CNC Machines Guitar

Ed Roman on CNC Machines

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Computer Numerically Controlled
A Look at the Pros & Cons


Below is An Interesting Video of A CNC Machine at Work Cutting a Gibson Guitar
It's No Wonder These Guitars Have Had Their Souls Cut Out & Eaten by The Chinese

Dear Ed

The boys at Warsaw Machinery are clearly pleased over their sale of several massive CNC band-saws to Gibson. To me, its just another reason to wonder out loud why a guitar would cost $2K+ when 250 of them can be sawn out in one day.

I'm all for reducing the tedium and wasted time of repetitive tasks, but the sole responsibility of the guitar technician shown in the video is just to catch and deflect waste-wood with a stick. I sure wouldn't put that at the top of *my* resume.

Alan Peterson


Just in case you have been in deepest darkest Africa for the past 10 years and don't know what CNC means.  It means Computer Numerically Controlled.  A CNC Router can make a guitar body in minutes where it would take a craftsman hours.  A craftsman will pay attention to the detail of the wood grain, If he's any good he will marry the woods that sound the best together, he will position the wood so that an occlusion will fall inside a pickup route or under a pick guard. In other words he will give a $hit.  CNC Machines, just don't give a $hit. But they serve their purpose in keeping costs to a minimum. 

I myself use CNC Machines to make my lower cost Pearlcasters, Scorpions, RVC,s Mosrites and even the plainer lower cost Quicksilver guitars. Whenever I am building something special, I will usually hand build the body right here in our small custom shop in Las Vegas. Lets face it, if someone wants an all opaque black guitar it makes no sense to hand build the body. The typical buyer for an all black guitar is a youngster who is working with a limited budget. I can save this customer at least $300.00 by making my alder, ash, basswood & mahogany bodies on a CNC machine.

Bakers, Gibsons, PRS, Fender, ESP, Ibanez, Washburn, Yamahaha are all made on CNC machines. Nothing is legally or even morally wrong with that as long as the price reflects it.  Fenders are cheaper today than have ever been in 50 years. I have to comment, Fender is a company that offers excellent value. In fact as long as you don't go crazy on price with a Fender custom shop model you cannot go wrong. Gibsons have gone through the roof in price because they feel that a customer will think it's a better instrument if it costs more. The sad sad very sad thing is Gibson is right.

Many people spend a small fortune on Gibson's because they assume it must be better because it costs so much more. Many of these people become disillusioned with Gibson privately but they can't admit it because they are trying to sell theirs or at least keep the value as high as possible on the one they bought.

Be aware that on our handmade Abstract guitars & our handmade Centurions, Baker's Mosrites and LSR models are all hand carved.

I think it was Hartley Peavey who first used CNC Machines to build guitars. I am not 100% sure of that but that would make a lot of sense from all aspects anyway. Maybe I'll call him and find out. He is a very hands on guy.  I think the world of him even though I never sold a real lot of his products.
Peavey products have always been very fairly priced. Even the Van Halen & Satriani products were sensibly priced. Hartley could have charged more for those products & I don't think his sales would have suffered at all.

Peavey is the definitive example of a truly benevolent corporation. They don't play price games and they don't play the marketing BS tricks that some of the big companies employ to sell their swill at higher than stupid prices. Ed Roman Guitars never developed a market for the lower & mid range guitars but if I had Peavey would have been one of my top choices for a company to become involved with.  I was a Peavey dealer &  I am very conscious of their product. Their quality has come up easily surpassing Gibson. They are a fine company and a real credit to our industry.  Not like some other companies who are a blight on our industry and are always trying to suck it dry.

I personally think that CNC machines have their place. Because of CNC machines a beginners model guitar can actually be built with full integrity.  A human can always do a better job of selecting wood and matching grain but a CNC makes it so a beginner will actually be able to learn on his instrument. That is a real positive step forward!

A professional musician can also benefit from a CNC made product. Most pros will buy a Fender. They most often regard their instrument as a tool, the same as a mechanic regards a wrench. Many mechanics will buy a Craftsman wrench and be quite happy. There are much better tools on the market than "Craftsman" but it doesn't make a lot of sense for a Ferrari mechanic to actually use a $324.00 Ferrari made wrench to yank a spark plug. Especially when the $17.95 "Craftsman"  will do exactly the same job.

