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Luthiers, I need your help!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Ilovepink, Dec 1, 2004.

  1. Ilovepink

    Ilovepink Banned

    Nov 17, 2003
    There seems to be a misconception that is running rampant on this board. It seems to be the common concencus that if it is made from wood that there is no differance between hand made or bought parts that are simply put together. Any insight from those who would actually know would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    What is the insight you are looking for?
  3. Your question has already drawn a conclusion as stated here:

    The statement is entirely opinion, concerns 2 different topics, and is subjective at best. Why do I get the odd feeling that if someone that knew what they were talking about disagreed with the premise here that it would be met with argument rather than rational discussion?

    If it is, the thread won't last long.

    I think that you are going to have to seperate the subject of handmade components versus machine made components and the subject of totally handmade or totally machine made instruments (which there are none).

    I will tell you that there doesn't necessarily have to be any quality difference between a handmade wood component and a machine made version. If the builder is skilled enough, he can make a part as good as a machine. Hows that for a statement? Likewise, if a machine programmer is a decent artisan, he could design and make a part that is aesthetically pleasing and as perfectly refined as the handmade version. It all is going to boil down to the skill of the builder. But even the most skilled hand builders can't possibly duplicate the repeatable accuracy of machine made components. That's the beauty of CNC. So, if a custom builder were to use the higher tolerance CNC'd components in his handbuilt instruments, he could actually be elevating the quality of his product by some degree simply by having a more consistent product from unit to unit. See how this works? Blanket statements like yours nearly always have exceptions and often large ones at that.

    I'll also challenge the idea that 2 handmade parts assembled together are somehow better quality than 2 machine made parts assembled by the same person. That's just crazy. The quality of the build will ONLY be as good as the quality of the parts factored with the skill of the builder. If the goal of any builder is to make the most perfect component he can, then the machine made part could be considered the perfect model. If he can do it by hand, then great, he saved some money. Since the two parts go together the same way, it boils down to fit tolerance (maybe better with a CNC'd part) and assembly technique. If the builder is skilled and the parts are correct, the two situations would compare very favorably to each other. If the builder isn't skilled enough to produce machine quality work by hand, then his product might benefit from machine made components.

    Just for fun, you should do some more research on your own and ask these questions in the process:

    · Which high volume manufacturers use CNC components? Why?
    · Do any high volume manufacturers build exclusively by hand? Why?
    · Do any custom/boutique hand builders use CNC? Why?
    · Are there any small hand builders that would like to use CNC? Why?
    · How do you tell the difference between a CNC'd part and a handmade part?
    · How do you tell the difference between an instrument that is assembled from handmade parts and one that is assembled from machine made components?

    That's all I've got for now, but hang around - there be more posted on this. I'm sure.
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
  5. Jeff Rader

    Jeff Rader Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State

    Very well thought out points, Hambone.
  6. IMHO the entire discussion about handmade versus machine etc. is missing the point. Both ways can produce well build instruments. Durable, nice to look at etc.

    The real art of building an instrument, and again this is IMHO, is in picking the components, being able to predict the sound of the end product before it’s build.

    BTW, I'm not a Luthier, just a biased musician. :D
  7. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    To add to this, whether the parts be machine or hand made, the ability to pick good wood (probably more an art than a science) to make the parts out of is another part of the recipe.
  8. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    There seems to be a misconception that is running rampant on this board that if a CNC is used to build an instrument, it cheapens the end result.
  9. Only when your router as an USB interface. :)
  10. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Unless you have USB 2.0. ;)
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Everybody run!

  12. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    OH! THAT'S what a misconception looks like! I'd always wondered...

  13. Wow, that's waaay more dangerous than a fallacy or a wives tale!
  14. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    Actually the big difference is more effort and "personalness" is put into an instrument if it is made from scratch.
  15. Jeff Rader

    Jeff Rader Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    Which may make the instrument as good as one not "made from scratch" if both luthiers are skilled enough. Otherwise, it's overpriced firewood regardless of the effort.
  16. Hmmm...I'm detecting a train of thought here...all aboard!! :hyper:

    Sounds like the key to either side of the question is builder skill. It all starts there and ends there and always will.

    And this is realized by a guy with the skill level of an axe slinging ape? :bassist:
  17. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    I've seen discussions like this on other boards and someone always eventually brings up the point that true luthiery is in the final touches, like finishing, and making the instrument into a final, playable condition - which is true, it really does boil down to builder skill in the end. It's just funner to make 'em from rough wood. :)
  18. Jeff Rader

    Jeff Rader Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    I respectfully disagree. A true master sweats EVERY detail. The "finishing touches" are no more important than choosing the right glue. IMO, there are very few luthiers with this level of standards, skill and detail orientation.

  19. Hey guys, when I said this I was thinking of everything that happens in between the beginning and the end too!

  20. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I think Pinky'sgot a point, that has not been touched yet:
    'simply put together'.

    I totally agree on the previous about manmade vs CNC quality of parts.
    But, you have to put them together!

    I'd suggest that if you make the parts yourself and put them together, you have more control of the result, which usually ends up with highest quality.
    If you buy ready-made (pret-a-porter?) parts, and put them together, you can expect some misfit problems, esp. if you buy from different sources. Which are harder to fix than if you actually produced the problem yourself! At least to my experience.