Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by Frostod, Jul 6, 2020.
@Randy you hating your life choices yet?
Not sure about making a living but I'm halfway through building a castle out of @USMarine75 's project bodies and amps.
So a set of these is is a no then?
I could be very very wrong here, so someone with actual experience can tell me how wrong I am...but just had to play out the scenario in my head. Let's say I'm able to turn $1000 profit on a guitar. That'd be huge, and unlikely on all but the higher-end stuff, right?...but let's use it for the sake of easy math. How many guitars can you complete in a month. I honestly have no idea how long it takes to complete a build, but would it be far off to say 2 complete, assuming I already had all of the tooling/templates/jigs made, and could batch-out the finishing? And that's running at full capacity, without paying any staff for anything, and also handling my own accounting, purchasing, business taxes, licenses and insurance, etc. Even if it's 2 guitars per month, that's $24K/year. And that's with a full order dancecard, running at full capacity, with unreasonable (IMO, anyway) profits. Not something I could sustain.
If it is all I did, I could probably complete 7-10 guitars per month. And that is building all day, 5 days per week. The first run would take 2 months because of finishing schedules, but it could possibly get down to 30-45 days for a build. I'm on a batch of 2 right now that are in month 3...but I work on them once a week when time and family allows.
Turing $1,000 profit doesn't happen until you've proven your ability and built a reputation.
I've sold 5 guitars. Made money on 1 of them and the profit was about what I spend when I take my family of 4 out to dinner haha. But my customers have all been very happy with their instruments, so I'm hopeful that I'll eventually get to charge just a little more to help the builds pay for themselves. I do it because it is a really fun and rewarding hobby that I'm fortunate to be pretty decent at.
Profit gets better once you reach a point where you're mostly just buying materials and consumables.
It can just take a long time to get there.
- I've known a few really talented luthiers who can build basically anything at any level of complexity. They can build acoustics/electrics and even other instruments too. Crazy inlay work and beyond. They have all been down this road a few times over and choose not to make it a full time business. It's more stress and energy and time than it's worth it would seem.
- I had this dream a long time ago and quickly realized how complex a build really is to do perfectly and on a "pro" level of quality, and I have some ok/decent skills in wood working too.
- When it comes to doing a perfect finish/paint? good luck. That's another thing unto itself. Stick with stains to start.
- I also started noticing that it screws up my hands really bad to the point where I can't play guitar, but that's my own phsyical limits. The arthritis really sets in fast. I don't ever want to sand anything ever again : )
- The amount of tooling and space needed to do it on a pro level and at a fast pace is quite large in costs and space.
Back to my freinds;
- They all chose to do some type of custom cabinetry/carpentry type stuff as their day jobs along with custom home theatre installations. Those types of jobs. Doing this will make you a lot more money, way faster, is way easier in terms of skills needed too, also the jobs go by faster and less specialty tools are needed to. Plus you can do a lot of work on site and don't need as large of a shop. They all prefer this stuff over doing guitars for a day job/ money maker.
- They all still make extraordinary guitars but it's a side gig for them. They can take time on each guitar and also always seem to have another personal guitar project going on the side that they may sell as a one off. They can regulate number of projects as much as they want and they're livlihood doesn't depend on it. Most probably just do a couple guitars a year I'm guessing.
- The more I looked into it the more I realized it wasn't for me. I'm not anywhere on these guys level of skill and far from having workspaces and tool like they have. There's good reasons why they don't take it to that level and I think a lot of it has to do with being able to have some free time and less stress in life. It seems being a luthier can just consume all your time and stress people out a lot. It's about balance.
This is exactly what im doing. the doctoring thing is mainly just a way to bankroll all the exotic woods and hardware I want to hoard to make the guitars I make.
Daniel here has it down.
When I started I had no woodworking experience and basically stalked the luthiery thread here on SSO just watching the build process, watching the lessons, and learning from the mistakes. Then I took the plunge and made my first 7 string guitar. It has lots of issues but played well. The thread used to be up here but its been at least 7 years since then. I barely had the money for parts or woods and was trying to get into a residency for internal medicine. Once I started building more I'd learn more about something then screw upon another. I've built about 20 guitars total so far and 13 of them have gone on to homes of friends and family. I've posted some up here and a lotta people here have been on the same journey. The key is patience. Anyone can make a guitar, but to make it right and in a way that speaks to your creativity, takes time and money. This really is a money pit esp when you're honing your chops. It's easy to think that oh man I made a guitar now I can sell it!. But remember if you do shoddy work, it stays with you forever online. I don't sell often but usually, when I've poured my heart into a build to make it as awesome as I've wanted it to be, someone usually comes around asking for it with a decent price to it too. I'm fortunate to have a job now that will help with this hobby but I've been able to sell the occasional instrument to keep the next two or three builds going.
It helps to start talking to other builders too! We're all a small community and love helping each other out so don't be afraid to ask.
