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Im still in highschool and not sure about what i want to do for a living. I always loved building guitars but im not sure if its a good job to go into. Is there enough money building custom guitars for a living or is it just a side job for most people?

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In short become an engineer. (don't want to burst any bubbles but unless you're really good you're not going to make great sums of money at it and even then its a tough industry)

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Is there good money in building guitars?

The question you should be asking is "What kind of job will pay well enough to support a guitar-building jones?"

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i graduate a year early, into welding/carpentry school for a few years, then off to become a pilot. i wouldnt trust the income of guitar building at such a young age

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Im still in highschool and not sure about what i want to do for a living. I always loved building guitars but im not sure if its a good job to go into. Is there enough money building custom guitars for a living or is it just a side job for most people?

some things to consider:

  • how long until i can start building an instrument better than a mid priced guitar from my local store
  • what can i charge for that guitar compared to the mid priced guitar, imported from asian where they paid $2 or less per hour for the labour
  • can i build them fast enough, AND keep quality, compared to that mid priced import who uses CNC and massive factories to get the required volumes
  • where do i build these guitars (factories cost money)
  • where do i get the money for tools
  • where do i get the money for materials
  • what local licenses do i need
  • advertising
  • how do i sell them, and to who?
  • what am i selling?
  • what do i do if i dont have any sales for a month, or two, or three
  • how do i get a bank loan to expand if i cant prove a steady income
  • which stores are going to promote me, and why
  • can i supply enough to keep those stores happy
  • is the store adding their 20-60% markup going to effect the final selling price enough to have clients consider other guitar makers
  • what do i do if a guitar is damaged or stolen from a store
  • IF, and thats a big maybe, i do get sucessful, do i hire employees, or just limit production
  • How much stock do i need (= money tied up that i cant access)

And... after all that... what if you change your mind in ten years, and decide to change careers. REMEMBER the average length of a career now is 7 years. Thats not seven years at one job, its seven years at one career, before the average person decides to do something entirely different. Took Paul Reed Smith 10 years to get a product AND make enough money to earn a 'living' (only because someone invested $500,000 in good faith). Im sure you know who he is.

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I plan to join a UK university to study Product Design in two years time. You can choose to design anything your mind desires and most importantly, if you choose carefully, it can become quite a huge payment method. Look at Norman Foster,

The Swedish IKEA guy,

Lamborghini,...

The list goes on.

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I've always wished I took a carpentry apprenticeship when I was younger.

I love working on guitars but also working with wood in general.

It's only on a small scale, things like cabinets, tables, storage units etc...

Maybe if you enjoy working with guitars so much you can extend that to working with wood in general.

There's nothing like having a trade to fall back on, you should always be able to find work.

wwood

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After studying A level Maths, Physics and Chemistry, I spent the next four years studying at the London College of Furniture in the Music Technology Dept, making classical guitars. When I left I decided to start my own business, specialising in solid electric guitars.

When you are self employed, nobody is your friend. Unless you have substantial backing then you have to rely on word of mouth for your business rather than advertising. I funded my machinery by working part time while still at college, in a music shop doing repairs. My "bread and butter" work was set ups and repairs, although I did build quite a few guitars in the four years I was self employed. Income was extremely limited and I worked all hours.

Fortunately I had a few very good reviews in Guitarist Magaizine in the UK and became fairly high profile, especially when I received a phone call from the owner of the largest UK guitar manufacturer, asking if I would go and work for him on a consultancy basis. From there I went on to become Production Manager and head of Custom Shop, making and overseeing literally thousands of high quality electric guitars. I was also regularly writing articles for The Guitar Magazine.

It was only when the working conditions plumetted that I resigned and went to work in an unrelated industry - on amost double what I was earning then.

I was lucky in that all my hard work and patience paid off. I know other guitar makers who are very good, but will never get anywhere. Making a living from making guitars is extremely hard. Any fool can make a guitar. I could make dozens in a very short space of time but at the end of the day you have to be able to sell them. Otherwise you have all that money tied up. There will always be a call for handmade guitars, and there will always be customers who are willing to part with a lot of money. Unfortunately this doesnt happen on a regular basis.

It can be very rewarding working for yourself but you'll be very frustrated at times because there will be days if not weeks when the phone doesnt ring and nobody comes through your workshop door. And all the time you are shelling out for insurances, workshop rent/electricity, parts, etc.

Dont mean to put a downer on it but I have been there and done it. I was a professional guitar maker for over ten years and not all of it was fun.

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what do you do now if you dont mind me asking?

