The cost of becoming a luthier??

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Terpfan
Posts: 291
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:33 am

The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Terpfan » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:53 pm

If you want to be a amateur luthier, how much money it will cost for basic equipment?? How many luthier use apprentice, or most of them work solo??

Alan Carruth
Luthier
Posts: 3289
Joined: Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:56 pm

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Alan Carruth » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:45 pm

If you work primarily with hand tools the cost of setting up is not too great. There are a few things you will want/need that plug in; a bending iron or heat blanket for forming the sides is one. A router is useful for making jigs and such, even if you don't use it on the guitar. I can't drill a perpendicular hole without a drill press (pillar drill to the Brits). A small bench grinder makes quick work of sharpening, but you'll still need good honing stones. Whatever you get for tools, try to get good ones: they work better and last much longer. Don't forget that the shop space itself is a tool: even if you work out of a disused bedroom you'll need a good solid bench. Nobody ever has enough clamps, but a good bench top can double as a 'go-bar deck' by simply putting a piece of plywood on the ceiling above it. With a drill press you can make a whole box of spool clamps in a day to use gluing tops and backs on. I use a long strip of rubber cut from an inner tube to clamp the bindings: traditionally they used cotton twine.

Apprenticeships along traditional lines are uncommon here in the USA: I don't know what the situation is elsewhere. There are many luthiers around who conduct classes of various sorts. Some of these are ongoing sessions where the students make instruments on their own schedule. Others are more organized and intensive, typically lasting a couple of weeks. The object with these is usually just to make one guitar. There are also schools that have regular programs that are more formal and are directed toward those who want to make lutherie a career.

In the US there are two main organizations directed primarily at guitar makers:

The Guild of American Luthiers, headquartered in Tacoma Washington (www.luth.org) is primarily an information sharing group. They publish a quarterly magazine, 'American Lutherie', and hold conventions in Tacoma on a regular basis.

A.S.I.A, the Associated String Instrument Artisans, (www.guitarmaker.org) also publishes a quarterly magazine, 'Guitarmaker', and holds periodic Symposia. It started as an offshoot of the GAL with the objective of becoming a more professional organization. They hold their meetings in Pennsylvania, and have settled into being the east coast alternative to the GAL.

The cost of joining either organization is not great, and I'd suggest at least looking into both. Both will have resources that can help direct you to learning opportunities.

goinbaroke
Posts: 144
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2018 5:21 pm
Location: Colville Washington

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by goinbaroke » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:20 pm

Sad they won't let this post go, lots of us beginners out here would like to hear the input from pros & advanced luthiers. IMHO

Dick C (goinbaroke))

Stephen Eden
Luthier
Posts: 453
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:36 am
Location: Bexhill on Sea, England

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Stephen Eden » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:10 pm

I don't think I could tell how much it costs without going through my workshop and getting todays prices for all of the tools I have aquired over the years. When I started my own workshop I decided the best course of action was to only buy what I needed when I needed it. That way once I had made one guitar I knew I could make another with all of the tools I currently owned.

I became an apprentice after I had built my first guitar on an evening course (basically after showing potential). I think these offers are few and far between and are even less likely to offer any pay!

Costantino Proietti
Amateur luthier
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:46 pm
Location: Rome

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Costantino Proietti » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:47 pm

Just a minimum list:
2 GOOD PLANES 300
5 CHISELS 100
PRECISION SAW 350
2 HAND JAPANESE SAWS 50
JIG FOR BINDING/PURFLING 150
PRECISION SQUARES AND RULES 100
BENDING IRON 150
BAND SAW 350
TABLE SAW 350
A MULTITUDE OF OTHER THINGS 500
LOT OF MOULDS 400
etc, etc, etc.....
A fact is the most obstinate thing in the world. Bulgakov
Every maker produces 'their' sound. A. Carruth

simonm
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9317
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:22 am
Location: Spain, IB

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by simonm » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:53 pm

Everything is country dependent.

Apprenticeships: I think it is fair to say that "luthiers" simply do not have apprentices. There may be odd exceptions and you would have to have some experience first. (as Stephen mentions). The get in the way and cost more than they rate worth. Small/Medium/large workshops very likely do. Germany has a very formal official training scheme with a 3+year apprenticeship.

Tools.
I agree entirely with Stephen about not buying tools in advance, especially from "specialised" catalogues. Spend money on learning to sharpen before you spend a lot on tools. Dust control is extremely important. Learn about this and spend money on it. You will only find out that you got it wrong 10 years too late. :-( Lung disease is a reality for people who work with wood. Sanding whether by hand or machine produces more dust that scraping or planing.

If you have absolutely no tools whatsoever you will see 500-1000 go very quickly on small tools. Apparently in the US getting used tools is pretty easy so that might help.

