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"instrument Grade" Wood Pricing


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I am not sure if you guys are starting to get really tired of some wood dealers who are burning instrument builders, but I know I am. Now I am not one to be too critical of a wood dealer who understands honest "Instrument" grade wood, and understand why prices are higher for wood cut to sets or parts that require machining, surfacing, extended storage to ensure drying, or other services as they have a value and there are losses when you process wood for these purposes. What I am seeing more and more is wood dealers who do not build or have anyone who has experience with instrument wood to be able to give honest grading.

I recieved a flyer in the mail for a company that I had actually bought from in the past. They have increased their pricing on what they call "instrument grade" wood so much higher than other dealers that are quite experienced and have been in the business for a long time selling instrument grade wood that it should be insulting. To add insult to injury, I have looked at their "instrument grade" stock and although the occasional piece meets very high standards visually, the vast majority is lacking (if not even sub par in repects that instrument grade wood should be graded upon). The sale of "Tonewoods" (spruce, cedars and such for soundboard stock) sold in lumber form (not even from split wood). How wood they realise these are issues, they don't understand instrument grading. I was talking to a guy in a Woodcrafters the other day who suggested I look at another dealers stock who was at a local show that weekend. When I looked over their stock I found a couple pieces that looked usable. When I was paying, the guy selling told me that a piece I was getting was "instrument grade". I know what I was going to use the piece for, and I knew I had to use it as laminate stock to get proper orientation(this would not be called "instrument grade", by common standards however it would be "high figure"). I had to ask him if they had any person on staff who actually had build an instrument. The answer was no, but they are interested in trying it out. If a dealer wants to charge for instrument grade material, they darn well better understand or hire someone who does (so they can figure it out). If not charge for "high figure" or whatever. I feel like builders have had a target placed on their heads by these dealers. They figure they can just rape anyone who builds instruments, and the people who I believe get hit are beginners.

I am not talking about compairing an honest specialty dealers pricing to Ebay "bargains" or what have you. So what do you guys think? Have you experienced this? Is it just me?

As examples;

Top Grade Quilted Maple Billet(lets say, 2" billet say 2.5bd. ft.) could run $325.00. That is $130 bd. ft. and that kind of premium is for the finest on the market. I have seen prices closer to $250 bd. ft. on these billets(that strikes me as out of line). Mind you a "fairly good" grade(and I speak of musical grade) is probably closer to $50bd. ft. and what is more common to the market but still "nice" would run more like $30.

Top grade Flamed Maples (again lets use the 2" billet say 2.5bd. ft.) could run $175.00. That is a good $75 bd. ft. and again that is for the finest grade on the market. I have seen prices closer to $120 bd. ft. for billets of this size. More common to the market but certainly sharp looking that commonly run $30 bd. ft. ($75 billets) are being priced closer to $80bd.ft.($200).

These are a couple examples of wood that we all use and know(and of course are not exceptionally rare on todays market). This is the kind of taking advantage of a group that irritates me. I personally would not buy at those prices, but the fact that they price like that tells me they think of luthiers as an easy mark. I suspect any guy who has a couple instruments under his belt, would not buy at those prices(because he has learned what the market values are). The builder that it would seem would be more suseptable would be a on their first couple builds(and may not know the market or understand grading). I would hope that any new builder who reads this does not fall prey to this kind of pricing. I am sure more experienced builders will be more than happy to allow these dealers to build up huge surplus stock by not buying from them.

Frustrated,

Rich

P.S. Take note, I am not mentioning company names nor will I, as I don't think that is a good idea on Brians forum. I am just curious what you guys have experienced. If anyone working for a dealer, and some of what I am talking about hits close to home. Take note of some of the responces, as I suspect these are going to be potential customers that you are losing.

Edited by fryovanni
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Wood of any kind has become a buyer beware......I found a good middle of the road honest supplier with normal prices and desent wood.I tell him what I am looking for and he does a good job supplying it.He does not carry the 5A stuff because he thinks like I do that it is just to over priced.

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Like Dean, I have found a few places that I trust and funny enough none of them have any "instrument wood" sections, out of my local wood shops, though I can't always find exactly what I want at those. I think these rip offs happen in other aspects of luthier products as well as I quite often find the same products elsewhere for much cheaper. I don't mind paying extra for tools, if they are 100% solely developed or at least improved for luthier use as these are specialized and this goes for wood as well. However, its highly irritating to find the same product down the street sold as a normal item and for a 1/3 or less of the price.

