Custom Teles are they worth it!

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Sammy, Feb 19, 2006.


  1. Sammy

    Sammy Member

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    I put a post a while ago asking who makes the best Tele's and it got into a big debate that only Fender makes Teles etc etc.
    Anyway most folk knew what I was asking who makes a really good guitar that looks like a Fender Tele, but is a clone, copy or whatever.

    The two that came up nearest to what I am looking for was the Chaplin T Bird or a Lentz. Now after studying and going over what I wanted, being in the UK, how would I get one of them to produce the exact same neck of my orignal 66 Tele with the resonance & vibe of my original 59 Tele unless I sent them over, which obviously I wouldn't want to do.
    A few of you also suggested buying stock Warmouth parts etc and building my own, which I did get someone to do for me quite a few years back, cost approx then £650, but being stock made parts it never felt or sounded anywhere near as good as my originals.

    As the really good clones seem to all be made in US I am loathe to spend that sort of money out and get a UK builder make me one. Therefore I decided to contact a good friend of mine, who is a quailty luthier & used to own and make a well known guitar, but ceased trading after a couple of Heart problems, to see if he could make me one to my spec and if so what sort of price. He now works on desiging and making interior furniture of boats and now repairs guitars as a sort of hobby.

    Anyway after speaking to him he said he would do it for me and if I took the 66 Tele over to him he could copy the exact same neck profile and dimensions and also would be able to select the fineset swamp ash or alder body depending on what I wanted and would check the 59 body if I wanted a simiar body etc. He also said I could have any pickups, machine heads, etc I wanted.

    Now to the point price, I asked him how much would the handmade neck and body be without the hardware, which would be at cost and just his time fitting it and setting the guitar up. Price £200 and thats with the best woods available! He went on to tell me that he gets really annoyed at people charging these astronomical prices for one of the easiest guitars to make. For a one man guitar builder he said if you have the mould pattern and jig set up, which he said they would all have, it only takes 40mins to cut out the shape and rout out a Tele body, its so simple then its just a case of sanding to requirements and the neck is not that much harder to do if you have a profile copy.

    After speaking to him on some length on the subject it now appears to me on the cheapest custom guitar to build, perhaps prices are rather inflated!

    I will post when the guitar has been finished and in the meantime will be posting another thread on what pickups would you recommed.
     
  2. blueguitar

    blueguitar Member

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    Let's see, shop rent, equipment cost, employees, insurance, advertising, marketing, R&D, yada, yada. Your luthier buddy is exactly that, a buddy. I don't think he's providing the whole picture for you. I'm not saying that custom made guitars may not be somewhat inflated but let's not compare apples to oranges either.
     
  3. blueguitar

    blueguitar Member

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    Oh, P.S. didn't you say he was out of business now?
     
  4. cnardone

    cnardone Supporting Member

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    Like any other profession, people get paid for there expertise. So lets say it takes 40 hours to build a tele. I am sure it is even more. Does the perfect pieces of wood just show up at their door or do they have to go the wood shed, pick it out and match the neck and body? There is finish work, frets, set up all that. Both Chapin and Lentz wind thier own pickups. If they get paid $50 per hour (not a lot by US standards for highly skilled craftsmen) of work they do that is $2000 for their time. Subtract $200 for wood, $200 for pickups, $200 for hardware. not to mention all of the other things blueguitar mentioned above. These guys are working their asses off and none of them are getting rich. This same question was asked about amp builders not too long ago. Same thing.

    THere was a thread about how many hours it takes to build a guitar, Thorn, Driskill and i think Suhr all gave some great input into it. It is worth a read.

    I hope that you get a great guitar out of this process. But remember a great guitar takes more than just a great piece of wood. As a disclaimer, this is coming from a biased Chapin owner.

    cmn
     
  5. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    You can get one built in UK by someone who really knows what they are doing, but it's more of a one-off situation. I know this guy in Basingstoke who used to work on guitars for all the big stars and goes for years without building but he's building a few at the moment. So there is some quality building going on in England, but you have to go looking for it.
     
