Farming work out?

Barnaby

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Today, reading about pre-slotted nuts, I found myself wondering about the type of work that people on here tend to "farm out."

Obviously, most of us don't make our own tuners or bridges (although some of us do), and I can't imagine anyone bothers to make the screws themselves, but I wonder what's considered "normal." I know professional makers, for example, who send fingerboards and headplates out to be inlaid, simply because they want the best result, and the best luthiers are not always the best inlay artists. They're upfront about doing so and will even charge a premium for a well-regarded inlayer.

Personally, at the moment when I make a guitar, I will make the body and neck completely from scratch, including radiussing and slotting the board myself (although I use commercial truss rods) and cutting a nut from a blank. Other tasks generally include shaping control cavity covers and winding the pickups. I've even sometimes made the bobbins and covers for these myself, as well as a few pickup rings and things like control knobs and switch tips. One of my guitars has a capacitor in it that I rolled myself. It actually works!

I've used pre-cut inlays and also cut my own (or baked clay ones), used pre-cut binding and cut my own, used prepared purfling and prepared my own...

Part of the reason that I'm asking about this is that I'm lousy at finishing and hate doing it. It slows me down more than anything else. If I keep building, I'm tempted either to switch over almost completely to oil finishes or to find someone who can do a professional job. I can't help feeling like this is a bit of a cop-out, however.

So...what about the rest of you? How far do you go to make the guitar "yours" in terms of the bits you construct? What's acceptable to get from elsewhere, and what's not? Where's your line between "handmade" and "kit"?
 

w666

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I hate finishing! Mostly because I suck at it. And I suck at it mostly because I lack the proper equipment and facility to achieve good results. Rattle cans in the garage can go only so far. And a buffing wheel!

Presently I'm trying to learn French Polishing, if only for the acoustic instruments I'm building.
 

Barnaby

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I hate finishing! Mostly because I suck at it. And I suck at it mostly because I lack the proper equipment and facility to achieve good results. Rattle cans in the garage can go only so far. And a buffing wheel!

Presently I'm trying to learn French Polishing, if only for the acoustic instruments I'm building.
Yes! If I had space for a proper finishing booth, drying rack and buffing wheel, I'd probably get into it. As it is, things are really hard. I can only spray outside when the weather is good and cross my fingers that bugs don't decide to go for a swim on fresh lacquer, or the wind doesn't come up suddenly...or a thousand other things. My workshop is cramped but fine for the woodwork end of things. I guess I could get all "Dexter" when it was time for spraying, but that'd stop me being able to do anything else.

Of course, if I had space and money, I'd look into a UV finishing booth. Expensive to set up, sure, but you can go from raw wood to a buffed-out finish in a day or less. I'd also get myself a CNC for inlays and making small parts like bridges and tuners.

And a secretary. A really hot secretary.
 

southbound

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In days long past I had good luck building a tent of damp linen sheets inside my garage with full spectrum 5000°k bulbs in suspended shop lights and a box fan at reduced speed and a electric space heater (after done spraying and fumes evacuated, learned this tip after the dog went woof once). Craftsmen detail gun and big air compressor.
I pretty much farm everything out, as I only have rebuilt dud guitars into 1/2 way decent fake guitars) I have some nice mop pearl inlay and hollystock that is so nice I never want to use them . Waiting for the special one, like a broken headstock fix that is otherwise nice but needs a quality fix and I can get it real cheap!
Doh!
 

Tonyd145

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I'll throw my hate finishing card for sure. That and fret work are the two things that I would farm out every build if I could. I once decided that I would have someone local finish one of my builds, after he quoted over $500 for black and clear coats( with the guitar being completely ready for finish). I'm sure to some existent it may be worth it. But not for my checkbook.
 

pshupe

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I do all wood working and fret work and wiring up myself. As well as finish work. I like doing everything but do it as a hobby. If I did this as a business I wouldn't do much different. I am planning on doing a small addition to add a professional grade, for guitars anyway, spray setup. I buy all the electronics and truss rods although for vintage one way rods I just buy rods and thread but that is pretty simple. I might some day wind pups but there are a lot of things to work on as far as skill sets before that happens.

Cheers Peter.
 

Barnaby

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I do all wood working and fret work and wiring up myself. As well as finish work. I like doing everything but do it as a hobby. If I did this as a business I wouldn't do much different. I am planning on doing a small addition to add a professional grade, for guitars anyway, spray setup. I buy all the electronics and truss rods although for vintage one way rods I just buy rods and thread but that is pretty simple. I might some day wind pups but there are a lot of things to work on as far as skill sets before that happens.

Cheers Peter.
Given your knowledge of clever computery thingies, as well as the ability to design jiggy whatsits, I imagine you could come up with a fairly innovative pickup winder. Maybe something like this?
 

Roxy13

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Doing quality finishing work is what I am most concerned about now that I want to do my first build.

For whatever reason I love doing fret work.

But, I'm still taking forever to make a good nut so that is a bit annoying for me.
 

Barnaby

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Doing quality finishing work is what I am most concerned about now that I want to do my first build.

For whatever reason I love doing fret work.

But, I'm still taking forever to make a good nut so that is a bit annoying for me.
What are you going to build? If you can get away with an oil finish, I'd highly recommend it. So much easier and safer...and no special equipment required. I'm seriously considering going that way for almost all future builds.
 

