Luthiers, Ethics, and Warmoth

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Mud Flaps, Sep 30, 2003.

  1. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    Do luthiers consider it "cheating" to order preshaped bodies and necks from Warmoth? Or do some luthiers order from Warmoth and make basses at a cheaper price. Why or why not do luthiers use Warmoth, or Carvin, or Moses etc?
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I'm sure some luthiers consider it cheating. But some well respected luthiers outsource their necks and even bodies. Some are obviously not outsourced, some hard to tell. Only way to know for sure is to ask.

    Those who build their own necks probably do so to have complete control over the instrument, including the shaping and materials. That's why I do it, plus I generally enjoy the entire process.
  3. i guess it's generally up to the individual definition of cheating in this case...i personally think that using CNC machines is cheating. sure you have to program them and know what you're doing, but the machine is doing the work for you.

    there isn't anything wrong with ordering parts from carvin or warmoth...just as long as you don't pretend to be some hot shot luthier. moses is a bit different, because i don't really know of many people who construct their own graphite necks.
  4. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002

    But you cant get your neck pocket and pup routing aligned to +/-.001" without one :p

    I know what you're saying- I enjoyed shaping my body by hand and don't feel that I would have as much personal attachment to it if I would have CNC'ed the body shape and contours. OTOH, builders like PRS must use CNC's to meet the demand for the guitars- once a builder becomes well known, their instruments cannot all go solely through their hands; they have to hire help, outsource, etc. to meet demands. I would prefer handmade over machine cut for myself, but if it's the same wood, same shape, the CNC is just saving time.

    I think calling a CNC cheating would be like calling it cheating to use a power drill- why sell out.... we should still be using hand crank drills like the amish :rolleyes: :D

    I do agree that the CNC takes the personal touch away though.
  5. in my opinion, if the machine is doing the work, then a part of the personal artistic touch of making the instrument is taken away.

    i also think that if you're spitting instruments out on CNC machines, the price should be dropped considerably. it's like using a xerox machine on a picasso and still charging an obscene amount of money for it.

    call me a curmudgeon, but mass produced instruments just leave me very cold and uninterested. give me something that someone has carved by hand and labored over for 20+ hours any day.
  6. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I have "built" a few basses for customers in the past from Warmoth necks and bodies, and they either were aware of Warmoth and wanted them but either didn't have the time and/or skills and/or tools to finish them, build them out and set them up themselves, and I was able to finish them and build them up for them.

    At no time did I or would I ever attempt to potray their necks and/or bodies as my own.

  7. What's "OTOH"?
    just wondering......
  8. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    on the other hand
  9. Thank you sir,
  10. I don't understand why people don't like CNC.

    I'd like to use some!!!

    Ok, when you build masses (not only one) you usually use templates. For example for body shapes, I use a MDF template and a ball bearing router bit. The template is guiding my router bit, I'm just pushing the router.... what's artistic in there??? What the difference between guiding the router bit with a template or a computer...wait, I know the difference is precision and consistency.

    The artistic nd technic part is in the design of the bass and in the wood choices.

    CNC are definitely worth it. Still a bit expensive but more an more builders use $10,000 custom made machine that work great. I'd love to have one to build my basses. Definitely.

    Peace, JP
  11. JP, I think your thinking is right on the money. After all, it's the quality of the design that attracts the eye and it's the precision of it's manufacture that keeps the interest. The real funny thing is that no one would begrudge a builder the use of a computer in a bass design. So, if the design is done on a computer, the only way to carry that precision to the construction is to use CAD/CAM machines.

    I've built basses using CAD/CAM routers and by all hand work. I enjoy both and would defy anyone to discern the difference by viewing the finished product. So, since you can't SEE the difference, and you certainly can't HEAR any difference, just how important is it really that a precision machine is used in it's manufacture? Not much in my book.

    And finally, the original question goes to using pre-made parts in bass construction. This is perfectly OK in my book also for all of the reasons mentioned above. Besides, Warmoth makes a neck that I personally can't replicate with my current level of building skill. I am NOT going to postpone a project that I'm driven to complete while I work on my neck building skills by trial and error. Life is just too short. And I wouldn't pass one off as my own and don't.
  12. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    Well said. If your design is good, why not execute perfectly every time? The only way I would think doing it all by hand (and not using templates, which is similar to using CNC, only more difficult) would be an advantage would be a rare case where you are actually working out the design as you carve it - like a sculptor. And I doubt many people who achieve good results do it that way - possibly Carl Thompson, and even he may use templates.
  13. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    I don't think CNC machines are "cheating" anymore than I think using a router instead of a chisel and mallet is cheating. Much of the quality of the instrument comes down to what happens before and after you cut wood. Material selection, customization, quality control at every step - that's where you get your value from a custom build, not what's pushing a blade.

    Perhaps CNC machines have a bad name because they're associated with high volume production lines. I feel it's not the machine that has caused the bad name, but the other compromises that go into high volume production.
  14. well, in defending my position on this-
    if you're solely in the business of making guitars for the profit then CNC machines as well as outsourcing to foreign markets is pretty much the easiest way of mass production to equal profit.

    but i am personally doing it for the fact that i love making the instruments by hand. i do use a router for neck pockets, pickups, electronics cavities and to cut the top and back to size relative of the middle wood. but i do all of the actual shaping by hand with a rasp and spend hours doing so. i enjoy doing that aspect, and i don't think that i would ever go the route of using CNC machines.

    i think they are great for achieving precision and profit...but since when has art been about precision?
  15. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    i would want to pay for a perfect bass
  16. and over time you would hope that an experienced luthier would be able to produce a fully functioning and attractive instrument that is as close to perfect as they can humanly make it.

    but if i'm going to spend my hard earned money on a bass, i'm definitely going to buy something made by Carl Thompson, or Ken Bebensee...not some carbon copy fender that a computer produced.

    maybe i'm the only one that is not up for turning all of the fun over to machines

    Check those of art definitely and not comparable to what you call" carbon copy fender"

    You guessed it, heavy use of CNC there but no mass product!! Ron knows his sh£$!t and does the best use of technology

    Peace, JP
  18. not a carbon copy fender there, but does look just like a PRS or double cut away Les Paul...
  19. i appreciate his wood choice, the composition, the inlay and the attention to detail...but for christ's sake, make something that looks original.

    jp, i like your basses because they don't look like anyone else's basses, and you do use router bits to round the edges and so forth, but at least it's your hands guiding the instrument- there is a human factor there that is absent when you program a machine to do the work for you and then just leave it to do it's thing.
  20. Sorry, my hands are holding the router but the templates are guiding it...

    Ton makes double cutaway guitars that you compare with PRS and so on. Maybe he just choosed to build what sells. He could build whatever shape he want with his machine.

    Peace, JP
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