Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Everyone Hopes to Sell Guitars they Build at Some Point

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by D_W_PGH, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

    Aug 28, 2018
    For all of you guys who make guitars, and have never sold one - this title comes out of two different posts:
    1) a couple of weeks ago, someone said in a debate on here that it's a given that everyone building guitars is hoping to get to the point that they're building for profit (paraphrased)
    2) in my rant thread about S-M, twice, people assumed that I was protecting a profit margin or trying to and hoping to find a cheap supply so that my pocket would be fatter

    I have zero interest in ever building a guitar for profit. I have a lot of interest in getting really good at it and then eventually building a couple of violins. Why? I don't know. I have a desire to build. Not a desire to build fast and many and make a lot of money, but to build - to make things that are stimulating to learn about.

    There are other technical problems with building for profit:
    * filing taxes
    * dealing with homeowners exclusions if insurance finds out you've sold something you've made for gain
    * know it all customers
    * getting stuck building things you wouldn't build if you weren't doing it for profit

    My friend, George, built for profit, but he is such a talented builder that he can build whatever he wants and people will ask him to build something similar for them.

    Anyone else have a desire to build really good guitars, and zero interest in ever making any money at it?
    RogerC likes this.
  2. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

    Aug 10, 2018
    In space with Ziggy
    I assemble guitars from parts but no guitar I piece together is ever done to sell. I hope to end up with a great player that I don't want to part with. I imagine most guys build from scratch with the same agenda.

    I suppose if I got organised to make my own bodies I might consider doing it to make money. Seems a lot easier to just sell bodies and necks though rather than completed guitars. Then again i'm a little lazy and i'm only into traditional style electrics.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    DrPepper likes this.
  3. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    I have zero desire to sell guitars for profit. Guitar layers are way to fussy and neurotic. I build them for my own use and to satisfy my own curiosity. I start when I want, stop when I want and build what I want. If I was buidling for sale, none of that would be true
    boris bubbanov and Flakey like this.
  4. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    I'd like to get good at it, and I don't build to sell.

    But, I have budget constraints. I'd certainly build more if it didn't cost me anything.

    So, at some point, it might be nice to simply recoup costs. I'm not sure I'd want to let anything go, though.

    My point in your S-M rant, as you call it, was not so much an assumption that you wanted to sell, though I did interpret your words that way. More, it was that you can't expect bulk pricing for what is essentially non-bulk quantities, reselling or not.

    Not necessarily. Custom builds, yes. But you could still just build what you want, when you want, and then maybe someone wants to buy it. I used to build houses for a living, and I avoided custom buyers like the plague for the same reasons you say. If you build it, they will come?
  5. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

    Aug 28, 2018
    Separate and aside - my mother does folk art kind of stuff. When she was younger, she tried to do more complicated art, and she did better than the average person but not well enough that it would ever be notable. I'm not sure she'd agree with me on that.

    At one point, someone turned her on to folk art and she found out that it was easy to make and easy to sell, and I think for 35 years now, she hasn't really thought about anything other than what other people will like. She hates spending money, but doesn't do well if she doesn't have something to do, so she's more satisfied making something that sells well than something she'd pick to do in the middle of a 3 week vacation. Her total nominal sales over that 35 year period are probably approaching 7 figures by now (though she's getting old enough that she'll have to stop at some point).

    I could see if someone thought "I'd really like to get into the business of making guitars, the business is interesting". If someone did that part time and didn't have other time demands, they may find it just as satisfying as my mother has found her part time gig. She can make about $20-$25 an hour for her efforts, probably 3/4ths of that if you deduct expenses.

    My friend George is on a different level. He can make what he wants and find buyers, and end up turning people away. He does true restoration work (think items made in the 1700s that have gold and ivory parts and need something to be replaced and aged to match) for some well heeled customers and those are the only folks I can think of who bring him something and tell him what they'd like.