I am really looking forward to starting some acoustics soon and as pointed out, I will need to spend a lot of time understanding wood quality and grading(more for sound boards). I know general stuff and am seeing runout and such now, however, the exact difference in grading is still slightly blurry and this I expect comes with experience, meaning seeing plenty of it graded properly. I will however most likely be buying from some companies and/or people I completey trust. I truly enjoy buying within the small community of luthiers and will do so when I have the chance, I've been able to buy all types of different things from book matched maple tops to bone and buffalo horn nuts which I just got from Woodenspoke which were great. Hopefully, this becomes more common.

Its sad though, that these people pull this kind of crap. I have no problems paying for high figure stuff priced accordingly. However taking some "run of the mill" (how did that saying come to be) wood and labeling it instrument grade because its a clear or slightly curly is frustrating. I've said this numerous times, but I wish that before starting building I would have had some experience in woodworking as many of these issues are more easily avoided. I know I still could easily get ripped off on wood, though in general I have a ballpark on wood, so I would know between complete crap lumber and instrument woods, but I'm still learning to see grading better. I have seen the price differences mentioned quite often and know now to look around and I have general info on wood prices a BF down pretty well. In local terms I went out and got lists on the prices per board foot for each species, I have something like 5 or more wood shops within an hour of my house. Then I compared them, checked out online stores, not ebay, and watched for what others paid and what their wood looked like and got some general ideas. I started looking at wood right when I started researching guitars and I log onto to numerous wood sites every week to satisfy my wood fetish and with all that I know I still need plenty more experience, though I can easily dinstiguish between lumber and instrument grade, but accurate grading will still take more time. In other words I can see why they view luthiers as an easy target as there are no doubt 100x more newbies than experienced builders and they won't be able to see the difference or won't think a price is too high.

Anyhow, thanks for the headsup and experience, I think this will be very valuable to numerous people here. J

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Wood prices are on the rise but not just with “instrument grade” lumber. Go to home depot and check the price for a 2x4. Katrina did a number to the lumber market and I expect prices to go even higher with the wild fires in California. Over the last 5 years, the U.S has taken a hit and domestic lumber such as maple has gone through the roof everywhere. Now, quilted maple is not used in home building but when one sector of the market goers up, they all go up. It’s common economics. Let’s not forget that the more populated the U.S gets, the less trees there are and the less harvesting there will be. A lot of tree farmers are moving to corn because of bio fuel needs. Look at the price of feed for animals. It’s going through the roof because there isn’t enough corn to feed the animals and the fuel pumps too. Folks, everything is going up in dramatic fashion

I worry more about the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to obtain certified exotic hardwoods and more and more people are buying uncertified lumber from places like EBay.

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Thats definitely a good point on wood prices, however, I think this topic is mainly in regard to certain sellers obviously overcharging when you can find the same wood at numerous other places at a reasonable price. Nice wood isn't cheap and restrictions and disasters will bring it up, but there are still people out there that will still overcharge as they know they can dupe the newbs. J

Edited by jmrentis
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Thats definitely a good point on wood prices, however, I think this topic is mainly in regard to certain sellers obviously overcharging when you can find the same wood at numerous other places at a reasonable price. Nice wood isn't cheap and restrictions and disasters will bring it up, but there are still people out there that will still overcharge as they know they can dupe the newbs. J

Point taken. It’s funny though. I’ve never considered the BF price of lumber. I go through the pile and find a piece that I really like and if it strikes me, I don’t care what I pay for it, I must have it. I go to Hearn’s hardwoods in Southern PA a lot and their prices are a bit higher than some but the lumber I get is always in great shape. I’ve never split a board to find rot in it. I also know a guy who has alot of land in WVA and he has his own mill. I get Walnut for pennies! It's good to have an inside source LOL.

Edited by zyonsdream
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Wood prices are on the rise but not just with “instrument grade” lumber. Go to home depot and check the price for a 2x4. Katrina did a number to the lumber market and I expect prices to go even higher with the wild fires in California. Over the last 5 years, the U.S has taken a hit and domestic lumber such as maple has gone through the roof everywhere. Now, quilted maple is not used in home building but when one sector of the market goers up, they all go up. It’s common economics. Let’s not forget that the more populated the U.S gets, the less trees there are and the less harvesting there will be. A lot of tree farmers are moving to corn because of bio fuel needs. Look at the price of feed for animals. It’s going through the roof because there isn’t enough corn to feed the animals and the fuel pumps too. Folks, everything is going up in dramatic fashion

I worry more about the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to obtain certified exotic hardwoods and more and more people are buying uncertified lumber from places like EBay.