Philosophy.
There are two basic approaches. "Traditional" hand tool approach (doesn't exclude use of machines) and "Mini-Factory" approach which pretty much has a machine or jig for every step. An example would be with thicknessing the top, sides and back. The min-factory approach is to run them through a thickness sander, the hand tool approach is with a wood plane. Everyone is free to, and most do, mix and match from the two approaches. One US luthier said he has about 40 routers! Setting up a mechanical is time consuming. So his approach is buy one for each different job or setting. Set it up once and keep it for one job only.

Space.
Amount of space has an effect on tool choices. Big machines need lots of space and very solid floors and very often 3-phase power.

kvg
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:33 pm
Location: Norway

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by kvg » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:55 pm

Search for the thread "New beginner tool box" by the excellent user Vesa.

simonm
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9317
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:22 am
Location: Spain, IB

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by simonm » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:59 pm

Terpfan wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:53 pm
If you want to be a amateur luthier, ...
Forgot to say, if one of the ideas behind it is to build yourself a top class guitar, the sane approach is to go out and try lots of excellent guitars. If the one you settle on is 10,000 it will still be cheaper than building your own and you will have 5-10 years of time to play it before thee is much chance of you matching it with your own build.

There are a few professional luthiers who are also really excellent players but usually it is a choice, play or make.

goinbaroke
Posts: 144
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2018 5:21 pm
Location: Colville Washington

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by goinbaroke » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:38 pm

Thank you, that is some good info, when I started my gunsmith career all I had was a toothpick and a crescent wrench, it took me a long time and lots of money before I felt comfortable to call myself a journey gunsmith! If only I'd had a few working smiths to get info from I would have had an easier start, hence the info we get here from working luthiers is priceless! At 80. I cant wait many more years to make a decent guitar!
Thanks,
DickC (goinbaroke)

printer2
Posts: 591
Joined: Sat May 02, 2015 9:20 pm
Location: Winnipeg

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by printer2 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:09 pm

Your background has much to do with the route you take. If you have experience in other forms of manufacturing stuff or are the type that sees something and deconstructs it to figure out how it was made the costs may be lower. Your intent is also important. Do you just want to build for family and friends? How many guitars do you want to build, how many a year? What level of expertise are you shooting for? Do you want to make instruments rivaling the $10k+ instruments? Hard to say what you need without answering where you want to go first.
Fred

goinbaroke
Posts: 144
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2018 5:21 pm
Location: Colville Washington

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by goinbaroke » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:03 am

Thanks Printer2, I started out in 1955 as an apprentice cabinetmaker, then went thru gunsmithing school, opened my first gun shop, then a few years later opened another one! After 52 years I sold out, started making handmade knives, have made over 2200 as of now, now at 80 I want to make classical guitars, a passion for half a century, now have the time, still work well with my hands and mind! Have a friend on this forum who is helping me, I have every tool known to man, as I made custom gunstocks for years I have tools!
My main concern for writing the above was to help beginning luthiers to see the cost, etc. before they jump in, that seemed like a fairly good question for the members and to have that post locked was counter-productive to the very reason we have this Q&A forum!

DickC (goinbaroke)

goinbaroke
Posts: 144
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2018 5:21 pm
Location: Colville Washington

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by goinbaroke » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:18 am

P.S.: for Printer 2. As to how many guitars I want to make I can say lots, but age will stop me so I must be realistic; 2 or 3 a year would be nice, I'd like to leave 1 or 2 for the family, already have two people who will buy my first builds! Optimistic aren't they! LOL Maybe I'll become a 'National Treasure' after all!! Ha
DickC (goinbaroke)

Terpfan
Posts: 291
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:33 am

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Terpfan » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:43 am

I have always wanted make guitar since high school. I've read Irving Sloane in high school in the 80's. My father was award winning cabinet maker and I always wanted him to make guitar, but he enjoys retirement too much. Right now, I have two ideas i want to try. One is not likely be any good, but other one might be a great idea. Chances are I probably buy some used low end guitar and experiment with some of my ideas. That would be much cheaper than making any I instrument from scratch.

Terpfan
Posts: 291
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:33 am

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Terpfan » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:45 am

I have general cabinet making tools. Nothing specific for making an instrument.

User avatar
Steve Ganz
Luthier
Posts: 1171
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2006 6:19 pm
Location: Blaine, WA, USA

Re: The cost of becoming a luthier??

Post by Steve Ganz » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:27 am

If you have tools, and know how to use them, you can use them to make other tools that you don't yet have.
Same goes for talent, knowledge, and creative ideas.
Becoming something or someone is its own building process.
The cost varies on you, what you bring to the process.
The first guitar I built in my own shop used few tools that I bought. A chisel, a plane, a scraper, a table saw, a coping saw.... with those, I made other tools and jigs as I needed them.
Every once in a while, I would realize that a tool would save me time and improve my experience. Then I'd make the investment.
Steve

Return to “Luthiers”