Cheap Guitars: Factory vs. Handmade Guitars

Cheap Guitars: Factory vs. Handmade Guitars

You can walk into any Guitar Center and immediately face a display of cheap guitars. I have seen acoustic guitars for less than two hundred dollars displayed as the center piece in the store.

Before Christmas the stores are stocked with an abundance of inexpensive guitars. Parents may be looking for a beginner guitar for their child and not wanting to spend a lot of money for something that may not be used. All of these inexpensive guitars are made in China. I look at these chintzy guitars and find it hard to believe that the Chinese factories can buy the materials, assemble the guitars, ship them to the states and make any kind of profit. There is a reason these guitars are so cheap. They are constructed with low quality wood, poor building practices and cheap hardware.

The Truth About Cheap Guitars

I can’t even buy material for what some of these cheap guitars cost. These factories usually skimp on the wood. Most of the bodies are made from a thin plywood. I have spent years searching for high quality tone woods. The wood is the heart of the instrument. Solid tonewoods (not plywood) vibrate much better. The sound board wood I use is either spruce, cedar or redwood. The sound board is the most important part of the guitar for sound production. These guitars will not have a good quality sound board. Quality wood is very expensive, but it is well worth the cost because of the results that a luthier produces with good wood.

Cheap guitars are manufactured in a factory at a very high rate of speed. On the outside they look pretty good, but they have a very thick finish. The inside of the guitar is braced with some random wood which is very thick and heavy. The inside of those guitars is usually very rough and crude. The guitars that I build take over one hundred man hours to complete. Every brace is carefully fitted and carved. The brace wood has been split from billets to get the most strength and yet still be light. I test my sound boards so that I can make them thinner without loosing strength. I don’t want the finish to be very thick. A thick finish can dampen the sound board because the wood can’t vibrate very well. I use a finish that is only 2-3 mils thick.

Even the Cases Are Cheap

Even the cases that come with cheap guitars are inferior to the cases used for a custom hand crafted instrument. The bottom tier chap guitars will come with a gig bag. Some of the cases are made of card board, they don’t offer much protection. A custom guitar needs a sturdy, high quality case for ultimate protection. The cases I use sometimes cost more than some of these cheap import guitars.

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