How much to make a guitar?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
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souldier
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by souldier » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:32 pm

James Lister wrote:
souldier wrote:Isn't that almost exactly what I said above? :roll:

James
haha sorry James it looks like we just happened to be thinking along similar lines :D
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Ramon Amira
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Ramon Amira » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:40 pm

Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
Francisco Navarro Concert Model
Marlon Navarro
Jeff Sigurdson
Peter Tsiorba

There are also several luthiers right on this forum who make fine guitars that are priced below that.

Ramon
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mmapag
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by mmapag » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:15 pm

Ramon Amira wrote:
Sorry James but the temptation is too much, would you name/recommend a guitar for under £3,000 ?
Francisco Navarro Concert Model
Marlon Navarro
Jeff Sigurdson
Peter Tsiorba

There are also several luthiers right on this forum who make fine guitars that are priced below that.

Ramon
Additionally:
G.V. Rubio
Joseph Redman
Robert England
All make fine instruments for under $3000.
'13 Esteve 7 SM
'75 Takamine 132 S

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Steve O
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Steve O » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:02 pm

Don't forget that only a portion of the maker's time is spent making guitars. You can't just calculate $1000 for materials plus 100 hours of labour x $20/h = $3000 for the guitar.

There's overhead costs, heat, electricity, business permits, downtime due to shortage of order intake, marketing time, marketing costs, time spent procuring and picking up materials, rejected materials, mistakes, warranty costs, inventory costs, tools, consumables, taxes, insurance, bookkeeping, employment insurance, worker's compensation, vacation time, time spent communicating with client, computer costs, internet costs, and clients who don't pay their bills, shipping damage, etc......"100 hours to make a guitar" does not include the other 100 hours of time required to do all this other stuff.

In the "consulting" world, where a company's income is based on selling manhours not products, we have to charge 2.5 to 3.5 times a person's salary to make a small profit assuming a reasonable size organization of 20-30 people and about 80% employee utilization. Larger and smaller companies often have higher overhead. The 2.5 to 3.5 multiplier covers overhead costs, downtime, and profit. An employee earning $50/hour needs to be charged out at $125 to $175/hour to make it worthwhile. Similar principles also apply to luthiers.

In the small volume "equipment sales" world, where the company's profits, overhead, and risk costs are buried into the equipment price, we often will consume huge amounts of consulting, technical, and marketing manhours making proposals, bidding, and dealing with clients...but all of those costs are buried in the equipment price (and warranty terms), so that the sales price of the equipment is multiple times the actual cost of production. Thus if it costs us $1000 to make a "guitar" we might have to charge $5000 to cover all of our costs.

Finally, at the end of the day, the client must pay for the costs. If our costs are too high they will purchase elsewhere. In the consulting and equipment sales worlds, this often means the client purchases sub-standard equipment and regrets it later. In the luthier world I imagine that many luthiers are overworking and underpaying themselves; something that would cause a normal corporation to go bankrupt.

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Steve O
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Steve O » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:11 pm

p.s. it cost me about $2500 USD to build my first guitar, which included enough material for 2 guitars and purchasing instructional material, jigs, and specialty tools that I did not already own in my fairly well equipped amateur woodworking shop.

Using fairly high quality materials and tuners, subsequent guitars would cost me about $750 USD for materials. That's the cost to build for myself, not for operating a business selling guitars. I could do it quite a bit cheaper by selecting less expensive materials and tuners.

Alan Carruth
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Alan Carruth » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:02 pm

Steve O's post can be generalized to any business. The rule in restaurants is that the price of the dish on the menu has to be at least three times the cost of the food or you're losing money. When my roofer had to put a new wood deck up to cover some dry rot he priced it at about three times the cost of the plywood sheets. And so it goes.

One of the hidden problems with 'fancy' wood is that some people are using stock that is really not very high quality. 'Stump' Brazilian rosewood can have lots of hidden problems, from high built-in stress to microscopic failures in the cell structure. Any of these can cause it to break suddenly in the process of bending sides. Since it's Brazilian rosewood the suppliers get top price for it. Smart builders know that it's wise to have an extra set of sides to replace ones that break. Somebody has to pay for those. In a more rational world that poor wood would be turned into coffee tables, but who said the instrument business was rational?

