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How can new luthiers sell for big $$$ in today

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  • How can new luthiers sell for big $$$ in today

    I really enjoy reading articles in the guitar magazines about new luthiers but their pricing puzzles me.  I

    Don't buy a gemstone guitar pick. They're like your favorite snack; you can't stop with just one.

  • #2

    I know a local mandolin luthier who also makes some really nice guitars and banjos. The man has been building string instruments for years, but he also knows he can't command the type of prices that the major production builders get. Some of his best "F" style mandolins sell for about $1400, but he told me he could make me a guitar that would rival a Martin D-28 for less than $1,000.

    I've played a couple of his $1,000 guitars, and they're nice, but not something I'd spend $1,000 for. His guitars have the name "Sparks" on the head stock. My new MMV says "Martin" on it and I only paid $1275 for it in July.

    Some of these new luthiers are charging for their time and I fully understand that, But, at the same time, their guitars aren't going to worth anything close to their asking prices unless, all of a sudden, the luthier who built it would become a famous builder. And, chances of that happening are slim to none, IMO.

    Three Dreads......2 Martins and 1 YamahaA fiddle, a mando, a uke, eight harmonicas, a Zoom H2, a Panasonic recorder, coupla penny whistles, an Italian made Titano accordion, three handguns, at least a dozen chess sets, more power tools than Bob Vila, and one old Westclox "Big Ben" wind-up alarm clock that still works! Oh, BTW, I forgot to mention my ocarina and maracas.

    Comment


    • guitarcapo
      guitarcapo commented
      Editing a comment

      I have a cutaway drednaught I built for myself out of solid Brazilian rosewood and red spruce. It has flame maple (not white plastic) binding. It has a solid one-piece Hoduran mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard and bridge, French polish finish. The red spruce top has so many lines that you really can't count them. It had to come from a 200 year old tree at least...probably 300.

      It has to be the nicest sounding a playing acoustic guitar I've ever played. The whole guitar shakes when you strum it and it sounds like a piano. A Steinway piano on your lap.

      If I tried to sell it on Ebay I bet I'd only get $850 for my "homemade guitar"

      I'd rather give them away as gifts to friends.

       


    • Freeman Keller
      Freeman Keller commented
      Editing a comment

      Opa John wrote:

      I know a local mandolin luthier who also makes some really nice guitars and banjos. The man has been building string instruments for years, but he also knows he can't command the type of prices that the major production builders get. Some of his best "F" style mandolins sell for about $1400, but he told me he could make me a guitar that would rival a Martin D-28 for less than $1,000.

       

       

      OJ, I know that Joe doesn't want to hear about labor, but a hand carved top on a mandolin or archtop takes many many hours.   There is a good reason that they sell for many thousands of dollars


  • #3

    First, Joe, remember that $3M is three million - I think you mean $3K.

    Second, how new is "new"?   There are lots of people who have only been building commercially for five or ten years - I consider that new.   A first guitar is a neophite - and should never be sold.   I don't consider the term "luthier" unless someone has built enough instruments to totally understand what he/she is doing with respect to the wood, voicing, and building chops - I've heard it said that somewhere around 30 guitars you start to merit the title.    Where those first 29 guitars end up is.....

    OK, lets assume our "new" builder has enough experience to make a good guitar - he/she can control the sound the way they want, the fit and finish is near flawless.    Let look at the economics - wood will cost somewhere in the $200-400 range, more for exotics.   Tuners, hardware, stuff like that another $100+, a case is a hundred, finishing materials another.   So we've got $5-700 in materials.   Most builders store the wood for months to stabilize it - that ties money up in inventory.

    There is one hell of an investment in special tools.   With each guitar I build I buy one more toy for my wood shop - new router or bits or whatever.   I have a commission to install a K&K pup in a guitar - I'll charge the guy $25 to do it but I have to buy a $70 reamer - I tell myself I'll make it back on the fourth one I do.