This is not about price corrections in the market. Believe me proper dealers are raising prices every year (and I take no issue or challenge the validity of the price increases). I am speaking specifically to dealers who have targeted instrument makers as a group that pays more for wood. These dealers are placing the lable "instrument grade" on wood that does not meet the higher grading standards that would set this wood apart from the more common grades, and specifically often have properties that are actually very undesirable to instrument builders. This clearly shows me they do not understand instrument wood grading, they just see a group to target.

Doug,

I dont know... the piece I used for the cap on my guitar only cost me about 10 bucks

If you bought that cut and surfaced as a set you got a good deal (those services cost). If you payed about $7-10 a bd. ft. for non specific sawn select grade lumber you payed about the right price. If that piece was to be tagged "instrument grade" it should be well quartersawn and should have fairly straight vertical grain(your is rift to flat, which is fine), it would also have nice pleasing color and be free of visable defects(as your piece does). If it met the criteria for "instrument grade", then you could start to justify 3 to 10 times the value. Sounds crazy when you think about it, but that falls into what I stated is "reasonable" pricing. I take issue when the pricing is in the 11-15 times range, and is not meeting all the criteria.

Edited by fryovanni
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Wood prices are on the rise but not just with “instrument grade” lumber. Go to home depot and check the price for a 2x4. Katrina did a number to the lumber market and I expect prices to go even higher with the wild fires in California. Over the last 5 years, the U.S has taken a hit and domestic lumber such as maple has gone through the roof everywhere. Now, quilted maple is not used in home building but when one sector of the market goers up, they all go up. It’s common economics. Let’s not forget that the more populated the U.S gets, the less trees there are and the less harvesting there will be. A lot of tree farmers are moving to corn because of bio fuel needs. Look at the price of feed for animals. It’s going through the roof because there isn’t enough corn to feed the animals and the fuel pumps too. Folks, everything is going up in dramatic fashion

I worry more about the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to obtain certified exotic hardwoods and more and more people are buying uncertified lumber from places like EBay.

This is not about price corrections in the market. Believe me proper dealers are raising prices every year (and I take no issue or challenge the validity of the price increases). I am speaking specifically to dealers who have targeted instrument makers as a group that pays more for wood. These dealers are placing the lable "instrument grade" on wood that does not meet the higher grading standards that would set this wood apart from the more common grades, and specifically often have properties that are actually very undesirable to instrument builders. This clearly shows me they do not understand instrument wood grading, they just see a group to target.

Doug,

I dont know... the piece I used for the cap on my guitar only cost me about 10 bucks

If you bought that cut and surfaced as a set you got a good deal (those services cost). If you payed about $7-10 a bd. ft. for non specific sawn select grade lumber you payed about the right price. If that piece was to be tagged "instrument grade" it should be well quartersawn and should have fairly straight vertical grain(your is rift to flat, which is fine), it would also have nice pleasing color and be free of visable defects(as your piece does). If it met the criteria for "instrument grade", then you could start to justify 3 to 10 times the value. Sounds crazy when you think about it, but that falls into what I stated is "reasonable" pricing. I take issue when the pricing is in the 11-15 times range, and is not meeting all the criteria.

It's Portland... Look at how many guitar builders, guitar building classes and guitar building newbs there are. Of course they're going to profiteer, they see a demand for it. Ultimately, they wouldn't charge so much if people didn't pay the price to begin with. It's just like anything else, when you have a resource that is in high demand and a large population demanding it then the price will continue to go up until people stop paying it. In the meantime, they look at you with a big grin and wait... they know that guitar builders "Have to have it" if they really like it and will pay anything for it.

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It's Portland... Look at how many guitar builders, guitar building classes and guitar building newbs there are. Of course they're going to profiteer, they see a demand for it. Ultimately, they wouldn't charge so much if people didn't pay the price to begin with. It's just like anything else, when you have a resource that is in high demand and a large population demanding it then the price will continue to go up until people stop paying it. In the meantime, they look at you with a big grin and wait... they know that guitar builders "Have to have it" if they really like it and will pay anything for it.

Actually, I don't take issue with the dealers in Portland. The ones getting me a little irritated are out of the city limits, and I take no issue with dealers that are very knowledgable and charge a little on the high side (you are getting their expertise). I agree though, the solution is to stop buying from these outfits till they make some corrections.

