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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:05 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:55 pm
Posts: 517
Location: Pittsburgh PA suburbs
I've mentioned to several friends in social media that I tinker with building guitars and livestreamed a few tinkering sessions. Some of my online friends are aspiring musicians who do small coffee shop and farmers market gigs and they have expressed a desire to have me build them one. I just shrug and tell them that I'm just learning and when I divulge the cost of a kit they seem taken aback. The solicitations tempt me, though - but it begs many questions.

When did you build your first guitar solely with the expectation that it would go to somebody else? Or was it just a matter of "here, take this one that I already made and tell me if you like it?"

Was it a kit or a completely scratch build?

Did you give it away or did you charge a low price to just recoup losses? At what point did you feel confident enough in your abilities to charge for your skills?

FWIW, during the early part of my third build (which is a scratch build with some serviced parts) I'm tempted to just give it away. I'm hoping that it motivates me to work more efficiently as somebody else will have to live with the consequences. I intentionally chose some of the most inexpensive materials I could find; domestic walnut and student grade sitka with a couple small bells and whistles thrown in as well as some parts that were donated to me for good measure. The goal of the build is just to improve my skills. Is that a bad attitude to have. The only value of the instrument would probably be sentimental but in a way I'd be like a surrogate for somebody else's NGD. Is that a bad reason to do a build for this purpose?

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:52 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:09 pm
Posts: 5936
Location: Hegins, Pa
I made 14 the first year
gave a few away and then started selling for the materials until I felt I made a perfect guitar.
so look at it that way
jh

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Blues Creek Guitars Inc
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president of Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 5:12 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2008 8:06 pm
Posts: 3028
Location: Visalia, CA
Well I think it depends on the expectations of the potential customer when you are building to sell.....assuming it is a guitar being made with the intention of making it for a specific person. Have they seen your other guitars? If they have and are asking you to build one for them, then they must be impressed enough with your work to warrant the request.
How much you charge for your work can be pretty subjective can't it? For sure you have to charge for the materials..at least what they cost you. When you account for your time spent to build the guitar, Is it not reasonable to charge the "what you are worth" rate? Lets see....about 150 hours at $50 an hour.......perhaps that is fair!
Only you can decide that. Your guitar might be a Yugo, John's might be a Cadillac, and someone elses may be a Rolls Royce. Be willing to at least charge the Yugo price.

I sold my second guitar to my Boss! Risky territory for sure. It was sold on the premise that if he didn't like how it turned out, he did not have to buy it. It was made from scratch....my first was a LMI kit, and he did see it and play it and liked it. I was modest and sold it for $1500.

The next guitar I custom made and sold was my 5th guitar, more expensive materials. The buyer had only seen pictures of my previous guitars. He could afford it, so I sold that guitar for $3200. Crazy risky, but he has been happy with that guitar. Then I made one for a missionary and charged half price.......$1700. I could not really afford to give it away.
That guitar was not my best guitar, but this person has been happy with his guitar. Out of 14 guitars, those are the only 3 I have sold, the others were for me or given away to family. My guitars turn out okay. My time is worth something. My ego is not very big and if I could afford it, I'd just give them away. My best and fanciest guitar so far was made to give away to someone who plays all the time and those are the most fun of all to make.

I will say it is scarier to build one for sale than it is to build one to give away. If you have the confidence, work out a fair price with the potential buyer and go for it. The worst thing........you may have to start it over, but whether you sell or not, you are building and learning.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:25 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:49 pm
Posts: 247
I have a suggestion to OP: My own opinion, out of my own life 'experience': Build something first and then sell it, if selling guitars is what OP wants to do. I would never build one as a commission, as I could not live with dealing with nits being picked, discounts being asked for, additional work dreamt up. As is, where is, no warrantee. If you like it you buy it. And OP is at the beginning of his journey.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:01 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:13 pm
Posts: 1984
I made a couple of guitars, then realized that my first wasn't being played, so I sold it on Ebay for $1500. I did a lot of repairs, for which I charged, then made a few that I sold.

I have just been invited to a gathering of WV luthiers to be held in Elkins, WV in Oct., on the last day of the Music Heritage festival. So, I'm currently building 4 to sell, with 2 on commission, and 2 to take with me to the WV Music Heritage Festival, along with a couple that I have already built.

You're ready to build for someone else when you feel ready. I think it's different for everyone. I have found it's one thing to build and then sell. They see your work and know what they're buying. It's quite something else to accept a commission. Commissions are scary. There's a big expectation that comes with a commission. I allowed my first commission to paralyze me, especially when my client said he wanted it absolutely "perfect".

