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Alder Body With Mahogany Neck?


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Some Epiphone guitars have this combo, I'm guessing because alder is cheaper to get and make a guitar out of than mahog. It doesn't sound too tonally desirable to me, but I've always been partial to something more dense/stiff as a neck. Alder is a nice body wood, though.

http://epiphone.com/default.asp?ProductID=...CollectionID=16

Example.

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Some Epiphone guitars have this combo, I'm guessing because alder is cheaper to get and make a guitar out of than mahog. It doesn't sound too tonally desirable to me, but I've always been partial to something more dense/stiff as a neck. Alder is a nice body wood, though.

http://epiphone.com/default.asp?ProductID=...CollectionID=16

Example.

Wronghead :D

Mahogany's a fantastic neck wood. And with a couple CF bars, it's got a little more snap, and makes a wonderfully articulate neck, not too heavy, fun to carve, and prettier than maple.

Then again, I freely admit my mahogany fanboi nature.

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Why would anybody question mahogany as a neck wood? It’s been used for a few hundred years without any issues. You don’t need a carbon fiber rod for stiffness and I’d really doubt that two carbon fiber rods due much for tonal response. All you need to do is look at just about any Gibson product to find a stable mahogany neck.

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CF rods make a clear change to the tap tone, that's certain. Anyone who's installed them and tapped the neck before and after should be able to confirm that. If nothing else, they make response up and down the neck more consistent, and stiffening the whole structure up affects resonance. I like what it does, I like the added stability (adjustability remains just fine), allows a little more flexibility (no need to worry about long necks).

Also, frankly, I don't look to Gibson for any pointers on how to do things right on necks; they've got shoddy headstock design, shoddy truss rod access, an idiotic binding/fretting system, frequently poor joinery at the neck, and inconsistent fret and finish work. Sure, some LPs sound great and look great, but they're not what I'd call well designed.

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Now, I'm not trying to start a flame, but I have to comment on that. Everyone is allowed their opinion, Likewise, everyone is allowed to voice it. But...

Taking either of the big 2, Fender or Gibson, and saying that they make a crap product... the statement just lacks credibility. Sure, we could all point out a flaw in just about anything, but to try and say that there are that many issues with the products of the top-flight makers doesn't jibe with me.

If that statement was made about Epiphone & Squire, or about the lower end models of the main lines, I probably wouldn't argue it. But to make a blanket statement like that.... no.

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Sorry, but that's a classic case of an appeal to authority: 'Gibson and Fender are market leaders, therefore they make good products'. Classic logical fallacy.

Just because a major manufacturer does something doesn't make it a great way to do things. It's traditional, and there's a bunch of rabid brand fans who will not tolerate anything but that old-timey goodness and tradition, and Gibson knows this full well. They're not trying to sell innovation, they're selling tradition. You'll note I'm not saying they make a crap product (although Gibson, for the price, should be better than it is on average, compared to the rest of the marketplace - PRS for example. That's my opinion, anyway), but that Gibson's neck design isn't well thought out from any perspective:

1) Headstock - one-piece, short grain, notorious for breaking, keeps repair shops in business

2) Truss rod access: giant access cavity in an already none-too-strong headstock

3) Binding: the 'binding over fret ends' approach may look fine, but it's terrible if you need to refret, and as it shrinks (as plastic does, and wood often can), it's a great place to get strings caught between. Not well deisgned.

4) Neck joinery: there's that picture on the web that Gibson published themselves, on their website, showing some impressively massive gaps in their short and long tenon neck joints. It's not pretty.

5) Finish work: not up to the standard of others in the same price class (again, PRS), and there's no excuse for that.

6) Design: Les Pauls are not really very ergonomic; heavy slabs, no contouring around the back. They're designed to look like an archtop, but solidbody style. Pretty, yes. Traditional, certianly. Well designed? Not really. Although few guitars are, to be completely fair, and tradition sort of locks them in (in terms on traditional guitars we've got the strat, perhaps, and only to a point).

Those are my main issues with Les Pauls, and what I was referring to. The neck issue is common to pretty much all Gibsons, and quite a number of other makers as well. They also introduced a number of fantastic innovations in their time, such as humbuckers (or at least popularised them) and the adjustable truss rod. Also, we're talking about the majority of their output, which is not the Custom Shop Gibsons. Although most of the criticisms above apply to those as well, because they're poor design choices (IMO).

