Tips For Someone Wanting To Build Guitars For A Living

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Grant Ball, Sep 16, 2021.

  1. Telekarster

    Telekarster Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Yeah man, I hear ya. It just seemed to me that when I was his age, I had no money and usually did without. But, when it came to paying for something big somehow I always seemed to get that dough right when I needed it. I just didn't want to paint a picture of a life of poverty etc. that might discourage him etc. There are many people out there that make a good living doing what he wants to do, as long as he strives to be the best, I think he may be a good candidate for that succession. Let's face it, none of us are getting any younger and a lot of these crafts are in danger of becoming extinct, so when I see a young person wanting to do something that most wouldn't even think about doing, I want to encourage em if I can... if you see what I mean. Thanks man!
     
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  2. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    follow your dream, but don't skip the university over it.
     
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  3. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

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    While having guitar building knowledge is essential, do you also know how to operate a business? That would be things like profit/loss, sourcing materials, customer service, business regulations, taxes and a lot more. I've seen a lot of small businesses, guitar and non-guitar, fail because although the owner may have a passion for their product, they didn't have the first clue about running a business.
     
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  4. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    This ^^^^

    I have people all the time tell me I should build guitars for a living. I tell them, then it would be a "job". Seriously though, doing repairs, string changes and messing with other peoples gear is a great way to get into the music community and develop friendships as well. Trust your gut, if a customer seems like a problem dropping the guitar off, they will be a problem picking it up.
     
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  5. dented

    dented Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    For one thing Welcome to tdpri! Thanks for thinking of us as a place to go for information and guidance. Good luck with the path you choose. Most everyone has given the right advice and more importantly follow your dream. But remember.... to run a business or conduct business you will need some type of business background to be successful. In order to be a builder you will need some sort of building experience and technical experience that you will need to learn from someone else.

    Educate yourself
    Train yourself
    Save your money and buy equipment as you can
    Don't forget to pay the rent

    Stay with us it will be fun to watch you grow!
     
  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    First @Grant Ball , my condolences!
    I say that to everyone I meet who says they are an artist.

    Also, welcome to the fray!
    Second, or maybe I'm still on first, I'd say DO NOT go down that road unless it is your only choice.
    For example if you know three nice girls and think you could be happy married to any of them, plus a couple of others you met but don't know well yet; do not marry the girl you think is nice, and do not become a an independent guitar maker because you think it would be nice.

    The sacrifices required are enough that it will only be nice if you literally have no other choice.
    IMO anyhow.

    I went down that road and pursued apprenticeships in guitar and also violin shops.
    A guitar factory only makes guitars, but commonly a small builder also repairs and makes a more steady income on repair work, plus gets the rep they need in repairs so that players will eventually trust them enough to pay for a build.

    Look at the life of a few independent business people in the arts, which custom guitars kind of fall under, and in effect they have to work two full time jobs for years to get well enough established to make a living without working 80 hours a week.

    This may sound negative but it's really just realistic, questions you need to ask yourself and also your community.
    Your community as in the one man or one owner custom guitar builders who have paid for their own home and shop and make a comfortable living just making guitars.
    How many do you know of in a 50 mile radius?
    Go visit them.
    They probably can't chat since they don't get paid when chatting, but you can see a little of what the business looks like.
    On the chatting subject, note that we have discussions here where players go to reputable one man luthier or guitar tech shops wanting to chat and come out unhappy with the professional who was too busy to hang out on the job chatting and giving free advice.

    I did make friends in a bunch of shops, but had to visit them many many times and not bother them, especially if they were clearly busy. Helps to give them a little business.
    Share that you have some skills and are interested in a job where you can learn more, then don't push it or hog their time.
    Not all will be friendly but even tolerance is a good sign!

    A question: What guitars do you want to make?
    Tele copies? (self made parts or Allparts necks etc?)
    Fine acoustics?
    Unique designs you've been creating and building?
    A line or replacement bodies and necks?
    Custom dream guitars designed by the customer?

    Those are kind of all different ventures.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2021
  7. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Friend of Leo's

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    best tip (keep this under your hat)
    learn how to live on 7,000$ a year. if you can nail that, you can be whatever you want to be, including an instrument builder in a CNC robot factory world.
     
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  8. Grant Ball

    Grant Ball TDPRI Member

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  9. Phrygian77

    Phrygian77 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I have side business building and repairing amplifiers. I'm able to do it in my area because there isn't anyone else, and I've built a reputation. I don't really make money doing it. Just like I don't make money playing music. It's essentially a hobby that nearly pays for itself.
     
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  10. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Friend of Leo's

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    don't know which field is more difficult to climb to success, musician or astronomer.
     
  11. monkeybanana

    monkeybanana Tele-Holic

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    I agree with others who say getting them in the right hand is key. There are many many great builders but most are not rock star builders and do it for the passion. Research some brands and look at their prices and build times and you will quickly see. You'll notice many primarily do repair work and make guitars on the side.
     
  12. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    There have been a number of people try their hand here in Bakersfield at building and marketing guitars. Standel, Mosrite, and Gruggett are some of the ones that built a following, although not a big one. None of them made it. Mr. Gruggett ended up doing repairs in his garage for years. I guess he made a living, but not a lot of money doing it. Standel and Mosrite are long gone too. My brother in law used to work in a body shop by day, and moonlight painting Standel guitars at night. Somehow his older brother ended up with one of them, and when he passed my brother in law latched onto it. It's hanging in his music room now. I don't think it ever gets played.
     
  13. pixeljammer

    pixeljammer Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    ^ "The money will come" is rarely true, and is similar to "you can be anything you want to be". Taking on debt that can't be discharged is like having a kid. There is no escape if things don't go well.
     
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  14. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Doctor of Teleocity

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    I did the guitar-factory-in-a-garage thing for about 12 years while working full time, going to college nights and being a new father. I didn't sleep much back then.
    I often got to use my fledgeling guitar business for my business class projects: marketing, finance, writing a business plan, etc.
    During my business plan a real banker caught me in the hallway afterwards and offered me a real loan for my business.
    My business degree and experience taught me that "running" the business took at least as much or more time than actually building guitars.
    ONCE you have the experience, and ONCE you have the tools and machinery you'll still need something to distinguish yourself.
    I had a couple of "hooks" as someone called them: I used a lot of mesquite wood and also did engraved pickguards and plates (Zemaitis style).
    I was actually getting to be a little bit known and was making a little bit of money at it.
    When the recession of 2010 came along it seemed that business just dried up overnight.
    It can be done I suppose, but I'd never go into debt to get started or expand.
    Lots of great advice here in this thread too.
    Good luck to ya though.
     
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  15. Wrighty

    Wrighty Friend of Leo's

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    easier to reach for the stars as a musician if your an astrologer!
     
  16. drewg

    drewg Tele-Holic

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    I understand the "realist" suggestions and scepticism– it's good to hear all points of view. But this quote I recently heard from the comedian and actor Jim Carrey seems appropriate:

    “You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

    – Jim Carrey

    Edit– He was speaking about what he learned from his father, who was apparently a very good musician, but who gave up musical opportunities in the states to support his family with a mundane job [edit] in Canada.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2021
  17. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Come on Grant, we're waiting for you to come back and give us all a spray and call us old boomers for crushing your dreams...o_O:twisted:

    we're counting on you....don't take this laying down...:lol:
     
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  18. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    At least he gets to leave the toilet seat up!
     
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