How much to make a guitar?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
LukeMarsden

How much to make a guitar?

Post by LukeMarsden » Tue Jan 17, 2017 4:08 pm

Does anyone know how much the raw materials are to build a fine English luthier level classical guitar?

- AAA spruce
- rosewood
- tuners
- polish

etc etc etc

I see its around £4,000 and upwards for a luthier built guitar and was just trying to understand the costs and price?

Does anyone know?


Cheers

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James Lister
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by James Lister » Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:28 pm

There is quite a lot of variation in materials costs, but of course the greatest cost is the hours (anything from 100 hours to 200 hours+).

Just to give you a rough idea on materials:

- AAA spruce - £60

- rosewood - £60 for Indian, £500+ for Brazilian

- tuners - £50 for reasonable quality Gotohs up to £600+ for Rodgers

- polish - insignificant materials cost

- neck blank - £20-£30

- fingerboard - £20-£30

- nut and saddle - £12

- other parts total probably about £50

Starting price for a luthier guitar is well below £4,000 - depends mostly on the experience/name of the luthier but there are good guitars to be had for less than £3,000.


James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Alan Carruth
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Alan Carruth » Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:30 pm

James and I were typing at the same time.

Material costs can vary widely, even within a given species, for a lot of different reasons. For example, different suppliers use various designations in their top grading; AAA might be the top of the line for one, and a middle grade for another. Also, top grading is almost all based on appearance, not on suitability for use as a guitar top. I've gotten expensive tops that were nearly useless, even though they looked good, and cheap ones that made fabulous instruments despite some cosmetic flaws. The sort of thing holds all the way down the line. 'Rosewood' encompasses a large number of species from Brazilian rosewood through African Blackwood to Indian. Brazilian rosewood is an endangered species, and it can be difficult and expensive to get really top grade Brazilian. Indian rosewood can be plantation grown, and is pretty well regulated by the Indian government, so that it is available in decent quality at reasonable prices. Tuner prices can vary by a factor of ten. Polish (what we in the US call 'finish') is not all that expensive as a material, but can be time consuming to apply. Overall, it's possible to obtain a decent set of material and parts to make a guitar for around $150, or you could spend well over a thousand.

Some makers are faster workers than others, but most hand makers will spend at least 100 hours building a guitar, and 200 would be closer to the mark for many. This is particularly true if you're looking at a French polish finish, along with personal touches such as a hand made rosette. Even at minimum wages that's a fair piece of change.

Most of the cost of a high end guitar is not in the materials or even labor; it's in the expertise of the maker. Think about it: you could probably hire some Joe off the street to sit on a stage with a guitar for an hour or two for a pretty nominal amount of money, so why seek out a great player who might want a minimum of $1000? Buying a guitar is the same. Top makers command the prices they do because there's a consensus that they're worth it.

It's actually fairly difficult to make a really good Classical guitar; far more so than a good steel string. Many top steel string guitar players use production instruments, because it's possible to make good ones on a production line. Very few, if any, top Classical players use production guitars, and this despite the risks of traveling with an expensive and fragile instrument. In terms of the joinery involved, guitars are actually not too hard to make, although they do require attention to detail and a level of precision. Making one that provides the tone and playability that a top-notch player needs goes several steps beyond mere joinery, and requires a high level of understanding that takes time and diligent application to develop.

In the end, building guitars is not a ticket to wealth.

Gary Macleod

Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Gary Macleod » Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:05 pm

James Lister wrote:There is quite a lot of variation in materials costs, but of course the greatest cost is the hours (anything from 100 hours to 200 hours+).

Just to give you a rough idea on materials:

- AAA spruce - £60

- rosewood - £60 for Indian, £500+ for Brazilian

- tuners - £50 for reasonable quality Gotohs up to £600+ for Rodgers

- polish - insignificant materials cost

- neck blank - £20-£30

- fingerboard - £20-£30

- nut and saddle - £12

- other parts total probably about £50

Starting price for a luthier guitar is well below £4,000 - depends mostly on the experience/name of the luthier but there are good guitars to be had for less than £3,000.


James
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?

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petermc61
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by petermc61 » Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:12 pm

Given that labour input is the biggest cost, but you also need to allow the cost of the workshop itself and tools that must be amortised over a modest number of instruments. Good quality hand tools are not cheap. Band saws and dust extractors etc I have seen in use in luthier workshops are clearly not cheap either.

Andrew Pohlman
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:02 pm

LukeMarsden wrote:Does anyone know how much the raw materials are to build a fine English luthier level classical guitar?
- AAA spruce
- rosewood
- tuners
- polish
etc etc etc
I see its around £4,000 and upwards for a luthier built guitar and was just trying to understand the costs and price?

Does anyone know? Cheers
If you go to the LMI site, they have a "kit wizard". There are several pre-assembled kits for classes that give you a very clear idea of what is involved. You can also play with materials and substitutions. For example, I specced a redwood top classical using mostly second grade and sale items materials for about $125. When the sales were over, that same spec cost about $200. As Allan said above, you can buy materials with visual defects that are perfectly good sound wise. And keep an eye open for sales!