Fender, well, has a lot more logic behind its designs, although its mostly based on a mass manufacturing aesthetic and system; standardised sizes, readily available woods, ease of assembly and wiring and interchangability of parts. Their neck, though, is solidly designed, and one of the strongest headstocks out there. String trees are perhaps not a fantastic part of that, but you always have to make certain pragmatic choices, balancing function and aesthetics; guitars are more than merely tools for making music.

I'm up for a good debate, but the arguments better have a little more merit than 'It's Gibson/Fender/Martin, therefore its good'.

Edited by Mattia
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I have seen a $1700 Gibson explorer(I owned it) with the world's worst fret job,and I have owned a les paul studio plus with the most gorgeous craftsmanship possible,top to bottom....The quality is not consistent,but I have always felt it is a good product overall,especially with so much worse out there these days.The worst thing about Gibson is the total lack of desire to keep up with the market's demands for variety.

Fender I am not a fan of.I feel the "trem" bridge is horrible....

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First, I'm glad you took this the way it was intended. A debate is great. If I wanted an arguement, though... I certainly don't go looking for them. I have an ex-wife that' brings me plenty. :D

With the added explanation, I can see some of your points. My general thought is that they're one of the industry leaders, and have been for 50+ years, for a reason. True, they sell more on tradition than innovation. The same can be said of Fender. PRS hasn't offered any real innovation, just a well made product. The way I see it, the last true mass-market innovation came from Steinberger, and that was over 20 years ago. Now it's not even in showrooms. The traditionalists (Gibson) killed it.

In that light, one can say the entire industry sells itself on tradition. It's all just variations on a theme. A new body shape isn't innovation, it's repacakging. The construction techniques, electronics, hardware, it's all the same. The bells & whistles change, but nothing else. This is not to disparage any manufacturer or to say there are no quality differences, but to say the basic product is fairly static.

All things being the same (which they aren't, but let's go with it for a second), what's the real difference between an Les Paul and a BC Rich? A Fender Strat and a Peavey Strat? The wood, the finish, maybe the wiring setup... you get the point. What's the REAL difference? Quality.

The big names earned their reputation. With so many options out there, they need to make dang sure they live up to the expectations the customers have based on the reputation their name is associated with. They've earned their spot on the top of the chain, and they ned to work hard to stay there. That they remain is, to me, testimony to the consistency and quality of their product.

All that being said, every guitar has design flaws. Most of those so-called flaws are left because to change them makes the guitar into something other than what it is. Les Pauls are dang heavy and the upper register of the neck is difficult to access. But that weight and design gives the guitar it's character. The SG solved those problems, but it's just not the same thing. Fender makes it's guitars out of really inexpensive wood. They always have. But that wood helped give it the characteristics and affordability that built the company. You just can't monkey with a proven 60 year formula for success. The flaws are necessary for their product.

Unfortunately, many of them are also left there because of financial considerations. A tilt-back headstock is just fine. You can get more necks from the wood if you make the headstock out of a different piece, so two pieces it is. It doesn't matter if a one piece neck is better, because it's more expensive. The Sumarium Cobalt magnets (supposedly) eliminate the 60-cycle hum without changing the characteristics of a single-coin pickup. They are a LOT more expensive, though, so Fender only offers them as a pricey custom shop aftermarket product. The customer can just do what they've been doing tor decades - deal with it - because there's a bottom line to be met.

Ultimately, though, there is a certain high level of quality in the major manufacturers. No one design is perfect, but these proven design have survived the test of time. While I will not say Gibson=great or Fender=fantastic, I feel they've earned the benefit of the doubt.

In the long run, I don't think anyone would argue this: If you want the best possible quality and workmanship, go to a private luthier. They're made one at a time, by hand, by folks who have an unrepentant love of the instrument. I happy for you that you have $5000 to spend on something that 's going to sound almost identical to a Gibson or Fender. :D

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i agree with the others, gibson definately dont build guitars the best way... you only have to look at an SG with all its inherent design flaws to see that. but people like SG's anyway. as a builder i think they are an awfull design but aesthetically they are undoubtably cool and who am i to argue with Pete townsend and Tony Iommi

As mattia says, CF bars can actually improve the sound of a guitar. i use them frequently , especially on longer necks because i feel they help to reduce those 'dead' spots.

