Arthur Robb
0044 (0)1666-822945

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 mould 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.

On this website you will find information about conservation and lute making, as well as information for novice luthiers.

Instructions for ordering plans are shown below all the plan descriptions. Portions of some plans are shown - click on them for a larger version.

The Plans

Renaissance Lute, 7 and 8 Courses

Lute Plan

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 11 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.

Parlour Guitar

Parlour Guitar Plan

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.

Octave Mandola

Octave Mandola 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; the original concept was probably a bass mandolin. It is tuned an octave lower than the mandolin and has become an instrument in its 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 Dulcimer

Appalachian dulcimer Plan

This 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 played by the settlers of North America. This version is hourglassed shaped, lightly constructed and has a strong bright tone. The other instrument is, of course, the banjo.

Acoustic Bass

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.

Hammered Dulcimer

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.

Electric Guitar

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.

Classical Guitar

A traditional Spanish guitar, lightly built with an open string length of 655mm. A very good first guitar project.

Large Steel String Guitar

A large and deep guitar with a big sound, 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 plan and learn about the Æolian Harp. The harp is played by the wind, and is an easy and interesting project.

Ordering Plans

To order a plan, please send an email telling me which plan you want and include your postal address. Find the price of the plan and how to pay below.

Prices of Plans

The cost of the plans varies due to size, your location and the number of sheets. Postage is included in the cost.

Parlour Guitar - Classical Guitar - Large Steel String Guitar - Appalachian Dulcimer - Octave Mandola - Hammered Dulcimer - Electric Guitar - Psalteries:
23 UK pounds to Great Britain
34 UK pounds Airmailed and tracked to outside Great Britain

7/8 Course Lute - two sheets
34 UK pounds to Great Britain
45 UK pounds Airmailed and tracked to outside Great Britain

Acoustic Bass Guitar
27 UK pounds to Great Britain
38 UK pounds Airmailed and tracked to outside Great Britain

The Aeolian Harp plan is free. Go to the The Little Æolian Harp Page and print it!

Paying for Plans

Plans can be paid for by the following methods:

1. By cheque in UK pounds. Please email me at 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: 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 shipped 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.

Photo Gallery

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, acquiried skills, knowledge of tools and materials. Dedication and patience are essential, but the 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 January 2021, I was contacted by Sid who lives in Bristol. He was on the course in St. Georges School in the late 90s and he still has the bowed psaltery he made there. He's done an excellent job and decorated the side with a lovely painting. Thank you Sid for sending these photos!

Bowed Psaltery Bowed Psaltery


in spring 2023, Terry from Northern Ireland writes:

Hello Mr. Robb,
Please find attached photo of completed Plucked Psaltery, constructed in our community workshop to your plan sent last December. It was our first attempt at a musical instrument and we are delighted with the result. It was given as a gift to a retired music teacher who is enjoying its distinctive sound. We have since completed a 'cigar-box' guitar and are hoping to make more instruments!

Regards, Terry

Plucked Psaltery


In July 2020, Julian writes:

"Hi Arthur, You may not remember me but I was one of your musical instrument making evening class students between 91 and 93. I started at Monks Park school and then the classes changed to Cotham School. I built a classical guitar to start with and then started but never finished a large steel string guitar based on your plans. I finished the top, the neck and joined the backplates and thicknessed the sides. I’m not sure why I didn’t go back to the class but I must have finished the classes without finishing the guitar. The guitar remained in a box for about the next 28 years and was always a project that I meant to finish but never got around to finishing. In the meantime I did eventually start making some electric guitars but again never managed to finish the acoustic. I think it was because I lacked some knowledge and wasn’t sure how to proceed with the assembly of the parts.

I spent some time reading books and searching out the information on the web. The finished instrument is way better than I ever thought I could manage! All the parts I made stayed in good shape over the years and so I could use all of the work that I had previously done in your class. I have attached some pictures for your critical assessment! I guess it must be one of the longest guitar making projects around!"

Large St. St. Guitar
Large St. St. Guitar Large St. St. Guitar Large St. St. Guitar Large St. St. Guitar

What a pleasure to hear from Julian after 28 years and to see what a beautiful guitar he has made. Very well done.

In October 2020, Dean, another student on the same Bristol course, writes:

" Well another year has gone by and the guitar is finished. It’s far from perfect and I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but it plays and sounds great, which is what matters most. I had the top, sides and roughed-out neck from the classes so had to buy the back, fingerboard and bridge blank. The back is made from walnut which I found on Facebook marketplace for £35. It was 12mm thick though. I had intended to take it to a friend’s workshop to use their planer-thicknesser but then covid happened and I ended up planing it down by hand - That was a good work-out! The fingerboard is bamboo - cheap and sustainable apparently, although from the smell when cutting it I think there is a lot of resin in it. I went for a plain look because to be honest I wasn’t sure I was going to end up with something half decent so I didn’t want to spend a lot of unnecessary money or effort on it. Now I know I can make a playable guitar I’ll do something fancier next time. Which brings me on to...I’m going to do a classical guitar next so I’d like to purchase your plans. "

Large St. St. Guitar Large St. St. Guitar
Large St. St. Guitar Large St. St. Guitar

Dean has done a grand job on his first instrument - congratulations. I await photos of the classical guitar!


In April, 2023 Alan sent photos from the of UK his newly completed Appalachian dulcimer. Congratulations, wonderful and tidy work, Alan!

Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer

" Hi Arthur, I thought I'd send you a few photos of the instrument that I've just completed from your excellent plans. The top is a spruce - a piece that was too narrow for a guitar build. The back and sides are walnut which, along with the 'neck' and headstock, were salvaged from a furniture workshop's scraps box Many thanks, Allan."

Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer
Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer

In July 2015, Dave writes to say he has finished his Appalachian dulcimer and sends photos. What a splendid job he has done!

"Hi Art, You probably will not remember but around 4-5 years ago I bought a plan for an Appalachian dulcimer from you. Despite my good intentions, I did precisely nothing with it, until I retired earlier this year. To cut a long story short, I finally got the strings on my creation - and it plays great (though I will need to drop the action a little. I've attached a couple of photos.

I wanted however to thank you for the plan. It proved easy to follow and gave a clear sequence for construction, which proved invaluable. I'm now going to spend a little time reorganising my workspace - and then I may well try to build an octave mandola. Thanks again, Dave"

Appalachian Dulcimer

In March 2012, Malcolm writes to say he has finished his Appalachian Dulcimer and is looking for a new project.
What a lovely job!

" Hi Arthur, At the beginning of last year I purchased a drawing for an Appalachian Dulcimer from yourself. I have now finished it and I am very pleased with the result. I had no problems with the drawing and found it perfectly satisfactory. Regards, Malcolm "

Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer
Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer

In 2011, Paul finished his Appalachian dulcimer and what a fine job he has made of it. He writes:

" Hi Art, Here are some quick snaps of the dulcimer I built from your plan. As you can see I have incorporated some of my own additions. There are still some minor details that require attention but they'll have to wait as I'm trying to learn to play it now. My next project will probably be an octave mandola. Paul "

Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer Appalachian Dulcimer

Two dulcimers built in the Bristol class in the late 90's and, on the right, a 2009 dulcimer



In late 2019 John writes from British Columbia and sends photos of his beautiful Octave Mandola.

"Hi Art, Here’s photo of the completed instrument built from your plans by my friend Steve H. in Victoria BC. Top is Sitka spruce, sides and back are koa. Fretboard is ebony, head is spalted maple as is the rosette. Binding trim is abalone. Plays beautifully tuned as an octave mandolin!"


In February 2016, David wrote to say he had finished his octave mandola. Well done David!

"I purchased Octave Mandola plans from you last year. Well I have finished it at last and it sounds great. I did put a carbon fibre rod in the neck as I am very much a belt "&" braces man ! I used Walnut for the Back &, Sides, Mahogany for the Neck & Pine for the Front. I am over the moon with the finished instrument & love playing it. I have enclosed photos of the finished instrument & also one with a mandolin I made previously that I was trying to match. Many thanks for your help David."

Octave Mandola Octave Mandola Octave Mandola

In January 2016, Dave wrote to say he had finished his octave mandola. It is his second instrument. Well done Dave!

"Hi Art, I've attached some pics of the octave mandola I've just finished. Quite a challenge for a learner - but once again, the plan was spot on! Thanks and all the best, Dave"

Octave Mandola Octave Mandola Octave Mandola

In April, 2012, Wayne from Newfoundland has done a wonderful job on his octave mandola and writes:

"Hi Art, Well, I have finally finished my instrument and I am sending you a few pictures as you suggested. I basically followed your plan for the body with the following changes:I made the neck block 44 mm instead of 38 only because I increased the scale length to 565 mm and I wanted to add a bit of extra strength; and I used my own peg head shape. I used Graham McDonald’s book, along with the internet as guides as I went along.I think it turned out fairly well for my first OM.  I have only built one other instrument and that was a two point mandolin in 2010. Wayne"

Octave Mandola Octave Mandola Octave Mandola Octave Mandola

In 2011, Stephen has done a fantastic job on his octave mandola and writes:

"Just thought I'd send you some pictures of my recently finished Octave Mandola, that was made with the plans I purchased from you. It sounds amazing! It was built for my girlfriend's father and he is over the moon with it. Its not been out of his hands in 2 weeks.Im looking forward to building another one for myself."

Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar

An octave mandola under construction, 2009, by Doug, who was on the Bristol course and continues to make.

Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar

Ed's beautiful octave mandola, 2003.


Small Steel String Guitars

Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar

In February 2016 Tim wrote to say that he has finished his parlour guitar. It is his first guitar and has mahogany back and sides, sapele neck and spruce top. Good job, Tim!

Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar

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.

Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar Small Steel String Guitar

from Swindon, Bristol and Bath classes, 1980 - 2000


Lute Lute

A lute under construction in 2011.

Lute Lute Lute

Later in the year, progress has been made.

Lute Lute

From the Swindon class and the Bristol class.

Lute Lute Lute

A lute under construction and two lute moulds in the Bristol classroom, c. 1998


Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer

Begun on the Bristol course and finished many years later - what a fine job!

Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer
Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer Hammered Dulcimer

Excellent photos of a hammered dulcimer under construction.


Classical Guitar

A classical guitar made in the Bristol class in the late 80's.

Classical Guitar Classical Guitar Classical Guitar Classical Guitar

A classical guitar made by Ray in 2005.

Classical Guitar Classical Guitar Classical Guitar

In 2022, Ray made another classical guitar from the same plan.
He says it is much better than his first one and is very pleased with it.


Bass Guitar Bass Guitar

In 2012, (another) 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:

"I purchased the plans for the guitar and my friend has constructed a 6 string bass guitar from your plans with a few adjustments. I have strung the guitar with La Bella acoustic bass strings and find that the E and A strings are very loose. I enclose some pictures of the finished guitar for your archives. The second guitar is a Concert Ramirez for comparison."

Acoustic Bass Acoustic Bass

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:

"Here's a picture off the bass guitar i have build from the plan. Good to won the third price [place] in Holland . It has custom made strings from la bella (brass wound steel) 042-060-080-095 these gauge are the best . Thanks and best regards, Jos"