Thoughts from an old sumbitch regarding getting into guitar making in 2019

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Terry McInturff, Jan 25, 2019.

  1. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    No, I never worked on a Bean like that, the ones that I worked on (as I recall, this was 28 years ago) were all 1000 series, koa body.

    Lots of folks complained about cold necks, to the point that Bean began coating them with what was (I think) a thick enamel of some sort. I don't remember if any of Bill K's had that coating.
    I agree about the Kramer wood inlays feeling weird...but to be fair they were rather slovenly epoxied in place, plenty of glue filled gaps and that would swell too. I bet that a super-ace job would feel fine!

    Just think how accurate your friend could make the fit via CNC. Then, if the inlays were around .090 thick, it would be easy to make them completely sealed for good. If he used something like Sundari it would make them even more stable! :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2019
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  2. Drak

    Drak Supporting Member

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    I've been building my own as a hobby for over 25 years myself and have been a member of several builder forums over those years.
    That same question comes up time and time again on all builder forums, and probably to all builders who remain approachable on social media.
    I've answered it myself multiples of times as well as many others over the years.

    The pattern I've noticed is this:
    The people who actually have the talent and that inherent 'spark' needed Rarely Ever ask that question.
    They just get going on it, and their questions, if they do have any, are generally far more specific and technique-oriented.
    And oddly enough, that's the way I did it too.
    I never asked anyone how to 'Be A Luthier' on a forum, I just wanted to 'Build Guitars'.

    Do you see the difference there? Because there is one, a Big one.
    'Building guitars' is a personal action statement, and there is excitement to get going built into it.
    'Becoming a Luthier' is more a career goal statement, and the goal is money and fame (I guess).
    But those people generally show very, very little in the way of excitement or commitment to themselves.
    'How do I build a guitar' and 'How do I become a Luthier' I've learned are two very different questions.

    In all these years of seeing that question asked on any builder forum...
    I can't remember a time where that person actually turned into a luthier, almost ever.
    The guys who actually have, you just saw them posting their work and getting better, and better, and better.
    They didn't ask, they just DID.
    They just dove in headfirst and got going on it.
    Then, after Building Guitars for a time, they (some) Became a Luthier!

    So I never answer that question anymore, I already know where it's going.
    It's cart-before-horse, very top-heavy with big dreams and little personal enthusiasm for the love of the actual work.
    And no stamina in the legs to support it. It's all cart-heavy, top-heavy.
    The guys who do it build strength in the legs first, and they rarely ever ask how, they just do.

    If someone asks, 'how do I build a guitar', that's a totally different question and worthy of a response any day.
     
  3. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    Outstanding post and superb writing as well. Kudos!
     
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  4. Deed_Poll

    Deed_Poll Member

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    Thanks for the kind words, Terry! :)
     
  5. Deed_Poll

    Deed_Poll Member

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    I tried to do so in the next two paragraphs but I could probably have been clearer!

    I understand the word 'reductive' to mean the opposite of 'holistic', so on the traditional side, 'reductive' thinking says "the proper ways to build a musical electric guitar have already been discovered"; and disregards the possibility that some new constituent ingredient might mix with the rest to create a whole greater than the (old) sum of its parts - improve upon the 'old' formula.

    This thinking is reductive because it assumes the be-all and end-all of guitar design is just to tweak little parts of existing formulae. Never to conceptualise some original or new take, some new outcome. For instance, the way Terry likes to work by starting with a sound and to work backwards, using all the accumulated knowledge and history of guitar culture to help guide the way, would be meaningless to the hard traditionalists - they'd say "if you want it to sound like a Strat, build a Strat - and make it exact in every detail in case you anger the Gods of Quack!"

    My metaphor of the two cliff edges was a clumsy way of saying that in addition to the above reductive argument from tradition or excessive conservatism, there is its mirror image, which seeks make everything measurable and assumes that simply by increasing 'positive' attributes (like sustain) and reducing 'negative' attributes (single-coil hum, for example) one improves the whole. Their mistake is to presume that in changing one element, you do not in so doing changing all other elements and therefore changing the whole!