Unfortunately, many of them are also left there because of financial considerations. A tilt-back headstock is just fine. You can get more necks from the wood if you make the headstock out of a different piece, so two pieces it is. It doesn't matter if a one piece neck is better, because it's more expensive.

i have a problem with this because to me a one piece neck is an old fashioned way to build that can be a detriment to the guitar with the quality of todays wood. I am not saying a single luthier that spends a long time choosing wood shouldnt use a single piece neck but i think for gibson to do it on the scale they do inevitably means a compromise in quality and a waste of valuable resources. there is a reason so many gibsons suffer from broken headstocks, and that was happening when they had much better stocks of wood, a well spliced headstock would be much stronger and economical with no appreciable difference in tone but its not what people want when they buy a real LP.

i was speaking to someone recently who had purchased a new gibson SG and he was very excited about the fact the neck mahogany had some flame to it. I didnt want to burst his bubble but to me it was a major flaw. SG's have unstable necks anyway and using figured wood just shows that they have less straight grained mahogany available... now if i trusted gibson enough to install some CF bars it could really be a feature but they just cant respond to the individual pieces of wood in the way a luthier can

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I try to take the best of both worlds.

I like the scooped Fender headstock better than the scarf cut Gibson headstock. However, I like the bigger nut and the 3x3 style of Gibson headstock

I like the standard Fender 25.5” scale with the Gibson profile.

So I make 25.5” scale Gibson Profile necks with a scooped 3x3 headstock with a block bone nut. Best of both worlds for me!

http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j287/ZDG...it/100_3332.jpg

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I don't think we really disagree all that much, but I do think a lot of that percieved quality is a very well-oiled marketing machine working its magic, as it has for decades of guitarists. Their heroes play Les Pauls, Fender Strats, etc. Hell, I'm not immune to it myself; show me a Suhr Strat and a Custom Shop Fender, the Fender looks more 'right' than the Suhr could. And forget about Peavy's chances! That said, when I examine individual instruments, there is - like Wes says - way, way too much variation there.

PRS isn't innovative, but they've got fantastic quality control. As for innovations, I'd argue it's the small shop folks putting them out there, and yes, Steinberger did plenty (although not so much the headlessness as the use of modern composites; then again, folks like Rick Turner, with Alembic, and Modulus Graphite also contributed in a major way. Klein, ditto, with his ergonomic take). Fact of the matter is, guitarists are quite fundamentally traditionalist, and they killed them off. Innovative stuff now tends to be things that are relatively invisible but improve function, such as modern materials (CF, stainless steel), better designed hardware (locking hardware, cam action trems, just better engineered and built versions of existing hardware), modelling, etc. Acoustic steelstrings are almost more interesting these days, with alternate bracing schemes, on the fly adjustable neck joints, carbon fibre struts, side ports....were it not that all these innovations are things that have been done before, most over 100 years ago (except for the CF and composite top stuff, natch).

Obviously, to redesign the instrument entirely is to create an entirely new breed of instrument. I mean, there are non-wood guitars and basses out there, but I for one am not interested in building them; I like wood, and I like guitars more or less as they are. My own designs aren't particularly ground-breaking, but I like to think I have a rationale for how I do each thing that isn't based on 'because its tradition'. I can admire the skills and workmanship of builders who make immaculate, perfect, better-than-the-original copies of classic guitars, but I'm much more interested to see what the next Steve Klein, Harry Fleishmann, David Myka, Rick Turner turns out...

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The variation in quality from piece to piece is to be expected when there are that many being made. They are a factory after all. I'd agree with the QC of PRS. The only reason I can't include them with Fender & Gibson in the age of the company. In all other aspects, they're at minimum equals.

It's a real shame that all the true innovations are left by the wayside or just too dang expensive for anyone but the rich. You're right that the accepted innovations are largely invisible. Active pickups fall into that category. FWIW: I'd love to hear the Alumitone pickus. Getting away from the wire is a real step forward. Let's hope they catch on.

You know, I think the original point that was trying to be made was that mahogany is just fine for a neck. Gibson has been using it forever, and it's been doing just fine with it. This whole think went way off topic, but in a fun way.

Here's a thought: jatoba is around the same price as mahogany, but a dang sight harder. I bet it'd make a great neck.

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I think we all started building guitars because we weren't happy with the alternatives. That's why I started. I didn't want to pay 5k for a custom shop Gibson when I knew it only took them less than 1K to build it.