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Yeah Rich, I can see how that would be pretty irritating. :D

Most of the places I've dealt with in Maryland, N Virginia and southern PA have not gone the extra step to sort their wood into "instrument grade" despite there being a number of pro luthiers in this part of the East Coast. Mostly I've dealt with places that sell lumber in the rough, the b.f. prices are what they are irrespective of size, straightness and grain orientation, the figure is not obvious but can be discerned with a practiced eye, the grain is apparent, and I can hand-pick the stuff that is "instrument grade" from a variably-large selection.

No one around here furnishes softwood stock that could be turned into soundboards, except for the occasional piece that appears in a pallet intended for other uses (i.e. redwood trim, cedar paneling, etc) and has definitely not been split prior to milling. Just the occasional lucky piece.

I've bought from some places in New England who charge higher b.f. prices for stock wider than 6" or so...but we're talking 20-30% higher, not a factor of 2 or 3. Even these places did not up-charge for quartersawn.

FWIW I had never really pondered the meaning of "instrument grade" beyond something that is at a proper moisture content, clear, without checks, and free of any warp, cup, bow or twist. I would not have thought that "instrument grade" automatically meant "quartersawn" or lacking runout either. Maybe I'm missing out on a more traditional interpretation of the term?

I think "IG appropriate for acoustic instruments" is certainly the rarest cut of all woods (6% MC, clear, straight grained, wide, no checks, quartered, no runout, good bonk) but I think there are a number of good tonewood suppliers who are setting the bar on prices for milled examples of this kind of stock (like the OLF sponsors). And almost all of the folks I see who are acoustic guitar newbs are buying from these guys.

I think compared to most other market niches that hardwood dealers serve, the "newbie acoustic builder" is very small potatoes (I know they are where I shop!). If the less-instrumentally inclined lumber dealers are overshooting established price points by a large amount, they won't move much material and I suspect this phenomenon will regulate itself.

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I am not sure if you guys are starting to get really tired of some wood dealers who are burning instrument builders, but I know I am. Now I am not one to be too critical of a wood dealer who understands honest "Instrument" grade wood, and understand why prices are higher for wood cut to sets or parts that require machining, surfacing, extended storage to ensure drying, or other services as they have a value and there are losses when you process wood for these purposes. What I am seeing more and more is wood dealers who do not build or have anyone who has experience with instrument wood to be able to give honest grading.

I received a flyer in the mail for a company that I had actually bought from in the past. They have increased their pricing on what they call "instrument grade" wood so much higher than other dealers that are quite experienced and have been in the business for a long time selling instrument grade wood that it should be insulting. To add insult to injury, I have looked at their "instrument grade" stock and although the occasional piece meets very high standards visually, the vast majority is lacking (if not even sub par in respects that instrument grade wood should be graded upon). The sale of "Tonewoods" (spruce, cedars and such for soundboard stock) sold in lumber form (not even from split wood). How wood they realize these are issues, they don't understand instrument grading. I was talking to a guy in a Woodcrafters the other day who suggested I look at another dealers stock who was at a local show that weekend. When I looked over their stock I found a couple pieces that looked usable. When I was paying, the guy selling told me that a piece I was getting was "instrument grade". I know what I was going to use the piece for, and I knew I had to use it as laminate stock to get proper orientation(this would not be called "instrument grade", by common standards however it would be "high figure"). I had to ask him if they had any person on staff who actually had build an instrument. The answer was no, but they are interested in trying it out. If a dealer wants to charge for instrument grade material, they darn well better understand or hire someone who does (so they can figure it out). If not charge for "high figure" or whatever. I feel like builders have had a target placed on their heads by these dealers. They figure they can just rape anyone who builds instruments, and the people who I believe get hit are beginners.

I am not talking about comparing an honest specialty dealers pricing to Ebay "bargains" or what have you. So what do you guys think? Have you experienced this? Is it just me?

As examples;

Top Grade Quilted Maple Billet(lets say, 2" billet say 2.5bd. ft.) could run $325.00. That is $130 bd. ft. and that kind of premium is for the finest on the market. I have seen prices closer to $250 bd. ft. on these billets(that strikes me as out of line). Mind you a "fairly good" grade(and I speak of musical grade) is probably closer to $50bd. ft. and what is more common to the market but still "nice" would run more like $30.

Top grade Flamed Maples (again lets use the 2" billet say 2.5bd. ft.) could run $175.00. That is a good $75 bd. ft. and again that is for the finest grade on the market. I have seen prices closer to $120 bd. ft. for billets of this size. More common to the market but certainly sharp looking that commonly run $30 bd. ft. ($75 billets) are being priced closer to $80bd.ft.($200).

