaches are the ones that have worked for Him.

One of the biggest differences in Cumpiano’s approach to building the guitar body is his use of a workboard to assemble the soundboard, sides and back. He says a mold is too confining. With a workboard, the builder is free to create an instrument of any shape without having to build a new mold every time. This has been a good thing for my style as I have yet to make two of the same shape guitar. With a close look at his technique, you start to see why this works so well for him and why he has his students use the workboard and not a mold.

One requirement of each guitar shape is the construction of a cork shim that supports the edge of the top during construction.

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