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SoundGround >> Any Guitar Builders here?


5/15/09 6:09 PM
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El Maquina
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Could you tell me a little about how you started out. How long did it take you to start making money? Seems like a great way to make a living, problem is that I've never been very good with my hands :(
5/15/09 11:02 PM
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Ponyboy
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Edited: 05/15/09 11:03 PM
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You are lucky to have the internet.

Back when I got started with guitars, I spent time tons of time at the patent office and used trial and error since as well as spending time at the library of congress.

Use the internet and read history on every make you can that also has hardware details.

A lot of guitar history sites have technical information and the reasons why a certain company did what they did.

Do the same for pickups.

I never made any money but I did have a working model of "the sustainer" back in 1981 and showed it to fernandes and tom sholz.

Fernandes said it would never go anywhere but Tom Sholz though it was cool since head a headphone amp on the way.

There are so many sub-niches under the broad heading of guitars.
5/17/09 3:58 PM
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Racer X
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 If you've never been good with your hands, find another job/hobby. "Good with your hands" is a prerequisite to guitar building. There are many sharp and dangerous tools associated with lutherie, if you're not pretty comfortable with using them, you might start simpler, like a birdhouse or something. Don't laugh, building a good birdhouse will let you in on a lot of the skills required for guitar building, cutting, fitting, finishing.

PS It's NOT a good way to make money unless it is an all consuming passion for you.
5/17/09 7:45 PM
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El Maquina
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I did laugh and didn't expect to get smacked down on a guitar building thread :) I never expected to make money, just thought it would be cool to build my own guitar.

Ponyboy, how many have you made?
5/18/09 5:58 AM
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Ponyboy
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Very few........I primarily design components like the one above or transposing tremolos.

I did make a flying Z in which I eventually turned around one the "wings" and made it into an "Arrow".

This was back in the pointy 80s days.

I'm not good with wood and I usually clutter an axe to the point that gets ruined by trying to make it the swiss army knife of guitars.

RacerX is the expert on making a living on sweet custom guitars.

I think a good place to start is reading historic books or articles concerning guys like Leo Fender, Ted McCarty, Seth Lover, and Les Paul to get a feel for why they did what they did.
5/18/09 12:05 PM
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Racer X
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 *hangs head in shame while giggling quietly for trolling a SoundGround thread*

IF you have a market, it can be a very satisfying profession. A lot of research is important. Books,books,books.

Repair and building:

Complete Guitar Repair by Hideo Kamimoto

Classic Guitar Construction by Irving Sloane

Guitar Repair-A Manual of Repair for Guitars an Fretted Instruments by Irving Sloane

The Steel String Guitar by David Russel Young

Make Your Own Electric Guitar by Melvin Hiscock

Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology by William R. Cumpiano and Jonathan D. Natelson

Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine

History:

The Gibson by Rittor Music Europe Ltd. english language edition edited by Steve Berger and Christopher Perrius

Fender: The Sound Heard 'Round the World by Richard R. Smith

The Complete History of Rickenbacker Guitars by Richard R. Smith


This is my short list, just off the top of my head. Absorb every bit of info in the above books and let it swirl around in your head and you'll start getting the idea. Then just start with a big chunk of wood, cut away everything that doesn't look like a guitar, put some metal junk on the outside and some electrical stuff on the inside and plug it into one of those amplifying things and start beating on it.


But seriously, that is one powerful list. Use it wisely. This job is one of those that can CONSUME your life. It's enjoyable,challanging,rewarding, but I highly recommend compartmentalizing it, otherwise you become Jean Larravie, a vacation to him is going to India to buy a freaking ocean of rosewood. I love working on guitars, but I know a few guys who do this at the expense of a life outside of their job, no shit.

Another sort of "jump start" might be to enroll in one of the guitar building courses. Roberto-Venn is in Arizona, GIT in Los Angeles has a building/repair course now. Brian Gallup's Guitar Hospital in Grand Rapid.Mich. There are quite a few these days.

Maybe start out with a local college woodworking class. Great way to become familiar with tools and shop practice. Listen to older craftsmen that still have all their fingers. They are good role models for shop safety.

Good luck, let me know if there is any other info I can provide.




5/19/09 12:10 AM
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Racer X
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 ttttttttttt
5/20/09 2:00 AM
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Racer X
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Just some of the wood and wire I've used and abused over the years:
My eleven year old son and I built the above guitar together. Awesome experience. I don't need a Les Paul now, guess I can spend that money on college for the boy!
Hipshot vibrato bridge on a Jazz Bass.