    George warned me about guitar buyers (he assumed I might want to sell something in the future until i stated that I had no interest). "guitarists have some of the strangest unsubstantiated superstitions. And banjo players are even worse".
    trapdoor2 likes this.
  6. robt57

    robt57 Telefied Ad Free Member

    Feb 29, 2004
    Portland, OR
    I stopped making them after giving a few away to poor musicians. ;)

    Knowing there will never be a shortage of those, I started spending the coin elsewhere. ;)
    unfamous and jvin248 like this.
  7. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

    Aug 28, 2018
    That can be tough with guitars. From my perspective as a buyer, I realize that custom builds make a lot more for the maker than off the rack, because I'm losing my sense as a customer of comparing what I'm asking for to something that's on the open market. Or quantifying the cost of the options I want that are different than something off the rack.

    I've noticed that everyone who has ever sold something or built something, when they retire, they always say:
    "I'd build guitars to sell off the rack, but never custom guitars again. It's too much of a pain, the timeline management is a pain and the customers leave you standing too much with a guitar that was custom to them that nobody else wants."

    Or a relative of mine who grew tired of selling furniture and making deliveries to places with no access (that people didn't warn him about) or who lied on credit apps:
    "If I had to do this again, I'd sell cash and carry only. no deliveries, no credit. Just cash and carry".

    If you're sam maloof and you make something that people take a shine to, you're very lucky. My relative's view was convenient to think, but he'd quickly start delivering furniture when he realized he was losing customers to all of the people who delivered furniture, and he'd quickly start taking credit again when he realized that a huge part of the buying market has no cash to spend.

    My mother has never taken custom orders in any quantity, but most of the things she sells are $30 or less. In the rare event that she paints something for someone that's bigger and three figures in price, it seems like the buyer wants the item really badly, and then they don't show up for two months because they're too busy.
  8. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 11, 2006
    Near Athens GA USA
    I've sold about 15 cigar box guitars. There's not much profit in that but it was fun doing it. However, I haven't been that motivated to finish the in progress work I have in the garage right now.
  9. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

    Aug 28, 2018
    As far as the bulk pricing, not expecting bulk pricing. More like expecting that if there are folks selling unbranded pickguards, for example, in the US for $11, maybe S-M might do it for $16 instead of $26. I'd pay a little for convenience. I'd imagine bulk price for pickguards is probably something closer to $5.

    Or, if you're offering something for a higher price, do something to differentiate it.
  10. unixfish

    unixfish Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 20, 2013
    Northeast Ohio, USA
    Interesting question. I will make another distinction:
    • Building for profit vs.
    • Building for a living
    You could build for profit as a "side gig", something that was fun outside of your regular job. Or, you could sell an instrument that came out well for a bit of coin, just because you can, but not be a for profit builder.

    Splitting hairs? Maybe. However, I don't think I would ever build for a living - too much stress. Building on a schedule may be stressful as well. However, if I had built something, enjoyed the process, and someone offered me a for-profit price, I might let it go. But this distinction is "building for yourself" vs. "building for yourself with the possibility of others".

    Have I introduced enough variables yet?
  11. Strat Jacket

    Strat Jacket Tele-Meister

    Nov 6, 2018
    Land of Lincoln
    I briefly tossed around the idea in the late '70s-early '80s. After thinking it through, I realized the profit margin was minuscule compared to overhead and time, and scrapped the whole idea.
    I would love to build guitars for my own enjoyment these days, but I'm already over stocked on guitars and space has become an issue. Plus, you can buy a decent guitar, fully assembled and ready to play for 25-50% of what a decent kit build will end up costing you in the long run.
  12. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 30, 2011
    The *only* reason I assemble and/or build is to get things that are made totally to spec, at a much lower cost. I have tastes for things that just are not available new at an affordable price. E.g. color schemes that aren't made. I usually build things that are in the vein of the American Vintage line, or the Custom Shop N.O.S. line. They end up costing my about half the price, or less, and have every single spec exactly as I want it.

    But when Fender "nails it," I buy a Fender instead. I have many American Vintage Series instruments, and as far as 95% of them are concerned, I couldn't have done it better myself.

