CNC vs. all handmade

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by tms13pin, Jun 5, 2005.

  1. David Myka

    David Myka Member

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    I was going to post some follow up thoughts after having some more time to think about all of this. I think you are right and that I was lost in semantics. It's easy to do and just about every article discussing these techniques suffers the same. It really seems to me to be the difference between left and right brain thinking. The left brain luthier is more likey to want to measure deflection and weigh the braces, or if they do use tap tuning they tune to a specific frequency. A right brain luthier will feel their way through most of the construction process and tune for optimum resonance and tone regardless of pitch. Pitch changes when you glue things together anyway so resonance seems more important to me especially after the guitar is glued together. As an example the data derived from measuring top deflection makes little sense to me but when I use thumb pressure to measure the same thing I get much more useful information. It's all about what you are able to see and hear and how you use and understand it.

    Oh, and don't forget to align the grain of the wood with magnetic North while you carve ;)

    ~David
     
  2. Bruce Bennett

    Bruce Bennett Senior Member

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    I think your forgetting Eastman instruments,

    Their Archtops have already been touted as being as good or better than instruments that cost 10 times their price. ( Acoustic Guitar Magazine) and frankly I agree,... they really are on par with many of the top flite American Archtop makers.

    I still build use all hand tools.. Only because I'm not able to afford CNC machines at present. Ron Thorn has said it perfectly, so no need for me to say anyting more about it.
    CNCs are here to stay and any luthier that doesn't or can't take advantage of them, will have a very hard time competeing in the future market place.

    Guitar making is about love and commitment ( or maybe just being commited) there is little to no money in it. just enough to eat with and thats about it.
    Warrior instruments is surviveing on only God knows what.
    but whatever it is.. there seems to be room for all that wish to step up.

    I will make one statement about CNCs that is think is cruitial,

    Wood is about as inconsistent a material as you could ever hope to find. no matter how great the machineing processes are,.. a great guitar starts with a luthier that can "read" his material and knows how to pick and choose the pieces that will provide the best possible instrument.
    a CNC never had that capability and never will. it just runs a program... if the operator puts a "bad piece of wood" in a CNC, it will turn out a "bad guitar" just as fast as a good one.
    My point being;... CNC or handmade .. a great instrument... STARTS with a great luthier. and every luthier is NOT created equal. this is where the real debate is. not who is "best" but who can make the best guitar for YOUR purpose.

    every luthier has a "theory" about how an instrument should be constructed. some of them I agree with.... many, I don't... but NONE of them are wrong.. only the results are different.
    each players has to evaluate the luthiers ideas and hope he can build an instrument that will meet his personal needs.
     
  3. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    This statement is so obvious I don't understand why everyone doesn't get it instantly.

    All a CNC machine does, really, is remove smaller pieces of wood from larger pieces. It truly is all about:

    -1- selecting the wood;

    -2- positioning it correctly for CNCing;

    -3- determining and doing any necessary post-CNC adjustments by hand.

    Come to think of it, what may give CNC a bad image with some is where mass manufacturers omit step 3 entirely. But that is absolutely never the case with guys like Thorn.
     
  4. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    DFM. As a guy who has had guitars built to his specs by pretty much everyone (PRS, Grosh, Suhr, McInturff, Stevens, Baker, Hamer, JG, Koll come to mind immediately), from full on CNC to crazy analog, the devil is in the details. I know what I want, from soup to nuts, when it comes to guitars. Follow my recipe and I'll be happy. TBS, I'd love to have a guitar built by Bender.
     
  5. jtg116

    jtg116 Too Many Guitars, Too Little Time

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    I've said this many times when this type of discussion comes up that, I got a deck made that cost as much as two JG guitars built by guys who could hardly read a ruler with about 25% of the cost deck in materials and it took a long weekend, while I can't go out and buy great guitars everytime I see one, who is overcharging for their skill and time? :confused:
     
  6. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    If it's something you can't do yourself, then you have to rely on people who can do it. If they charge to do the work that you can't do, then it's up to you to decide what you're willing to pay for that work. If you don't like the cost quote, go with somebody cheaper.

    I'm lucky to be able to say that I know more than a few luthiers - some are guitar builders and others are highly skilled repairmen. There's only one I can think of that I consider truly overpriced, call it one out of 10 (and no, I won't say who it is, that would be rude).

    You look at a guitar and think, 'Gee, that's way overpriced'. A luthier looks at one of his guitars and thinks, 'Electricity, water, heat, AC, food, rent for the storefront, mortgage, car payment, employee wages, health insurance, GI Joe w/Kung-Fu Grip for Petey, weekend getaway with the wife...' and so on.

    Overpriced? I think the vast majority of the small builders, including the ones in this thread, could probably DOUBLE their prices and still be competitive against the custom shops from places like Gibson, PRS, and Fender, which shows me who is REALLY overpriced.

    --chiba
     
  7. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    :dude
     
  8. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    Wes, you knucklehead - of course we all know this but for crying out loud, don't tell the luthiers!!! :mad:

    :D
     
  9. Zamm Guitars

    Zamm Guitars Member

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    This question is mainly directed towards John Suhr, Ron Thorn and Joe Driskill. I am looking into taking classes on CAD and CAM I know you mentioned Rhino, the class teaches the programing on Autodesk
    inventor and MasterCAM are these a good start? Can I switch to Rhino easliy after autodesk inventor?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated the final sign up date is coming up and I want to make sure the classes are worth it. I can't wait to learn!
     
  10. KHK

    KHK Silver Supporting Member

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    A good intellectual and practical argument for tone tapping above. Cutting all wood precisely to consistant dimensions ignores the biggest variable...the wood.

