Bespoke Musical Instrument Commissions

Bespoke Build Guitars, Mandolins & Ukuleles - Starting Prices


(scroll down to see examples of previous commissions)

Concert Acoustic Guitar - £1950

Build time for a guitar is up to a month

Mandolins

Flat Top - £650
Archtop A-Style - £750
Archtop Scroll - £850

Build time for mandolins is up to three weeks

Ukuleles

Soprano - £345
Concert - £400
Tenor - £500

Build time for ukuleles is up to two weeks

These starting prices include a selection of quality tonewoods, for you to choose for your build. Also included is good quality hardware. Please view the options tables for extra special tonewood, hardware & other features that can be added on. Whatever the agreed price for a build, a 30% deposit is taken. Generally this is non-returnable as it is used to aquire tonewood, other materials & hardware.
Tonewood Options
* Moon Spruce Soundboard - Guitar  £225 
* Moon Spruce Soundboard - Archtop Mandolin £100
* Moon Spruce Soundboard - Tenor Ukulele £30
 ** Bosnian Maple Back & Sides, 1-Piece Neck (archtop mandolin)    £165 
 * Swiss Maple Back & Sides, 1-Piece Neck (archtop mandolin)    £170 
 * Swiss Maple, Cherry or Walnut Back & Sides (tenor ukulele)    £65 
 * Swiss Maple Back & Sides (guitar)    £195 
 *** US Western Maple [Big Leaf] Back & Sides, 1-Piece Neck (archtop mandolin)    £265 
Cocobolo Back & Sides - Guitar, Mandolin or Ukulele POA
Hawaiin Koa Back & Sides - Guitar, Mandolin or Ukulele POA
Macassar Ebony Back & Sides - Guitar, Mandolin or Ukulele POA

* Master Quality
Hand Split from Quatered Logs, Stored & Naturally Seasoned at High Altitude.
Every Process - from Felling to Selling - in the Production of this Tonewood is handled by One & the Same Company.

** Highly Flamed, Naturally Seasoned for 10 years+

*** Highly Flamed Maple variety from Oregon/USA. Striking Flame of Coral Pinks & Reds.

General Options
Radius Fretboard (mandolin) Ebony - £55
Radius Fretboard (guitar) Ebony - £70
Side Porthole (guitar) £45
Slotted Headstock (guitar) £75
Bound Fretboard (mandolin)  £65 
Bound Fretboard (tenor ukulele)  £75 
Bound Fretboard (guitar)  £105 
Comfort Edge (guitar) £65
Cutaway (guitar) £85
One-Piece Cast Iron Tailpiece (mandolin) £70
Titanium Bridge Pins (guitar) £82
  Alternative Finish e.g. Sunburst Mandolin  £95
Delux Tuners (ukulele) £25
Delux Tuners (Mandolin) up to £160
Delux Tuners (guitar) £125
Back Binding (tenor ukulele) £40
Back Binding (mandolin) £35
Back Binding (guitar) £45
Recomended Pickup Options - Guitar, Mandolin and Ukulele
Recomended Pickup Options
(including installation)
 L.R.Baggs LYRIC™ Guitar Pickup   £285 
 L.R.Baggs RADIUS MANDOLIN™ Pickup   £214 
 L.R.Baggs FIVE.O™ Ukulele Pickup   £214 

The scope for options is endless, and these tables are intened as a guide only, to list some of the possibilities. You may have some ideas of your own for a dream guitar, or other instrument, with your own personalised options in mind. So should you be inspired with any ideas you wish to share & discuss, or just want to make a general inquiry, feel free to get in contact by phone, email or using the form below.

Leave a reply✍

 

 
Guitar from Scottish Sycamore
Handmade Acoustic Guitar, from Scottish Rippled Sycamore, full frontal viewHandmade Acoustic Guitar, from Scottish Rippled Sycamore, back viewHandmade Acoustic Guitar, from Scottish Rippled Sycamore, Diamond Inlay close up
Guitar Commissions allow the buyer to indulge in elaborate designs & unique features such as this acoustic guitar, which includes a whole range of elaborate additions :

Boxwood & Ebony Diamond strip inlay.

