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Robert E. Thompson - Luthier

I’ve always had a love for guitars.

The first time I was attracted to guitars was probably around age 2-3 when I finally noticed my Fathers 1934 L50 Gibson hanging on the wall. It is a small bodied archtop and I used to take it down and make all kinds of noise with it. Eventually the guitar disappeared from the wall (for its own protection) and I soon forgot about it…out of sight, out of mind. My father had bought it new back in 1934 and used to play in local dance bands in Nebraska.

Like a lot of people my age, the next time guitars caught my attention was in the early 1960’s and for sure once the Beatles came on scene. I was very attracted to the music and acoustic guitars being played by Paul Simon, Leo Kotke and the like. When I was in grade school and high school I wanted to take up guitar but the family really couldn’t afford a guitar let alone lessons.

In 1968 I went into the Air Force and within three months had bought an old Sears guitar from one of the guys in my unit. Within another year I ended up buying a 1968 Brazilian rosewood Martin D35. I loved that guitar. I never really took lessons to learn how to play the guitar properly (take lessons!). I have played off and on ever since that time.

While in the Air Force and stationed at Fort George Mead in 1971 I had the chance to go and see some guy named Andres Segovia in Constitution Hall…he was supposed to be some great classical guitar player and I figured I would go and see what it was all about. Needless to say, the concert was an eye opener and from that point on the seed for a love of classical guitar was planted.

It would be a long time before I built my first classical guitar but in the interim I finally got the sense to take lessons from a professional on playing classical guitar. It was the best thing I had done up to that time. It allowed me to progress much faster.

I had been wanting to build my own guitar for a long time and when my current employer gave me the opportunity (they laid me off), I took a class and built my first classical guitar in 2003. I loved the process so much that I have continued building since 2003. I have also done a major restoration project on a 1968 Felix Manzanero guitar which was a good challenge and a great learning experience.

I build my classical guitars like most builders these days using the Torres/Hauser bracing pattern and basic body dimensions. I use the best materials I can find. Something about buying cheaper wood to save a few hundred dollars when you are putting around 160 hours of labor into building a guitar that never sat well with me. Even with high end Indian rosewood and European spruce that I use only brings the materials cost up to around $800-1000 including a nice hardshell case. I am a member of both the Guild of American Luthiers (GAL), the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisians (ASIA) and the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA).