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Commission Pricing...


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My uncle has taken an interest in my building and asked about hiring me to build him a custom. Obviously for family Im gonna hook him up when he finally does place his order, but the future is looking bright as far as commission prospects are concerned, so I wanted to know what is a good price point for a custom job. Mainly labor charges, I can figure out cost. Keep in mind that Im still pretty new to this, but I feel like I have a pretty good feel for what im doing since Im experiencing building many types of guitars with many different components and finishes, and im very meticulous about my work. For the most part I dont plan on having access to a CNC, at least for a good while after I finish school, so pretty much everything will be hand built. . I feel like it would be beneficial to offer a "product line", with a few body types and woods to chose from, then let the customer decide on the rest. I guess every "business" needs its own buisness model and I really should come up with my own if I plan to seriously build guitars to sell. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to further develop this Harmonic Core concept if it turns out to be a hit. Its probably too soon to really be asking these questions, but once I get a thought in my head it doesnt go away until I voice it (or post it :D ). And no, I dont plan on doing this full-time. I just want to use it as a vehicle to practice my new found hobby!

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Well, as with anything else, it's a balance between what you think your time is worth and what someone else thinks your WORK is worth.

In my mind, ~$1500 would be the abject minimum for a hand-built, simple solidbody guitar. But that was just from my own calculations a few years ago--I don't remember the breakdown.

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as far as family and friends go at this early stage in your career- i suggest you charge them for parts (or just a little more to help buy/maintain tools) and be glad someone is helping you improve and practice your guitar building i.e. they are paying for your hobby!

whilst doing this keep a record of how long each step is taking you and research the price you think your guitars should be going for. then you can more realistically work out what you can possibly earn for the speed you work at

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I agree with Wezv about keeping a record. That way you can find out how much you are making hourly as well, which sometime isn't always fun depending on your price. I usually charge so I make around $200 profit since I am not the greatest at building and I just enjoy building.

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+1 to everything said above. You have to remember that your costs doing this as a hobby are a lot different than as a full time business. My time is worth something to me, but I am building as a hobby, so I would be spending my time on it anyway. I am not concerned what my hourly rate works out to. If I was running a full time business I would analyze my costs a lot further than I do now.

There was a thread about this not very long ago. See if you can find it, it got a few pages long and had a lot of good info.

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Does it count if Ive started building five? :D And designed many more than that...Truth be told, I have yet to actually finish a guitar, but aside from fretting, Ive experienced pretty much avery aspect of building. I can spray and mix chemicals (auto body work) and I have wired robotics and digital electronics, so im expecting those aspect to be be less of a challenge for me than the woodworking part, which im finding I kind of have a knack for. Obviously I made a few mistakes during the course of my current builds, and I have learned from them, so with more care I shouldnt have any repeats. I dont plan on slaying new dragons (experimenting) on a commission build either. When I take on a carve top by hand, I will figure it out on my own guitars before using those techniques on a commission build. I honestly dont expect to be cranking out a new build avery month or so like some of you guys. I was thinking maybe 3 a year at best. Like I said, I get these wild ideas in my head that just dont go away until I make some attempt at resolving them. This thread is my attempt at doing that. Besides, when I start making money on building guitars rather than getting poorer, Ill be able to donate to this fantastic forum!

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Does it count if Ive started building five? :D

No not really.

<soapbox>

Sorry to be blunt but we had a discussion about it and most felt 10 was the magic number... My stance was that 10 of the same model might qualify. I build so many crazy one off guitars that 10 was not enough. Every new design leads to new gotchas and problems.

Once you start to get good at the physical aspect of building a good playing guitar you can get into the "voodoo" of technique and wood choices and all the things that make a great guitar. It is an art.

</soapbox> :D

Perry covers it quite well right here Can I build a better guitar?

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No not really.

<soapbox>

Sorry to be blunt but we had a discussion about it and most felt 10 was the magic number... My stance was that 10 of the same model might qualify. I build so many crazy one off guitars that 10 was not enough. Every new design leads to new gotchas and problems.

Once you start to get good at the physical aspect of building a good playing guitar you can get into the "voodoo" of technique and wood choices and all the things that make a great guitar. It is an art.

</soapbox> :D

Perry covers it quite well right here Can I build a better guitar?

No need for apologies, I totally get what youre saying. I remember that discussion. Like I said, I have no intension to go into production as a full time builder, and I dont profess to build higher than mid-range quality guitars either. In fact, I wouldnt even mind building entry level guitars at this point, but I understand thats a hard feat considering the overheard cost of a small-time hand builder. So after I finish my current builds and the "commission" for my uncle, that will put the tally up to 6, then I still have my LP and Crimson King bass. To do for myself in addition to a few other ideas Ive been hangin onto to use as gifts. By the time I start doing actual commissions, I should have 10-12 guitars under my belt. So your magic number doesnt sound so ridiculous to me. The voodoo is definately way out of my leage at this point. Ill worry about that in 5 years when Ive finally gotten the hang of building mid priced guitars. Ive seen the progress of some of the "younger" guys on this forum, and its true, with practice comes perfection, then theres guys like you RAD,who take guitar building to a whole other lever, voodoo indeed! Thanks for the replies everyone!