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Michael.N.
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Michael.N. » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:22 pm

I've just bent a set of birds eye maple sides. They rippled in an extreme way. £40 + the work went straight into the bin. that's just another example of those hidden costs that most people don't see. If I were to factor in the time cost of all the little experiments that I've done over the years I'm pretty sure i would have packed it all in years ago.
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vigmostad
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by vigmostad » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:13 pm

I wish more makers offered a model like Stephen Eden´s Cadenza. It proves that it is possible to make a really good guitar at at modest price by sacrifising a bit of cosmetics.

vigmostad
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by vigmostad » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:21 pm

By my last post I did by no means imply that luthiers in general charge too much, just to be clear on that.

simonm
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by simonm » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:29 am

vigmostad wrote:I wish more makers offered a model like Stephen Eden´s Cadenza. It proves that it is possible to make a really good guitar at at modest price by sacrifising a bit of cosmetics.
For professional one man shops there is a risk here. While putting in less decoration does save time, it does not cut the work by 50% or 75%. It also requires more selling/marketing effort to sell them. The result is (pure guess - I haven't done the maths) that you may have to sell 2, 3 or even 4 guitars like that to make the same profit as on one "full-price" guitar and at the same time you risk loosing sales of your more expensive guitars. Either that or you separate the two "businesses" (Hill guitars for example) and get the cheaper range built to your specifications in China. But then you are making a life decision - you have to focus more on management and marketing than on physically building. It is a very difficult balancing act.

I have long been considering doing a batch of 5 guitars in the same kind of price range as the cadenza series but I am very much aware of the risk of being pigeon-holed as a "cheap builder" - once that happens it could be difficult to sell "reassuringly expensive" guitars as well. :-)

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Michael.N.
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:18 pm

That's always a risk and there's a lot of pressure on makers to compete. It's a very crowded market, complicated by a profusion of individual makers, factory guitars at various price points and imports from the far east. No one said it was easy.
Historicalguitars.

Ross Gutmeier
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Ross Gutmeier » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:42 pm

I tried an experiment to see just how inexspensively I could make a really good guitar. I found ways to cut back on labor and focused my efforts primarily on sound and it turned out to be an excellent guitar, especially for the money, but there it sits, apparently too cheap to be any good. It's frustrating and I doubt I'll ever do it again.
Last edited by Ross Gutmeier on Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ross Gutmeier
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Ross Gutmeier » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:44 pm

Double post

Richard Newman

Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Richard Newman » Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:14 pm

I have recently been building using birdseye maple, as opposed to rosewood and have found I can build much faster this way. Little or no grain fill needed, nicer on the lungs and easy to thickness and a pleasure to work, compared with rosewood.
In an attempt to prize players away from rw guitars (and the paperwork involved) I have been offering these birdseye instruments at a 20% discount. I have found that I'm not out of pocket at all and my order books are filling up very nicely. I manage to source some great maple at a great price that I'm happy to pass the saving on to the customers.

Stephen Eden
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Re: How much to make a guitar?

Post by Stephen Eden » Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:47 pm

simonm wrote:
vigmostad wrote:I wish more makers offered a model like Stephen Eden´s Cadenza. It proves that it is possible to make a really good guitar at at modest price by sacrifising a bit of cosmetics.
For professional one man shops there is a risk here. While putting in less decoration does save time, it does not cut the work by 50% or 75%. It also requires more selling/marketing effort to sell them. The result is (pure guess - I haven't done the maths) that you may have to sell 2, 3 or even 4 guitars like that to make the same profit as on one "full-price" guitar and at the same time you risk loosing sales of your more expensive guitars. Either that or you separate the two "businesses" (Hill guitars for example) and get the cheaper range built to your specifications in China. But then you are making a life decision - you have to focus more on management and marketing than on physically building. It is a very difficult balancing act.

I have long been considering doing a batch of 5 guitars in the same kind of price range as the cadenza series but I am very much aware of the risk of being pigeon-holed as a "cheap builder" - once that happens it could be difficult to sell "reassuringly expensive" guitars as well. :-)
I think you would be surprised Simon. I have found lot's of time over an entire build assessing whether I do something for looks or for the sound. Then look at all of the processes you use to find more efficient ways of doing it and you will find even more time. I will also say it takes a lot of experience and strict working practices to get this right. I have also been pondering a two week building course based on it with a few ready made bits like Rosettes, linings, bindings and struts.

Stripping back the guitar to extent I have also helps to avoid being "pigeon-holed" as a cheap builder. Unlike some other makers 2a guitars you can visually see the difference. By doing this I have found that it becomes a clear choice between going with your pocket or your eyes.

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