The guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments today. The guitar industry is huge, and includes everything from cheap guitars you can buy at discount stores to custom instruments that costs thousands of dollars. Many huge companies churn out guitars using a factory model and assembly-line production techniques, which allows them to bring down the cost of the guitars while still maintaining a certain quality. A custom guitar, on the other hand, is made once, usually by one individual luthier, who hand-picks the wood and creates a unique instrument every time.
There is no doubt that factory-made guitars cost less, and their quality depends on a number of factors. It’s also true that custom guitars aren’t necessarily great unless they are made by a talented luthier using good materials.
For example, wood selection is one of the most fundamental decisions that goes into the production of a guitar. Large companies buy wood in bulk and will set some level of standard for the parts that will be used for each guitar. But wood is not a uniform material, so even in factory guitars each one can be different and sound different depending on the density and the width of the grain present in the particular pieces of wood used in that guitar.
A custom luthier who knows what he is doing will hand-pick wood that will work for the type of guitar being built, to optimize the sound quality or control a particular tonal feature. You tend to not get this level of selection with factory guitars, so although they can sound different from each other, the differences are a product of coincidence rather than artful selection.
Let’s say an acoustic guitar body is going to be made from a piece of swamp ash. As tonewood goes, swamp ash is a material with large, open pores and can have both hard and soft layers within each ring of the tree. The wood from the top part of the tree will be heavier and offer less brightness in the sound of the guitar than a softer piece from the bottom of the tree, whose open pores can produce a sweeter sound. In a factory setting, both woods may get used for the same model of the guitar, and you may have two very different sounding guitars – one bright, and one dead and lifeless. They may look exactly the same and end up hanging next to each other in a guitar shop!
A skilled and experienced luthier making the same type of guitar may select the wood more carefully, or, if they are using the wood that has more density, there are things they can do and choices they can make elsewhere in the construction of the instrument which can balance the sound to accommodate the harder wood. If they know how the wood reacts, they may turn its particular features into an asset for the instrument, whereas at the factory it will be a liability, its sonic fate given to chance and circumstance.
This is one of the main reasons why custom guitars cost money. It’s the time, materials, and workmanship, in addition to the smart reasoning and choices that just don’t get made enough in factory instruments.
Bezalel Instruments has came a long way since I first started working from home. With the support of some loyal customers, friends and my dear wife, I managed to set up my lutherie workshop. It is indeed a dream come true for me. The new workshop come equipped with various woodworking machines and jigs that are indispensable for enabling me to build better instruments and be more efficient with my repair jobs. At the same time, I could also properly support the instruments that I’m distributing (Bacchus and STR Basses). Customers have asked me why didn’t I move to a more prominent business address. My reply is that besides the practical issue of cost, Bezalel Instruments is first and foremost a workshop rather than a retail shop and a well- equipped lutherie workshop is essential for building and repairing instruments. The extra space afforded by an industrial building allows customers to try out the instruments in comfort. In return, all these translate to better service to my customers- you. So if you need any help with your prized instruments or thinking of custom-building one, do come down to my humble workshop for a chat. I love talking guitars (and basses, too).
I also custom build electric basses (4, 5 and 6 string fretted or fretless). 2 body shape (Singles Cutaway and Double Cutaway) are available. My pickups of choice are Nordstrand. Only finest tone woods and hardware are used.
Bacchus Basses are here!!!!
Bacchus Custom Basses from Nagano, Japan. These are beautifully and expertly handcrafted basses from a small workshop in Japan. I first tried a Bacchus bass in Tokyo some time back and I have to say that it is one of the nicest bass I’ve ever laid my hands on. The feel of the neck is just right and the tone is so versatile. These are serious handcrafted instruments that are selling at half the price of some Big Name American basses. I am very excited to be an exclusive dealer for these fine instruments. Don’t take my word for it- try one yourself.