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Does "Handcrafted" have any impact on your buying decisions?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jaminjamesp, Nov 24, 2017.

  1. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    I’ve always been a hobby woodworker, and here recently I've been hand building and finishing bass and guitar bodies, mostly for friends as gifts, a few for myself, and several for a local repair shop. Based on my own objective observations, and the feedback from others, they're a notch above offerings from the big replacement part sellers. The curves and contours feel sexier, the wood is lighter and more consistent, the neck pocket fit is tighter, and the finish is better.

    Because I build it all myself and don't outsource anything, I could sell handcrafted bodies with a variety of finishes (vintage, factory new, lacquer, acrylic, poly) for considerably less than a body from Warmoth sent off to a paint shop for finishing (still less than a finished body from Warmoth). I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a few more tools, making some modifications to my garage shop, and making it a little side business.

    What do you guys think? I realize the neck plays such a huge role in the tone and feel of an instrument. But it often seems like the craftsmanship of bodies is neglected. Besides a select few luthiers out there, I don't think anyone is handcrafting bodies, especially not replacement bodies. Is this because it just doesn't really matter to anyone? Does everyone just see the body as a hunk of wood that the important bits attach to? Is my obsession with a perfect body lost on everyone else? If you could buy handcrafted from a reputable small shop, for less than CNC from a mass producer, would that be interesting to you?

    Would love any feedback you all might have for me.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
    Roberto Nunez and Stumbo like this.
  2. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    Saturday morning bump! Would love to hear your thoughts!
  3. pasi


    Jan 6, 2015
    Nobody want a say anything because there is not companies that makes handcraft instruments cheaper than cnc build ones.
    IF there are ,i wanna hear about companies .
  4. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    That’s what I’m hoping to do, start a conversation to see if there’d be interest. I don’t have a company yet, just me in my garage with my woodworking tools.

    The reason I could do it cheaper is simply the fact that wood is cheap and finishing supplies aren’t extremely expensive. I can get wholesale pricing on great wood from a local supplier who lets me hand pick through his stock. Like I said, it’s cheap. The wood cost for a bass body blank is about $18. The real cost is my time. Companies like Warmoth are getting their wood for much cheaper than I am, I’m sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if their wood cost was half of mine considering the quantities they order. But they have huge overhead: advertising, website, huge payroll, millions invested in machines. Their product cost might be negligbale, but when you figure in the overhead involved it gets expensive.

    Me on the other hand, I have hand tools that are paid for, a high quality spray rig that’s paid for, a shop I don’t pay rent in, no payroll... so very little overhead. If I did decide to start a small company, I’d need to buy a few more tools, I’d want a website, and I’d need to pay an attorney to set up my business and take out insurance... but even then that wouldn’t add cost to my product.

    Obviously I couldn’t crank out the numbers that the big guys do, but that’s fine by me because the whole point of this is “small batch” made with love and attention to detail.

    And just to clarify, I’m speaking about bodies only. I don’t kid myself that I could build necks that compete with the likes of USACG. I’ve built a few and they’re decent, but CNC and good luthier skills win out over my necks by a long shot. Maybe in time, I’ll keep working on them.
  5. Funkinthetrunk

    Funkinthetrunk Registered User Supporting Member

    I'd be interested...yup!
    jaminjamesp likes this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i used to care about hand-crafted pieces, but not so much anymore. but that is not to say that i don't enjoy gawking at the beautiful pieces i see here on TB. good luck on any venture! :thumbsup:
  7. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    I kinda have gone back and forth too, but simply because of the cost of handmade compared to the benefit. When I started putting pen to paper and realized I could offer handmade in smaller quantities than machine made in large quantities, I kinda got excited at the thought.