Swallows Decoration around the sound hole & inlayed in the Fretboard.

Pointed 'Bird' Bridge.

Spanish Style Heel NB. Not in the structural sense.
Handmade Acoustic Guitar, Swallows Soundhole portrait viewHandmade Acoustic Guitar, Spanish Heal view

The Back & Sides are from seasoned quarter sawn Scottish 'Rippled' Sycamore - quite a rare Tonewood with a beautiful Satin Sheen.

The owner of this commission wanted a bright appearance to thier instrument, hence the choice of Scottish Rippled Sycamore.

Handmade Acoustic Guitar, Scottish Rippled Sycamore sides view
Cedrela Mahogany is used for the Neck - more typical for Flamenco Guitars. The result is a guitar with a very light feel to it.

Includes the best quality Gotoh™ 510 Tuners available.[& the most expensive]
Handmade Acoustic Guitar, back of Peghead viewHandmade Acoustic Guitar, Peghead viewHandmade Acoustic Guitar from Sycamore, full frontal portrait view

As a Professional Luthier I'm always looking to make new instruments, exploring new designs & experimenting with different Tonewoods. And this is usually encouraged by players who want to create a unique & exciting musical instrument for themselves.

And too often manufactured guitars, for example, present players with a single choice of traditional dark mahogany back & sides with plain spruce soundboard, & limited features. In contrast Luthiers like me can offer a choice of more striking Tonewoods, unique designs & individually tailored bespoke features.
Most importanly, I can deliver to you a responsive, resonant instrument, with your desireable tone in mind. And a Commissioned Bespoke Instrument, as you like it, can take your passion for playing music to a much higher level, or completely reinvigorate a waning desire to play.

Of course, a commissoned handmade instrument by a professional luthier comes at a price. Nowerdays manufactured acoustic guitars, for example, can be assembled & finished in five hours - using CNC machinery. Likewise, archtop mandolins can be manufactured in hours. In contrast a handmade acoustic guitar by a luthier may take four weeks minimum, using limited power tools. So you may ask what is 'handmade' if the luthier is also using power tools? The answer to this question is time.

Four weeks working alone verses five hours of a manufacturing process involving numerous people. So this is is the self-explanitory reason for the higher price. The luthier may try to limit the use of power tools, but doubtless they will be used. And in a sense, there is the freedom to use these tools, unbound by any so called 'assembly line', & thus able to create unique & exciting instruments.

Viennese Style Deep Body Mandolin
Viennese Style Deep Body Mandolin
A less common style of Mandolin, combining Swiss 'Moon' Spruce, Scottish Rippled Sycamore & Bosnian Flamed Maple. Also a very rigid neck from quarter sawn 'Construction' Maple.
Viennese Style Deep Body Mandolin, side view
A bit naughty for a luthier - the grain of this Sycamore for the ribs runs vertical, soundboard to back. Worth the risk? Behold the natural fire effect.
Viennese Style Deep Body Mandolin, top view
The soundboard is from tightly grained 'Moon' Spruce. This is Tonewood derived from Trees that are only felled during certain phases of the Moon. Such wood is said to exhibit outstanding and unique characteristics. Scientific studies have actually been undertaken, & show that 'Moon' Instruments are less likely to go out of tune.
Viennese Style Deep Body Mandolin, back viewViennese Mandolin, Peghead front viewViennese Style Deep Body Mandolin, Peghead viewViennese Mandolin, Allen Tailpiece view
The resulting combination of the more stable 'Moon Spruce' soundboard, deep body & stiff neck produces a very powerful sounding instrument.

So given the much higher cost, you may ask why commission a handmade instrument? Well owning a hand built instrument carries a lot of prestige, & you may not find exactly what you want in the shops. With the experiance of a luthier, you become involved in the build process, & develop a relationship over time so that all of your criteria & specifications are met. You may have a certain style or tone in mind.