These are a couple examples of wood that we all use and know(and of course are not exceptionally rare on todays market). This is the kind of taking advantage of a group that irritates me. I personally would not buy at those prices, but the fact that they price like that tells me they think of luthiers as an easy mark. I suspect any guy who has a couple instruments under his belt, would not buy at those prices(because he has learned what the market values are). The builder that it would seem would be more suseptable would be a on their first couple builds(and may not know the market or understand grading). I would hope that any new builder who reads this does not fall prey to this kind of pricing. I am sure more experienced builders will be more than happy to allow these dealers to build up huge surplus stock by not buying from them.

Frustrated,

Rich

P.S. Take note, I am not mentioning company names nor will I, as I don't think that is a good idea on Brians forum. I am just curious what you guys have experienced. If anyone working for a dealer, and some of what I am talking about hits close to home. Take note of some of the responses, as I suspect these are going to be potential customers that you are losing.

I have complained on this forum about wood pricing before. Even at reasonable pricing mentioned per a board ft you have to be Kidding me. You wonder why some one was building a guitar out of pine on a recient post.

I equate wood pricing to my pet peeve about the Grizzly president showing off his instruments as a reason to buy his tools???. How many expensive pieces of inlay and precious stones can he crowd onto an instrument. Yeah we all have jobs as presidents of companies who get free equipment, free wood and a staff who can make any jig we could ever want. I personally find the show insulting given his position in the company. How about show casing Joe Blow who really works for a living and has to pay for the tools. Its the same pet peeve I have with people who inflate wood pricing by calling it instrument grade wood and then jacking up the profits 1000 fold.

If you have the capabilities to do your own milling there are local dealers who provide wood for all trades not just instrument building. To put the label on wood as instrument quality is also a misnomer. No veneer maker pays these prices for high grade lumber to turn into veneer or the veneer would cost a fortune per slice. Same goes for large manufacturers of high grade instruments.

How can a normal guy who cant afford to order wood at $75 bd ft or $250 bd ft make a quality instrument.You just have to spend the time looking through wood piles and make friends with a few local dealers willing to call you if something you are looking for comes in. I have a local place called Willard Brothers in NJ. Other than table top slabs most of the wood they sell is well within reason and if you look long and hard enough you can find some great bargains. You may have to buy a board with a small section that qualifies as "instrument quality" but the pricing is closer to home depot than super guitar wood supplier. Build something else from the rest of the board like a spice rack LOL.

Other options are to use alternative woods, woods not normally associated with guitar building. I have some beautiful riff cut white oak which I believed cost me $5 a board ft 8 years ago. Its needs to be milled on a band saw for sides and backs but I believe it will make a beautiful instrument. Highly figured. Pricing is still probably close but if it becomes popular instrument wood the price will skyrocket.

If I knew wood would be this high I would have sold my 401K and invested in high grade AAAA+ lumber 10 years ago. The whole instrument wood thing bites and for the most part is for suckers. Fine wood working had an article on local sawmills; who you have to search out, but prices are great and I am sure a bargain for a small builder. Make friends get off the computer, bring gloves and a tape measure and save a fortune.

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fry, just busting chops. Course that board was 8" x 96" so I have a few good sized chunks left. :D

We go through lumber price fluctations all day at work. As far as price hiking for "instrument grade" I'll have to keep my mouth shut as I've never really spent alot of time shopping for super grade materials.

Edited by DougK
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My biggest beef, REGARDLESS of price, is to go to a website and see "instrument grade" and have it not be quartersawn. And I'm not talking about body blanks, or drop tops, no one really in the end cares what the grain orientation is on those, they just care how they look. But when you get guys throwing out pure-riftsawn back/sides, or worse, flatsawn in species known to be unstable and selling this stuff, it just kills me. Same goes for fretboards, and ESPECIALLY necks! Necks are the worst of them all!!! They NEED to be quartered (or at least laminate style with opposing grain). And like I said, it's not so much the price that kills me, but the total disregard for their buyer's instruments' well-being. They're knowingly selling them, for example, a neck blank that could easily warp in a manner that the truss rod can't help (say it's 45 rift). That's just plain rude.

Chris

PS: And for those of you that know I'm not partial to using rift/flatsawn wood in SOME species for backs and sides, there's a difference between milling your own for yourself, and selling it to others.

Edited by verhoevenc
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I have complained on this forum about wood pricing before. Even at reasonable pricing mentioned per a board ft you have to be Kidding me. You wonder why some one was building a guitar out of pine on a recient post.

