When do you become a "luthier".

guitarface

Most Honored Senior Member
Nov 11, 2012
8,633
New Jersey
I disagree with any guitar is crap, even the $ 100 guitars are quite playable. To me the only difference between a $ 100 guitar & a $ 3K guitar is how much effort was put in finishing it. Anyone can spend more time rolling frets, polishing a finish or whatever. If anyone does enough work to a kit guitar, they become a Luthier at some level. Recently I shimmed a Bullet proper, since the definition of resetting a neck is different for a bolt on vs set neck. I essentially reset the neck on that guitar. I consider myself a Luthier for that level of work. Regardless of how crappy or good it turned out. That guitar has never played better or held together better, since even just gluing toothpicks for stripped screwholes in the wood, since I bought it in 2019. Would a tech do that ? I think a tech would change the strings, tuners or something anyone should be able to do. I always liked the neck angle on the Bullet, so I had to determine whether it needed an angled shim or a flat one, I had to fabricate a flat one from scratch & I was prepared to level it for neck angle if I didn't get it right. I would've also scrapped completely to restart or added more shim that I took too much material out of. I spent 4 hours of my time slowly sanding that shim, it was trial & error really as the finer tuning got to the end.

Did I take too long ? For someone else maybe, but I took my time as my preference. I may not do that for something I don't care too deeply about and will never see again. But slow & deliberate for at least my things is always the amout of time & effort I put into it. Most customers are fine with just getting a repaired item back. a repair is rarely perfect, but there's relatively passable & exceptionally outstanding work. Depends upon the price.

Think whatever you want, but a guy working on a kit electric guitar is not a luthier.
 
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jvin248

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 10, 2014
5,434
Michigan
.

It's one of those titles that if you need to ask, you are not one.

Many fall into the trap of being something of a Sanitation Engineer when there is no engineering going on, just "picking stuff up and putting stuff down".

And anyway, the true test is if you proclaim you are a 'luthier' at a party do the hot chicks drop their conversations with the 'rock n roll star', 'doctor', 'lawyer', or 'engineer'?

What is the advantage, fascination, and desire to be called 'a luthier' that you seek?

.
 

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,788
California
What is the advantage, fascination, and desire to be called 'a luthier' that you seek?
Well, if we seperate guitar tech (which I am ), instrument repair person (which I also am), and luthier (which I am NOT) into the categories that they should be in the real world, then there is an advantage to be known as a luthier.

But as long as there is no real distinction in popular use of the terms, there's no advantage.

One way to look at it:

a guitar tech can do setups, intonation, fret jobs, replace electronics, etc. even build partscasters.

a repairperson can fix broken headstocks, damage to finishes, repair hollow body guitar bodies, etc.

a luthier can build instruments from scratch - and that includes acoustic guitars.

And there are folks that do all 3.
 
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Fenderbaum

Senior Stratmaster
Aug 11, 2020
1,217
Bergen, Norway
Anyone can be a tech in a day and a half of learning..

But If you can turn this:
wood-log-as-fire-front-white-background-35834516.jpg

Into a playable this:
fender-player-stratocaster-pf-3ts.jpg


...you are a luthier.
 

rockon1

Senior Stratmaster
Oct 19, 2019
1,996
CT
A luthier is someone who can build an acoustic from sratch IMO. I taught myself how it set up my guitars in the 90's -before I had access to the net. These days theres so much access to info itsalmost a no-brainer to aquire the skills a a "tech"... which falls in the category of being able to set up a guitar imo. This set of skills can range from a teaking of the truss rod to full on fret leveling and recrowning, pick up swaps, nut replacement and /or filing and complete refretting- something I recently added to my repertoire.
 
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ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,434
Cypress TX
I can put together a Tele or Strat knockoff using parts bought on the internet in a weekend, possibly a long day if the wife stays out of my hair, assuming I use a pre-painted body that is. My guitars play well enough, and I have the skills from my engineering background to take care of fret leveling, fret sprout, soldering, even nut changes. Do I consider myself a luthier? Emphatic NO.
 