We all have our processes too. Every one of us make a guitar differently with no one way being the best.

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I think we all started building guitars because we weren't happy with the alternatives. That's why I started. I didn't want to pay 5k for a custom shop Gibson when I knew it only took them less than 1K to build it.

We all have our processes too. Every one of us make a guitar differently with no one way being the best.

So you understood as a begginer that the guitar cost them $1000 to build. Have you been building long enough to figure out why it costs more than that to build or why they sell for $5K? Or are you still adding up the cost of components?

Peace,Rich

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I've been building for over 10 years and I feel that a 500% mark up is just ridiculous but I also understand supply and demand and comparing standard building process over the custom build process. I personally don't make my primary living by building so I don't have the overhead that some do. I can see why the occasional builder makes 5K on their builds but I also understand that you can get the SAME quality from someone who chooses to offer their builds at a competitive price.

In honestly if you charge 5K for a guitar and lets say you have 1K invested in supplies to build it. It took you 40 hours to build you've basically charged $100.00 per hour to build. That's not much more than a good tattoo artist.

It all comes down to what the consumer is willing to pay and in a lot of cases they are willing to pay for a name when the quality can be the same else where.

It's a personal choice but I just don't think middle class should be excluded from the custom guitar market just because they can't shell out 5-7K for a guitar.

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I've been building for over 10 years and I feel that a 500% mark up is just ridiculous but I also understand supply and demand and comparing standard building process over the custom build process. I personally don't make my primary living by building so I don't have the overhead that some do. I can see why the occasional builder makes 5K on their builds but I also understand that you can get the SAME quality from someone who chooses to offer their builds at a competitive price.

In honestly if you charge 5K for a guitar and lets say you have 1K invested in supplies to build it. It took you 40 hours to build you've basically charged $100.00 per hour to build. That's not much more than a good tattoo artist.

It all comes down to what the consumer is willing to pay and in a lot of cases they are willing to pay for a name when the quality can be the same else where.

It's a personal choice but I just don't think middle class should be excluded from the custom guitar market just because they can't shell out 5-7K for a guitar.

Do you honestly believe Gibson recieves $5K for a guitar that retails for $5K?

How many one man custom shops put out 50 guitars consistently per. year(this is the 40hr. custom instrument)?

What do you believe a fair living wage is for a skilled luthier , and lets say this is the luthier putting out said 50 customs per. year?

If a person wants a custom hand made instrument, why should it cost the same as an "off the rack" production guitar? Should a middle class individual pay a skilled craftsman lower class wages so they can have their custom instrument? I think I understand you believe you want to charge less to make custom guitars than what companies who do this for a living. Given you don't have to make a living doing this, you probably could charge less(you don't need to make a dime doing it). You are not compairing apples to apples. Don't forget a professional luthier pays taxes just like the next guy, does a hobbiest who makes a guitar for his buddy pay taxes?

I am not going to get into debating quality, or experience of luthiers who can charge $5K for a custom guitar regularly vs a hobbiest who makes a few guitars a year. You can't deny the difference in resale value of these two different instruments(unknown hobbiest to established company).

Peace,Rich

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I've been building for over 10 years and I feel that a 500% mark up is just ridiculous but I also understand supply and demand and comparing standard building process over the custom build process. I personally don't make my primary living by building so I don't have the overhead that some do. I can see why the occasional builder makes 5K on their builds but I also understand that you can get the SAME quality from someone who chooses to offer their builds at a competitive price.

In honestly if you charge 5K for a guitar and lets say you have 1K invested in supplies to build it. It took you 40 hours to build you've basically charged $100.00 per hour to build. That's not much more than a good tattoo artist.

It all comes down to what the consumer is willing to pay and in a lot of cases they are willing to pay for a name when the quality can be the same else where.

It's a personal choice but I just don't think middle class should be excluded from the custom guitar market just because they can't shell out 5-7K for a guitar.

Do you honestly believe Gibson recieves $5K for a guitar that retails for $5K?

How many one man custom shops put out 50 guitars consistently per. year(this is the 40hr. custom instrument)?

What do you believe a fair living wage is for a skilled luthier , and lets say this is the luthier putting out said 50 customs per. year?