If I knew wood would be this high I would have sold my 401K and invested in high grade AAAA+ lumber 10 years ago. The whole instrument wood thing bites and for the most part is for suckers. Fine wood working had an article on local sawmills; who you have to search out, but prices are great and I am sure a bargain for a small builder. Make friends get off the computer, bring gloves and a tape measure and save a fortune.

I’m not taking issue with these statements but in all honesty I really can’t agree with them. If you are buying run of the mill maple then I agree but if you are buying select hardwoods or even endangered hardwoods you need to be prepared to pay the high prices. AAAA quilted maple isn’t as available as it once used to be.

Also, it’s not uncommon to see someone selling a “custom built” guitar for 4-10K when we all know that it cost nowhere near that amount to make. Even with expensive hardwoods you generally get away with about 1K or less in costs so there is an obvious mark up for “labor.”

I wouldn’t consider it a stretch of the imagination to say that if AAAA maple dropped to 1.00 a BF, that savings would end up in most of our pickets and not in our customers.

Price gouging goes from the bottom to the top when you talk about custom instruments.

I do disagree with people labeling inferior lumber higher than it should be just to sell to new builders. It takes me a full day to rummage around the mill I go to just to get enough lumber to build a few guitars because I’m so picky on what I want. However, like I said earlier, cost is not a determining factor when I find that great piece I’ve been hunting.

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I have complained on this forum about wood pricing before. Even at reasonable pricing mentioned per a board ft you have to be Kidding me. You wonder why some one was building a guitar out of pine on a recient post.

If I knew wood would be this high I would have sold my 401K and invested in high grade AAAA+ lumber 10 years ago. The whole instrument wood thing bites and for the most part is for suckers. Fine wood working had an article on local sawmills; who you have to search out, but prices are great and I am sure a bargain for a small builder. Make friends get off the computer, bring gloves and a tape measure and save a fortune.

I’m not taking issue with these statements but in all honesty I really can’t agree with them. If you are buying run of the mill maple then I agree but if you are buying select hardwoods or even endangered hardwoods you need to be prepared to pay the high prices. AAAA quilted maple isn’t as available as it once used to be.

Also, it’s not uncommon to see someone selling a “custom built” guitar for 4-10K when we all know that it cost nowhere near that amount to make. Even with expensive hardwoods you generally get away with about 1K or less in costs so there is an obvious mark up for “labor.”

I wouldn’t consider it a stretch of the imagination to say that if AAAA maple dropped to 1.00 a BF, that savings would end up in most of our pickets and not in our customers.

Price gouging goes from the bottom to the top when you talk about custom instruments.

I do disagree with people labeling inferior lumber higher than it should be just to sell to new builders. It takes me a full day to rummage around the mill I go to just to get enough lumber to build a few guitars because I’m so picky on what I want. However, like I said earlier, cost is not a determining factor when I find that great piece I’ve been hunting.

You are right that the wood is not the most expensive part of a guitar that is in the 4K+ range. That is all about the luthiers skill, reputation, branding and so forth. Bear in mind consistent quality, reliable performance, stability and such are to a great extent originating from manufacturers who can't afford to have wood that does not meet spec (if they tried to use random cuts and quality it would be too risky when you consider the more significant costs). Many factories turned to milling their own wood, just because they couldn't get proper cuts and consistency from most dealers (not to slight some dealers that really are able to deliver, because they understand the requirements).

A good thing to keep in mind is that retailers mark up instruments heavily. A factory that is producing acoustic guitars that retail for $1000 has to be able to deliver them with very high quality and reliability for about half that or less (and by deliver, I mean cost and their profit). Making a high quality acoustic with a cost to produce, deliver and stay profitable at $500 is not so easy. Consider that I have heard most factory finishing amounts to 30% or so of the production cost. If a factory is able to net 15% or $75 on a guitar and they have a flaw in two guitars finishes that day, they just made 8 or 9 guitars guitars just to cover the cost of the defective ones. What if they have a run of bad necks on a couple days production (imagine how many you have to make to break even). Not a business I would want to be involved in. The higher the dollar the instrument, the more demanding the buyer will be, and thus the greater the risk of losses or returns if more dollars are not spent to keep up quality and consistency. I think of Taylors task as being an almost unbelievable accomplishment, but man they pull it off well. Think about the common $300(retail) acoustic in the same light.

The fact that you can sort through lumber at a mill and seek out cuts that will fit the bill, is a product of your experience and training. My biggest problem is that many dealers do not have a person on staff that has that knowledge and can sort or direct processing. Yet they feel free to grade the wood to these standards, and of course jack up the price ten fold.