Roxy13

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What are you going to build? If you can get away with an oil finish, I'd highly recommend it. So much easier and safer...and no special equipment required. I'm seriously considering going that way for almost all future builds.
I was planning to go straight for a singlecut, but I might do a 3 P90 SG first to get my feet wet with a slab body.

I am an amateur artist so blending my colors isn't what concerns me. What does is that I really don't have a good place to do it. I don't even have a garage so I'm going to have to set up a tent outside and wait for the right temps and humidity levels to go for it. I guess it's a good thing I have no plans to actually be a professional and just make some for myself because I want to :rofl:

I do purposefully buy guitars that need fretwork to entertain myself.
 

cmjohnson

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I sub out my inlaid headstock overlays and my inlaid fingerboards. I'm not good at inlay work and frankly don't like doing it,
so I let another shop make it for me to my specs and the best part is that if they make it wrong, they eat it, not me.

I pay for a good board and I get it.

You don't have to be great at everything. Just make deals to work with those who do.
 

dcomiskey

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I did a nice oil finish on my last build and it turned out beautiful. However, I don’t have the capabilities to do my own finishing otherwise. I don’t have the equipment or knowledge. So, all the builds I have in the pipeline that will need various stains, clear, paint will be sent out.
Also, I’m still pretty bad at fretwork, so that has stalled a number of builds for me right now. I’d farm that out, but don’t want to pay for it. Not that I can afford that anyway right now.
 

Barnaby

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I sub out my inlaid headstock overlays and my inlaid fingerboards. I'm not good at inlay work and frankly don't like doing it,
so I let another shop make it for me to my specs and the best part is that if they make it wrong, they eat it, not me.

I pay for a good board and I get it.

You don't have to be great at everything. Just make deals to work with those who do.
Good to hear! That seems to be really common here in Japan. There are several artists who specialize in guitar inlay for luthiers in my (semi) local area.

I'm OK at the job, but it takes me a long time if it's complex. Luckily, for me, I tend to prefer minimal inlays. In fact, my preferred look is a blank fingerboard.
 

pshupe

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what are you guys using for oil? My preference is Waterlox
I've done a couple of Tru Oil finishes and I like it but have not done any other oil finishes. It really darkens my walnut, which I really like. Here is a recent figured / spalted maple SG build.

Here is a before -
IMG_0006.jpeg
and after one coat with Tru Oil -
first_coat.JPG

It is pretty fool proof and is a very quick finish to apply and to cure.

Cheers Peter.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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i do all my work, for what few i build, except for winding pups. one could casually glance at my work and see that i should farm 90 pc of it out, but really, i'm not keen on electrics. I can hold my own on a basic soldering job, but dont' understand the theory of wiring and trouble shooting. I wish i had someone local i could farm that out to. as far as finishing goes, I use lacquer and love to see the guitar come to life as the coats build and are polished. i make control covers from black clip boards.
 

Barnaby

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what are you guys using for oil? My preference is Waterlox
I've used Tru-Oil, which seems to work the best for me, but I have to import it and it can get expensive. There's a local version which translated as "Chick Oil," but when I Googled that...well...

Anyway, that stuff is OK doesn't work quite as well. It sometimes stays a little tacky. I'll look into Waterlox. Thanks!
 

LtDave32

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I do everything myself, short of making hardware. i'll buy dots or trap inlays, but I have cut MOP sheets myself.

A guy I learned from told me something that sort of stuck; "if you aren't slotting and shaping your own fret boards, you aren't really making a guitar on your own".

-But that's just for me. Others may have a whole different outlook.

However, I find it difficult to get past the "partscasters" guys building a Tele or Strat off of Warmouth-bought bodies and necks, saying "I made this". That's assembling, IMO. There's not that much craft in it.
 

redking

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I've done a couple of Tru Oil finishes and I like it but have not done any other oil finishes. It really darkens my walnut, which I really like. Here is a recent figured / spalted maple SG build.

Here is a before -
View attachment 451596
and after one coat with Tru Oil -
View attachment 451595

It is pretty fool proof and is a very quick finish to apply and to cure.

Cheers Peter.
I too have used Tru Oil and have really liked the results. On one of my mahogany necks I managed to get a nice "nitro-ish" feeling result that I really like. I know it is considered amateurish to use Tru Oil, but I really like it. For all the effort I put into the one nitro finish I did, I don't know that it was worth it.
 

DaveR

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I admire the purist approach of trying to do it all yourself, but if you don’t enjoy an aspect of the build, and you’re willing to pay someone else to do that part, seems like there’s no harm done. That leaves more time for you to spend on the parts you enjoy.

I’ve only made two guitars, but have built lots of furniture. I’ve learned that I loathe finishing, and that grain filling and high gloss finishes are just not in my skill set. I still hope to learn how to do it right someday, but I don’t get any joy from finishing. Usually by the finishing stage I’m way into the next project in my head and just want the first one to be done.

Thankfully I found a local luthier who was able to fix and complete my botched rattle can 2k finishing attempts on my two guitars. When I’ve shown off my work and explain that I “built these guitars from blocks of wood” I always mention “I hired someone else to do the clearcoat”. No one has failed to be impressed by my contributions to the finished piece. I’ll likely have him finish my next builds as well, as I’m lacking the proper equipment, space and desire to pull off a high gloss.
 


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