  6. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    Wow. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but to me his opinion would be a red flag that he doesn't know what he's talking about. 40 minutes to cut both a body and neck? The hand shaping and sanding should take much much longer than that. The best guitar techs I know spend ALL DAY just installing and dressing and leveling frets alone. Most of the best guitar builders wind their own pickups, often building up the pickups from source materials in house, that takes plenty of time.

    Then there is finish. If someone is shooting Nitro (and a new guitar won't feel the same as your Vintage guitars without Nitro) is will take literally weeks (maybe months in an atmosphere like the UK which is much rainier than Southern California) just for the Nitro to dry let alone an incredible amount of time (days) painting, buffing, sanding, painting etc

    95% of those that shoot Nitro will leave you with a neck that is sticky for years. The very best like Lentz are able to shoot Nitro on a neck that isn't sticky from day one. That is incredible expertise.

    The very best (again, like Lentz) will spend the better part of a week or at least several days setting up and assembling your guitar, making sure that every last aspect of a set-up is perfect.

    I strongly disagree with your luthier aquaintance. If anything the best luthiers offer an incredible deal on a Custom Built Tele
     
  7. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    Just buy the cheapest ones you can find if you think all materials are the same and that the very best guitar makers inflate their prices! Good luck finding pickups that sound just like your Vintage guitars though!
     
  8. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    Back to your original question/point:

    Finding really great quality wood (Swamp Ash bodies/Quarter Sawn maple necks) that has NOT been kiln dried= priceless, but we'll say $300 just for the point of the thread

    T Control Plate from Callaham - $80
    Vintage Fender bridge - $25
    Pickups - $175-$200 from the very best
    Nitro finish - you are looking at $300 at least and then your neck will be sticky for 5 years
    Fret dress/levelling/crown plus installation - $200-$300 for the best
    Final assembly of guitar - $50-$150

    And with all that, most of the "do it yourself types" still don't sound or play as well as a Vintage '59 Tele, and you've easily spent $600 on parts alone, not to mention the cost of finishing and fret work and assembly
     
  9. Sammy

    Sammy Member

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    I thought this would get you all going and AJ, if you had read the post proberly instead of rushing off with your reply you would have seen I said 40mins for the body, not neck & body! As for taking the best part of a week to put the hardware on and set up a Tele, come on, we are talking about a Tele here not a Gibson Byrdland!

    As for knowing what he is doing he really is a top Luthier, if you saw the intrigate work he does on a certain make of quality well known boats which start at £250,000, you would eat humble pie.

    In respect of him not continuing in the guitar business, I am not going to mention the name but they were so good you never see a s/h one come up, he had to give up due to two heart attacks due to pressure of running his own business, with a partner who lets say was a bit laid back while he did all the work, so on doctors advice he decided to close the business.

    Anyway the main point you all seem to have missed is building a "Tele" not any other custom guitar a Tele! Why is one of the cheapest guitars to custom build the same price as other models which require more work even from the same Luthiers!
    I understand all the overheads etc, but now I have been informed and also looking logically I can't help but wonder how a custom Tele could cost US$3,500 or US$4,500 which some of these guys are charging even with all the best hardware on, when other quality Luthiers are charging similar prices to build say a 335 clone or handmade accoustics, which lets all be honest require far more skill and are much more time consuming!

    Lest face it even Fender charged much less for a Tele than their other models as it was considered the easiest guitar to build!
     
  10. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    A Tele cost @ $250 in 1954... using inflation 52 years later that comes out to @ $2700 (or more) in today's standard economy.

    You come across as though you think it is simple and easy to make a Telecaster that stands up favorably in comparison to a vintage Fender Telecaster. Good luck with that...
     
  11. stevieboy

    stevieboy Clouds yell at me Gold Supporting Member

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    That about says it all as far as the builders in question and what they charge.
     