Also, remember the exchange rate. I commissioned a Gore that was >$6K Aussie, but only about $4K US. So price also depends on where your Luthier is and how that compares to your local currency.
2013 Rodriguez FF Sabicas blanco
2015 Trevor Gore custom Neoclassical
- redwood top, Palo dorado B+Ss.

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James Lister
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by James Lister » Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:59 am

Gary Macleod wrote:
James Lister wrote:
Starting price for a luthier guitar is well below £4,000 - depends mostly on the experience/name of the luthier but there are good guitars to be had for less than £3,000.

James
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
Hi Gary,

No, I can't recommend a particular luthier, but at under £3,000 you would be looking at someone fairly new to the business. At that level there are good makers, but it's difficult to know who they are. The trick is to shop around, and you need to have the confidence and experience as a player to really know when you've found a good guitar. New makers are generally not as consistent as more experienced ones, so you would be looking at buying an existing guitar rather than commissioning one. Most new makers build more guitars than they can sell, so unless you're looking for non-standard dimensions (or left-handed) this shouldn't be a problem.

A lot of players buy from more established luthiers because they lack the confidence time identify a good instrument from amongst all the "average" ones that are out there at very reasonable prices.

I would also add that it's really important for new makers to have players coming through the door and trying their guitars, both in terms of getting feedback from players, and also giving them inspiration at a time when it can be difficult to carry on making (and not just financially).

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Stephen Eden
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Stephen Eden » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:14 am

For the woods I would say about £150 to £250 if you are thinking about Indian rosewood Spruce or Cedar. The tuners and the case can be a lot than the materials. It's the time it takes for a person to build the guitar that really raises the cost.
Gary Macleod wrote:
James Lister wrote:
Starting price for a luthier guitar is well below £4,000 - depends mostly on the experience/name of the luthier but there are good guitars to be had for less than £3,000.

James
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
I build a guitar that comes in around £2000. Not that I think you are actually looking but just for reference really.

Gary Macleod

Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Gary Macleod » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:20 am

Stephen Eden wrote:For the woods I would say about £150 to £250 if you are thinking about Indian rosewood Spruce or Cedar. The tuners and the case can be a lot than the materials. It's the time it takes for a person to build the guitar that really raises the cost.
Gary Macleod wrote:
James Lister wrote:
Starting price for a luthier guitar is well below £4,000 - depends mostly on the experience/name of the luthier but there are good guitars to be had for less than £3,000.

James
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
I build a guitar that comes in around £2000. Not that I think you are actually looking but just for reference really.
Im always looking !

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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by David Crooks » Wed Jan 18, 2017 1:09 pm

Gary Macleod wrote:
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
You could try Sam McLaren. He's young, but he's someone who has learned and evolved since I first saw his work over three years ago. Craftmanship is now of a very high standard, and his instruments are a pleasure to play and to listen to.

http://www.mcclarenguitars.co.uk/handmade

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souldier
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by souldier » Wed Jan 18, 2017 1:38 pm

If you are looking for a great guitar at a lower price point, it is far safer to purchase an already made or used guitar that you can try in person rather than commissioning a new one. That way you know exactly what you are getting, the guitar is usually broken in and you don't need to wonder if the guitar will improve to something better, and there is almost no risk involved (assuming you know what a good guitar sounds like). Sometimes you'll find guitars that sound amazing even though they are priced lower out of sheer luck.

Commissioning new however is risky especially with a newer maker who may not have consistent output, but if you can find an already made guitar from a good, yet new maker, you can find a guitar that sounds as good as much more expensive guitars but at a much lower price point.
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by simonm » Wed Jan 18, 2017 1:59 pm

Gary Macleod wrote: Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
Stephan's Cadenza model from Miles at Kent Guitar is comfortably under that number.

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James Lister
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by James Lister » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:04 pm

souldier wrote:If you are looking for a great guitar at a lower price point, it is far safer to purchase an already made or used guitar that you can try in person rather than commissioning a new one. That way you know exactly what you are getting, the guitar is usually broken in and you don't need to wonder if the guitar will improve to something better, and there is almost no risk involved (assuming you know what a good guitar sounds like). Sometimes you'll find guitars that sound amazing even though they are priced lower out of sheer luck.

Commissioning new however is risky especially with a newer maker who may not have consistent output, but if you can find an already made guitar from a good, yet new maker, you can find a guitar that sounds as good as much more expensive guitars but at a much lower price point.
Isn't that almost exactly what I said above? :roll:

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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James Lister
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by James Lister » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:06 pm

David Crooks wrote:
Gary Macleod wrote:
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
You could try Sam McLaren. He's young, but he's someone who has learned and evolved since I first saw his work over three years ago. Craftmanship is now of a very high standard, and his instruments are a pleasure to play and to listen to.

http://www.mcclarenguitars.co.uk/handmade
Sam is an ex-student of mine who always showed great promise. I haven't seen any of his more recent work, but I'm glad to hear he's doing well.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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Montgomery
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Montgomery » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:14 pm

souldier wrote:If you are looking for a great guitar at a lower price point, it is far safer to purchase an already made or used guitar that you can try in person rather than commissioning a new one.
I did this a few months back. James Lister had one for sale that he made back in 2014 at a really good price. It's a fantastic instrument and it would have cost me far more if I had purchased from new. Definitely worth considering a used guitar.

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