    Most small time builders produce one or two guitars a month.  I would guess that I put 80 or 100 hours in the box, another 40 in the finish.    If I was working at a trade and making $20/hour thats around $2400 in labor.    Then being a small business person I've got all those expenses - medical and taxes and maintaining my web site.    So the bottom line is that I've really got to sell my guitars for $3K just to make costs.

    Another way to look at this is a new builder makes a guitar that is a clone of, lets say an OM-28 which sells for $2500.   He says "my guitar is as good as the Martin, but its hand made and therefore better".     Therefore I'll sell it for $3000.    I see this a lot in the local wine industry - a new little botique winery will open up and their cabernet is priced at $42 a bottle just like the winery down the street - it might be good or bad but if they can get that price so can I.

    Last thought is, are these guys really selling for $3000?   My first commissions I've been selling for the cost of materials plus a buck.    I get to build guitars, my customers finance my learning - we all win.

    A luthier was once asked what he would do if he won the lottery.   He said "keep building guitars until the money ran out".

    Comment


    • JoeJazz
      JoeJazz commented
      Editing a comment

      Freeman, I was hoping you would respond since I've read much about your guitar building.  I sure tire of making mistakes (M vs. K).  It's starting to be my MO here.  I think I can summarize from your response that new builders (with less than 30 guitars) are falling victim to their own evaluation of their product's retail worth.  I sometimes feel sorry for those people starting their own businesses these days.  It's getting so hard to make a profit.  It's as though our government stops us from making money at every corner. 

      With regards to the large, very well known manufacturers, ie... Guild, Godin, Eastman, they're not only finding ways to build quality guitars cheaper, they're also adding features that were once only offered on their high end guitars.  This would be another hurdle to jump for the one-man guitar maker.  I wish all small companies success, perhaps business from friends and family will hone their skills to the point they can realistically get more for their product.

       


  • #4

    Usually, a custom builder provides something that cannot be obtained from a production supplier. Guitar, boat, guns all sell for many times the price of a similarly available product but there is something a discerning buyer wants that is not being done. Custom gun makers are backlogged often for a year at 5 times the price, for a Herreshoff design 12' sailboat you pay 20 X the price of a similarly sized boat. There are countless examples.

     

     Understated, a buyer wants something they cannot produce themselves and is not being provided so they commission the talents of someone that can provide it and pay for that persons talent. In my opinion its important to understand that money is not really the driving factor in these types of transactions.

    Lon

    Gear:
    More than I need.

    Comment


    • JoeJazz
      JoeJazz commented
      Editing a comment

      Gitmo, you make a good point with regards to people wanting to buy a guitar where money is not in the forefront of their decision making.  Those people (I'm no longer one of them) who are afforded that luxury can pick and choose many items that the majority of people can't. 

      I live in a part of the country where Amish woodworking is very valuable and quite the social status.  To say this or that was custom made by an Amish builder makes people take notice and usually with wide eyes commonly say, wow....really.  If one has the money, and the knowledge to give the custom guitar builder a laundry list of features they want, they get a great guitar and the "custom built" status that may come with it.  

      Well, that's it.  I've already forgotten my main point. 


  • #5

    JoeJazz wrote:

    I really enjoy reading articles in the guitar magazines about new luthiers but their pricing puzzles me.  I

    Gear:
    2013 Official Luthier's Forum Medium Jumbo (Western red cedar/mahogany)
    2012 McKnight McUke (soprano ukulele, redwood/mahogany)
    2010 Martin D-16GT
    2006 Larrivee OM-03R
    1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster (natural ash finish)
    1989 Kramer Stryker
    197? Epiphone Texan FT-160N

    Comment


    • Graeca
      Graeca commented
      Editing a comment

      kwakatak wrote:

      JoeJazz wrote:

      I really enjoy reading articles in the guitar magazines about new luthiers but their pricing puzzles me.  I













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