Musical Instrument Plans
The following plans were developed through my own work and 20 years of teaching musical instrument making at:
Bristol Adult Education 1981 - 2000 evening classes
Swindon Adult Education 1986 - 1991 evening classes
Bath Spa University College 1995 - 1999 teaching music students
The photo is from a class in Filton, Bristol, taken about 1982. I am on the right and we are discussing a mold for an Appalachian dulcimer.
Many instruments have been made from each plan. The plans are full size, all dimensions are in millimetres and suggestions for materials and construction are given. I welcome feedback about the plans and pictures of your completed project.
Photos of instruments made from these plans are lower down on this page.
For help with beginning to learn about making musical instruments, advice about materials and conservation, lute making and a FAQ for the lute plan as well as the Little Aeolian Harp Page visit Musical Instrument Making Information
Prices for the plans are at the bottom of the page. Portions of some plans are shown - click on them for a larger version.
Renaissance Lute, 7 and 8 Courses
Based on the work of north Italian makers from about 1600, the late Renaissance, the string length is 600mm and any odd number of ribs from 13 to 33 is appropriate. As well as being a sensible woodworking project, the lute made from this plan will satisfy the criteria of historical accuracy demanded by today's lute players and will tune to concert pitch. The plan consists of two sheets; the first has full drawings for a seven course lute and the second has full size drawings for the mould and plan drawings for the eight course, including neck, bridge and pegbox.
This unique small steel string guitar with a bright sound is one of the most popular of the plans It is my own design, the first guitar being made in 1986. In designing, I had three ideas in mind; 1. mid 19th century guitars that had been in the workshop, 2. how these small guitars turned into north American steel string guitars around 1900 and 3. the desire to make a guitar with a voice that would contrast with the common larger dreadnoughts and jumbos.
The string length is 612mm, width 305mm. Being smaller, the wood work project is easier and good quality materials are easier to find. I have made this guitar with and without a truss rod and options are explained on the plan.
In 2000, I was commissioned to build an octave mandola. There were no plans and I did not much like any of the instruments I saw. I designed this instrument and the plan has become very popular, with many beautiful instruments being built from it.
The octave mandola is a 20th century invention; original concept was probably a bass mandolin. It is tuned an octave lower than the mandolin and has become an instrument in it's own right, especially popular with folk instrumentalists. Again, it is a small instrument and this makes the project easier, string length 530mm, width 335mm
Appalachian DulcimerThis plan makes an excellent first project for the woodworker who would like to learn the techniques of lutherie, steam bending and fretting being the most important. The string length is 680mm, width 210mm.
The Appalachian dulcimer is one of two folk instruments of the settlers of North America. This version is hourglassed shaped, lightly constructed and has a strong bright tone. The other is, of course, the banjo.
This a very large, rather narrow, version of a guitar with four strings, tuned an octave lower than the lowest four strings on a ordinary guitar. It is meant to be played acoustically. The plan is drawn by Don Batten, who tought musical instrument making in Swindon, Wiltshire. He started making instruments as a student on a course which I ran in Swindon and together we designed the prototype of this acoustic bass. Six more acoustic basses have now been made and Don has put his latest ideas on this plan. The string length is 864mm, the instrument is overall 1200mm long and 420mm wide. It's maximum depth is 120mm.
An error has been found on this plan, fret positions 13 to 20 are incorrect on plans dated before 2010.
Click here for the correction if you have an older plan.
Plucked and Bowed - two instruments on the same plan.
Plucked Psaltery - Trapezoidal in shape, about 450mm across the bottom and 50mm deep. Has 15 strings running across the top. Each string is tuned to a different note and the strings are played with with fingers, or a plectrum. A very simple project which is based on very ancient instruments.
Bowed Psaltery - Triangular so that it's two chromatic octaves of strings can be reached with a bow. A slightly more difficult project than the plucked and a simple horsehair bow is part of the project. The bowed psaltery is a late 19th century invention; it is not ancient. It makes a very unique sound.
