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Selling my first creation: price?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ArtisFallen, Jun 7, 2005.

  1. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    Well, After building two rather radical looking instruments, i've garnered enough interest from my peers that i've been asked to build a custom guitar (not bass). I'm purposly making the specifications nothing to oggle over so that i don't place myself in the akward position of doing something for the first time while under commision.

    Wood Specs are as follow:
    Red Oak Wings
    Three piece neck: Purpleheart, maple, Purpleheart
    Ebony Fingerboard


    the only significatly odd thing i'm doing (besides the shape which was designed by my client and myself) is the mostly purpleheart neck.

    My question is, what should i be charging? I take real pride in my work, i make sure i'm meticulous, and i love lutherie, but i'm haveing trouble seperating my love of the job from the fact that i'm being paid. so i'm having issues makeing him pay me for labor. he doesn't know how much the parts cost, so i feel like i'm gyping him when i know i'm really not.

    what's a reasonable price to be charging for a totally custom instrument?
  2. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Oak wings?
  3. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    I'd say a fair price would be to figure out your material costs and then double it. That will still probably only end up paying you about $1-2 per hour at most.

    I'll mirror Tom's question about the Red Oak Wings. Nothing I've heard about oak as a tone wood has been positive, but since it's a Neck-Thru it may not make a HUGE problem (but let's not get into that debate, it exists elsewhere already...)

    I'll also toss in a question about the mostly purpleheart neck and bring up neck dive. Purpleheart is going to be HEAVY as a majority of the neck.
  4. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    :D Dito! :D I also plan on charging future customers twice the cost of the parts. The bass I'm working on now however I am charging nothing for the labor. ( It sounds like Im getting ripped off, but this is for a good friend who couldn't afford it otherwise, and I'm more than happy to do it.)
    I'd also caution against Oak as a body wood... I played a strat copy once that was made of Oak and not only was it poor sounding, It weighed a ton... :rollno:
  5. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    I'm going to say that I would only charge for the cost of materials. I have built two EUB's so far and can't wait to start my first bass guitar soon. At this point in my "career" I would be glad to build an instrument for someone at cost. Building is just that fun for me, and I wouldn't feel comfortable making a profit on something so amateur. My latest bass has been around for a few months and seems to be a really nice instrument that someone would pay a great deal of money for now. But who knows, in another six months it could have cracks all over and be warped so bad that is unplayable. Build it at cost, it's like someone is giving you a scholarship to learn luthery.
  6. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    That's oddly philosophical, but I like it. I'm gonna have to remember that quote.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Why not?
    Brian May is said to have used it for his infamous special g. And wings are mainly for looks anyway, who cares about the material? :eyebrow: :bag:
  8. :eek: oh oh, here we go again! :D
  9. I have also been wondering what other builders do to calculate their prices. I was advised by someone to just add a 20% 'handling' charge for materials and calculate the labor hours at $20-$40. I guess that sounds fair, but I don't know if this is the standard way. Can anybody comment on how they calculate? we're not looking for specific numbers here (nobody wants to get on the finances of other people!), just a relatively standard method in the industry to calculate product prices and profits.

  10. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    Prices and profit are one end of the equation, you also have what the market will bear for cost. Obviously this is one price for Fodera and a completely different price for Wish. You will (hopefully) fall somewhere in between the two. My point is, even if you make your instrument out of top of the line stuff, I doubt anyone posting here is going to rival the commercial custom luthiers, so running up material costs to $1500-$3000 is not the way to make a living selling $4000 instruments.
  11. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    I ran a parts cost estimate, and it figures to be about 350 without shipping. because i have no intention of really makeing a real solid "career" out of luthierie, i think i'm going to stick with the doubling equasion for the most part here.

    700 bucks soud reasonable i guess?

    Wisler, i'd use your equasion, but i'm a slow worker so i'd feel awful charging an hourly wage, and then there's the whole issue that i'm horrible at math. maybe next time :)

    That's the approach i'm taking building for my friends. philisophical, and logical, i like it, but for this situation, slightly impractical. especially when i've got to pay the man...
    onto less money filled topics:

    Yeah, why? don't like oak? i used it in my personal bass and the thing rings like a bell. i love it. heavy as sin no doubt, but the wings are going to be used to couterbalace the neck dive issue as mentioned by Lajoie. not to mention, i make a fly-esque headstock so with luck it will be minimal.
  12. I work like this:
    Normal guitar
    Hourly wage $18
    Project preparation hours + 175%
    Machining hours + 325%
    Hand work hours +190%
    Material premium +20%
    Hardwood waste: price total of board feet +30%
    Tax: if you feel like it
  13. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    that's a good one. i'm thinking i'm going to have to set up a spreadsheet to calculate that. it takes into account what i should have, but forgot about. thanks.
  14. Giraffe

    Giraffe Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    San Diego, California
    I approach price from the opposite direction. This doesn't work when you have a commission, when you need the price up front, but it can help get you started. Take some representative samples of your instruments to a sampling of players and (ideally) dealers who know instruments and who tell the truth. Don't tell them that you built it yourself so they can more easily be honest. Leave ego and emotion at the door, they screw everything up! Ask for their opinions of the value, throw out the highest and lowest estimates, and average what's left. No matter how you intellectualize this process, this is probably the best indicator of what the bass is worth, and represents the highest figure you should consider selling it for.

    Calculate materials cost, and I would add the 20% handling charge to account for the grief and aggravation of chasing them down. The difference between this figure and the market value determined by your survey is the "value added" by your labor. It also represents "gross profit" in a normal manufacturing set up. Since you're doing the labor, net profit and gross are kind of the same thing, but your wife won't agree.

    Now hide all the sharp objects and put yourself in a strait jacket so you don't commit suicide. Divide the value added by your best estimate of the number or hard hours you put into the creation. I ignore the time I spend staring at the project trying to figure out how I want to do something, and the time I spent discussing the project with the customer. I don't like to charge a customer for me to figure out what I'm doing! The result is your hourly earning rate. This is a good figure to have when you start critically assessing your business model and your building processes. If this figure is too low, you need to change something.

    I have a problem with simply doubling material cost because your time has to be worth something, although it is different for everyone. Suppose two customers walk into your shop, or in my case my garage. One wants a Fender clone with nice wood and an oil finish. One wants a carved top, exotic customized electronics and hardware, a nitro finish, and plainer wood. The material costs happen to be similiar, but the number of hours required are way different. It wouldn't make sense to me to charge the same for these two basses.

    Adam Smith's Invisible Hand (he was an economist) says go back to the expert survey in the first paragraph. The market will dictate the price, like it or not!

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