Posted on January 10, 2010April 30, 2021 by Dale Phillips Letter: Luthiers Must Offer What Factories Can’t Letter: Luthiers Must Offer What Factories Can’t by Alan Carruth Originally published in American Lutherie #63, 2000 GAL, I was very taken with Woody Vernice’s review of the Taylor neck design video in AL#62, but I think he sells himself short. As impressive as the video is, I don’t think the joint is beyond the ability of most luthiers to cut to the required accuracy. Of course, it would take us longer by hand than it takes Bob’s machine! Woody’s overall point is well taken, though. If we are to justify our existence (and our prices!) we have to be offering something that the factories can’t. If you leave out the stash of endangered materials, two possibilities spring to mind: visual art, and tone. There are a number of builders exploiting the aspect of visual creativity. In most cases this takes the form of some sort of “applied” art; whether it be a distinctive soundhole rosette, carving, or inlay work. Often the decorative scheme of an entire guitar will be keyed to one such distinctive element, making it a unique work. In some ways this is the path of least resistance. Luthiers have always built highly-decorated instruments for the elite market. It is easy to add a little pizzazz by slapping on a bunch of pearl, but that way leads in the end to the Rococo and Mannerism: the elaboration of form to the ultimate detriment of function. Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page. If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.