Modes of guitar production

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
kavor
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Modes of guitar production

Post by kavor » Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:12 pm

Hand made, handcrafted, luthier made, factory made...

Is handmade = luthier made and hand crafted = factory made?

Hand made and hand crafted seem synonymous however on many guitars that were described as factory made guitars on this forum the label says 'hand crafted'

Does luthier guitar simply mean guitar produced with machine input as minimal as possible? If taken literally, hand made means like wood chopped by hands etc...Where is this line drawn where guitar becomes hand crafted instead of hand made? Use of which machine makes it hand crafted? Is there clear cut distinction with regards to making classical guitars or is this like very personal distinction? 'appreciate your input.

Kavor

johnd
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by johnd » Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:15 pm

It depends on what you want to believe. It is called marketing!!!!!

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Michael.N.
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:19 pm

There are no clear distinctions. It's a minefield. Some makers use CNC and all manner of jigged up power tools,so much so that you would be hard pressed to find many hand tools. No one seems to mind that they call them hand made though. At those kind of extremes I would be tempted to call them hand assembled but that's just my personal perspective. No doubt they would argue otherwise.
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jim watts
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by jim watts » Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:08 pm

As Michael said, it's a mine field. Probably the one of the easiest distinctions to try to answer that question is, how many people were involved in making the guitar? Generally I correlate "hand made/luthier built" with one individual making the guitar and the making all the decision that go along with that particular guitar, not multiple people as in a factory setting. There's a can of worms for you!

Alan Carruth
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by Alan Carruth » Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:11 pm

AsJim says, many folks hold that 'luthier made' means that one person is responsible for everything. This allows for machine tool use, and even CNC in some people's minds. There is also the whole issue of outsourcing. We all buy strings and fret wire, and almost everybody buys machine tuners. Many makers buy pre-slotted fretboards and pre-made rosettes, and still say they made the instrument themselves. Finishing is often outsourced, and was traditionally in Spain, where specialist shops did the French polishing on most guitars. There does not seem to be a widely accepted 'bright line' that demarcates luthier made.

If you want to go by a strict definition, and you include materials acquisition, there's no such thing as an 'all hand made' guitar out there either. I did know one maker of gambas who insisted that the trees he used be cut by hand, as he felt that the touch of a power tool of any sort ruined the tone of the wood. I recently got to work on one of his instruments, and it reinforced my memory of his work: it was not all that good in many respects. If you allow for the use of purchased materials that may have been machine processed, there may be a number of hand makers out there. I have done every step on a guitar by hand at one point or another. It's interesting, and it's nice having the ability to do that when you need to, but there's really not much point in it IMO. Everybody has their own idea of where it becomes worthwhile to switch to a different sort of tool and you may or may not agree with them.

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souldier
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by souldier » Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:22 pm

There are many ways to go about it, but I think the general definition is:

Luthier Made - Made by a one man shop
Factory Made - Made by a big name company like Cordoba, Yamaha, etc.


There is a spectrum in between such as a luthier who utilizes a small team of workers, etc. Handcrafted is a term thrown around a lot and its hard to get a real consensus. Cordoba's guitars for example are largely handcrafted by an assembly line of luthiers, but many would have an issue with calling their guitars handcrafted. Personally, I've come to the point where I don't care so much how a guitar is made as I used to. I could care less if my guitar was made entirely by machine or by a team of monkeys, as long as it sounds and plays great, but lets not open this can of worms further.
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kavor
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by kavor » Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:35 pm

Thank you guys, I am learning a lot.

I would sum up what you guys said as follows: It seems like guitar cannot be judged solely on input or the output, the input being craftsmanship and labor involved and output the sound that it makes. The guitar possesses scientific/technical aspect which is all the measurement involved in the production but it has artistic component that is akin to making a paining. People would agree that no machine can give you Mona Lisa, period. However, people without technical knowledge cannot build guitar regardless if they use their bare fingernails to fashion the entire thing. So, you need to have both. If you have artistic feel for the instrument and technical skill even if you make use of whatever machines its ok, right?

Now, if there was the machine that spits out finest guitars by feeding it a slab of wood many people would not accept the final product. However, I would, because that machine would have to be invented by an artist :)

I think there is general confusion among people which leads guitar makers to label their instruments 'hand whatever.' They would not do that otherwise. Its just like labeling the food product "natural" Many are bought by this label because they have this distinction/dichotomy in their mind between nature and man. Those involved in chemical science will often tell you, snake poison and mushrooms are natural but they are not good for you. This sort of basic 'inatism' which we have about the world around us always makes us to 'instill soul' into whatever we are selling/buying.

