Never mind the price, how do you even define a Custom Guitar?
For our purposes, “Custom” is applied to describe guitars that vary or exceed what standard mass-produced models may offer. The often unique specification of individual guitars is what justifies their #customguitar tag. It’s not that unusual to have guitar players turn up with drawings of their dream guitar, incredible specs, outrageous shape and colours. These project can be great fun but do come with their own challenges as in effect, the end-user is commissioning a prototype. In practice, most independent guitar builders prefer to stick to some proven recipes and existing designs, while offering some aspects for customisation such as wood choices, colours, maybe a selection of bridge choices, and pickups & wiring options.
The language has also evolved. Custom already implies some level of exclusivity, luxury and quality. Over the last 15 years or so, we have seen the rise of the “Boutique” guitar maker. This new label still conveys ambitions of quality and exclusivity but stresses the Luxury aspect while removing the emphasis on the possible personalisation to the customer’s unique specifications.
The reverse is also true, with large manufacturers offering “Custom shop” labelled or designed instruments in Limited Editions, which in terms of production numbers could still represent more guitars than a traditional custom or boutique builder will make in his lifetime.
A Custom Guitar Maker or Boutique Guitar Maker would best describe an individual who might work alone or with a very small team, producing high-quality instruments in limited numbers. I think it would be fair to say that if you produce over 100 to 250 guitars a year, you are a small manufacturer with a brand rather than being a Custom or Boutique guitar maker. Having experienced different aspects of the industry, it was a real pleasure to get back to being a bloke in a workshop, doing guitars I love.
We are now already scheduling builds for 2020. If you’d like to commission a full custom build, please contact Hucke Guitars directly so we can discuss your requirements.
Please come back in the near future to visit the upcoming shop area on this web site to see guitars currently for sale.
What makes up the cost of a Custom Guitar
We all know that people are quite happy paying a few thousand for a painting to stick on a wall, and yet the canvas and paint barely cost more than the frame. The value of the painting is in the uniqueness of the work of art, the application of the paint by a master and the years of dedication and practice it may have taken the artist himself to produce what is now an adornment on a wall…and of course on his relative fame.
Guitars combine artistry with engineering to deliver functionality, requiring years of practice and dedication to produce a decent instrument. Of course branding and marketing greatly contribute to the percieved value. A new model can take months or years to develop and test. The tooling and space needed can cost thousands. Hardware, pickups and wood account for hundreds on every guitar produces, and of course, it would be great to be able to pay the bills at the end of the month and maybe have enough left over to both reinvest and make it worthwhile to carry on.
Labour- I typically allocate 24 to 50 hours of labour on a typical guitar based on an existing model. You can double that easily when you start to make bespoke changes.
Material- These costs mainly cover wood, hardware, and electrics but should also cover trussrods, plastic, lacquer, disposable like sandpaper, etc. Pickups alone can be several hundred, and so can be a figured maple top. This represents a huge investment for a decent specced guitar before any work has even started. And a maker will have thousands and thousands worth of materials in stock.
Operational Costs- We needs to cover rent, phone, advertising and all other operational costs like electricity and taxes.
At this stage, if we entertain the notion that in order to survive, a business needs to be profitable, then the biggest surprise is that Custom and Boutique Guitars are not a lot more expensive.
My current range has a starting point of £1,350.- for an individually made guitar using quality hardware, pickups, tonewoods and a simple Nitrocellulose finish. Of course, there are plenty of other options and add-ons to choose from, so the guitars can be further customised, and in the near future, you will be able to see examples in our gallery.