Chris makes a good point about certain cuts can be acceptable to hobbiest builders (cuts that a factory would not want to use, for various reasons). This is perfectly fine for the builder to make that choice. That wood does not meet the standards for "musical grade" though and dealers should not be charging for a grade the wood does not meet.

A person that makes pool cues would be in the same boat. They have specific requirements that relate to stability. If a dealer took a hunk of wood that met the dimensional requirements, yet was green or had wild grain. It should not be graded and priced as shaft stock. Some dealers would see the premium cue makers pay, note the species, and have at the market. That is just wrong.

A dealer that wants to sell acoustic soundboard stock may see a reputable company selling a billet(dimensional) produced from a hand split bolt. They have no idea why or how it was produced, but they see the species and dimensions. Maybe they even pick up on the fact it is quartersawn, and has a bunch of rings per inch. So they grab some stock sawn somewhat close to quarter, and possibly pretty much vertical grain, and call it soundboard stock. They look at the price of high grade soundboards(say it is $75 for whatever species), and figure a person could cut 5 sets from this hunk of wood. Thus they slap a $300 price tag on it. I often see dealers place prices not based on board footage of the wood, instead basing pricing on number of parts that can possibly be obtained from a piece (if they want to do that they should make the parts, but they don't want to take the risk or spend the money processing). If a dealer wants to specialize then do it, and invest in doing it right. If not then don't sell wood as something it is not, or may or may not be.

Peace,Rich

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I agree with your assessment rich but it is also the responsibility of the builder to make sure he has the knowledge to choose a piece of wood for the job at hand. Maybe too many people rely on others to pick and choose wood for a project. Not every beautiful guitar has to have a AAAA side set or 20+ rings per inch on the top. I always thought the object was to be able to exert some control over your materials. If a dealer cant figure out a true riff cut piece from a piece thats off slightly then its what you, claim plain gouging to make a profit.

My point about buying wood some what related to your statement. But being in control of your materials.

First I don't remember maple being an imported product nor it being an endangered species. Its the luck of the mill if they come across a really special piece worthy of the AAAA grade. I don't know anyone who can look at a maple tree and say hey that one's worth its weight in gold. If you can I have a few trees you can look at.

Hight prices are due to high demand yes, but the prices you see at some specialty dealers selling "instrument grade" milled back and side sets in AAAA maple are just insane, slab prices are also very high for a domestic species. If the cut is off you have been ripped off. Somewhere down the chain the markup is getting larger. Maybe its the new US gold rush.

I will go back to my original statement, if you spend the time to find a local guy do some foot work (OK you are not going to find someone selling maple in NV) but on the east coast, PA NY MA and other states you don't have lines of luthiers waiting for top grade lumber to come off the saw. Sure they will charge you a premium above a plain slab but nothing like I have seen online and even on ebay. You should have some skill in viewing the grain and points about a particular board. Is it completely dry maybe not but patience is a virtue with wood. I see a big difference in attitude from guitar builders and general woodworkers as to what is a fair price for lumber.

My last note on the subject is the fact that 30 years ago (yes I have been around) you could not go online and buy wood (yeah no computers imagine that), you got out of your house and made a visit to your local mill or dealer. Guitar makers and cabinet makers were still using AAAA grade maple but the price difference were not like they are today. Before that you had to find a tree and cut it yourself.

I would assume Taylor has a rep who visits mills and marks pieces for purchase rather than relying on others.

If anyone is old enough to remember HL Wild in NYC let me know 13th street lower east side.

Its the same with swamp ash, Its just ash. So why would you spend $50 + on a body? Mahogany is cheaper at my local dealer.

May I suggest a large chain saw as an alternative source of cheap wood and some people who need a few trees cleared LOL. I have some lovely Pear to slice into sides and backs from my neighbors inability to prune his trees to withstand high winds (luckily me) as well as many board feet of ash and oak all $0 per board ft. That is if you are willing to do some work yourself.

I also understand if you are a builder you may not have the time to build and find wood but some do.

Edited by Woodenspoke
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Woodenspoke,

Your right, and I would love to open a discussion on alternatives, what to look for in the wood you choose, drying wood, cutting wood, how to detect figure in a maple log(presence, not absolute assurance of look), small portable mill opperators, what we should understand about wood as builders and so forth. The key here is that the most likely person to need the services of a wood dealer are those who have not been doing this long enough to know what to look for, and a person who has limited access. My main point in this thread is to point out my frustration with certain dealers that are really going over the top(although my upper threshold is more like yours, I leave room for a qualified dealer that meets common market pricing) with pricing AND have no qualification to actually grade "instrument" wood.