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Truth be told, I have yet to actually finish a guitar, but aside from fretting, Ive experienced pretty much avery aspect of building.

that is a rather crucial thing right there. if i were you i would get a couple of dirt cheap ebay necks to refret - should get you well on course so you are less likely to fumble it on your main builds.

also, try to remember most(but not all) low and mid priced guitars are actually shockingly well built for the money ... almost all of them come with better fretwork than you will achieve on your first few attempts, and thats assuming you learn fast!! Thats why its an important skill to be working on as soon as possible

dont underestimate the importance of set-up either , particularly the neck, fret and nut set-up tasks.

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dont underestimate the importance of set-up either , particularly the neck, fret and nut set-up tasks.

This is good advice Muffin. Its where i started my obsession for guitars and building, im sure if you asked the other guys on this site they would say the same thing.

My skills im sure aren't to the same caliber of some on here, but ive managed to turn some really bad setup guitars, cheap and expensive into really some real players with a fret dress and proper setup. The satisfaction you get when you give it back to the owner can be very rewarding.

Goodluck with the future commission's. Put in the time to learn the skills and go for it.

Chad.

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This is good advice Muffin. Its where i started my obsession for guitars and building, im sure if you asked the other guys on this site they would say the same thing.

My skills im sure aren't to the same caliber of some on here, but ive managed to turn some really bad setup guitars, cheap and expensive into really some real players with a fret dress and proper setup. The satisfaction you get when you give it back to the owner can be very rewarding.

Goodluck with the future commission's. Put in the time to learn the skills and go for it.

Chad.

Same here. I started by taking guitars apart and re-building them and doing set-ups. It is very rewarding when your work is apreciated.

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It sounds better if its not referred to as a commission, more like your building for your relative which Im sure a lot of people here have done. The 'C' word sounds like you're in business. Parts at cost and a little added on to get you into your next build is my suggestion, not $1500. I also recall the '10' thread having great advice and ideas. Good luck -Vinny

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It sounds better if its not referred to as a commission, more like your building for your relative which Im sure a lot of people here have done. The 'C' word sounds like you're in business. Parts at cost and a little added on to get you into your next build is my suggestion, not $1500. I also recall the '10' thread having great advice and ideas. Good luck -Vinny

This is more along the lines of what I expected in a response to this thread. I really appreciate the advice from all of you guys, and I will definitely take it to heart, but if youve taken the time to read through all of my posts in this topic than you have noticed that most of the responses take me more seriously than even I do at this point. If I were an experienced and seasoned luthier, I hopeI wouldnt need answers to these questions. I admit, I may have posted this prematurely, but its something Ive been curious about and I appreciate the feedback from you all.

Yes, I am interested in building guitars to sell...

And yes, I understand I am rather inexperienced to be thinking about taking on such a feat...

Lets put it this way: In a couple of years or so, when I have learned much more about the art of guitar building, I would like to see if my work is something people would be willing to pay for. I already know my uncle thinks he is, but maybe he doesnt count. Regardless, Im not an aspiring luthier. Im not even an amateur guitar builder. I am simply a designer who feels that there are very few new guitar body designs that are aesthetically pleasing and different enough from tradition to warrant their production. And I happen to enjoy making the things I design.

All that being said, I am not be opposed to building a guitar for someone (or for myself) that is a design other than my own, (unless its an ugly one) just so long as I get to do it my way. :D I have no misconception that I will eventually be doing this for anything other than as a hobby, but in order to justify building many more, I will have to sell them. I would love to keep building and fill an entire room in my house with custom one-off guitars designed especially for me, by me, but my wife would kill me and I dont have a room, much less a house! I more than anything was wondering what you guys suggest charging for labor. Obviously your high level of experience makes your time much more valuable than mine which is something I will have to factor in myself when I do start charging.

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You're in the same boat I was several years ago, heck for the most part even to this day. Do I dream of building guitars for a living, hell yeah. Do I think it will come true, probably not but I am still going to work towards it and have a great hobby and a ton of fun along the way.

My wife loathes everytime I have a design program on the screen because she knows I am working a guitar design. She also knows that if I am working on a design, it will turn into a guitar in the near future. Like you I have nowhere to go with them, but I still want to build them. So the only alternative is to sell them. The first few go up on eBay or to small local stores for reasonable prices. My name is not Leo Fender so there is no way they will sell my guitars for the same price as a decent Fender, even if my quality surpasses Fender or Gibson (which is not really that hard to do). For the first several all I seek is to recoup my costs and enough money to maybe buy a new tool, or some new saw blades or get bits sharpened.

Check out the other thread on commisions, it will give you a lot more answers.

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