Has anyone built a Selmer or Mac?

Does anyone here know where I can chat with people who've built gypsy style instruments (or is currently building one) I'm looking primarily for non-luthiers so I'm not taking up someones "earning time" but rather sharing experiences with a fellow hobbyist / budding luthier.

I'm working through the initial stages of building ... haven't decided whether to do the Selmer or Mac... so got both plans and have been studying them. A couple of things seem "way hard" and I'm wondering whether I'm just failing to comprehend what's actually going on, or whether it takes special tools, or whether it's really "way hard" and I just need to buck up and practice on scrap wood till I get it right ...

1.) 3d scarf joint at the neck. I can see how it would be accomplished if a person did a 3-piece neck... do the scarf joint and put rails on the side of it but doing a 12 degree inset scarf of that size with super crisp clean edges and a perfectly matching sliver of a tendon on a joint whose tightness is 100% critical (IE, it has to be perfect or doesn't achive the necessary strength) Man, that seems like something I'd either have to cheat and use power tools for.. or get really good with a specialty low-angle block plane that does clean corners.

2.) the front to back arch... I *think* I get it - it's basically the Larson Brothers technique of curving the sides of the soundboard... reinforcing them with curved braces... and then pressuring the top and bottom of the soundboard down to the body. If I'm going to spring load the top that way - I want to talk with someone who has done it once or twice as I'm assuming that all hell is going to break loose when I start forcing those top and bottom edges down to the body.

3.) It would be nice to discuss "gotchas" about the side and back lamination with someone who has experience. I don't want to spend that much time building a pair of mold/glue-jigs (one for back, one for side) and then out of naivety - screw up and ruin $100 of top grade semi-rare non-backed veneers. The rest seems pretty straightforward. (not easy - but straightforward... IE... similar to techniques used in building Flattops and/or archtops)
You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.


  • asd123321asd123321 ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 121
    The guy at this site
    says the solid back is better. I'd like to see if that would improve the Saga's. Maybe that would be good for a first attempt.
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,752

    Michael Collins has been long at work on a book/DVD set about building gypsy jazz guitars. Drop him a line about it; he's a great guy, and I'm sure he'll be more than happy to help, given your enthusiasm...

    For information about the book:

    To contact Michael:
    <!-- e --><a href=""></a><!-- e -->

    And for those that travel a lot:

  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    Thanks Gents

    I've spoken with Bernie Lehmann - very nice guy and h**l of a good luthier. He had a booth at DJFestNW last year. I'll take a look at his site.

    I dropped Collins a line a week or so ago and offered to proofread his book - IE, to read it - to use it to build a guitar, and to point out any big gaffs... I offered to pay for it up front - use a review copy - give feedback - then return the review copy to him for a published version when he goes to print.

    I'm guessing that he's just swamped or has gotten too many similar offers as he hasn't returned my mail (yet) You would never guess it from the chicken scratch I use while posting (and emailing) but I've done a lot of document review/revision. I started in marketing and did outbound communications for ~ 4 years.

    I have my fingers crossed. Some of the details in the Francois Charles plans are intriguing and fairly self-explanatory - but one or two things stand out as places where... with some advice you could get it done - and without advice, you could bang your head on it a few times. (and blow $20 - $100 with each head-bang :)
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Charlie AyersCharlie Ayers Salt Lake CityProdigy
    Posts: 286
    Have you checked out

  • BohemianBohemian State of Jefferson✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 303
    Now I know 4 folks including me who have attempted to contact Collins about the book; all with no response.

    I ahve been collecting plans.. I now have 4 sets from different sources and will get the Charles sets next. I will then redraw them into a single
    composite unit.

    I would highly recommend the book Guitarmaking by Cumpiano and Natelson for very good general information on building

    Also would suggest you check out the Acoustic Guitar Magazine web site.. go to Guitar Talk/Discussion and then scroll down to Luthiers might posts your questions there.

    I have been threatening to build a Sel/Mac for some time.. but likely a Busato/Patenotte/Mystery guitar/Noname all rolled in one.
    There are dozens of Sel MAc clones.. cheaper to buy a Saga if thats what you want. And if you have not built before, better to stick with an existing plan.

