Book Review: Between the Ideal and the Possible by NK Forster & Dave Best

The updated pdf version of this article is presented first and highlyrecommended viewing.

The HTML version can be viewed below in it’s original, unaltered form.

Nigel Forster is best known for being Stefan Sobell’s apprentice from 1988-1990 and from 1992-2003 but he’s gone solo and was been steadily building with his own distinct style and sensibilities. I’ve always known Nigel to focus on quality and sound and his instruments are exceedingly popular with the Celtic crowd. We’re very priviledged to steal Nidel away from his work to speak to him about his new book.

Check out his full interview we did a while back here
and also a feature article about Celtic instruments here.


-HTML Version Below-

Following a 2 year collaboration between luthier Nigel Forster and photographer Dave Best, a 136 litho printed book entitled “Between the Ideal and the Possible” is now available. I received my copy recently and thought I would shoot up some of my thoughts.

Crisp well reproduced photographs form the first part which is really a visual journey from raw wood to guitars, marching in tune with the photographic techniques. The raw woods are presented via macro photography allowing detailed views of the grain and fibers. Then stark black and white images of tools and the process of bracing up tops, carving necks follow.

There is a blend of colour and black and white which mix well with the various composed photos from delicate purfling details to long portrait view of fingerboards being glued up. Overall the photography is technically excellent and compositionally very good indeed .

The second portion is a handful of essays from Nigel about technical and philosophical aspects of lutherie. Having previously met and interviewed Nigel, it comes to no surprise to me that the essays are well thought through with a refreshing candor I have come to expect from Nigel.  There are great gems like intonation and what constitutes handmade make for great reading for any guitar enthusiast.

The final portion is really a full colour gallery of completed guitars, replete with tasty details of headstocks, purfling and wood grain.

Overall, there is a sense that the book collaborators have stuck to what they are best at: Nigel’s philosophy and lutherie, Dave’s photography. Not your typical coffee table guitar book as Between the Ideal and the Possible poses interesting discussion points, but with enough visuals to keep any guitar fan happy.

I have a few quibbles- such a tome would be better presented as a hardcover, although I understand the costs involved with that may be too restriction. Occasionally the photography does lapse into slight intruction manual-ness. After several the black and white photos of hands involved in various tasks, I yearn slightly that the more emotional coloured shots.

Overall, I must say it is worth the £18.00 asking price as both food for the eyes and for the brain.

You can get more information about the book here

©Terence Tan.
Pictures: Courtesy of NK Forster and Dave Best

Any infringement of copyright or errors is entirely unintentional- although we try very hard not to make them. Any guitars represented remain property of their current owners. Any issues should be address to: We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.

We have the pdf presentation of this article which we present first. Our HTML version can be viewed below in it’s original, unaltered form.

See the full issue hereOpen publication