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Chicago School of Guitar Making

Welcome to the Chicago School of Guitar Making! We teach classes in guitar building, guitar setup and repair and tube amplifier building. We are the only school in Chicago where you can learn instrument repair and building from a professional luthier. We are also the only school teaching the craft of tube amplifier building. Since opening in 2005 more than 1000 students have enrolled in our classes.

Below is information about our classes, facility and staff. For additional information about our school and the classes we teach, please visit our FAQ and About pages.


Class Schedule

Classes are offered year round. We release the schedule of new sessions every three months to give students ample notice. To see the most current class schedule, visit our Classes & Seminars page.

Classes are scheduled to meet weekly or as weekend seminars. The weekly classes meet weekday evenings or on Saturdays. Our weekend seminars provide the same curriculum as our weekly courses but condensed into a weekend format. Our seminars are ideal for those who have schedule conflicts with our weekly classes or are not in close proximity to the Chicagoland area.

We send out an email Newsletter when any new classes are opened. Sign up for our newsletter by providing your email address in the Newsletter Sign Up box which is found in the upper right hand corner of this web page.


Our school is located in our shop, Specimen Products. It is outfitted with individual workbenches custom-made for the students. Each workbench is stocked with all the tools required in our classes. Students also have access to our fully-equipped wood and metal shop, and a wealth of specialized tools and supplies.


We currently offer six courses covering different aspects of guitar repair:
Guitar & Bass Setup and Maintenance
Fret Work
Guitar Electronics
Bone Nut & Saddle Making
Guitar Finishing & Relicing
Advanced Guitar Repair

These courses are part of our foundation curriculum and are structured to teach students the essentials of guitar repair and design. All of our foundation courses provide a good groundwork for anybody interested building their own custom guitar. Students ready to embark on this adventure can enroll in our Acoustic Ukulele Building, Guitar Design & Theory and Constructive Techniques Workshops.

We currently offer three building courses, two focus on electric guitar building, and one on building acoustic ukuleles. Familiarity with hand tools and wood working procedures is extremely beneficial in these guitar building classes. It is also recommended that students have completed our Setup & Maintenance Course and Fretting Workshop as an understanding of the skills learned in these classes will be useful in this workshop.

Electric Guitar Building Classes
Our Guitar Design & Theory and Electric Guitar Building Workshops teach students how to design and build their own instrument entirely from scratch using raw materials. Check out our Student Gallery showcasing students with their finished instruments.

Ukulele Building Workshop
In this workshop students build either a soprano or tenor ukulele from a kit. This workshop is ideal for students who want to go on to build acoustic guitars as many of the procedures and techniques used to build a uke are the same, but the smaller size instrument makes learning the processes easier. This workshop is well-suited to students with previous woodworking skills and are comfortable using a variety hand tools.

In our Tube Amp Building Workshop students build their own tube amplifier based on Fender’s revered line of Tweed Amplifiers and Marshall’s 18-watt line. For those interested in home stereo building, we are now offering Hi-Fi Stereo Tube Amplifier Building classes.


Courses are taught by Specimen owner / luthier Ian Schneller or Specimen staff members Richard Phillis and Pete Mueller.

Ian has been designing and building his own line of custom guitars, tube amplifiers and audio horn speakers for more than 25 years. He began creating his Specimens while completing a Master’s Degree in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While there he started building instruments for fellow Chicago musicians including a full-line of indestructible aluminum guitars. He soon expanded his operation introducing several new models of guitars, amplifiers, and audio horn speakers. Ian has built more than 500 Specimens for customers worldwide.

Richard Phillis is Specimen’s lead finishing tech. Through years of training and experience, Richard has become an expert in finishing Specimen’s Horn Speakers and Tube Amplifiers and he assists Ian with finishing Specimen’s custom guitars. Richard assists Pete in our production department building horn speakers and tube amplifiers and is an assistant guitar tech in our repair department.

Pete Mueller is Specimen’s production shop manager and assistant guitar tech. Pete started at Specimen after taking many classes at the school and then completing an internship in the shop. Pete is responsible for managing production of Specimen’s horn speakers and tube amplifiers and is an assistant guitar and tube amp tech our repair department.

Our school administrator is Lauren Stenzel. Lauren manages all registrations, updating the web site, and communication with current and prospective students.

Ian is assisted in many classes by John Asta. John specializes in fret work, tube amplifier building, and guitar electronics. John also works at Specimen assisting Ian in building custom Tube Amplifiers and Horn Speakers, and in the repair department.