what to do: luthier takes deposit ... update

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
musicalhair

Post by musicalhair » Wed May 16, 2007 3:07 pm

Hey James, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I agree with the face-to-face idea, in fact that is my perferred way of doing things in general. But I can't show up uninvited-- right? Also, I figure that if he isn't inviting me down when ever I've emailed him about it in the past, then I shouldn't be inviting myself.

The one thing I don't want to happen is for him to suddenly decide to slap something together the last minute just to finish the deal. I fear that the guitar will start to fall apart in a year and just be a mess and I'd be worse off and $4,000 in the hole.

User avatar
James Lister
Luthier
Posts: 7357
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:53 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

Post by James Lister » Wed May 16, 2007 8:55 pm

No - it's best not to just show up, but if you email or perhaps better phone him, and say you are concerned and would like to visit his workshop to see how things are going, then I would hope he would agree to do this. If he doesn't, then I think I would start to worry.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

Nando

Post by Nando » Thu May 17, 2007 2:11 am

How large was your deposit? Check to see if there is a small claims court where you are. And check what it's limit is. Here in NYC you don't need a lawyer. It's a bit informal, and there are arbitrators. Filing fees are minimal.

tritone

Post by tritone » Thu May 17, 2007 7:07 am

How does someone make $$$$ @ $ 4,000.00. per guitar?

The tone woods alone are $ 1500-3000 dollars.

I can not see putting less than 160 hours of work more like 200 hours even more.

I do not think this guy loves you that much.

Sasquatch51

Post by Sasquatch51 » Thu May 17, 2007 11:34 am

tritone wrote:How does someone make $$$$ @ $ 4,000.00. per guitar?

The tone woods alone are $ 1500-3000 dollars.

I can not see putting less than 160 hours of work more like 200 hours even more.
How do you figure this? I don't see anywhere in this thread where it was specified what kind of tonewood was being used. It may cost $1,500 for the tonewoods if you are using a very high grade of Pre-Act straight-grained Brazilian Rosewood, but I think it would be a very rare thing for a luthier set and top to reach $3,000.00. A very nice Indian Rosewood or Cocobolo luthier set generally runs less than $200. You can buy very good African Blackwood sets for $600 or so. Brazilian Rosewood sets sell on e - b a y all the time for $600-$700. A Master Grade German Spruce top sells for less than $200.

For a $4,000 guitar in IR/SP, I would guess that there would be no more than $500 in the tonewoods.....maybe $1,000 in materials total allowing $300 for tuners.

200 actual hours in building a $4,000 guitar? Nah....I doubt that seriously....more like 60 to 80 actual hours depending on what finish is used.

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 7484
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Post by Michael.N. » Thu May 17, 2007 11:51 am

How do you figure this? I don't see anywhere in this thread where it was specified what kind of tonewood was being used. It may cost $1,500 for the tonewoods if you are using a very high grade of Pre-Act straight-grained Brazilian Rosewood, but I think it would be a very rare thing for a luthier set and top to reach $3,000.00. A very nice Indian Rosewood or Cocobolo luthier set generally runs less than $200. You can buy very good African Blackwood sets for $600 or so. Brazilian Rosewood sets sell on e - b a y all the time for $600-$700. A Master Grade German Spruce top sells for less than $200.

For a $4,000 guitar in IR/SP, I would guess that there would be no more than $500 in the tonewoods.....maybe $1,000 in materials total allowing $300 for tuners.

200 actual hours in building a $4,000 guitar? Nah....I doubt that seriously....more like 60 to 80 actual hours depending on what finish is used.
Of course you are correct regarding the cost of the tonewoods, even a master grade top will be less than your quoted $200. There are other costs besides those of the materials.
Your quoted figure of 60 to 80 hours depends largely on how the individual Luthier works, it could quite easily stretch to 140 -160 hours if using hand tools and complex inlays are involved. It all depends on the individual maker and his chosen approach.

Sasquatch51

Post by Sasquatch51 » Thu May 17, 2007 12:51 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
How do you figure this? I don't see anywhere in this thread where it was specified what kind of tonewood was being used. It may cost $1,500 for the tonewoods if you are using a very high grade of Pre-Act straight-grained Brazilian Rosewood, but I think it would be a very rare thing for a luthier set and top to reach $3,000.00. A very nice Indian Rosewood or Cocobolo luthier set generally runs less than $200. You can buy very good African Blackwood sets for $600 or so. Brazilian Rosewood sets sell on e - b a y all the time for $600-$700. A Master Grade German Spruce top sells for less than $200.

