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Old 02-27-2021, 04:15 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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Default Ordering your first luthier-made guitar - Some advice

Hello everyone!

I hope you're all doing ok, staying positive and testing negative. I haven't been posting as much as I would have liked as I've been kept very busy with a number of different projects but I always enjoy hanging out here and reading the latest threads.

I know many of you are veterans of the custom guitar scene but we're welcoming a lot of new people and I have made this video which I hope will help if you are considering ordering a luthier-made custom guitar for the first time. In the video I take a look at ergonomics, sonics, communication etc and I hope you enjoy it.

All the best

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Last edited by Michael Watts; 02-27-2021 at 04:57 AM.
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Old 02-27-2021, 05:28 AM
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Informative and well done, thanks for doing this for the community Michael.
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Old 02-27-2021, 05:32 AM
MThomson MThomson is offline
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Excellent as usual. I'm kind of glad I didn't know about it 2 years ago because I didn't have a clue and might not have taken the chance I did. Seem to have got there on the journey though thanks to a very supportive luthier, but I think that's in spite of myself rather than because of myself!
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Old 02-27-2021, 09:37 AM
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Ukulele_Eddie Ukulele_Eddie is offline
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Well done. Should be pinned to the top of this subforum.
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Old 02-27-2021, 10:25 AM
jonnymosco jonnymosco is offline
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Interesting Video Michael.

Having ordered c.10 luthier built guitars (you being involved in one of them... those halcyon days!) I'd now suggest buying the actual guitar you fall in love with, not an 'identical' one commissioned from the same maker. No two guitars can be identical as no two pieces of wood are the same. I've been disappointed too many times.

However, will I learn? A guitar I commissioned will be finished soon, based on one I completely bonded with, owned by a friend, thankfully the builder has wood from the same billets. We'll see.

I'll start a build thread soon I hope.

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Old 02-27-2021, 10:53 AM
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Guitars44me Guitars44me is offline
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Smile Most informative!!!

I agree that this video should be at the top of this sub forum all the time!
Thanks so much for your guidance to all of us. Love the story of the busker, and the advice about the importance of COMFORT!
I hope you are well and get to play some Elvis once in a while. Hahahaha


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Old 02-27-2021, 11:30 AM
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Good to hear from you Michael even if by video on a forum!

Hope all is well across the pond and thank you for all the good info.
PS. I love guitars!
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Old 02-27-2021, 06:59 PM
Richard Mott Richard Mott is offline
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Thanks for this video, Michael. I think it makes a strong case for being deliberate and thoughtful before jumping in, and lists some key issues to consider. Where the real world intrudes is that a lot of us don’t (didn’t) really know what we want, and that ideal, whatever it may be, changes over time as we develop as players. So we’re taking careful aim at moving targets. What’s helped me is to go to as many Healdsburgs, Newports, Santa Barbaras, etc. as possible and play a thousand different instruments, ideally with a good friend along to react, sort, and appraise with. That way one becomes increasingly discerning about the field and able to return to one’s own particular focus and find the best possible fit. But I have found it more about process than destination, though of course thrilling along the way.

Last edited by Richard Mott; 02-27-2021 at 07:53 PM.
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Old 02-27-2021, 09:09 PM
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Thanks Michael! Enjoyed that.....and it touched on a lot of the areas I experienced in my commission with Tom Doerr back in '13-14. It's certainly a very special experience to be had.......I look back so very fondly on my time with Tom, learning and following his creation of what was to become a very special guitar.
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Old 02-28-2021, 07:00 AM
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So well done Michael! No other way to say it ... I blew it with my first commission. For a lot of the reasons you point out. A learning experience for sure and all my commissions following that were better for it.

Thank you for your expertise and sharing it with us here!
Life is like a box of chocolates ....
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Old 02-28-2021, 09:36 AM
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Default Thank you...

Thanks for taking the time to create such an informative, illustrative and entertaining video Michael...

All good questions to ask but in my view your question #3 has the highest influence on the probability of success. Nothing replaces playing a luthier’s work. It gives a player a common framework with the builder on sound. As others have said, attending luthier exhibitions or in some cases auditioning at a reseller will highlight to a player many things about a number of your questions. Differences in some aspects of your question #2 in terms of how they play the instrument can mean the difference between someone liking or not liking the same instrument.

I can think of many occasions at luthier exhibitions where someone I know says try “guitar xyz” at luthier “abc’s” table because they thought it was fantastic only to be disappointed after auditioning it. That does not make it a bad guitar but illustrates how playing style, technique and musical genre can drive divergent opinions. A DADGAD Celtic player, a blues fingerstylist, a singer songwriter, a bluegrass flatpicker and a jazz guitarist in many cases will prefer different instruments for good reasons. So I would caution people when interpreting online consensus opinions.
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Old 02-28-2021, 10:00 AM
Mooh Mooh is offline
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Very good video.
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Old 02-28-2021, 10:08 AM
jklotz jklotz is offline
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Thanks for posting. I enjoyed that.

I'm waiting for my 1st commissioned guitar currently. I hope (and pray) it turns out as I had envisioned. In my case, it wasn't a difficult decision. There were no off the shelf guitars that had 1 3/4" nut, 2 1/4" string spacing, 25" scale, fuller neck shape without a lot of shoulder, florentine cutaway and Jescar-FW43080 frets wire. If I could have found that combo in a store, I wouln't have gone custom.
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Old 03-01-2021, 01:50 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Thanks for making that.

As you said, there are many things to consider and that your video touches on only five of them. There are two that I think are essential considerations.

First, perhaps a bit odd a thing to say for someone who has made custom guitars for four decades, but... If you can find what you want - whatever that is, however you chose to define it - in a ready-made guitar - either by an independent luthier or a factory-made - don't commission a custom-made instrument. Don't misunderstand me: that still leaves a lot of space for "can't get what I want" in an already-made guitar.

As an example, if you want a D-35, buy a D-35: you want a J45, buy a J45. They are widely available, you can usually play the individual instrument you are considering buying before you buy it so that there are no surprises, no uncertainty. You want a D-35, but with this specific thing and Martin's Custom Shop offers it with that specific thing, buy the Custom Shop one, even though you won't know exactly what you bought until it arrives months/years later. You still know it is going to say "Since 1833" on the head, and will generally sound and play like a Martin, a well-known commodity.

If you can't get what you want, by all means support your, preferably, local craftsperson and have him or her custom make one for you.

Second, understand, before you get too far into the details of this or that about a custom guitar, what is the maker's purchasing and warranty policy. That policy should spell-out, explicitly, what your rights and obligations are and what his or her rights and obligations are: commissioning something to be made for you is a business contract between you and the maker. You should know exactly what will happen in a variety of circumstances.
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Old 03-01-2021, 02:54 PM
Mark L Mark L is offline
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Good thread, thanks.
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