A Fender will always hold most of it's value. Peavey still cannot say that but Gibson resale value is a joke. In fact I can buy Gibson guitars from many dealers who will sell me new product at several hundred dollars below their cost.

The only Gibson guitar that has increased in value since 1994 is the Ace Frehley model. I firmly believe that the only reason that is true is the Ace Frehley model originally  sold for a relatively fair price. In 1995, Gibson's prices started to climb incredibly high, they actually started to pack in the cache value so the buyer would bear the expense of owning it for 25 years instead of realizing a profit in 25 years. Talk about misplaced brand loyalty.  Gibson has their customers neatly blindfolded and horn-swoggled.



CNC machines are great for real cost cutting capabilities.  Which theoretically should bring the consumer's cost down. That is why many cheapo guitars are actually playable today. Even though they are playable they rarely have any real soul. Companies who sell CNC made products as if they were handmade, Will fool the consumer by pretending their guitars were hand made. Baker Guitars did that for years we only found out when we bought the brand name.
It does not matter where the CNC is located. A Chinese, Korean or Mexican CNC is exactly the same as an American CNC. Which also should theoretically bring the consumers price down. Greedy, evil large Corporations like - ----- with absolutely no conscience make things in Korea and do final assembly in the USA. Therefore they are unfairly profiteering at the consumers expense.
Theoretically a CNC should benefit the consumer by providing excellent quality control on all major components. However you must remember that someone still has to physically assemble the guitar. Some companies will actually CNC the guitar taking into account the fact that the neck joint will have paint or glue in it. This defeats the purpose of a tight fit anyway. So in effect they are using it as a cost cutter and not using it for it's beneficial capabilities. Small Companies usually can't afford CNC machines and when they break down the take weeks to fix. Small companies use an overhead router and maybe a hand router which increases the margin for error. Remember a Cubit Zircon is 100% absolutely perfect but a diamond has personality otherwise known as flaws. The CNC machine is always blind deaf & dumb. A human can choose exactly where he wants the router bit to cut into. A human has the option of placing the wood in the jig so that imperfections, like knotholes, discolorations and other anomalies fall underneath pickguards or where a pickup cavity is routed etc etc.
Often CNC guitars are called cold and soul-less there is no rational explanation.  It just seems apparent to an artists ears, hands & fingers that the difference between a handmade guitar, & a CNC made guitar is very easy to spot.
 I know that I myself can instantly feel the difference, in a heartbeat!  In our shop we physically hang up all of our wood. We tap each piece for resonance and tone and we match tops and backs for harmonic resonance. That will never be the case in a CNC shop.
CNC Inlay artists abound, Some of them do really good work.  Again this should reflect in the price of the inlay on the guitar. It should serve to bring the prices down. we do handmade one of a kind inlays and we also do production CNC inlays. I don't consider CNC'd guitars art. That's like buying a $3000.00 poster of an original painting. The original should sell for decent dollars, but the cheap posters (fancy word prints or Gicle') should sell for 30  to 40 dollars not thousands.

Read the Con article to the right on this one. Here's the reason why this whole deal sucks big time! 

The year was 1993. The company was PRS. The guitar was "The Dragon".  PRS came out with a $1,500 guitar with a $600 CNC Dragon on them, PRS priced them at $11,000. Guess what, the suckers lined up. PRS was so successful that they did it again in1994. In 1995 they actually raised the price to $16K.  I personally sold a set of 3 of these for $78K in 1998. I swear it's true. Today those guitars wouldn't  bring $25K for the whole set. It was like a game of musical chairs the price kept going up until the music stopped, whoever got left holding them probably still has them.  OUCH !!!
Consumers are finally getting smart.. That's really good news !! A consumer could easily be ripped off !!!
Mid Priced Baker Guitars are CNC'd and they only sell for approximately $1,100.00 PRS Guitars are CNC'd & comparative ones to Baker sell for three times as much.

Click here to find out about Les Paul broken necks

How the Devil Builds Guitars A page that maybe goes a little over the top. I agree with this guy in principle but this guy manages to interject religious overtones to his rant or blog or whatever you wish to call it.