Alan Carruth Guitars

Alan Carruth Guitars

Al Carruth is legend in the guitar making world. Here's how he got there.

I started instrument building with a mountain dulcimer kit in 1971, when I was still in the Navy. I had bought a guitar from George Bowden in Majorca, and he encouraged me to think about making guitars.

Shortly after I got out of the Navy, around 1973 or '74, I took a guitar making class with Thomas Knatt, near Boston, and went on to work with him doing repairs for a number of years. I also started to branch out into making a variety of instruments. Tom and I took a lute making class through the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, in '77, and I also started making hammered dulcimers and lap harps around that time. Tom introduced me to Carleen Hutchins in '79 or thereabouts, and I started taking her classes in violin making and acoustics about a year later. During that time I also met Fred Dickens, who started me into doing research on guitar acoustics.

I worked out of a basement shop at home that was not really satisfactory until '92, when Tom and I went into partnership in a shop in Waltham, Mass. In '96 I moved out on my own, in shop space in the town where I had lived since leaving the Navy; Dedham Massachussets. In 2002 I moved up to a farm in Newport NH, and set up a much nicer shop in my barn. Here I divide my time between building guitars and other instruments, teaching classes in instrument making, and doing research on guitar acoustics. Keeping several things in the air at once means that no one of them gets as much attention as, perhaps, one would like, and my production rate is not high. On the other hand, I continue to learn, and try to make improvements with every instrument. Each one is thus essentially a 'custom' job, different in some way from every other. I also do almost everything myself; not farming out inlays or finish work, for example.

One focus of my research for the past thirty years has been understanding why we use the woods we do, and finding substitutes for the tropical hardwoods that are becoming increasingly rare. At this point I feel confident that I can build a fine instrument with no tropical wood at all, that will have the sound, playability, and durability of the 'usual' woods, without the hassles at the borders!

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