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  • Writer's pictureBruce Bennett

a walk through of working with a "modern" Luthier.

A modern Luthier..

Thats actually a little bit of a joke.

See Guitars, either electric or acoustic, are pretty much built the same way as they always have been since about 150 years ago.

Raw lumber is milled and glued into parts and these parts are sculpted and glued into sub-assemblies, and these Sub-assemblies are assembled into an unfinished instrument, which is then final sculpted and refine sanded and then a finish is applied, which is then sanded polished and the instrument is final assembled into what looks like a complete instrument.

This is where most factories stop, box it up and ship it out to the dealer/customer. But, a true Luthier goes another step beyond that into what I all "Tweaking" or Fine tuning.

this is a SUPER TEDIOUS process of bringing out everything that instrument can give a performer in terms of play-ability, tone and performance.

Sometimes, when an instrument is built well, this can be only a few hours process.. other times, this came become a laborious process than can take days or even weeks, though I would consider that a worst case scenario.

Unless or course Time & Financial management issues dictates that this job needs to sit for an undetermined period of time. while other matters that will bring the business to a grinding halt, are dealt with.

That can be as simple as the phone bill needs paying and a customer needs his pickups installed for some fast cash to make that pesky bill go away quickly. because if there is one thing I'm dead sure of, is that Customers get REALLY upset if they can't contact you, and they don't care that your phone was off for only a few hours, and of course they absolutely MUST call you during that few hours. because of some guy named Murphey who wrote a law a long time ago.

and thats just a quick example. this scenario happens with just about any shop situation you can dream up. its just a fact of life that things will happen to get in the way of progress.

the only difference between a Old world luthier and a Modern one is electricity and a very few modern tools, because the truth is, most jobs in guitar making are still very much done by hand. Especially things like layout, template making, neck and body sculpting, sanding, inlaying, fretwork, polishing, final assembly and final tweaking. there are no electrified tools for those jobs. unless of course you have millions of dollars to spend on robots. which most small time luthiers do not.

many 1 man shops have backorder lists that are YEARS long, and some even gain a form of Prestige from that. while others get nothing but a bad reputation from the very same thing.

It never ceases to amaze me just how lopsided the guitar world can be when it comes to judge how long a job "should take" verses who is doing the work and how customers will perceive the unspoken value of that Luthiers work and time.

My current back log is about 4-5 years, not because I want it that way. but because it just takes that long to run a project from start to finish, Alongside all the myriad of things that must be done in their due course.

Luthiers do not get paid what they are worth, and probably never will. and they get abused by their customers daily. which IMHO is much like abusing the waiter or waitress who is bringing you your food.. the results are very much the same.

If a Luthier has been in business for more than 10 years and has a great rep, then its very likely you will get your guitar and it will be great. just be patient as the future is unpredictable for all of us. Luthiers included.

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1 Comment
Jun 30, 2020

I've seen some jaw-dropping examples of Bruce's craftsmanship. I've got a custom build in my head and when I'm ready to pull the trigger, I'll be happy to be on Bruce's wait list. He treats my guitars (some very low end) like I'm a rock star, even though I'm just a goof who has been trying to figure out Smoke On The Water for 25 years.

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