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  #1  
Old 12-11-2012, 05:58 AM
DaveKell DaveKell is offline
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Default How Does A Build Go Bad?

This question is for you pro luthiers. It concerns a comment made to me by a luthier of about 30 years now who is building me an OM to go with the bearclaw spruce/HOG dread build of his I recently acquired. The dread is over 13 years old and is the finest sonic masterpiece I have ever owned or played in 50 years of playing guitar.

He told me he never knows if a guitar is any good until it's finished and he can play it. At that time, he decides if it goes to the market place or the trash pile. He doesn't really take custom orders, preferring instead to build whatever he wants to, usually it is a dread, parlor, or OM. I can't wrap my head around the idea of entirely building a guitar to then possibly trash it. Is this a common thing in guitar building or is something else going on here? As I said, because of the dread I have I can vouch for the quality he produces by far. Can anyone explain this concept to me?
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Old 12-11-2012, 06:38 AM
Rasmus Rasmus is offline
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From my own experience, yes, some guitars come out below my standars and yes, I don't sell them. I don't trash them though.

I plan on increasing my success rate by designing 2 or 3 models and sticking to them. It's much easier to build a certain model than an entierly custom one each time.
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Old 12-11-2012, 07:01 AM
DaveKell DaveKell is offline
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From my own experience, yes, some guitars come out below my standars and yes, I don't sell them. I don't trash them though.

I plan on increasing my success rate by designing 2 or 3 models and sticking to them. It's much easier to build a certain model than an entierly custom one each time.
This seems to be this guy's approach. I was really surprised when he told me he doesn't know if a guitar is any good until he plays it. He had already told me he long ago got to the point where he didn't build a bad guitar. From the amazing quality of his dread #12 I have I would almost assume he is a perfectionist. He never made a living from lutherie. He is a retired college professor. He has said on a number of occasions his calling is to build guitars, not to sell them. He usually sells them for enough money to recoup his material investment and be able to buy materials for his next build. I recently arranged for another college professor in Kansas to obtain a new OM from him for $800 with a hard shell case that I encouraged him to ask at least $2,000 for. It's amazing in this day and age to find a craftsman who works for pure love of his craft with no profit motive whatsoever.
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Old 12-11-2012, 07:58 AM
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Tim McKnight Tim McKnight is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKell View Post
This question is for you pro luthiers. I can't wrap my head around the idea of entirely building a guitar to then possibly trash it. Is this a common thing in guitar building or is something else going on here? Can anyone explain this concept to me?
Its never happened to me though I can't speak for others. I have a very good idea what the guitar will sound like by the end of my voicing process. Some of my earliest guitars were less than pleasing [to me] as far as fit and finish but I have never been disappointed in the tone and responsiveness that I have been able to predictably achieve.
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Old 12-11-2012, 08:17 AM
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My two handmade guitars are Goodall and Olson. I bought both used due to several issues but mainly the fear they would fall short of my expectations. Buying used allowed me to play the Olson before I laid down the cash. In the Goodall's case I bought it sight unseen but had a good return policy which would not have tied up my dollars. I like the idea of a custom build and agree with Ted that it would turn out fine so I am not saying don't have a custom build done for you. I am happy with both of these guitars and have no regrets.
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Old 12-11-2012, 08:31 AM
IPlay2 IPlay2 is offline
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I in no way can speak for any of the the luthiers on the AGF, but I do know that John Mayes went through 16 guitars over the years while trying to achieve his new bracing that he uses on his GC's. #17 was what he had been searching for. As for the 16 guitars he built before #17, all went through the band saw and into the firewood pile.

Here is the story by John. Pretty good read.

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...ight=mayes+l32
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Old 12-11-2012, 09:05 AM
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I in no way can speak for any of the the luthiers on the AGF, but I do know that John Mayes went through 16 guitars over the years while trying to achieve his new bracing that he uses on his GC's. #17 was what he had been searching for. As for the 16 guitars he built before #17, all went through the band saw and into the firewood pile.

Here is the story by John. Pretty good read.