But of course it cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy how the end result will sound. So we work together to ensure that your instrument has the right sound & feel you are looking for. But it is possible to partly controll the outcome, mainly by the selection of Tonewoods used in construction. All Tonewoods have different sonic properties. Mahogany & Wallnut tend to generate a mellow tone, while harder more dense woods like Rosewood tend to produce a brighter, sharper sound.
Tonewood by definition refers to wood varieties that possess certain tonal properties that make them good choices for use in acoustic stringed instruments. And thus the choice of Tonewoods is the determining factor in the sonic outcome of a musical instrument.

F4 Style Mandolin in Piano Black
F4 Style Mandolin, finished in Piano Black, top view

Private Commissions provide a selection of alternative, unique finishes not normally found amoungst manufactured mandolins.

In the age of 'Cool' Piano Black is a desireable finish for a bespoke instrument. Also the neck/peghead of this f4 mandolin is cut from a single block of USA Western Maple

F4 Style Mandolin PegheadF4 Style Mandolin Peghead back
F-Style Mandolins can be quite a challenge to build - arched top, arched back & most notably because of the elaborate scroll. Orville H. Gibson - famous for guitars - created the modern mandolin. & the scroll is said to be the result of his obsession with ornamentation.
F4 Style Scroll Mandolin, backF4 Style Scroll Mandolin, Scroll back detail
The owner of this commission calls it his 'Black Beauty'. & the top contrasts strikingly to the violin grade Bosnian Maple of the back.
F4 Style Mandolin, top, portrait viewF4 Style Mandolin, full view backF4 Style Mandolin, finished in Piano Black, Flamed Bosnian Maple back viewF4 Style Mandolin finished in Piano Black, Allen Tailpiece close up
Important for producing the highest quality Tonewood is ample seasoning time. Generally wood harbours 50% water content, & this moisture content must be allowed to fall to around 12% before it can be used as Tonewood in instruments. Otherwise the potential resonance of the instrument will be 'dampened'. And the problem is worsened once sealed by varnish or oil - certainly the great violin makers would have observed this golden rule.

Martin Style Soprano Ukuleles

Although very popular nowerdays, Ukuleles can be disapointing in terms of quality - particularly 'non-resonating'. Like the ubiquitous pink variety from China, often bought as toys for children. Handmade ukes in contrast are unlikely to be disregarded or discarded (often as mere toys).

<- This ukulele commission is all from Cedrela Mahogany, with a Walnut back. Is in the design of early Martin Ukes - using copies of original Martin plans. ->

Detail: The fretboard in this Ukulele is from Exotic Tonewood - Figured Mexican Katalox. The rounded point is typical of early style Martin Ukes.

The Soundboard is from Cedrela Mahogany. Even when lightly finished, Cedrela Mahogany can be a striking almost luminous orange colour.

Contrary to popular belief, Ukuleles do not need to be made of Koa wood to get the best quality. It just happens that Ukuleles originated in Hawaii - where Koa trees grow in abundance. Cedrela Mahogany has similar tonal properties to American Black Walnut.

Cedrela is widely used in the making of Flamenco Guitars, as it tends to emphasize the midrange tones more than the basses, producing a "brighter" more percusive sound.
The small scale of Soprano Ukuleles means they will never produce a loud natural sound, capable of filling a large room. But the LR Baggs Five.O Uke Pickup System to my mind totally resolves the volume issue, so you can better hear the sweet tone of nylon strings emanating from Cedrela Mahogany. Louder instruments can be made from higher density Tonewoods.
See -> A Bright Uke

So wood destined to be Tonewood is often stored in special, controlled environments, designed to allow the wood to season - to dry naturally. So this makes it more expensive than regular wood. Also, once a tree is felled, tonewood has to be cut in a special way - so as to derive its best strength & stability. Again another factor effecting the price of tonewood & ultimately the cost of a commissioned hand built musical instrument. It must be noted that the time of year a tree is felled is also a factor, & strikingly, specific phases of the moon.