I think even CMC tools in hands of an artist are ok...if the guy makes art/quality product who cares if he used space ship to make his guitar?

As for the argument of multiple hands vs single hand...hmm if you lined up three or four of these famous builders and made an instrument does that mean that some of the artistic component that each person on individual level instills would be lost? I don't know, there are theoretical arguments that perhaps are pointless. If technical people are making guitars according to set of instructions given to them by an experienced builder is that a better guitar than a single person building who is neither technical or creative? This is minefield I agree :)

Best,

Kavor

Alan Carruth
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by Alan Carruth » Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:38 pm

Several years ago I took the Martin factory tour. Much of the work is done by machines; they thickness the tops all the same with big sanders, inlay the rosettes, and cut out the outline with laser cutter. However, at one point there was a woman with a long and very sharp chisel carving the braces. She'd take a top off a cart load of braced ones, slap it down on the bench, and shape the braces very quickly with the chisel. After a few swipes with sandpaper it would get put onto the 'outgoing' cart, and she'd pick up another one. She was not trying to match the brace shapes to the stiffness of the top or anything like that; she had a model top in front of her and they were all supposed to look like that. You could argue that it would be more efficient from a production standpoint to cut the braces to shape with a machine before they're glued down, as Taylor does. However, the fact that that woman, and others like her, carves the braces by hand is a selling point for Martin: their guitars are more 'hand made'.

That's one of the differences in a really hand made instrument; we can actually take the time not only to carve the braces to work with the stiffness of the top, but we can even make the top a different thickness if we want to. All of this will depend on the properties of the particular top being used, and the desired sound and other characteristics of the guitar being made. When one person is responsible for everything they can choose the wood that will best suit the purpose, and work with it in the way that will best accomplish it. The more people that are involved in the process the harder it would get to realize that single vision, I think.

Otherwise, in most respects, the technology you use to do the work is less of an issue. Obviously each method of work has it's advantages, and can also set limits as to what you can do, or, at least, what you can do easily. A sanding machine is reasonably quick, and gets the wood to a uniform thickness more exactly than most of us can do it by hand. On the other hand, it might not be so easy to vary the thickness of the wood from one place to another, as you might want to do for any number of reasons.

'Sine scientaim ars nihil est'. One possible translation of that, as I understand it, is: "Without understanding skill is nothing". That woman on the Martin line is a very skilled user of the chisel (and the person who sharpened it is pretty good, too!). However, that skill in not linked with an understanding of how the guitar works, or the freedom to make changes in the bracing profiles to suit based on that understanding. The one-person shop maximizes the freedom to make those sorts of changes, no matter what technology is used, so long as it doesn't preclude making the changes you need/want to make. All you need is the understanding to make the right ones. ;)

Paul Micheletti
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by Paul Micheletti » Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:49 pm

I've taken the tour of the Taylor guitar factory (not too far away from my home). They have CNC machines that make guitar braces, so they are already carved to shape. The assemblers take a top that has been thicknessed to size and slap the braces down with glue where they are supposed to go and put the assembly into a vacuum jig. They don't have the lady that the Martin factor has to later bring the braces down to size as they already have them to size via the CNC before assembly. If a top and brace wood are both particularly stiff, then the top is stiff. If they are both wobbly, then the top is wobbly. The design is made such that average woods will make an average guitar, with some overhead for variance on either extreme.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by Alan Carruth » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:12 pm

Production guitars tend to be over built simply to avoid warranty claims. They have to assume that the softest braces might end up on the floppiest top, and design accordingly.

kavor
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by kavor » Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:46 am

Alan Carruth wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:12 pm
Production guitars tend to be over built simply to avoid warranty claims. They have to assume that the softest braces might end up on the floppiest top, and design accordingly.
So, basically these high tech machines are in hands of businessmen whose aim is to pound as many guitars as they can and make a lot of dough. That's why they have a bad rep. Well, I guess that doesn't preclude the possibility the CMC machines etc. be used for some quality work unless we suspect that the builder is actually businessman in disguise :)

printer2
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by printer2 » Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:22 pm

I see no problem with the builder using a machine to speed up his process as it helps him to stay in business. A CNC machine is no different than a jig that is used to help make reasonably identical parts. As said, it is the goal of trying to get the most out of wood that is the goal of most individual builders. On the buying front, I had a number of people want me to build for them (some not realizing it might cost more than buying a factory guitar) as they wanted a guitar that is a one of a kind. If the builder did not exist the guitar would not either.
Fred

kavor
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Re: Modes of guitar production

Post by kavor » Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:53 pm


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