    No two trees will produce wood that is identical in density, weight, grain etc which could/should affect resonance/tone. They will not be the same age, may not come from the same location, growing conditions a half state away will create more/less stress and yield differences...you name it, there are many, many variables. The density and weight of a given blank might vary from linear inch to linear inch. Having worked with a lot of wood over the past 10 yrs., I can imagine why "tuning" wood by hand and ear could yield audible results.

    Also, to understand the 'by hand" vs machine comparison, you have to rule out the cutting process itself as having any impact on tone. All wood is cut by a blade...even Saul's teeth are blades and it is a process of removing material. The only thing that would affect the sound is what is left when you are done cutting and after it is finish sanded. Then, it would be dimensions, fit and the individual qualities of the material that would dictate the results (IMO). If everything were dimensioned "by hand", then you would expect more variability but the individual qualities of the wood will determine whether that is a bad thing.

    An even bigger variable is how we as individuals perceive the finished product. Just look at all of the tone (guitar and amp) posts on the board. The so-so guitar that you just sold may be the buyers holy grail.

    Starting with quality materials and paying attention to the details seems to be a constant amongst all of the builders who have posted here. On an intellectual level, I like the notion of the final dimensioning of a body (top + bottom) being done by ear. Regardless, having looked at examples of their work, I have nothing but admiration for the builders who contributed to this thread. Beautiful instruments!
     
  11. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Member

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    You are on the right track with Mastercam. It's a great tool for both the cad and the cam. You can do it all with that program.

    Once you have learned to draw, it's not too difficult to pick up a new program. I started in Autocad. I am not familiar with inventor, I imagine it's a more surfaces and solids oriented program?
     
  12. Luca Z

    Luca Z Member

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    Coming back to the original question, CNC vs handmade, I'm not an expert, but I have owned several high end guitars, most of them with CNC in the process, and a couple of guitars that I know were completely handmade.

    To me the latter have a different feel, I gues is what they call "hand made feeling". I have read long time ago in the Zachary web page that this may be due to the natural imprecision of hand making a guitar, but I must say that these are really great guitars and fantastic players; for the record, one was made by Gene Baker, the other (which I still have) by Tom Holmes in 1980. The Gene Baker one was much better than two other Bakers (with CNC) I owned.
     
  13. hansoloist

    hansoloist Supporting Member

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    Beautifully put, Wes.

    peace
    -jeff
     
  14. Vince

    Vince Member

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    Hey Zamm,

    Suhr turned me on to Rhino a while back and I really like it. I was using a cheaper program that did 2D pretty well, as well as regular Autocad, and the transistion to Rhino was easy. It's really straight ahead and has a lot of possiblities, and there are lots of rendering plug-ins available if students want to just build "for the screen". I do all my guitar design on it and suck it into Mastercam, but I'm using it right now for new hardware design, which is a lot of fun.

    VC
     
  15. Ron Thorn

    Ron Thorn Gold Supporting Member

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    Hello Zamm,

    As stated by Ian, Mastercam usually ends up in the mix somewhere - usually as the G-code generator at the least.
    Between myself and 3 friends that do this for a living, only one of us use MasterCam for CAD, the other 3 all use different CAD packages and export to MasterCam for code.

    Guitars are relatively "simple" machines in comparison to what any of the mentioned CAD/CAM packages are capable of creating. I'm sure you'll manage with any set-up.

    Best of luck with the courses :dude

    Ron
     
  16. Gadowguitars

    Gadowguitars Member

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    We have found that Rhino is great for the CAD..nothing beats its surfacing.....the Visual mill that is packaged in with Rhino isn't that great. It did ok with simple pocketing, but when we got to our necks it failed pretty bad...but our neck design is pretty complicated also. We ended up going with Master CAM to get it done.
     
  17. Diablo

    Diablo Member

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    Hi Zamm,

    I use a variety of stuff. Surfcam is the main one for CAM. I create in it sometimes if it is something simple. It's kind of hard to draw in though. I've used autocad, solidworks, and surfcam. Autocad is great to draw in. Perfect for inlays and things. Then I IGES it out to surfcam to create the toolpaths. I was thinking about mastercam but don't have any time to learn a new program right now. Also thinking about Rhino since it sounds pretty powerful for surfacing. Once you learn one program though, especially something hard like mastercam or surfcam, the others are a lot easier to learn.
     
  18. Diablo

    Diablo Member

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    Cool John!
    I'm definitely going to look into Rhino. Just haven't had time to play with it yet. The biggest problem I find with the other programs is that they seem to be made to do mathematically perfect stuff using proper geometry. On a free form surface like a neck blend or especially an arch top, they suck. I finally had a light scan done of my top to get the surfaces for the arch. Otherwise, surfcam and solidworks were just not up to it. I even had a friend of mine who is an expert in Surfcam try it. The free form blends it didn't like. Now, if I only had time to play with Rhino....
     
  19. Zamm Guitars

    Zamm Guitars Member

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    Thank you to everyone who replied! You guys are the best and I respect and admire your work! I'm signing up for my first class "Hands-On" COMPUTER AIDED MANUFACTURING (CAM) WITH 2D APPLICATIONS. I can't wait to get started, we will make something in the class, of course my project will be something guitar orriented
     
  20. Diablo

    Diablo Member

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    I had a white light scan done. From ADC. They do Harley Davidson's stuff among others. The surface was a watertight one and extremely accurate. They even did a story on me for their coporate literature complete with pictures. The one I sent them was hand done though, so I wanted to play with it. That was really hard! There are about 600 surfaces I think. I can't remember how many but there are a lot of them that make up the arched top. That makes it really hard to do anything with. I may want to learn Rhino or something so that I can do some stuff with the surface. I really want to get a hollow body out of these surfaces but it's kind of hard due to a variety of things. Especially when you have no time at all to learn how to manipulate that many surfaces. Thanks for the info.
     

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