True Quartersawn

Most likely, a manufactured guitar will be made from kiln dried wood, a much faster process allowing faster production. Though this method dries the wood rapidly, it's not a method employed by high end violin makers. So I use 'violin grade' tonewood, to get the best tone & stability from my instruments.

Martin Style Acoustic Guitar

Handmade instruments by a Luthier will look, feel & play completely different to manufactured models. And there are many reasons to choose to have a bespoke instrument commissioned. Most notably discerning players simply can'nt find what they want in the shops array of manufactured acoustic guitars, A4 mandolins or lifeless ukuleles. Also, is probably the ideal gift - unique and inspiring to the recipient.

Anything is possible - elaborate decoration with a name of a person inlaid, or birds or animals inlaid in Ebony or Abalone. Again such details, though desireable, come at a cost & ultimately don't influence the sound. But, they do provide for a much more complete personalised item.

Everything I make is built to last, & carries a lifetime gurantee against structual problems. Preferably purchase a case as well, not usually included the price. This makes shipping much easier and also encourages players to take good care of thier instruments - kept in thier cases away from humidity. Humidity is the main enemy of musical instruments handmade from solid wood ie. solid wood as opposed to laminated.

A4 Mandolin - Dakota Red Sunburst
The main emphasis on this little baby was the finish - Black to Dakota Red Sunburst effect on the top. Mostly Everthing else is quite ordinary - flat rosewood fretboard, standard Gotoh tuners & a common tailpiece.

Although the Maple Tonewood of the neck, sides & back is quite well flamed.

Its owner, new to archtop mandolins, was suitably impressed with the rich, vibey tone. & considering something from Walnut.

Each type of instrument has its own specific challenges, when it comes to building. Acoustic guitars are challenging mainly due to thier size - where bending the sides, for example, can be a timely process. And obtaining an exact center line from Peghead, down the neck to bout is a combination of complex carpentry & engineering tasks. Archtop F style mandolins are quite daunting, despite making many. There are neck to body angles, carving & intricate inlay. Soprano Ukuleles are tricky because everthing is so small & thin, which means exacting measurements, especially the scale length.

For each instrument, acoustic guitar, mandolin & ukulele, I have a set of moulds which aid the build process. And each size & style of acoustic guitar, mandolin or ukulele also has its own mold. Also templates & full scale plans to aid the build process.

New Neck for Peevey T-60
The owner of this Peevey T-60 electric guitar gradually became disatisfied with the one-piece maple neck it was supplied with [left]. So he asked me to slice up the orginal neck & put on a ebony fretboard. Discussions followed & I proposed I make a totally new neck, with near exact dimensions[right]. At the time of asking I hapenned to have a nicely flamed piece of US Western Maple in stock at my workshop, exhibiting much more figure than the original plain laminated neck.

So on went the radiused ebony fretboard together with abolone inlaid marker dots. And, as it was my crafted neck, on went my logo. Hardware from the original was used, & the result was a much beefier, luxuriant addition to the Peevey, & a very satisfied Gerry from 'Skehans' Irish muso pub in Nunhead, London.

Tele-Uke / 4 String Guitar
Specification:

Size: Baritone
Scale length: 49cm
Frets: 20 frets
Nut: Bone
Neck: One-piece bolt-on Maple
Body: Equatorial African Wenge
Pickup: Humbucker Rail Coil
 Tone & Volume Cotrols
Bridge: Adjustable Telecaster Style


Machine Heads: Closed, Ashbury

The small body is from the equatorial african hardwood known as Wenge. Its a one-piece bolt on maple neck, with a carbon fibre rod routed from the back. Though its a short neck unlikely to warp, this carbon fibre rod just gives it that extra rigidity. It can be tuned like a ukulele or a four string guitar [DGBE]. And because of the short scale, string gauges start at 0.013 for top E.

This commission, for a short scale four string guitar, originated from tuning problems with a cheap import. The other instrument, which this replaced, had many attempts by other luthiers to resolve its tuning problems. So instead of trying again myself, I offered to make a new one - a more opulent model. So this customer gladly accpeted, with the following specifications;