If a person wants a custom hand made instrument, why should it cost the same as an "off the rack" production guitar? Should a middle class individual pay a skilled craftsman lower class wages so they can have their custom instrument? I think I understand you believe you want to charge less to make custom guitars than what companies who do this for a living. Given you don't have to make a living doing this, you probably could charge less(you don't need to make a dime doing it). You are not compairing apples to apples. Don't forget a professional luthier pays taxes just like the next guy, does a hobbiest who makes a guitar for his buddy pay taxes?

I am not going to get into debating quality, or experience of luthiers who can charge $5K for a custom guitar regularly vs a hobbiest who makes a few guitars a year. You can't deny the difference in resale value of these two different instruments(unknown hobbiest to established company).

Peace,Rich

Well, You might have misunderstood what I was saying and yes I've seen custom shop Gibson's and PRS going in the 5K range. I'd also say that Moser custom shop is pumping out 50 guitars a year but he has a few builders working for him.

I'm not saying that a skilled luthier shouldn't charge 5k for a guitar especially if it is there only source of income. What I am saying is, most skilled luthier's tend to price themselves out of clients. Everyone knows they will pay more for a well crafted custom built guitar but in some cases builders value their work too high and price themselves out of the market. Allow the middle class the ability to purchase a guitar in the 3-4K range and you'll see everyone getting more work.

I look at building as a labor of love not a means to pay my bills so my outlook is different than the full time builder. I'd love to build the client base to afford me the ability to do this full time and if that was the case, my outlook could change but right now, I'd rather see people who really want and will use a custom built guitar get one, even if I only mark the guitar up to 2K.

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I try to take the best of both worlds.

I like the scooped Fender headstock better than the scarf cut Gibson headstock. However, I like the bigger nut and the 3x3 style of Gibson headstock

I like the standard Fender 25.5” scale with the Gibson profile.

So I make 25.5” scale Gibson Profile necks with a scooped 3x3 headstock with a block bone nut. Best of both worlds for me!

http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j287/ZDG...it/100_3332.jpg

Looks great, so you use string trees? Do you have any finished pics?

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Well, You might have misunderstood what I was saying and yes I've seen custom shop Gibson's and PRS going in the 5K range. I'd also say that Moser custom shop is pumping out 50 guitars a year but he has a few builders working for him.

I'm not saying that a skilled luthier shouldn't charge 5k for a guitar especially if it is there only source of income. What I am saying is, most skilled luthier's tend to price themselves out of clients. Everyone knows they will pay more for a well crafted custom built guitar but in some cases builders value their work too high and price themselves out of the market. Allow the middle class the ability to purchase a guitar in the 3-4K range and you'll see everyone getting more work.

I look at building as a labor of love not a means to pay my bills so my outlook is different than the full time builder. I'd love to build the client base to afford me the ability to do this full time and if that was the case, my outlook could change but right now, I'd rather see people who really want and will use a custom built guitar get one, even if I only mark the guitar up to 2K.

I think what Rich is referring to is the dealer discount; Gibson gets, on a good day, 60% of that 5,000 dollars per guitar, and that has to cover the distribution network, branding, management, factory, etc. etc. etc. Material costs are never the big ticket item.

Besides, 5,000 isn't all that expensive for a custom instrument. For a guitar, maybe, any other kind of student-grade instrument (anything orchestral) starts around there, and they often have even fewer material costs (violins, anyway, not cellos...). I have the same kind of 'business model' as you do (ie, my goal is to have the hobby support itself from here on out; guitar sales cover costs of more materials, tools, etc.), and yeah, so I charge the folks I build for (so far) at cost plus a few hundred for labour/reinvestement in tooling, etc.

It's a brutal marketplace, and handbuilders are competing for a small fraction of players (most want that Fender or Gibson, that's the dream guitar), and making something distinctive and interesting (creating your own brand) is difficult. Building copies is probably equally difficult, if for different reasons. Even those builders churning out guitars at 5,000 a pop are probably not making that fantastic a living at it, simply because those 40 hours are completely unrealistic. You might spend more than those 40 discussing details with the client, maintaining contact, documenting, planning, etc., and then another 60 (which is FAST) building the actual guitar, for an even 100 or so in Best Case Scenario land. If you can batch certain aspects (neck making, bracing, body routing, whatever), you can save a bunch of time, but that requires extremely tight workflow planning.

I admire those who make a living at this game; it's too stressful for me. I'll stick to medicine :D

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