Jeepocaster

Senior Stratmaster
Jun 1, 2012
1,270
Quad Cities area IA/IL USA
If you can design and build an instrument that is original. Not a copy of somebody else’s design And, Probably not a “bolt-on” necked, cookie-cutter machined body.
But why get hung up on a term? Life’s short 😉

It means more when others call you a luthier. I would be suspect of most people referring to themselves as such. Remember the Maestro episode of Seinfeld?
 

ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,434
Cypress TX
Tech:
Puts together a Strat knockoff from bought in parts. He is lucky if he breaks even selling it on eBay.

Luthier:
Builds from scratch, unfinished wood, although he may still use premanufactured tuners, etc., possibly even bought in plywood. He has a line of customers waiting in line for their guitars, which sell for $5000 and up. Still lucky to break even.
 

Bowmap

I nose a thang or two.
Platinum Supporting Member
Dec 23, 2017
11,265
3rd door down.
Anyone can be a tech in a day and a half of learning..

But If you can turn this:
wood-log-as-fire-front-white-background-35834516.jpg

Into a playable this:
fender-player-stratocaster-pf-3ts.jpg


...you are a luthier.

That I can. But electric guitars are easy compared to traditional acoustics. I AM NOT a Luthier. I am a woodworker.

To me a luthier is to a guitar builder as a scientist is to an engineer.

I am not talking about degrees and certificates, i am talking about the deeper understanding of why vs. how. There is a blurry point that is crossed but I would not consider my self a luthier until the day arrived where most of those who I look up to, start calling me such.
 
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Butcher of Strats

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 28, 2022
1,205
Maine
Years ago, I was hired at a boat manufacturer in the R&D Department. They hired me to handle the Engineering Bill of Materials (essentially the parts list that goes into making one unit/boat) end of it. I know just enough about boat building to be dangerous. I wouldn't turn me loose on the design end of it. I can make something seaworthy, but the industry is going to make sure a degreed professional that's been blessed as proficient & knowledgeable enough is going to engineer a mass produced item. Legend has it, Noah built an ark though.

Cubans & Haitians can build a raft that might make it from their island to the mainland USA, that doesn't make them boat manufacturers. Sometimes it doesn't end well.

Actually this applies to me as well and further illustrates the varied usefulness of titles.
I was in a boat building apprenticeship for one year, then taught boat building to teens for a summer, then worked for Hank Hinckley of Hinckley Yachts.
Hank was I believe a trained and titles naval architect, but he had either a naval draftsman or possibly naval architect in the dracting room.
We had an old client getting a WEST system boat built which I was lead on and often the only “boat carpenter” working on.
The old codger was Bill Strawbridge who had been one of Francis Herrschoffs naval architects and has classic sailboat designs in his own name.
So three trained and titled guys then me.
The drafting room guy needed me to explain periodically that in his three view 2d drawings, he sometimes occupied one 3d space with two different 2d drawn objects, so I had to redesign in my head and propose it to the guy with a title.

Back to the boat for Strawbridge, that old feller took a liking to me and it was his very last boat, so he kept coming up with new ideas which I would then design in as the build progressed.
Hinckley and the draftsman tried to keep up but also had legit issues with the contract price etc.
Anyhow, I could sit at the drafting table and draw, could build in any materials, could design a whole boat if needed though maybe not a cup winner, and I was the lowest paid with no title while the high paid guys knew full well they could not keep up with me in any facet.

I did design some boats too, and built some boats basically by myself, at the highest some said too high quality.

But, what was I?
Did my ability to draw, design, read and alter drawings, discuss ideas and put them into drawings etc, make me a naval architect?
 

henderman

Dr. Stratster
Dec 4, 2013
10,745
largo,fl
i make things from scratch all the time and many of those things are guitar parts.

i can perform any guitar repair.
i do fretwork and setups that people seem to love.

i am a woodworker and a tech - but i am not a luthier.
 

ThreeChordWonder

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 2, 2020
3,434
Cypress TX
as a scientist is to an engineer.
????

As a professional engineer, at one point BEng(Hons) CEng MIMechE, not the guy who fixes your fridge, I wonder why you think scientists are somehow superior to engineers, and what, if any, reasons you have to back that up.