  12. OldSchool

    OldSchool Senior Member

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    $2700!! Thats exactly what I paid for my 52 relic LE.........I don't feel so bad now. :D
     
  13. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

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    Squier Tele...about $200US?

    All the parts, wood, and assembly work is there, it is just a matter of specifying the better wood and hardware and having a good setup done to raise the quality level.

    Of course, you don't get the benefit of custom tailoring but the ease of construction and mass production with modern tools is pretty evident.

    This does not mean one cannot spend lots of time on the details but, as usual, what is it worth to you?
     
  14. Sammy

    Sammy Member

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    AJ you still did not read what I have said! I am not questioning every custom guitar builder of a Tele some are quite reasonable price Chaplin included. I am actually questioning the cost of a custom Tele simplest guitar to build against other more costlier guitars to build yet are similar in price. Rather than go over it all again please read my previous message!
     
  15. Sammy

    Sammy Member

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    If you had read the post properly you would have seen it had nothing to do with his prices or quality of build etc, it was to do with his partner. I should know I head up a small business myself and my partner became a real liability and in the end had to go, but I nearly gave it all up because of the stress & problems he caused!
     
  16. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    It sounds like you are very fortunate to have a friend who is a skilled craftsman. I wouldn't try to use his quotation as a justification to criticize/critique people who are in the business of luthery. If your friend went back into the guitar business, you can rest assured that his costs would be greater.

    Let me put it to you another way. I am a recording engineer. When I was working full time as a recording engineer, my hourly rate was $40. I don't engineer for a living at the moment, but I'll record/mix things for friends at a fraction of that. Why? Because my livelihood does not depend on it, I can work at my own pace, and I actually enjoy the music :). If I chose to go back to engineering for a living, Even friends would have to pay me $40 an hour + whatever the studio charged for hourly rental.

    Chalk it up to good luck...karma...whatever, but questioning the asking price of a new instrument from one of the smaller US builders does not compare, and really shouldn't upset you. If anything, you should be quite relieved that you don't have to spend the additional 2k or so that the rest of us have to spend ;)

    It's all in how you view your own luck I suppose.
     
  17. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    Just so you know, a brand new Lentz is $2550 plus the cost of a case plus shipping. Very reasonable considering his materials and expertise. He doesn't make a replica Tele anymore though, but will make you a guitar with his bodyshape and headstock with Tele pickups and controls. We are seeing Lentz replica Strats and Teles sell for $4500+ on the used market because they aren't in production/available new anymore...

    Fender Custom Shop Teles can be had for @ $2500-$2700 new....Masterbuilt Teles are more

    GVCG Telecasters are indeed in the $4700 range brand new, but with those you are getting a level of "relic'ing" that goes beyond what anyone else is doing, if you are into that kind of thing (I'm not)

    Just wanted to clarify the pricing
     
  18. Sammy

    Sammy Member

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    I give up do some of you guys actually read the posts! I haven't questioned any particular builders price, hourly rate or whatever. The whole point is what I have tried to convey from my friend who has built expensive guitars, why is the most basic guitar a Tele from small builders cost similar prices to much more costlier guitars to make from similar small builders? Even many of the same builders price a Tele no different from say a Strat yet a Strat is more involved! THe post said Custom Teles, not Strats, 335's, Les pauls, Paul Reed Smith's. accoustics, jazzers etc just TELES!
     
  19. DamianP

    DamianP Member

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    With regard to the amount of work involved, a strat is more involved than a tele to the tune of one belly cut and one forearm chamfer.
    I would think that if a tele body only takes your friend 40mins then a strat would be about 50 max.

    ,Damian.
     
  20. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    You should give up. People are trying to answer your question, and you are being nebulous. It has nothing to do with how basic a guitar is, and everything to do with supply and demand, as well as materials available to each builder.

    If a tele is so easy to make, why don't you build one and impress us all with your mastery of building a world-class instrument? :p
     

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