Why are stringed instrument builders and repairers called “Luthiers”?

A question unrelated to repairs, but frequently asked, is why I refer to myself as a luthier. According to Dictionary.com “ Luthier” is of French origin, from approximately 1875. “Luth” meant lute and “ier” implied builder of lutes. Soon it began to apply to anyone who built or repaired a stringed instrument.

When I first started building the current definition was someone who worked on more than one variety of stringed instruments. i.e.: An individual who built only mandolins was a mandolin maker but a guitar and violin builder or repairer was considered a Luthier.

Over the last 25 years it has come to include all makers and repairers of stringed instruments. Back in the mid 80’s (yes in the last century), the craft was not as well publicized as today. There were only a couple schools and most of our learning came from being apprentices.

Today there is more information about the subject and many places and opportunities to learn; so the term “luthier” is heard and used much more frequently. Also it is a great catch phrase with clients to say, “I will have my luthier inspect it or go over it for me”.

Through the years I have explained the definition to many. Sometimes it is still misunderstood. Once speaking to someone in reference to the word luthier an elderly woman overheard me and muttered “I knew you were in cahoots with the devil”. This was probably because it sounds like Lucifer. Also another time I told someone I was a luthier and they informed me they were Methodist. So it has its misinterpretations.

Whether you call us luthiers, Lutherans, or stringed instrument engineers, the point is to call us. Having your instruments adjusted and correctly maintained will allow you to participate in my tag line.

Enjoy and play daily,
Anton Lehman



       From young children taught in school to elderly citizens wanting to be cool; being green is constantly in front of us.  We need to participate in recycling and leaving as little an impact or media speak, “Carbon Footprint”, on the earth.

       How can musicians go green and participate?  Well, there are a couple of ways.  First, thanks to D’Addario and TerraCycle, you can recycle your instrument strings.

     Anton’s Musical Instrument Repair is a drop off point for old strings.  There is no cost and it keeps the mess of entanglement out of our landfills.  We have a string recycle box in our shop to collect used strings and when it is full we’ll send it to TerraCycle to recycle.  D’Addario is the industry face for the program and we think this is a good program.  Strings are like fishing line and ending up in the environment is not a profitable result.

     Secondly, as a musician you can get your used instruments repaired; instead of throwing them away and buying new ones.  Yes, some need to be trashed but many times minor repairs can make them play better than new.  Also, then you can purchase the new one also and you now have two to enjoy. 

     Remember Anton’s Musical Instrument Repair is a collection center for used strings to be recycled complete repair center.

Enjoy and play daily!

“TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle materials. They offer a range of free programs, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste. Eliminating the Idea of Waste.

TerraCycle® and D’Addario have partnered to create a free recycling program for instrument strings and clippings. D’Addario will make a charitable donation on your behalf for each qualifying shipment.

Once collected, the metal and nylon strings are separated by type and the metal is melted down and smelted into new metal alloys. The nylon is recycled into industrial plastic applications.”

Source: https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/daddario-playback

When Should I Repair My Stringed Instrument?

When should I repair my instrument? This question gets asked frequently: from action work to major cracks and repairs.  Of course the best answer is when it’s discovered, but reality is many times not the case.  Money, need of use, availability to a repairman, is some different reasons immediate repair is not accomplished.

Action work gets put off for many reasons. The number one reason is that I just bought the guitar what could it possible need. Also if a player has never experienced great action they don’t understand just how much of a difference action work provides in playability.

Fret work gets put off for such reasons as: I need the guitar right now for gigs, I cannot afford repair at the present time, I can live with the buzzing sound.

Crack damage falls into many different categories. Some want them fixed immediately, others ask does it really need repaired or will it make a difference. Bridges re-glued has similar reactions as cracks from clients.

Now that we discussed the questions, action work has little effect on the instrument except, a completely loose truss rod could allow the neck to become set in a up-bow position making it harder to adjust in future years.  Outside of this the only thing that suffers with action work is the player.

Fret work will buzz normally and could make bending strings difficult. Fret work left unattended will just continue to get worse causing buzzing as the frets wear.  Also the more it wears, it slowly wears the next fret above and then the fret above this one so finally the buzzing is everywhere. If re-fretted sooner than later, a partial re-fret would allow less frets to be replaced, less stress on the fingerboard and less cost to the consumer.  Great fret work also improves playability.