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...ight=mayes+l32

Well that seems a pure waste of a lot of things. Coulda donated them to a music program, knock his maker signature off and get it into the hands of a kid that would play it. You hear about woods being scarcer and scarcer and then the last thing we need is them being scrapped for less than 'perfect' tone.
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Old 12-11-2012, 09:33 AM
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Build Gone Bad #835: The luthier disappears with your money.
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Old 12-11-2012, 09:42 AM
ZekeM ZekeM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smah View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by IPlay2 View Post
I in no way can speak for any of the the luthiers on the AGF, but I do know that John Mayes went through 16 guitars over the years while trying to achieve his new bracing that he uses on his GC's. #17 was what he had been searching for. As for the 16 guitars he built before #17, all went through the band saw and into the firewood pile.

Here is the story by John. Pretty good read.

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...ight=mayes+l32

Well that seems a pure waste of a lot of things. Coulda donated them to a music program, knock his maker signature off and get it into the hands of a kid that would play it. You hear about woods being scarcer and scarcer and then the last thing we need is them being scrapped for less than 'perfect' tone.
Why not cut the top off and just make a new one with different braces? At least that would save the back and sides.
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Old 12-11-2012, 10:13 AM
Rienk Ayers Rienk Ayers is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smah View Post
Well that seems a pure waste of a lot of things. Coulda donated them to a music program, knock his maker signature off and get it into the hands of a kid that would play it. You hear about woods being scarcer and scarcer and then the last thing we need is them being scrapped for less than 'perfect' tone.
As a soon-to-be luthier, I agree. I know I'm going to have some less than perfect guitars as I start out, but I don't have to put my signature on any of them. And as a Dutchman, I certainly wouldn't throw away any decent parts. They can either be reused, the guitar can be sold at an appropriate price, or simply given away. I know all sorts of young people who would be ecstatic over an inexpensive custom guitar.
Of course, I hope that very few end up going this way due to a poor build !
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Old 12-11-2012, 10:36 AM
KolayaGuitars KolayaGuitars is offline
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It seems unlikely that in the 30 years the builder has been at it that he could still not have an idea of what the guitar will sound like before it's done. Careful consideration of materials, voicing and deflection testing will definitely put you in the ball park. A little note taking and observation goes a long way and doesn't take very much time...compared to scrapping a whole guitar, especially after a finish has been put on it!

As for John's situation, I've seen pictures on Todd Lunneborg's website of a pile of guitar bodies in the fire pit, too. This is the process for some builders I guess, though I could never do it, it seems wasteful. I'm in the process of making 3 "rims" that I can attach different tops to for such testing. All will have an access block in the tail for an easier time carving braces later, and even under string tension. Should be a fun project.

Brad
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Old 12-11-2012, 11:06 AM
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Well, it takes all kinds, but I find it puzzling that a 30 year vet wouldn't know what was coming the whole way down the path to each guitar. I suppose I expect others are more like me that otherwise, but I have my tonal target in mind before I start, and it's a matter of how close to the center of the target my shot is rather than whether I hit the target. I have never made a guitar I wasn't willing to offer, though standards have risen constantly.
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Old 12-11-2012, 12:02 PM
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Quote:
I have a very good idea what the guitar will sound like by the end of my voicing process.
Well said Tim, I think that we all have some we are much prouder of than others but if someone can not predict where he is going with a build they are not doing things right.

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Old 12-11-2012, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by smah View Post
Well that seems a pure waste of a lot of things. Coulda donated them to a music program, knock his maker signature off and get it into the hands of a kid that would play it. You hear about woods being scarcer and scarcer and then the last thing we need is them being scrapped for less than 'perfect' tone.
It could be purely a business decision. Just taking your name off doesn't in any way guarantee that your name won't be associated with it. The harm that one "iffy" guitar out there with your name associated is real. One builder I know overbuilt a guitar for a traveling performer. A player I respect highly had only picked up / played that particular guitar, and has since associated that builder with overbuilt and heavy guitars. And that was intentional.

There's no mention of the wood used on John's prototype guitars, so assuming that he was consuming and trashing valuable wood is a bit of a leap.

Phil
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Old 12-11-2012, 12:07 PM
Howard Klepper Howard Klepper is offline
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[QUOTE=DaveKell;3273617I was really surprised when he told me he doesn't know if a guitar is any good until he plays it. He had already told me he long ago got to the point where he didn't build a bad guitar. [/QUOTE]

I'd like to know how he reconciles those two statements. What was he a professor of?
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