Teaching

Robert offers guitar building, guitar finishing and masterclasses on topics that range from sharpening chisels and planes to making double top guitars. One-on-one and small group classes are held in his shop in Parker, CO.

Check Robert’s Teaching Schedule below. Contact Robert at BuildYourGuitar@obrienguitars.com, if these dates don’t work for you. Other dates may be available to fit your schedule.

You can also see pictures of past classes in the classes gallery page.
To see what others have to say about Robert's classes, scroll to the videos section on this page.


Guitar Building: Classical or Steel String

Build you own classical or steel string guitar under Robert’s supervision in his personal shop. Choose either a five day – (no finish) or seven day (French polish finish) class. Expect to work 8 hours per day. In the five day class your guitar will be strung up and ready to play in the “white”. For an extra $300 you can extend the class for 2 more days and learn his French polish method and apply it to your guitar. What about a case for taking the guitar home? Robert offers top of the line Access cases for $160.

Finish options:

  1. Learn Robert’s French polish method, and apply the finish to your guitar. Included in the 7 day class
  2. French polish finish by Robert – $500 plus guitar shipping
  3. Lacquer or other high gloss finish by Robert – $450 plus guitar shipping
  4. Finish at home

$3800 7 day exclusive one on one private class with finish, plus materials (~ $475)

$3000 2 person class, plus materials (~ $475)

Small Group Guitar Building

This is an inexpensive way to learn guitar building so don’t miss out!

In this class a maximum of 4 students will be able to watch Robert as he builds a classical or steel string guitar in his shop. The guitar will start from raw materials and progress to a ready to play state, but without a finish, in 5 days. Ask questions, take notes, shoot unlimited photographs. You will be able to participate in some steps of the construction process.

This is an opportunity for those who have already built guitars to study Robert’s building style and improve your skills. For those considering making a guitar, this class is a good way to explore the idea of building a guitar before jumping in for the first time. The guitar will be for sale at the end of the class at a discount over Robert’s commissioned guitars.

$1200

Soundboard Voicing: Classical and Steel String

This is the Holy Grail of guitar building! In this class you will thickness, brace and voice a soundboard with Robert. This can then be taken to your shop and used as a reference for future soundboards or you can use it on a guitar. Learn about the optimum thickness for the species of wood you are using, what a loose or stiff top is, different radii and how they affect tone and structural integrity, bracing patterns, how to thickness soundboards with hand tools, how to select tonewood, and much much more!

There is some prep work for you before coming to class. Students need to join and thickness two or three soundboards to approx 3.5mm. If you plan on using your soundboard on a guitar you may also install a rosette. Bring the soundboards and bracewood to the class. Robert will then evaluate and critique your materials and help you choose the best one to work with. He will then work with you to thickness, brace and voice the soundboard so that it will give you the best response when used on a guitar.

Although there is something for everyone to learn in this class it is best if you have already built at least a couple of guitars.

$500

Double Tops

So, what’s all the fuss about double top guitars? Learn about the advantages that double top technology has to offer to you as a builder. This modern approach to guitar building uses a thin inner and outer skin with a composite honeycomb material known as Nomex in between. In this class you will learn how to thickness the inner and outer skins and then use vacuum and adhesives to build your own double top. Bracing patterns, thicknesses and other issues associated with double top guitars will be discussed. You will leave the class with your own double top that can then be used on a guitar you build.

$1000 Includes materials

French Polish

Learn one of the most beautiful and least hazardous finishes used for centuries on guitars and high end furniture. French polish is a method of applying shellac, which on a guitar, is thought by many to yield the best tone of any finish. It is thin, flexible and lustrous. It is also very easy to repair. Traditionally a tedious application, Robbie’s method, championed by Richard and Marshal Bruné in Chicago, markedly shortens the process, so it can be completed in a few days. In this two day class you will learn surface prep, pore filling and how to apply a French polish finish that can be rubbed out to a high gloss or satin sheen. Class will be held 4 hours each day.