    Power tools are beneficial but the scarfed head joint can be made by hand.. see the Cumpiano book. as to the "arched tops" these are most commonly pre arched in dished molds while the braces are being glued.

    I would build with solid woods. More of a hassle for limited benefit in making your own veneers and pre made guitar backs and sides material though readily available from wood dealers in Spain are had to come by in the States
    Get some middle quality east Indian rosewood from LMI or Allied. A decent mid level euro or engelman top walnut for necks is optional, I would go with mahogany. Stew Mac is a great source for lots of other bits and of course **** or other sources for bridges and tail pieces...

    Good luck

  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    Collins got back to me. He's considering my offer - but I can understand why he's not jumping at the chance... namely, he doesn't know me. That's reasonable.

    So you say you have plans? Do you have gypsy guitar plans other than the Francois Charles ones? I think what I'd like to build is a Busato. I heard Jason Okamoto play his a few times and I just about fell off my chair. That huge shallow body with the big gnarly arch in the top and also in the back... WOW what a guitar. Of course, that sound is probably coming more from Jason's talent, and the 60 year old soundboard made by one of the most talented gypsy luthiers to ever shave a brace... but hey :) I can try, right?

    I have the Cumpiano and Natelson book - their scarf joint method is neat - (as is the Gurian pinned neck... very minimalist) The scarf joint on the Selmers that is giving me a bit of a scare is the 3-dimensional one. IE, its' sort of like an oversized blind shallow-taper dovetail joint... well, that's not entirely accurate either - but it would be fair to call it "joinery"

    If you have other gypsy plans, I'd like to know - where they can be purchased etc...
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • BohemianBohemian State of Jefferson✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 303
    For more plans try Roy Courtnall in England.. do a search for him.. he has also written a few books including "Making MAsters Guitars"

    Good that Collins got back to you.. now if he would have the courtesy to
    e mail the other folks that have contacted him regarding purchase.

    I would suggest making a very straightforward SelMAc copy then redesign it to your taste.

    There are so many SelMac copies it would be nice to see somehting original

    Check a builder namerd Jon Piquet from Switzerland. On his website there is a departure form the theme.

    Cunpiano no longer uses the Gurian pin system but bolts and inserts with a mortice.
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622

    I am in the midst of building my first Selmer style guitar. I would love to talk about it and bounce ideas off of others. It would be cool to also find other plans as well for future builds.

  • bill raymondbill raymond Red Bluff, CA✭✭✭
    Posts: 42
    I wouldn't bother with the Maccaferri head/neck joint. A scarf joint would be just fine, unless you're concerned about "authenticity". The last I heard, Michael Collins wasn't making the half-round tenon, but making a square tenon version of the Maccaferri joint.

    The plans available from Roy Courtnall were drawn by Adrian Lucas; Adrian told me that he used a LeVoi guitar as his source. This guitar is a "Grande Bouche" model without internal resonator, and is somewhat different from the Maccaferri model in other respects (not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing).

    If you want to build a "Petite Bouche" model, the plans from François Charle (available from Stewart MacDonald) are about the only ones available (to my knowledge).

    The top is bent on a hot pipe just below the bridge. When the arched lateral braces are glued on, it assumes a sort of dome shape.

    The laminated back and sides doesn't require anything special, just veneers that are commercially available from veneer suppliers such as Constantine's. I've used a laminate of African mahogany/"poplar" (not a true poplar)/EI rosewood, and laminated the arch in the back over a form in a vacuum bag--quite easy to do.

    If you want to build the "Grande Bouche" model with resonator, beware that the plans don't provide sufficient detail to just go ahead and build from them. You will have to "think it out". Anyone interested in this can PM me for more detail. I'll gladly share what I've learned. The Musical Instrument Makers Forum, , is a great resource, and if you register as a member (it's free) you will have access to the library of archived discussions which have a bit of information about construction of Maccaferri/Selmers and their variations.
  • trumbologytrumbology San FranciscoNew
    Posts: 124
    Hey Josh,

    How are your adventures in Macaferri luthiery coming? I know you were spending a lot of time analyzing bridges and the interaction of bridge feet and the soundboard a few months ago.

    Josh or anyone, I'm curious about the difference between bridges with two feet vs. bridges that make contact with the soundboard for their entire width.


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