Im the Technical Support and Development Manager for a company in the shoe-care industry. My hobby when making guitars was CAD and I spent many a night learning how to use AutoCAD. I saw the ad for the position in the paper one night and it was all detailed hand work in wood, with computer skills required. I could have done it in my sleep and knew within ten minutes of arriving at the interview that the job was mine. Again Ive been very lucky. I now prototype wooden models for very high end customers, and design products on-screen for plastic injection moulding. Im the sort of person who reads manuals rather than books :D

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I plan to join a UK university to study Product Design in two years time. You can choose to design anything your mind desires and most importantly, if you choose carefully, it can become quite a huge payment method. Look at Norman Foster,

The Swedish IKEA guy,

Lamborghini,...

The list goes on.

Have you looked at Loughborough for this? When I went there, I helped a girl out who was doing product design. The bloke who is currently sitting behind me also did Product Design at Loughborough. They also drink more beer per student (in the union) than any other uni :D

Personally after looking at a bit of the course, it's no substitution for real engineering. Interesting, but just didn't teach enough about how things actually work (or at least that's what I thought - just wasn't suited to what I wanted to know)

1576 - Did you know a bloke/tutor called Andy Varah there, or was that before your time? I'd rather read a Heynes manual than the Da Vinci code anyday :D

wwood - I think if I could go back and do it all again, I'd probably be aiming towards cabinet maker aswell (or lottery winner, that would be better)

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Eh, there is less buisness for high end cabinet makers than custom guitar luithers. Few people are willing or able to shovel out the bucks for a piece of custom furniture, and the process is too time consuming to lower prices. Most cabinet makers are forced to do other stuff on the side (in my father's case, museum cases) to support their furniture building/restoration buisnesses.

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Eh, there is less buisness for high end cabinet makers than custom guitar luithers. Few people are willing or able to shovel out the bucks for a piece of custom furniture, and the process is too time consuming to lower prices. Most cabinet makers are forced to do other stuff on the side (in my father's case, museum cases) to support their furniture building/restoration buisnesses.

Having studied cabinet making, and been a consultant to a LOT of cabinet making businesses, through out the world.... AND a luthier, who sells worldwide... i can clearly say you're wrong.

There are more people willing to spend $50,000 on a new kitch than there are people willing to spend $5000 on a custom guitar. EVERYONE needs a cabinet maker at some stage (of any budget), only guitarists need luthiers.

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I was speaking more of handbuilt furniture rather than kitchen cabinets. And even with kitchen cabinets, few people can afford high end stuff handbuilt by a cabinetmaker anyway, which I assumed is what ToneMonkey had in mind with his post.

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well, i was half way through editting my post to be more expansive, rather than just kitchens (see the half deleted words:P), but i stuffed up and couldnt be bother fixing it.

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If I was a cabinet maker, I'd be the best cabinet maker in the world :D

I know a couple of cabinet makers, one who is now the luthier that I work with. The other is very highly regarded, he's got a couple of design awards and everything. I only know him from the pub, kind of a friend of a friend, but he's very much in demand. Have a look at www.varah.co.uk gorgeous stuff (I've posted the link before) - he thicknessed my body blank for me and got one his apprentices to bandsaw my neck for me.

Most people may not be able to afford a specially made cabinet, but I'd be selling it to the ones that can :D

I think it's like most businesses, some will be successful, some won't. Depends who's driving.

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Perry, is there any chance you could give a little info on how you got into cabinet making? I'm still wrestling with career choices, and would love to pursue cabinet making of high end joinery, but I'm finding it pretty frustrating to get info/advice about entering the trade given that:

a. I'm too old to do an apprenticeship in the UK

b. I don't have any qualifications relating to woodworking

c. I have no *comercial* carpentry or workshop experience

As it stands now, I'm thinking my best route would be writing a letter to every cabinet maker in the yellow pages, and see if any will talk to me, and maybe consider giving me a trial period/work experience.

Just wondering how you got into it - I realise that guilds/certifications/qualifactions etc will probably not be directly comparable between the UK and Aus'.

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1576 - Did you know a bloke/tutor called Andy Varah there, or was that before your time? I'd rather read a Heynes manual than the Da Vinci code anyday :D

The only tutor named Andy that I knew at the College was in the spray shop. He introduced me to professional spraying and I even bought my first Binks gun from him. Great guy who took the time to explain things to students. Rode a motorbike as I recall.

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I'm thinking Cardiology, actually...

A dying breed mate :D

Ha ha

S

:D

Funny, I keep seeing reports of cardiovascular disease on the rise ;-)

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why dont you just enroll in a TAFE course for 2 years in woodwork?

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