A Question about Schooling and Jobs

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by skit_skittson, Apr 9, 2002.

  1. I am a junior in high school now. I'm am going to the Players School of Music after my senior year of high school. I will attend that school for a year or two then I am off to Roberto Venn's School of Luthiery. I really want to be a luthier and work at a shop or someday own my own. Do you (anyone) think this would be a good plan to get into the business? What would my chances be to get a job at a manufacturer coming out of a school like that? What would I expect my paycheck to be like starting out or after I have been doing that (building or working at a shop) for awhile? Any answers or opinions would be greatly appreciated. I'm trying to start my career planning and the rest of life life. Thanks and Peace to All.
  2. I'm really serious about this. I want to do this for a living. If anyone has any input it would be greatly appreciated.
  3. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    Don't get into this business if you want to park a Porsche in your garage any time soon.:D Starting out in this business is very difficult, only do this if it is your hearts passion. The only way you will make a decent living is if you go into semi production of instruments like Mike Tobias, Ken Smith, etc.. If you are wanting to do custom work you will have some dry spells at the beginning and need a second job, or do a fair amount of repair work to make ends meet.

    I am not trying to discourage you, for I am currently in this stage, but it sucks up all your money buying thousands of dollars of tools before you can be prepared to open up shop.

    As for working for a shop, from my experience in looking into that is that you don't get paid much more than minimum wage to start off. I would like to hear from Ken Smith on what the starting wage is at his shop.
  4. fastfretter


    Apr 16, 2002
    I work for Conklin Guitars in Springfield, MO. If you are not fimiliar with us check us out at www.conklinguitars.com. Conklin started the 7, 8 & 9 string basses and the 8 string guitar. The 8 string bass being tuned in fourths not octaves. Any way back to the real reason I'm replying. You shouldn't expect to get rich at least not for a long time. It is the best job in the world though. I've been working for Bill Conklin for about 9 months now and I assure this what I will always do. The best advice I can give is learn as much as you can about the instrument. When I was your age I was learning to take my guitars more or less apart and what made them work and how to set them up. I was always terrified of the electronics though. Now I do some of the most advanced wiring you will every see on an Instrument. I still can't believe that.

    Anyway you should check around with some of your local techs, luthiers or repair guys and see if any of them could use some trainable help on weekends or such. Don't forget that you could actually offer to pay them to let you help and learn from them just like a guitar lesson. I used to take guitar lessons from the guitar tech at Conklin Guitars (Brent Frazier) as our lessons went along I realized there was more I could learn from Brent than just how to play guitar. So I asked him if we could turn our lessons into more of a guitar setup and repair lessons. Ten years later I'm in his Job!!! I didn't steal it from him though he was long gone. HA HA.
    Don't think you have to wait for schooling to learn how to do things there are resorceds all over. Take Bill Conklin for instance. He never took any schooling to build instruments. He just really wanted to make guitars so he just started making them and over time he became one of the worlds most inovative and original Luthiers.

    I hope this info helps and if there is anything I can help you with. Let me know.

    Michael Apperson
    Conklin Guitars and Basses
  5. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    That is what I would call semi-production. My definition is where you have standard body styles, pickup placement, neck types, etc. I am aiming for that style myself.

    You are not in a Fender production mode, and you are not in a custom one off business either. Customers still have choices on woods, and a few other items, but they can't call you up with a drawing of a bass they want you to make.

    I am not saying this type of business is a bad thing, it is more cost effective. The one off Luthiers spend a lot of time drawing and re-drawing customers design until it is right. I am sure you are using templates and pin routers, as I do also. I wasn't saying semi productions is a bad thing, your basses are more consistent with templates than doing everything off memory and measurements.
  6. Chambers


    Apr 9, 2002
    Vancouver, WA
    What about getting those first few customers?

    I'm lucky enough to have an uncle with a full wood shop until I have the room/money to set up my own. I'm still in college, and so my cash flow is tight as is.

    It seems as if making the jump from building a few instruments for fun to building for clients is a tough jump. Everyone who is interested seems to back out at the last minute, one guy already paid for all the wood, but then dropped off the face of the earth.

    Any advice you could give on how to retain these people who are interested, but apparently change thier minds? I understand it's very common, but any advice is welcome.
  7. Thanks Ken. I will probably email you sometime soon about some stuff I was wondering about. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life and it is a passion. I want to be able to support a small family though. I haven't singled out certain aspects of it yet so I'm pretty much open to anything. Thanks.
  8. How much would a person be planning to make coming straight out of school but getting a job with a known luthier/manufacturer doing handmade stuff?
  9. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    How I am currently taking orders is by getting a 50.00 deposit to hold their spot in line to have a bass built. Then about 2-4 weeks before I start on their bass I require half down (minus the 50.00 deposit) to purchase the electronics, etc. for their bass. Then 2 weeks before their bass is finished I require the balance due.

    Having the 1/2 down will pretty much commit a customer to the project, they don't want to loose that much on nothing.

    Skit: That is a question I think you will have a hard time getting an awnser from anyone to here on this site, you might cehck with Roberto Venn to see if they know of the standard entry level wage.
  10. Well, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get into this business. After next school year I'll be off to Jeff Berlin's Players School of Music. Then after that off to Roberto Venn. Then I'll go wherever I'm meant to go. It'll be fun.