Maybe a topic on where to find, what to look for, what to do with it when you get it, and so forth. Would be good, actually those are probably all seperate topics that would relate.

Peace,Rich

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I think something that I am going to do from now on is find wood from torn down houses and use as much of that as I can for body wood. I mean, hey I love the look of nice, high grade wood. But if say maple from an old house thats been torn down is laying around somewhere headed to be made into woodchips or something, it might be good to ask the people removing it if you can have the piece.

But to really address what Rich was saying here, yeah the wood prices are pretty high. It hurts for someone to be learning nowadays because if you make a huge mistake and trash the body or neck, you just basically burned your own money. I bought a large plank of redwood maybe 2 1/8 thick, only cost me $35 on eBay. Now, eBay is NOT the best or even really a great source of wood, yet if I can find it for cheap, I'll take the risk. For the most part, I've received good wood for my money. The alder I'm using on my guitar now cost around $30 dollars, and its a nice solid one piece of alder. Good color, good grain, no problems. It sucks to see a lot of the big manufacturers or parts supply websites or stores selling alder blanks for $80!!! I can't afford that! It's really just not a buyer's market for us humble guitar builders.

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I think something that I am going to do from now on is find wood from torn down houses and use as much of that as I can for body wood. I mean, hey I love the look of nice, high grade wood. But if say maple from an old house thats been torn down is laying around somewhere headed to be made into woodchips or something, it might be good to ask the people removing it if you can have the piece.

But to really address what Rich was saying here, yeah the wood prices are pretty high. It hurts for someone to be learning nowadays because if you make a huge mistake and trash the body or neck, you just basically burned your own money. I bought a large plank of redwood maybe 2 1/8 thick, only cost me $35 on eBay. Now, eBay is NOT the best or even really a great source of wood, yet if I can find it for cheap, I'll take the risk. For the most part, I've received good wood for my money. The alder I'm using on my guitar now cost around $30 dollars, and its a nice solid one piece of alder. Good color, good grain, no problems. It sucks to see a lot of the big manufacturers or parts supply websites or stores selling alder blanks for $80!!! I can't afford that! It's really just not a buyer's market for us humble guitar builders.

Reclaiming wood is a wonderful thing to do, be it for guitars or any other project (cheers!). Guys, Look around your area for people who have bought small mills and set up small kilns to reclaim trees that are being cut down for construction, or other various reasons. They are doing a great service in reclaiming these trees that would otherwise be turned into firewood or barkdust. Even try to contact contact companies that offer tree trimming and falling services. They often have some wood available. These are good things to do, and can make buying wood a bit easier on the wallet. Just remember when you do buy this way, and if it is for an instrument, learn how to care for the wood properly and what to select (don't buy just because something is cheap, buy right for a fair price).

Ebay is hit and miss. I have bought a couple pieces from dealers that really deliver. I have also bought wood that was a bad deal. As an example; I bought a piece of Redwood once that was supposed to be top notch verticle grain (and paid a reasonable price for it with shipping considered). It arrived, I put my moisture meter on it and what do you know... 28%. I paid about twice what I would have for green wood, so it was actually not a bargain or even fair price at all. If you can forget Ebay, avoid shipping, and buy local :D

Peace,Rich

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I think we are all victims somewhere down the wood chain. Yes I have bought beautiful wood at reasonable prices during my lifetime and hope to buy more someday. I guess I have had luck buying over the phone or online. I think if you have to rely on a non local dealer at some point you will be burned or he will turn on his customers and jack up prices.

I can tell from the removal of old boards from a house this PG board is filled with limited fund master builders LOL.

I think Rich the markup throughout every industry is crazy. The only thing that has gone down is the price of a completed guitar from the two major guitar manufacturers fighting over market share. I also ride bicycles and a bike costs less today and is better than it was 12 years ago. But buy a helmet or a pair of cycling shoes and the price is outrageous.

The sum of the parts does not justify individual costs. I empathize with your frustration and also wish for sanity to return but I don't see bike helmet pricing or "instrument grade wood" (man I hate that label) going down either.

Learn to put AAAA veneer on AA boards, ha ha. I have two Gibson ES-175's with plywood tops I have to sell, plywood top is 3K with a good veneer. Figure that one out? Honestly I have been clueless for many years when it comes to wood pricing.

Edited by Woodenspoke
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