Why a Custom Guitar?As a builder of hand made guitars I feel a justifiable obligation to answer the question, "Why should I buy a custom hand made guitar?" It certainly is a fair question considering the availability of good quality relatively inexpensive factory made instruments. Three primary reasons immediately come to mind to justify the purchase of a custom instrument.
One is the fact that the customer does indeed receive a guitar that is unique and custom built to meet his or her needs and expectations in every way. The customer gets to express their personality in the aesthetic appointments including the selection of tone woods in a way that is just not available in a factory made instrument, including "custom made" factory instruments. More importantly the tone and playability of the guitar are also fully customizable. Neck widths, tapers, thickness, profile and scale length can all be custom tailored to meet a player's needs. The tone can be shaped not only by choosing appropriate body size/styles and tone woods, but by controlling the thickness of the soundboard and back, choosing the appropriate bridge, and by customizing the pattern and carving of the braces, etc. A customized hand built guitar is only limited by the customer's imagination and knowledge of his or her own needs and desires.
The second reason for considering a custom built guitar is related to the first in that every piece of wood is as unique as every customer. This means that each piece of wood has to be evaluated and selected to suit the needs of the customer. Also, each piece of wood has to be handled differently in regards to thickness and bracing. Wood can have a surprisingly wide range of properties with regard to stiffness and weight, not only within the same species, but even when selected from the same tree. While wood is "graded" by appearance in a factory setting, this level of evaluation simply is not feasible on such a large scale. The ability to do this on the custom scale helps to insure that every guitar meets the tonal expectations of each individual customer.
The third principle reason for considering a custom built guitar is that luthiers often include forward thinking features in their guitars that are not practical for a large company to incorporate. Features that enhance the quality of the guitar such as the use of carbon fiber, sound ports, arm rests, wedges, and adjustable necks, etc., are too costly to justify for tooling up an assembly line. While the advantage of large scale manufacturing is economy of scale, the advantage of small scale building is the flexibility to innovate. As a result, many hand builders include features that enhance structure and stability or improve ergonomics, playability and tone. Often many of these features are standard in hand built guitars.
Hopefully when making a decision you will take into account these considerations in purchasing your next acoustic guitar.