I've come a long way since then, but I make sure that the person I'm working with understands how I work, and I won't do anything beyond my capabilities. I've learned the word "no" and it can be your best friend when you first start building for others when they start adding on things you aren't ready to do.

I've been building from scratch from guitar #2. But, I see no reason why you couldn't build a kit for someone else and charge for it. I would simply let them know that certain things are being ordered, rather than built by you, such as the neck. Then explain that you still have to fit it and finish it. I had the wood for my first build, but John thinned it for me and bent the sides. I joined the top and back. John got the fretboard and bridge for me. I inlaid my fretboard. There are different levels of kits, some need more work then others. Other people on the forum may agree or disagree with me on this point.

I'm a veteran and I work with Veterans. There is a program called Guitars for Veterans. I'm sure a vet would love that guitar you're building, if you want to give it away. And no, it's not a bad reason at all to build and give away a guitar. It's a great way to learn.

My second guitar, Delilah, is made from old cherry I found laying in the rafters of Badger Lumber. The cost of her wood was $35.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:05 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:55 pm
Posts: 517
Location: Pittsburgh PA suburbs
Thanks for the answers. So far I've only done scratch builds, but they've been very time intensive because I've also had to build jigs, molds and forms along the way. Most are pretty rough though. I'm really curious to see how much faster it would be to build a kit. I don't have much ambition but I figure if I can build 1-2 a year for practice and get back what I spent for the materials I might be selling myself short. OTOH since others have given me gifts throughout my life I feel like perhaps I should "pay it forward" as it were. I'd make one for my kids, but I've been told by others in my household that I have a "guitar problem" so that wouldn't go over well.

As for the people who expressed interest we have never met face to face, but we know what each other looks like because of social media streaming apps. They've only seen bits and pieces of my tinkering. For my first two I took pictures all along the way and posted on guitar forums but this time around I'm debating on maybe doing a blog or a series on a YouTube channel - yes, I do have one. I don't think I'm going to do live streams anymore as it's too easy to get distracted and I don't want anything gory to happen!

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:03 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:39 pm
Posts: 140
This is a fascinating topic, and I have been asking myself the same question as Neil, after only two guitars. I have some random thoughts. First, I wouldn't sell either of them until I was satisfied they were not going to implode. After that, I still wouldn't because I know where all the warts are. I was hoping #3 would be cosmetically perfect but now I'm not so sure. I am (among other things) a photographer, and right now I have 15 pieces in a show, all with prices on them. Are they "perfect"? Well, it seems to me they don't have to be. All that matters is that the purchaser is happy with the purchase. And maybe that's the way I need to look at guitars. If someone wants to buy one, it is "as is". And on the other side, some people like one of a kind pieces, from a small builder, maybe with a story behind them, maybe not perfect, because they are hand made. For advanced builders, yes, I think you establish a track record of a certain quality, and you need to keep that up, but for emerging builders, why not put a price on your work, and see who is interested? It's the buyer's decision. And no, no one has offered to buy any of my guitars, present or future! Bruce.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:07 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:51 am
Posts: 38
Location: Fishers, IN
Great discussion, I think a lot depends on your objectives and how they evolve. As a kid I started to build furniture in my late teens, for fun, something I was very interested in, primarily Windsor chairs. People started seeing them and wanting to buy them, this was a hundred years ago, prior to the internet, but I was able to be a starving artist for about seven years. I did it because I enjoyed it - my objective wasn't to make money (I had offers to create a real manufacturing business, wasn't interested, was frankly terrified by that), it was to do something I enjoyed doing and that brought joy to others. My experience was that the market told me when my stuff was good enough to sell - and it turned out that years after I made it, someone actually wanted to buy the first chair I made - it was never for sale because there was so much wrong with it but someone saw it and fell in love with its "character" - so you never know.

Re using lower grade materials to learn on, and whether selling something while you're learning is "okay", my answer is yes - as long your market understands and is happy with the product. We are all always learning, hopefully! I see it as a process, and I enjoy the process. I'm pretty sure my 10th guitar will be better than my first, but there may be something about the first one that's special - I get excited by the things I'll learn! Which is positive code for "the mistakes I'll make". And if you do some searching on "pallet guitar" and "paper mache guitar" you'll see that there's a number of people who feel the quality of the instrument is more a function of the builder than the materials.

So for me at least, I knew when the market told me. But then I had to figure out how much of the market I wanted in my shop :-)

YMMV - good luck!

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"Facts seldom sway an opinion." - John Hall
"The difference between theory and practice is that in theory there is no difference." - van de Snepscheut


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