So definitely give it a shot, but initially with the prospect of it being a passion project/hobby. It will set expectations and you can always revisit it if and when it becomes something more.
Thank you all so much for the replies. It really, really helps me sorting this out. In fact, there are so many replies that I don't think that I can answer everyone.
Anyways, I think the gist of it is that I should start it out as an hobby and see where it leads me from there. You said some stuff that I didn't consider before (that's why I asked in the first place) and confirmed other stuff that I hoped not to be true.
I read some other blogs of luthier aswell and I don't think that making money in building alone is something that I could acomplish in the next 5 years. I still don't think that it is impossible but you have to be very efficient and do a lot of marketing (and your quality has to be good). Rent here in Germany is kind of expensive. So for your house/flat and your workshop you have to come up with something around 2-3k Euro a month and then you have buy wood and parts aswell. I didn't calculate this before and it speaks for itself.
However, I will look for some wood working courses and maybe I can find a guitar making course aswell. As some of you said, find a day job and start building as a side project and go from there.
Finding a day job is the really hard part, now more then ever even if you went to uni. That's why I considered building guitars in the first place.
Thanks again for all the insight, I will try to make the best out of it
Paul Reed Smith definitely thinks it’s worth getting into luthiery. However... There are dozens of guys on here who will list the names of independent guitar makers who probably wouldn’t say its worth getting into luthiers and regret ever picking up a piece of wood.
If you aint ever built anything you aint ever gonna know the real answer.
Give it a go and see what happens. I don't see how anyone can make a serious living out of building custom guitars on a small scale.
A year and you haven’t built ONE guitar? Not a chance. I’ve been doing it on and off for about 4 yeas, and I have a FT IT job that I f’ing LOATHE, and am dying to figure something else out. But I’m also 48 and have a family to support.
I’m not at the point I could really sell anything. I’m trying to figure out of I can, but it’s an uphill climb. I have, luckily, almost all of the tools and machines I need in my shop, but it’s a real struggle to get to a point where you’re not fucking up every step of the way. It can be daunting and incredibly frustrating. Right now, I’m focusing on builds that I can give to others, in hopes I can build a good rep that way. But with my low motivation due to my current situation and lack of time, it’s tough to do. My plan is to build what I want and then see if I can sell them. I’m not planning on doing custom builds at the moment because it’s not something I can deliver in a reasonable time or at a high enough level of quality.
You can also look into Lutherie school, IF you have the time and money. The best one seems to be in Michigan. I’m blanking on the name right now, but it’s an easy Google search. If I didn’t have the responsibilities I have, I’d sign up for that place.
Bottom line: you have a LONG way to go and there’s no chance in hell you can make this into a business in the next 1-5 years, IMO.
I’m not sure I understand what makes you say that. He’s been in the business for over 40 years, so he’s way ahead of where any of us will likely ever be. He runs a multi-million dollar business now, but it wasn’t that when he started in the early 80s.
Here you go: https://www.galloupguitars.com/schools-of-lutherie-luthier.htm
There are easier ways to make a living. However, the luthiers I've met seem to enjoy the challenge of building a better guitar than the last one they built. If it were easy, I think they would build something else. Life is too short not to find out if you want to do it.
I said that literally because Paul Reed Smith has been in the business for over 40 years and runs a multi-million dollar business... luthiery really paid off for him. In other words anyone who is highly successful at it will tell you it’s worth it... if you ask Ron Thorn he’d probably agree with PRS.
If you ask any one who’s ‘made it’ in their chosen field if you should follow your dream, they are more likely to tell you ‘yes’ than someone who tried and failed at making it work for them...
Like you I have a job I need to keep doing to support my family. I’d love to Change jobs on the romantic notion of becoming a craftsman, dedicated to my art, handmaking beautiful instruments every day. But that’s not going to pay the bills or put my son through college...
There's a lot of nuance missing here.
The luthiery landscape now vs. when Smith, and even Thorn, started is very different, as were thier backgrounds.
While I'd like to think they'd be supportive of someone looking to get into guitar building, they are probably smart enough to give advice in as much that it's not something to get into lightly, especially if you're expecting for it to be a career, and not a hobby, in the near term. Though, I'm not wanting to pretend to speak for anyone.
I was hoping most could infer the nuance without needing it spelling out for them
And, I’m not saying PRS or Thorn would or wouldn’t be supportive of another’s decision to become a luthier, I’m saying that they would admit it was “worth it”... to them.
If you ask Christian at Sabre Guitars, or Darren at Decibel, where things didn’t pan out, I doubt they’d be so enthusiastic about it as a way of earning a living.
I get what you're saying, but that can be extended to anything, asking the incredibly rare exceptions vs. the rule.
"Can I become a famous actor?"
"I don't know, ask Bruce Willis."
"Can I win 23 gold medals at the Olympics?"
"I don't know, ask Michael Phelps."
The question wasn't "is there any possibility of making money by building guitars" it was "is it feasible to make a career in guitars given the particular situation".