Book: The Masters' Bench
The Masters’ Bench: The Guitar-Making Workshop of D’Angelico, D’Aquisto, and Gudelsky (2016)
“The designs and instruments of John D’Angelico and James D’Aquisto have shaped and guided the work of every serious archtop guitar maker...” – Paul Schmidt, The Masters’ Bench
Full-color, 289 pages with more than 400 photos. Narrative by Paul Schmidt. Introduction by Arian Sheets, NMM Curator of Stringed Instruments.
Regarded as two of the greatest archtop-guitar makers of all time, Americans John D’Angelico and James D’Aquisto set the bar for craftsmanship and design. When D’Aquisto-protégé Paul Gudelsky visited the National Music Museum in the early 90’s to see the extraordinary Antonio Stradivari guitar, he compared D’Angelico and D’Aquisto to that great Cremonese stringed-instrument master. D’Angelico and D’Aquisto had professed and practiced an instrument-making gold standard that is everywhere evident in their now-prized guitars and in the tools and templates of their almost monastic workshop—now on display at the NMM.
The NMM’s book The Masters’ Bench, includes author and guitar-expert Paul Schmidt’s central narrative, which explores the lives and practices of D’Angelico, D’Aquisto, and D’Aquisto protégé Gudelsky, through the memories of people who knew these luthiers and through the material evidence of the masters’ workbench. Schmidt offers an insightful first-hand perspective on the master craftsmen’s motives and methods.
Writing the book’s introduction, National Music Museum Curator of Stringed Instruments Arian Sheets offers her take—not only on the archtop-guitar masterpieces but on the modest masters’ bench—illuminating why conserving the process as well as the product matters.
And James D’Aquisto’s own mentoring and almost mystical words on guitar-making are here as well—along with exclusive photo essays by Spencer Lowell, Ira Landgarten, and Tim Olsen; rare NMM archival images; reproducible guitar patterns and forms; workshop inventories; and revealing handwritten documents—all of which build out the history of these remarkable men.
The Masters Bench allows you to peer, almost apprentice-like, into the world of three passionate guitar artisans—behind the shop door into their unvarnished lives, their livelihood (and ledger books), and creative achievement.