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At what point does a luthier become a machine operator?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Rob17, Nov 6, 2010.

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  1. Rob17

    Rob17 Banned

    Aug 28, 2009
    Just wondering what the opinions are on this one.
    In theory, you can program a CNC machine, throw in a piece of wood, and an hour later, a bass comes out on the other end.
    And then there is Jens Ritter, who carves a bass out of 1 piece of wood, by hand.
    Where is that line, where you stop being a craftsman and become a machine oparator.

  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I believe you are rather oversimplifying the process when you say "an hour later, a bass comes out on the other end" of the CNC machining of instruments.

    Shaping the wood is a big part of lutherie, but it is not the whole cheeseburger.
  3. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Depends on how much you are willing to pay...:bag:
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    good lord, I hope you're joking.
    Even a sixteenth century violin maker could be considered "just a hand tool operator."

    Well it's been a year or two since we've had the big war over similar issues, the form of, "what is a luthier."
  5. If any amount of your effort goes into a bass, I consider you a luthier, from carving the neck to spraying the finish to screwing on the strap button.
  6. TrevorNorton

    TrevorNorton Banned

    Jun 8, 2007

    I completely agree with this statement Rockingbird.
  7. plangentmusic

    plangentmusic Banned

    Jun 30, 2010
    I think the bigger question is: "How much does it matter?"

    If at all.

    And sometimes for the worse?

  8. Gort

    Gort Banned

    Nov 3, 2010
    Area 51
    Cool, I've done electric/acoustic guitar and electric bass repair and assembly in a hobbyist and semi-pro capacity since the late '60s and I've never thought of myself as a luthier, just a part-time repair guy who also assembles instruments. I also fixed amps for a few years in the mid to late '70s.
  9. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    If you are starting the machine without knowing how to complete an instrument you are an operator. If you are starting the machine and know how to complete the instrument you are a luthier; and an efficient one at that.
  10. LilRay

    LilRay Commercial User

    Dec 27, 2007
    Between my Roscoe and Leather
    Owner: Cockeyed Cow Custom Leathercraft


    God Bless, Ray
  11. Exactly. Knowing how to work the design program(i.e. Solidworks, Autocad) is a highly regarded skill in its own right. Then knowing how to properly setup/maintain/use a CNC mill is another. There is a [major] difference between a button pusher and a machinist/engineer.
  12. I agree with Mikey's statement, and I also think that a Luthier is someone who cares about what they're making. I see someone like Roger Sadowsky as someone who puts a lot into his instruments. I don't see the people at Fender as Luthiers because it seems to be about the money. Both makers use CNCs, but there's a huge difference in their feelings about their products. (I also do realize that there is a large difference in the size of said companies)
  13. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    When you have the ability to differentiate from; button pusher, guitar/bass builder, and luthier, then you will realize the real distance between what you ask and what reality is. Good luck with the odyssey.
  14. Ray/Rbasses

    Ray/Rbasses Guest

    Apr 26, 2004
    luthier ... trust me very hard work.... luthier not cnc
  15. Hi.

    My personal view was in the "original" war, and still is, that the first power tool turns the craftsman into a machine operator.

    As for the description of a luthier or luthiery, history books are very, very clear about that ;).

    I have built about 20 instruments over the decades and repaired way more, but not in a million years would I even consider myself a luthier as a result. An instrument builder, yes, but luthiery is something else entirely. Even by description for starters.

    If people want to bend descriptions and inflate their egos, fine, but sometimes it's beyond silly if You ask me.

    Just my 0.02€
  16. rdrr


    Mar 29, 2005
    Newburyport MA

    A craftsman is someone who is skilled in the tools and materials that they use to create desired results. Tools are just that tools, it is the operator of those tools that create the finished product. Does anybody here thinks for one second that back in the day instrument makers would not have used power tools had they been available? Of course they would have.

    A luthier by definition is someone who makes stringed instruments. It doesn't say they have to be good or acoustic and the term luthier is only about 130 yrs old. You can be a luthier and not a craftsman as evident by an number of craptastic instruments that are out there. I think there are a number of people here on this forum that should be considered both luthiers and craftsmen and not be sold short by there mere fact that they happen to live in a time where power tools exist and they use them.
  17. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    ^^^ very well said.
  18. Ok here's a quick question. How many instruments do you have to build before calling yourself a luthier? Or is it a matter of reaching an understanding of the process, or can it be as simple as approaching the art with a love of the craft and a desire to improve?

    When do you go from "building guitars" to being able to call yourself a luthier?
  19. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    ^ Good question. I have thought about that too. It isn't like other trades. A doctor or lawyer has sheepskin. A master plumber is certified. Myself, I am certified as a Master machinist & welder. I think that is where the confusion comes in.
  20. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    when does one go from being able to play an instrument to being called a musician? a very similar conundrum.

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