For a $4,000 guitar in IR/SP, I would guess that there would be no more than $500 in the tonewoods.....maybe $1,000 in materials total allowing $300 for tuners.

200 actual hours in building a $4,000 guitar? Nah....I doubt that seriously....more like 60 to 80 actual hours depending on what finish is used.
Of course you are correct regarding the cost of the tonewoods, even a master grade top will be less than your quoted $200. There are other costs besides those of the materials.
Your quoted figure of 60 to 80 hours depends largely on how the individual Luthier works, it could quite easily stretch to 140 -160 hours if using hand tools and complex inlays are involved. It all depends on the individual maker and his chosen approach.
That's true, but then I doubt that guitar would sell for $4,000. It is possible to build a concert quality classical guitar entirely with hand tools and entirely French Polished in less than 140 actual labor hours. The more of them you build, the less time it takes. Of course, the more attention to detail, the more time and the more money. Adding additional and finer purflings, hand-made rosettes, back headsrock laminations, bindings necks and headstocks, fretboard extensions, tie-block bindings and inlay, double tops or backs, tap-tuning and hand thicknessing tops, hand tuning bracing....that stuff adds more time and more money....but, once again, it's doubtful you're going to sell that instrument for $4,000.

kfisherx

Post by kfisherx » Thu May 17, 2007 6:17 pm

In Jeffrey Elliot's workshop (His last guitar sold for 20K at GSI btw) there is a sign that says, "We're slow BUT we're expensive" :D :D :D :D :D

You know I have to agre with those who say to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is likely not running away with your money rather just a bad business person. Many of the luthiers (I hear) are like this. In fact the guys who made mine have a horrible reputation. There are stories of people who ordered a guitar and it was 2 years late!!! During those two years, they would call on the status and be told pretty consistently that the guitar would be finished in 2 weeks. I heard this from more than one person and is one reason why I would likely never commision a guitar from these guys. That would drive me crazy. They do build incredible instruments though. :D :D :D

It is likely that you can get a refund on your deposit if you are not interested in the guitar anymore due to his bad business practices. I would definately plan a day trip (of course you have to arrange this with the builder) and see first hand what he is doing. If you are unhappy with what you see then make a decision how to procede. Luthiers are a very quirky and interesting group of folks. Personally I love them but to love them you have to accept the artist and unreliable side of them along with all the great things that come.

User avatar
Vesuvio
Posts: 14275
Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:21 pm
Location: Northern England

Post by Vesuvio » Thu May 17, 2007 6:26 pm

kfisherx wrote:In Jeffrey Elliot's workshop (His last guitar sold for 20K at GSI btw) there is a sign that says, "We're slow BUT we're expensive" ...
:grire:

Have you made contact yet, Musicalhair?

Best wishes, V
"There are only two things worth aiming for, good music and a clean conscience." Paul Hindemith

Rick-in-Annapolis
Posts: 537
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:22 am
Location: Annapolis, MD (USA)

Post by Rick-in-Annapolis » Thu May 17, 2007 9:58 pm

If all else fails, here's another possibility. If you put your down payment on a credit card, you can probably contact you credit card company to handle this. This happened to me once when I made a purchase (by credit card) and before I could pick up the merchandise, the company went out of business. My credit card company immediately refunded the money to me and, most importantly, they dealt with the company! This is one of the big advantages of using credit cards for times like this!

Good luck

Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Thu May 17, 2007 11:27 pm


tritone

Post by tritone » Fri May 18, 2007 6:54 am

Sasquatch51 wrote:
tritone wrote:How does someone make $$$$ @ $ 4,000.00. per guitar?

The tone woods alone are $ 1500-3000 dollars.

I can not see putting less than 160 hours of work more like 200 hours even more.

200 actual hours in building a $4,000 guitar? Nah....I doubt that seriously....more like 60 to 80 actual hours depending on what finish is used.
That would be a nice coat of French Polish Shellac included with the 60 hours right? I seriously doubt that......

Sasquatch51

Post by Sasquatch51 » Fri May 18, 2007 11:11 am

tritone wrote:
Sasquatch51 wrote:
tritone wrote:How does someone make $$$$ @ $ 4,000.00. per guitar?