5/20/09 3:49 AM
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Vegaschowder
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racer x, did you use/buy certain parts then assemble the guitars, or did you carve/cut the pieces yourself?
5/20/09 11:21 AM
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Racer X
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Vegaschowder - racer x, did you use/buy certain parts then assemble the guitars, or did you carve/cut the pieces yourself?

 Depends on the guitar. For bolt on construction I've used a lot of Warmoth necks. They are high quality and will make a neck to my specs as far as wood, shape,fret size,etc. are concerned. Of the guitars above, I built the Koa body on the first guitar, the sunburst body on the SuperStrat, the entire red Les Paul style,and the entire set neck Tele-style. Most guitars I make these days are set neck(like the carved top Tele-thing above) so bolt on aftermarket necks aren't an option. That said, I usually order necks in what is known as a "boatneck" configuration(VERY fat) and carve it to customer specs.

If I build a guitar for a customer and he or she wants a stock shape(Tele,Strat,Explorer,etc.) It's just more economical for me to use a precision cut body from Warmoth, saves the customer money and the quality is unbeatable.

I'd rather make complete instruments these days, as anybody can bolt together a neck and body. I'm getting into less commercial style and more individual instruments.  Latest project is a collaboration with my girlfriend on an electric cello, which is inspiring a whole new approach to building.
5/20/09 9:57 PM
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El Maquina
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Nice work Racer!
5/20/09 11:30 PM
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Racer X
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 Thanks, I've posted most of them before but thought maybe they would inspire you. ;)

Here's a neck thru in progress:

5/20/09 11:46 PM
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El Maquina
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Must be so satisfying to do that kind of work. It'll probably always be out of my skill set but a guy can dream. I'm mostly an acoustic guitar guy myself, never imagined they could be expensive as they are when they are hand-built.
Somogyi anyone?
5/21/09 1:35 AM
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Racer X
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 Yeah, Ervin makes some truly amazing guitars. I worked in a shop with a guy who did some finishing work for him, so I've checked out a couple.

He's not the only one asking 25Gs for his guitars. Damn, the air is thin up there!
5/21/09 3:19 AM
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El Maquina
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Sounds like that guy had a dream job! And could you tell me one thing? I love guitars as much as the next guy but I'd feel like a sucker for paying 25k for any guitar. What are you getting when you pay that much? I understand the guitar is more responsive, but 25k responsive? Somogyi should have a book out soon I think.
5/21/09 10:32 AM
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Ponyboy
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Edited: 05/21/09 10:32 AM
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oops
5/21/09 11:40 AM
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Racer X
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 What you pay for is like what you pay for with a Ferarri or Rolls Royce,I think. Surely the quality of materials and workmanship are of the highest order, but I think you are also paying for the privledge of being in a rather exclusive club: Guys like Ervin or Jeff Traugott in Santa Cruz do the whole job, from wood selection to finishing, so you know that some apprentice didn't glue the braces in. No, that entire instrument is the work of one artist, from stump to stage, and that does mean something in a production oriented world,IMO.

Here is Jeff's new electric design, Which appears to be very similar to the instrument he built for Charlie Hunter. Note three bass strings and four guitar strings make for an interesting range.


5/21/09 11:42 AM
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Racer X
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 The angled frets are due to the Fanned Fret System. Designed by Ralph Novak,it allows differing scale lengths for each string, giving each their best tension for the extended range of the instrument. The circles on the body are the bass and guitar range pickups.
5/21/09 9:04 PM
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Ponyboy
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I'll bet Jimmy Bruno wants one.
5/22/09 3:19 AM
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El Maquina
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cool looking instrument
5/22/09 11:33 AM
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Iron Man
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i would like to try to build an acoustic guitar someday. i was going to enroll at a class at the fret house in covina. it is a first time class and i decided to wait until the next session so they can have all the kinks ironed out.

they were building a stew mac acoustic guitar kit. has anyone here build a guitar using a kit?
6/13/10 11:54 AM
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RyPuhnie
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I started off on necks/fretboards at Paul Reed Smith. One of the hardest jobs.
6/15/10 4:18 PM
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banjo
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Edited: 06/15/10 4:19 PM
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One of the best school in the country for building guitars is in Phoenix:

Roberto Venn
6/16/10 11:37 AM
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El_Clap
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http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tele-home-depot/

This forum kept me interested for days! My productivity at work dropped to an all time low.

Too bad I'm a danger to myself and others with anything that plugs in.
6/18/10 4:31 PM
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whaledog
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Edited: 06/18/10 6:09 PM
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El_Clap - http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tele-home-depot/

This forum kept me interested for days! My productivity at work dropped to an all time low.

Too bad I'm a danger to myself and others with anything that plugs in.

There are some unbelievable builds there. Stangely enough, because it's a Telecaster forum, the best might be this Les Paul build

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