    Also, it’s worth mentioning that handmade doesn’t always equal good, let alone better. It really comes down to craftsmanship and attention to detail. However, I do think something made in small quantity, with love and attention to detail by someone who excelles in their craft, is 9 times out of 10 going to be of higher quality and more consistent because of the human factor.
    Oddly, JRA and pasi like this.
  8. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    That’s what I like to hear!
  9. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Fact is, the two big priorities are:

    1. Quality
    2. Price

    As someone who makes vintage baseball bats, I have seen - handcrafted is a nice sounding word, but it comes in far behind the other two. No one is going to buy an inferior or overpriced product because you made it by hand.
    Joedog likes this.
  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    there is a market for finely crafted instruments (or parts thereof). i read lots of posts on TB made by folks who really want the best. i don't think you'd have much trouble marketing/selling to that sizable group!
  11. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Many of the top luthiers use CNC. Machines only get you into the ballpark, the magic happens after CNC. The main advantage is the amount of time it saves, along with consistency. That said, wood is wood and every piece is a bit different.

    I like to know the people who make my bass. All instruments are "hand crafted" on some level - it comes down to the skill/experience behind those hands.
    nbsipics likes this.
  12. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    For precision stuff (i.e. neck joint) I would prefer CNC. Final carving/sanding by hand can be nice, since you can customize.
  13. MordBass


    Nov 1, 2017
    I care about it quite a bit for certain things. Strings or cable? nah... i need those to be super consistent.
    A bass or head? hell yes... theres something very romantic about a piece being hand built. we all know that our instruments are more than just the sum of their parts.
  14. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    I’ve toyed around with the idea of having someone CNC route the neck pocket in the body blanks and then making some shallow cuts outside the body area to line up correlating holes in my templates. I think there is a peace of mind in that.

    I’d still leave the option open for hand cut neck pockets for those who had necks they knew were oddly sized for whatever reason.

    Thanks for the feedback!
    pasi likes this.
  15. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    There’s almost something romantic about it. It’s nice to know others share in that feeling, even if it is a bit on the irrational side!
    MordBass likes this.
  16. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    Totally agree with you on that. I’ve bought hand crafted junk before, thankfully nothing I paid a lot for. I’m a perfectionist in everything I do, which often times feels almost debilitating. And, owning and working out of my own studio, I’m around session guys and musicians day in and day out. That being said I know the value of a dollar for those of us who make a living with our instruments, not all of us are exactly rolling in spare cash. That was part of my motivation behind this. In keeping my operation small, I could offer a suppior product for less money, which helps out the folks who keep me employed in my day job.
    Ross W. Lovell likes this.
  17. Marko 1

    Marko 1

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    I think if you provided nicer wood/tops, not necessarily "exotic", but more than what's normally available, and maybe lighter-weight, that would be a plus. Maybe even the option of a matching headstock on their neck or a new one for their project. Possibly offer a unique body shape you come up with...

    just thinking out loud here. :)
  18. MordBass


    Nov 1, 2017
    Honestly, this discussion is why I like that many companies are now offering a cheaper option that is cut in asia... while still offering the full blown USA versions... although the existence of the cheaper option also cheapens the company to some shoppers. I had a friend that bought a PRS in the mid 90's...boy was he furious years later when he walked into GC and saw an SE for like $600. The next show he played, one of the openers was a terrible metal band of 16 year olds and their guitarist said "nice prs! I have two of em!" I laughed so hard but felt the same way after playing Warwick for years in the 90's and then suddenly there were rockbasses that could be had for like $500. It felt like they revoked the prestige that they sold me in the first place. Lets be honest... exclusivity and prestige are part of what you pay for when you're buying a higher end instrument. Mayones, Fodera, F bass... there are entry prices to being an owner of these instruments.
  19. jaminjamesp


    Feb 21, 2016
    I’ve thought about some of these ideas, for sure. My thoughts on standard “exotic” tonewood, is that Warmoth really has the corner on that and I don’t think could compete on price. I couldn’t order in the same quantity, and it would Be hard to find locally.

    That being said I think there are other “exotics” I could offer that others aren’t. Things like old growth wood, 100 year old reclaimed timber, old timber recovered from the bottom of lakes and oceans (can’t remember the name for it, but apparently Suhr has used it on some high end stuff, and it’s supposed to be amazing).

    I think what we’re both referring to is unique wood. Wood with a story or history. That definitely appeals to me.
    Marko 1 likes this.
  20. Funkinthetrunk

    Funkinthetrunk Registered User Supporting Member

    What's your body styles? Standard Fender stuff?

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