The tone woods alone are $ 1500-3000 dollars.

I can not see putting less than 160 hours of work more like 200 hours even more.

200 actual hours in building a $4,000 guitar? Nah....I doubt that seriously....more like 60 to 80 actual hours depending on what finish is used.
That would be a nice coat of French Polish Shellac included with the 60 hours right? I seriously doubt that......
OK...your perogative. Doubt away. BTW...I didn't say anywhere that you could complete a guitar and apply FP in 60 hours. You blatantly quoted that out of context. But....no matter.....think as you will. No skin off my nose. ;)

Also...notice that repeatedly I have said actual hours meaning time spent with the hands actually on the guitar. A lot of idle time or time doing other things frequently gets included in these processes....for example, you sand, spirit, and polish for an hour, then allow that coat to dry for 3 or 4 hours while you go do something else, and frequently that 3 or 4 hours gets included in build time. Or...you are routing for bindings and someone comes into the shop and ties you up with something else for an hour.....that hour then gets included in the build time. It's not that anybody is trying to be deceptive or intentionally inflate the times, and there is no problem since luthiers charge by the instrument and not by the hour....it's just that we tend to see the effort as continuous, when we actually did not have hands on the project at all times. I think that if we could somehow accurately track the time that is spent actually hands-on, we would find that the actual time required to build an instrument isn't quite as much as we think. It's still a lot, but I think 120 hours is probably at the high end.

musicalhair

Post by musicalhair » Fri May 18, 2007 3:23 pm

After a couple of emails he says he'll have something to show me on May 26th.

Still my greatest fear is that he's slapping something together to get rid of me without having to return the deposit-- which was in the form of a check to answer Rick's question.

I can assure everyone of you luthiers in this thread that the most important thing about builiding the guitar is not the finish or the wood or the skill, but keeping the client informed of what is going on-- especially of delays-- and keeping the client feeling respected. All of you have day jobs, and if you get sick you call in-- right? If you're going to miss a deadline you tell someone in advance in the day job right? And if you fail in that in your day job, worse than the delay and cost of that buisness is the loss of trust and confidence it causes and that will lead to dismissal or lost promotions and oppurtunities.

When I see that guitar: I'm going to see the work of a guy that thought my "word of mouth" is meaningless to him, I'm going to see something slapped together to get rid of me. Everyone here wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt is missing the point: there should be no doubt about any of this. Keep the client informed, this is true in every business.

Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Fri May 18, 2007 3:39 pm

Although some analysis can be done to set the price of a guitar. The use of time and labor hour diminished the ideal of an artistic instrument to convert it into a factory mass produced concept. The time (or relatively close time) that a relatively not-well know luthier (not a begineer) takes to make a guitar is probably the time a well known luthier does. Then the first one gutiars sells for $2500, but the later one sells for $8000. At this point, the hours spent by the luthier making a gutiar does not matter. If a luthier were to charge by hour, a guitar made in the US or Europe would have to sell for $10,000 minimum, while the same guitar made in a third world country would sell for $1000.
What makes the difference in the price should be the quality of the guitar, the sound. However, at this time and age, where transaction are made by internet, there is no chance of testing a guitar enough to make a satisfying decision. People relay on marketing, what the smart dealer would tell you about the guitar. Great words abut color, school of Madrid, versus school of Barcelona, Seville, Granada, etc., balance, eveness, duende, etc. etc. So, most of the guitar buyers are subject to the influence of marketing. If you go to a fourm asking for this or for that guitar, you will get all kinds of respnses. Mostly the bad ones (most people with good gutiars do nt complaint). General opinions on guitars are somewhat missleading, unless they are factory made guitars that tend to have a consistent same quality. A custom hand made guitar has subtleties that vary from gutiar to guitar. Then you have the famous, long time makers that get a consistent quality (not really) versus those who are constantly improving. I knew a lutier Vicente Camacho, who only made 18 guitars per year. All by himself, all done by hand. He sold his guitars at a moderate price mostly in London. He retired several years ago. Nowdays, you cannot find one of this guitars. Owners do not want to sell them, or they ask astronomic prices. Those guitars were consistent, but the mand charged a decent price for them. He was living in a country (Spain) that used to be a world power more than 500 years ago, but that was very poor until few years. Nowdays, Spain is picking up, and do not be surprised that Spanish guitars will continue to raise.

Return to “Luthiers”