An engineer (or several thousand) designed that plane you took on vacation and the car you drive to GC. A technician fixes them when they need servicing or break down. A nobody pumps up the tires and changes the oil.
 

Butcher of Strats

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 28, 2022
1,205
Maine
Well, if we seperate guitar tech (which I am ), instrument repair person (which I also am), and luthier (which I am NOT) into the categories that they should be in the real world, then there is an advantage to be known as a luthier.

But as long as there is no real distinction in popular use of the terms, there's no advantage.

One way to look at it:

a guitar tech can do setups, intonation, fret jobs, replace electronics, etc. even build partscasters.

a repairperson can fix broken headstocks, damage to finishes, repair hollow body guitar bodies, etc.

a luthier can build instruments from scratch - and that includes acoustic guitars.

And there are folks that do all 3.
AFAIK the middle title of instrument repair person is more recent and I had never heard of them in my former 45 years working on guitars.
To my understanding, a guitar tech IS a repair person.
Adding the third title in essence dumbs down the meaning of guitar tech, which kind of hurts us all by titling hobbyists who cannot glue stuff with accuracy: GUITAR TECH.

Of course if you have a fine acoustic that is broken, you really want a luthier, not one of the lesser titled professionals.

To me a guitar tech who cannot repair broken wood parts or fix finishes is simply not a professional.
Or at least not a qualified titled guitar tech, maybe we need a lesser title for guys who adjust action and intonation so we don’t go confusing them with actual guitar techs.

That said, in todays market where brick & mortar shops have been wiped off the map BY OUR GLIB DESIRE TO SAVE A FEW BUCKS ONLINE, we reap what we sowed which is unqualified hobbyists hired at chain stores as ”guitar tech”, when they are really not qualified to perform all guitar tech repair duties.

I agree that a given guitar tech may or may not be the guy to glue a broken headstock, yet still be a legit tech.
Partly just for practical reasons the way a doctor has an office and a specialty they are set up for.
Working at home I can do woodworking repairs I could not do working behind the counter in a busy guitar shop.

Conversely, if at home when players drop off guitars for same day setup or mods, I’m not there to talk with them and watch them play so I can determine the right setup for their style etc, then talk with them when they pick it up and make sure it suits them.

Both jobs, same tech, different venues.
Again, if you need a fine acoustic repaired including gluing wood, I’d urge everyone to go to an actual luthier, including luthiers who prefer fine repair work over new builds.
Broken headstock on a LP?
Choose a qualified tech with a shop, as opposed to a guy with a bench at a GC.
Some guys with a bench at a GC also have a real shop at home for dust and spraying.
Same title different venue.
 

fuksman

Strat-Talker
Jan 9, 2022
391
USA
you're a luthier to me.
we have doctors, academics, congresspeople with titles and no use to anyone. you have a real skill under the belt, can be of tangible benefit to yourself and others, so what difference is the honorific?
download (1).jpg
 

Butcher of Strats

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 28, 2022
1,205
Maine
I don’t agree with this. On paper you would not be a luthier. At best, your unemployment papers would say “luthier,” but that’s all.

A luthier builds guitars that people actually want and would pay for. And other people would then listen to the player play the instrument.
I agree except that I include a sound box based acoustic instrument that produces musical sound.

So not a builder of electric guitars that are not acoustic as well and do not produce musical sound.

Luthier makes sound producing musical instruments with the sound box being an essential huge part of their skill set.
But add in people want to buy and play, plus the luthier DOES this as opposed to DID it a couple of times as a hobby but lacks the ability to do it as a profession.
 

crankmeister

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 9, 2020
5,711
Republic of Gilead
In reality I would be unemployed. On paper according to an over simplified description one who builds stringed instruments is a Luthier and I don't agree with it.

What I'm saying is, in reality an actual Luthier would be someone who has received formal training. Without formal training its just someone building a guitar.
I guess it comes down to “define instrument”. Because if it’s garbage glued together and strings affixed, I don’t think it’s an instrument.

I don’t think formal training is a must. Some people just have it.
 


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