Cracks and loose bridges are the real question on when to repair. The sooner a crack is repaired upon discovery the better the repair will be. Once a crack appears it is a dirt catcher. Also small chips and larger chips can get knocked away leaving larger areas that need to be filled, making the repair more difficult and costly, and less invisible. Cracks can cause buzzing, poor tone and even change the action of an instrument.  A small crack an inch long over time can become longer and again more difficult to repair with added expense.

Loose bridges can affect sound causing buzzing and bad action. Though pin bridges won’t fall completely off the longer the repair is put off the more difficult to fix, because the bridge will usually warp. If a non pin bridge or classical bridge becomes loose it will eventually come off leaving the instrument unplayable, and possibly with finish damage.

The decision to repair is always the consumers and I try to give an honest evaluation to the repairs needed and the consequences if put off for a time, and of course free cost quotes.

A musical instrument needing repair is like an automobile.  Repairs are made according to what we feel we need and can live with and what you can put up with in operation and looks.

Play daily and Enjoy

The Importance of Stringed Instrument Maintenance

Everyone understands maintenance.  Without it the products we buy, slowly deteriorate and begin to work at a  frustrating level.  If every time we go to use  a product and it needs to be coaxed into operation, our enjoyment of the product goes down.   Stringed instruments are no different.  If every time you take it off the stand or out of the case, and you find it hard to play, constantly out of tune or just doesn’t sound as pleasant, you won’t enjoy the time you spend playing.  Musical instruments need periodic maintenance just like a lawn mower or your toaster.  Occasionally you have to at least knock the crumbs out of it or check the oil, to keep it performing at an enjoyable level.  Performing upkeep tasks keeps the products we buy for our convenience and pleasure in good working order.

As a minimum, you guitar, mandolin, or hurdy gurdy, needs a fresh set of strings.  New strings from time to time, not only bring out the best sound quality, but they also stay in tune better and buzz less.

Most modern instruments come with an adjustable truss rod.  This device helps adjust the playability to seasonal changes and keeps the action at its best.  Normally the action moves slowly and we don’t notice until one day it’s WOW!  This is getting hard to play and is no longer enjoyable.  Having the truss rod adjusted keeps the action playable.

Cleaning the instrument may not require a luthier, but helps both in looks and playability.  Excessive dirt and sweat, dead skin (think DNA) on the strings,  fingerboard, and body, makes subtle changes in how the instrument looks, plays, and sounds.  Through playing, screws and other moving parts loosen which can cause buzzing or worse yet fall out and make the instrument unplayable.  Taking the time yourself or bringing the instrument to a luthier for care will keep your axe in top form.  These are just a few items that regular maintenance will help keep your instrument in top playing condition and most importantly keep you enjoying making music.

Till the music fades,


Shipping your stringed instruments for Repairs

How to get your instrument to Anton’s to get maintenance and repairs?  In the great western U.S. sometimes getting your guitar, violin, etc . . . to a repairman can be a daunting task.  It easily can cost as much or more as the cost of repairs.  What to do?

Surprisingly there have been many different delivery methods to Anton’s.  Besides just hopping into your vehicle and driving it yourself or dropping it in a box, in Wyoming we get creative.

I live an hour from Yellowstone National Park and many plan a short vacation around coming to the shop.  Some customers know family and friends with students at the University of Wyoming or Northwest College and they have the students deliver instruments for repair.

Other musicians let their friends know, “Hey, I am headed to Anton’s” so they bring several when they come.

Putting your instrument into a box and shipping it makes most people cringe.  Shipping through the major carriers like USPS, FED EX and UPS is fairly safe and reliable to get the boxes delivered unharmed.

Remember your instrument started its journey from the factory in a box probably in a truck or cargo container to the music store before you walked in and said, “Wow”  I want to buy that.”  The online companies have been shipping guitars for years.

Damage from shipping is lower on the problem list especially if it’s in a hard shell case and then a box.  Though the cost seems high, when you figure fuel and time it really isn’t that bad.  I do get aggravated though when I hear the cost.

One customer had a lockable case and locked it and sent it Priority Mail no problem; though not sure I endorse this method.

So these are a few ideas on getting your instrument in to get it repaired.  If you need to get something in, give me a call.  We can discuss the best way.   And yes, if you are flying,  I’ll meet you at the airport.

Till the music fades,