$450

Guitar Building Consultation

This service is directed to guitar builders who are stuck, need help only from time to time, or want to get better at a specific skill.

Maybe you just need a master luthier to guide you through a step while you perform it in his shop. Spend an hour or more with Robert, and one or two other luthier friends, if you like, on a topic of your choosing. Finishing, fret work, bridge glue up, voicing, set up, and more. He can demonstrate it, talk about it, you can do it. It is your custom lesson. Robert particularly encourages luthiers with less than 10 guitars to their name to bring their tops in for voicing guidance. Voicing is one of the few steps in guitar building that a book can not adequately address. Robert has voiced well over 600 tops, both steel string and classical. Certain steps in guitar building are forever, and voicing is one of the most critical. Let him share his experience with you for an even better guitar.

$85/hour (one hour minimum)

Sharpening Planes, Chisels, Spokeshaves and Scrapers

Dull tools make woodworking a miserable and more hazardous experience. So impressive are truly sharp tools that most woodworkers can still remember the first time they used a perfectly honed blade. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare to have a chisel or plane ideally sharpened out of the box, even from the best manufacturers. Learn how to make your hand tools glide through wood. Once properly sharpened, woodworking with hand tools becomes a joy and resharpening a breeze. Until then, you will wonder what you are doing wrong. Bring your tools to this class and put a razor sharp edge on them!


Masterclasses

This schedule can change often. Be sure to check back often to see who’s coming to town, or put yourself on the O’Brien Guitars mailing list.

Modal Tuning with Trevor Gore

During April 21-23, luthier Trevor Gore, from Sydney Australia, has agreed to come to the O’Brien Guitars shop and share his knowledge and experience with Modal Tuning. This is a rare opportunity to study with an expert in the field of guitar acoustics and design. You will not want to miss this class. Topics covered include:

  • How strings drive your guitar
  • Visualizing and understanding modes of vibration
  • Relating modes of vibration to guitar frequency response curves
  • Measuring frequency response curves
  • Relating frequency response curves to generic guitar types (classical, flamenco, steel string rhythm, steel string finger picking)
  • Introduction to theory of modal vibrations
  • Mechanical impedance and admittance
  • Targeting the “right” modal frequencies and avoiding the wrong ones
  • Requirements of a guitar as a static and dynamic structure
  • Measuring material properties so that you can make the best of the wood you have rather than wishing for the wood you would like
  • Bracing schemes for backs and tops
  • Practical tuning of guitar modes: Moving from “as built” to “to design”


2017 Schedule

These are the classes offered during this year. I'm already taking reservations for 2018.

January 9 - 15 Steel String Building - (reserved)
23 - 29 Steel String Building - (reserved)
February 6 - 12 Classical Building - (reserved)
20 - 26 Steel String Building - (reserved)
March 6 - 12 Classical Building - (reserved)
April 10 - 16 Steel String Building - (reserved)
21 - 23 Modal Tuning with Trevor Gore - Available
May 1 - 8 Classical Building - (reserved)
15 - 21 Classical Building - (reserved)
June 2 - 3 Steel String Voicing - Available
4 - 5 Classical Voicing - Available
6 - 7 French Polish - Available
12 - 18 Classical Building - (reserved)
26 - Jul. 2 Classical Building - (reserved)
September 5 - 11 Steel String Building - (reserved)
18 - 24 Classical Building - (reserved)
October 2 - 8 Classical Building - (reserved)
23 - 29 Steel String Building - (reserved)
November 6 - 12 Steel String Building - (reserved)
13 - 19 Steel String Building - (reserved)
27 - Dec. 3 Steel String Building - (reserved)
December 11 - 17 Steel String Building - (reserved)

Class Videos

If you are at all thinking about learning to build a guitar you should strongly consider studying with Robbie. Stephen from Montana
This was one of life’s experiences I’ll remember clearly for a very long time… playing an instrument you’ve personally built has a special feeling. It’s an experience shared by a precious few. I’m happy to have become one. Thanks Robbie! Jim from Maryland