    I guess I should have put it differently, that the 'conservative' types, on the scale of the instrument at least, are maybe excessively holistic; and the revolutionary types are excesively reductionistic. But what I meant was that the revolutionary types make the reductionism error on an instrument-by-instrument basis, and the conservative types make it on a possible-potential-instrument basis.
     
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  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Member

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    It would be interesting to see pictures of the features on your neck that has plagued designers and machinists. Maybe some can help. Need specifics though.

    Just as much work or more goes into setting up a CNC system to produce artful products as goes into the hand-built ones. Hand building guitars requires construction of many specialized jigs to narrow the gap to repeatable builds. CAD and CNC are at their basic level just a (flexible) jig system. There is no magic in a CNC beyond that.

    CAD and CNC have as big a learning curve as all the hand building skill acquisition.

    The benefit to the guitar buyer of a CNC built guitar is more repeatability. That repeatability shows up in the old saw about someone choosing a guitar by 'running the racks' because every single guitar is slightly different. Design for the product and for manufacture and customers can order sight unseen off the Internet with confidence after only trying their buddy's guitar and liking it. The guitar buyer wants confidence that what they order, perhaps after just seeing and hearing a Youtube demo video, is what they will receive.

    Post some pictures of that neck design.

    .
     
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  7. Laurent Brondel

    Laurent Brondel Supporting Member

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    The benefit on CNC is indeed repeatability, and consistency.

    However, there is still a lot of handwork to be done in building and finishing a guitar, so the need to "run the racks" for the buyer still plays. It has more to do with QC than anything else, and of course the natural variability in materials.

    Making guitar parts on a CNC is not rocket science, nor is CAD programming, but for some parts it may need extensive fixture making -and space-, which can get expensive pretty quick.
    If you can make it by hand or with router/shaper fixtures you can probably make it by CNC, but is it worth it?

    It's really a bonus for production work, for people like me who make one-offs each single time, not so much.
     
  8. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    Many thanks for your offer of help. I truly appreciate it! :)

    There is actually a number of things about the TCM neck design/build schedule that could be done via CNC, and if owning a CNC here made sense here at my shop I'd do a %-age of the rough neck work on one, no problem. But there's a notable %-age of work that couldn't be done, and hence my saying that the TCM neck can't be made via CNC. It could be partly made, but only to a point unfortunately.
    A pic of my neck would not provide any clues. To make one that LOOKS like it via CNC, no problem!
     
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  9. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

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    Barnaby, over at MLP, once built a Burst replica/tribute with no power tools at all. I thought that was pretty cool.

    Great thread on it over there.
     
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  10. Shane Sanders

    Shane Sanders Supporting Member

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  11. Deed_Poll

    Deed_Poll Member

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    Excellent post overall, and what you say here is another reason I made sure to build parametric processes into my production design from day 1 to help streamline one-offs with a lot of the benefits of the production work - I change a few values here and there, and besides that I can go through the motions as regards jigging, fixings, etc. in much the same way as a batch run :)

    It's horses-for-courses stuff though. A lot of people will want to use CNC to streamline making one-offs, and I guess there's some benefit to that but it might be limited.

    I see my end point as being a personalised-batch production model. Not every guitar completely unique maybe, and certainly a lot of sharing of jigs and common processes; but just that extra bit of customisability in the parametrics.
     
  12. dex17

    dex17 Member

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    I agree with everything you wrote except for this.
    Metal moves too. Order of operation is critical in metal work, in fact it's more like wood than people realize.
    I can't tell you how many times I've made something to print and then had an engineer say "Ok, now we need to add a 5mm hole there", and the thing goes SPROING... all over the frigging place.
     
  13. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    I'm pretty skilled machining both. Yes, you have to be careful with metal too. That said, wood can move INCHES over the length of a neck if you do things in the wrong order or take off too much at the same time. Just fooling around, I've had wood move so much as to cause crashes with the CNC. Metal doesn't move like that. With metal, you're worried about bad parts or tolerances. With wood, it's far more dramatic.

    The exception would be sheet metal, but that's more predictable/well characterized. Yeah, you can really screw things up with metal too, but you can screw things up with wood even if you do everything right. A piece of case hardened Walnut, for example, can move an incredible amount and grip a tool to the point of breakage/kickback...or if you're lucky, just some burning.
     
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