A trapezoidal instrument like the psaltery but bigger and heavier (770x470x50 mm). Strings are in pairs or threes (17 courses) and are played by striking them with two wooden hammers. Versions of this instrument are found all over the world. Not such a delicate project, the woodworking is closer to fine cabinetmaking.
After the most common 3 pickup electric guitar in the world. The body is straightforward to make but the neck is made in the same way as any other guitar and will need some care with fretting. Easy to read electronics are shown on the plan.
A traditional Spanish guitar, lightly built with an open string length of 655mm. A very good first guitar project.
Dreadnought Steel String Guitar
A large and deep guitar, big sound - a true dreadnought, suitable for flat picking or finger style.
The Æolian Harp
This is a free plan. Click on this link The Little Æolian Harp Page to see the plans and learn about the Æolian Harp. The harp is played by the wind, and is an easy and interesting project.
Prices of Plans
The cost of the plans varies due to size, number of sheets and the cost of postage, which is included. Please consult the tables below to find the cost to you.
| Parlour Guitar - Classical Guitar
Jumbo Steel String Guitar - Appalachian Dulcimer
Octave Mandola - Hammered Dulcimer
Electric Guitar - Psalteries
|21 UK pounds||Europe|
|25 UK pounds||Airmailed outside Europe|
|7/8 Course Lute - two sheets|
|32 UK pounds||Europe|
|36 UK pounds||Airmailed outside Europe|
|Acoustic Bass Guitar|
|25 UK pounds||Europe|
|28 UK pounds||Airmailed outside Europe|
|Free to All||Click Here!|
Paying for Plans
Plans can be ordered by the following methods:
1. By cheque in UK pounds. Please email me at email@example.com for a snail address.
2. Using Paypal via the internet. Paypal is a very safe and efficient method for sending small sums of money. You will need to register at Paypal in your own country and use my email address to pay me: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are using Paypal from a country outside the UK, please pay me in UK Pounds.
By bank transfer - contact me for details.
The plans are machine folded and ship flat. I always attempt to post the plans within 24 hours of receiving payment.
Please note, I cannot accept US or Canadian dollar money orders or checks.
Photos of Instruments
When people use my plans to make an instrument, I always request they send photos of their completed project. Each of these projects represents a huge commitment requiring time, acquired skills, knowledge of tools and materials. Dedication and patience are essential, but satisfaction is very high. In this world, only a small and select group of men and woman can make musical instruments by hand.
Here are some photos of instruments made from these plans. Most photos show a larger version if clicked upon.
In March 2012, Malcolm writes to say he has finished his Appalachian Dulcimer and is looking for a new project. What a lovely job!
In 2011, Paul finished his Appalachian dulcimer and what a fine job he has made of it. He writes:
Two from the Bristol class in the late 90's and, on the right, a 2009 dulcimer
In April, 2012, Wayne from Newfoundland has done a wonderful job on his octave mandola and writes:
In 2011, Stephen has done a fantastic job of his octave mandola and writes:
An octave mandola under construction, 2009, by Doug, who was on the Bristol course and continues to make.
Ed's beautiful octave mandola, 2003.
Small Steel String Guitars
Doug has his own ideas about building small guitars and he's making them professionally now. He used my plan as a stating point. Look for his web address on my links page. I particularly like the ports in the sides, an idea that is quite popular at the moment. These pictures are from 2011.
from Swindon, Bristol and Bath classes
A lute under construction in 2011.
Later in the year, progress has been made.
From the Swindon class and the Bristol class.
A lute under construction and two lute moulds in the Bristol classroom, c. 1998
Begun on the Bristol course and finished many years later - what a fine job!
Excellent photos of a hammered dulcimer under construction.
On the left, from the Bristol class in the late 80's, other four from a guitar by Ray, 2005.
Acoustic Bass Guitar
In 2012, Ray from the Enfield Classical Guitar Society, has had a friend build an excellent looking bass guitar, keeping very much in the classical guitar tradition. He writes:
In 2008 Jos, from the Netherlands sent a photo of his prize winning acoustic bass and later sent a photo of himself and his award winning guitar. Jos writes: