My name is Benjamin Smith. I hand build acoustic guitars in Berlin, Germany.

Combining traditional forms and methods from the 1930s with a modern interpretation, my simple goal is to build guitars that are an object of beauty for the eyes, ears, and hands.

Building philosophy

My goal is to make guitars that look like they’ve been taken from a time machine, but it’s not clear whether from the future or the past.

From the past I want to create objects that have that unmistakable, overpowering life that rushes through the entire soul when you behold such a piece of the past. These objects are neither common nor rare, but – for me – they were most prevalent in the European Middle Ages. They send shivers down my back, send my mind and body rushing to the place and people who used them – they’re alive, they reach into the eternal.

From the future I want the freedom to think beyond tradition. Tradition for me means the ability to let someone else do the necessary trial and error. But it also means constricting the field of possibilities to what has been handed down.

My guitars are an ever-evolving attempt to refine that dance between the past and future.


My path to guitarbuilding could be considered circuitous.

I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in a family of doctors who strongly emphasized academics and education above all else. In middle school I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my paternal grandfather and become an astrophysicist. In high school I spent a great deal of time honing my debate skills and discovering the joys of philosophy. By the time I got to college at the University of Chicago – a place famous for its focus on theory over practice, if nothing else – I had taken an interest in Russian literature. That, in turn, led to critical theory and political philosophy. My Slavic Literature degree in hand, I left America for Russia to perfect my language skills and dive into the depths of Russian culture and cinema. Eventually I moved to Berlin to study German and then got a Master’s degree in ethnomusicology. Well, at least now we’ve gotten to something musical.

But the story can be told another way, too.

I also come from a family that has always been intimately involved with their hands. My maternal grandfather – the “Fison” in Smith & Fison – was an eye surgeon who developed a number of tools and procedures for the field. As if those crafts – surgery and toolmaking – weren’t enough, he was also a skilled woodworker, building furniture and even a boat. My paternal grandfather – the astrophysicist – was highly skilled in practical optics working on systems for the government, for industry, and for scholarship. He was also, unsurprisingly, a skilled photographer and print maker. His wife, my grandmother, was a ballet dancer and teacher. While my maternal grandma was very skilled in a number of crafts: gardening, needlepoint, cooking, to name just a few.

My parents continued this theme with eye surgery, car repair, knitting, leather work, detailed train modelling, etc. In other words, I come from a family background that is a curious mixture of academia and handicrafts.

Where I differed from the rest of my family was in my love of music. I began playing the cello at a young age, and later added guitar, jazz drums, and more recently old-time fiddle.

But it was while I was studying ethnomusicology that I simply had the thought, “It’d be awesome to build my own guitar!” And so I did.

Following in the tradition of many great American luthiers – Orville Gibson, Robert Benedetto, and Ervin Somogyi, to name three – I am largely self-taught. In 2010 I gathered together tools from my grandfather, the necessary woods, and books by great luthiers and simply began. In 2011 I moved my workshop back from the United States to Berlin, Germany. Since then I have been learning, building, and refining what it means to craft these special objects and send them into the world.



000 (2016)

This 2016 Smith & Fison 000 is a beuatiful guitar with Alpine spruce top and select Indian rosewood back and sides. It is built of all solid woods, wood binding and purfling, and a French polish shellac finish. It is designed to be loud and responsive, with an even piano-like frequency response, perfect for both …

000 (2015)

This triple-0 guitar has an American spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. The binding is flamed maple, and the fingerboard and pyramid bridge are ebony. It is finished with a thin coat of oil varnish to protect the wood while not preventing it from looking and sounding great. Like all Smith & Fison …


Building a guitar for someone is much more than fulfilling an order. It’s a relationship that begins with the first conversation and hopefully lasts a lifetime. If you’re interested in having the guitar of your dreams, then please contact me and let’s see how to begin that journey.