    I would not build to sell unless I was fully devoted to it as as "real" business.
    boris bubbanov and Flakey like this.
  13. joealso

    joealso Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Dec 25, 2012
    East Haddam, CT
    Last weekend, I built a wooden dog dish stand - you know, the kind that raises the 2 bowls up off of the floor. I stained it 2 different colors, applied a waterproof finish ... it looks nice. I have absolutely no interest in going into business building dog dish stands or anything else. I built out our master closet. Several years ago, I built a 16'x22' 2-level deck for the house. My wife and I remodeled our kitchen. I built the guitar body in my avatar. I just enjoy making stuff and I find a lot of satisfaction in making the things I use. Never would I consider doing any of those things for anyone else, regardless of what they offered to pay me.
    Macrogats likes this.
  14. archiemax

    archiemax Tele-Meister

    Oct 11, 2016
    Phoenix AZ
    In my oldies band, I play guitars similar to the one in my avatar--One with a WD-40 can body and the other with a gas can. There's already been three occasions when someone's come up to me during a break and commissioned me to make one for them; two of those were gifts for the requesters' sons. OTOH, I had the actual guitar in the avatar along with a matching amp up for sale in a local consignment shop, reasonably priced, for over six months with no takers. Go figure.
    telemnemonics and Strat Jacket like this.
  15. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 19, 2006
    Gilbert, AZ (PHX)
    I built a number of guitars for myself and after a couple they come out surprisingly pretty nice and play very well. I have little interest in building stuff that I don't like. I have never sold one and have several unfinished in different stages and have not been working on them. I have more guitars than I need. It seems that there is too much competition in the guitar market for me to do any good making what I want to make.
    boris bubbanov likes this.
  16. Macrogats

    Macrogats Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    I get so up and down with different projects (my wife constantly complains how I never finish anything), and have found it's no different with guitars. I got into building them about two years ago, and have had a couple of offers for one in particular, but I would not consider selling anything at this stage.

    a) I'm just not good enough at it
    b) It's just a hobby to me.

    If I was convinced into selling one, I would want the cost of materials and hardware back, and I don't think some people (prospective buyers) realise how expensive this can be - not to mention the many hours that can go into a finished project.

    My main aim atm is to have/produce several very playable guitars that I can use live confidently. I've to date built half a dozen different types of guitar, but only one is completed to where I want it, and am happy with. I keep tinkering with things and trying different ideas to find different formulas for what I want. The beauty of this is that it is for ME.....not someone else.

    I may eventually flick one or two if someone was persistent enough to want a particular build of mine, but I won't be going about seeking potential buyers.

    As I said - it's just a hobby to me. And a sometimes fun one at that, amid the many frustrations that guitar building can throw up! :D
  17. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 30, 2011
    ^ That right there. Even some who build for profit still adhere to this philosophy, and I'm betting it's those that are happiest with what they're doing. Following that line will help you to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that you've mentioned.
  18. WetBandit

    WetBandit Friend of Leo's

    Oct 11, 2016
    I've built a few guitars from raw material...

    I'd never try it for profit..

    I may build some as gifts in the future, or maybe even for a charity raffle or donation...

    But never to sell.
  19. RedHills

    RedHills Tele-Meister

    Aug 13, 2018
    THIS ^^

    I'm finishing up #3 and all have came out fine. Wouldn't be scared to sell them. But I haven't marketed them (and won't)

    Usually post pics on FB and my woodworking site...people inquire, and with mid level parts there's usually at least $400-$500 in each build. I wouldn't build it for nothing, so that puts a big part of the market back to GC and Amazon.

    Not looking to ever market a guitar I build.

    My kid plays the first one in his band. He loves it. It sounds great, I couldn't find any better satisfaction with this hobby.

    Now I may have a monkey pod body for sale, parts going in the walnut/maple :)
    Macrogats likes this.
  20. joealso

    joealso Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Dec 25, 2012
    East Haddam, CT
    You've just inspired my next project. Maybe something like your avatar or maybe something like this telecanster

    robt57, Paul Jenkin and Macrogats like this.
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