"How do you see yourself, in 15 years?"
Some friends of my family who have nothing to do with lutherie, regularly ask me this question. This world is mysterious for many people, because it have its own codes & rules...
"How do you see yourself in 15 years", is such a huge question. I started as luthier for 8 years now, and this question probably is one of the most important in my life as craftsman. It concern many things, and the approach-angle could be very large. What are we talking about? Being a luthier, is a way of life for me. It is not just building/repairing/setting instruments, but designing them too. It is a big part of your journey, definitely. For me, everything start with a piece of wood that I'll have to pick from a supplier. I need to take care of the cut, the color, the grain, and mostly how I would be able to sell it to my customer. "When would I be able to work with it?" is such a big question because it will have an impact on the investment I'll have to do. A set of ebony or African Blackwood, will take much more time to be seasonned, than a less-denser wood like Walnut for example. So, I won't be able to build with it and to get some money from it... but high-end exotic woods will give me the possibility to charge more to my customer, when I'll be able to build with it. After that, I'll have to study the market to know what kind of instruments/wood would be successful. Your audience, your customers, other builders... all of it will have an influence about X or Y choice I'd do. Would it be better to build a parlor, or a dreadnought? Should I use maple instead or rosewood, to sell it as quick as possible? How about the impact on my brand & identity as luthier and human, if I chose to work with very exclusive material which is on CITES annex 2?
Now, let's speak about the "Turnover", of a luthier's woodstash. Many luthiers equal many approaches, but I think all of us are agreed about one thing: the importance to replace a set of wood, when you've built an instrument. It is close from the "you cut one tree, you need to plant a couple of them to contribute to the ressource-renewal". The seasoning is crucial when you have to work with wood, and the most touchy thing when you start your life as luthier is to find great material, dried enough to make amazing instruments. It is a lot of money to build a stash, and it never stop when you sell an instrument because you need to spend money to buy more wood. I think this struggle is known by many/every luthiers, who are building instruments. To answer to the main question of this topic and how I see my future as luthier, here is the elephant in the room: Global Warming. Bugs, discease, Fires, floods, hurricane... all of these things, have an huge impact on forest and wood exploitations. A couple of years ago, the Val Di Fiemme forest in Italy, had been hit by a crazy tempest. The events that happened in France in 1999, have decimated forests in the entire country. The loss was unimaginable and it won't just affect the amount of wood that we lost and of course the demand/offer/price, but the way luthiers will consider working with different species.
So, what could I do? The quality of the wood we could have right now is way different than the one I had access less than 10 years ago, and CITES legislation is much more severe... it definitely is a blow for me as luthier, and for my customers who desire to have instruments built with each or each woods. It became more and more difficult to supply ourselves with large sets of wood because the bigger trees had been already cut a while ago... and the larger pieces of wood are costing more money, of course. So, It will have an impact about the size of instruments I could build, and the price I'll have to charge for my bigger models. I definitely don't know if I should design a jumbo model because this is really hard to get sets large enough, to build this kind of guitars... but some customers love this kind of guitars. Let's be clear, this report only engage myself and I don't want to speak for anyone else but the majority of my colleagues is concerned. When we are in guitarshows, we are trying to build some "exhibition-pieces" especially for this occasion and we love to talk about material we used. Sometimes, we are trading or buying some wood from other's stash and it is always a joy to find new little wonders for the instruments we are dreaming to build. The only way I found to avoid all of these problematics, is to invest as much as I could in woods, for years now. It is pretty crazy but there's nothing better for a customer to come to talk with me, and to be able to have many options for his future guitar. Do I regret all the sacrifices I did in my life, to get the best wood I could find? When I hear my customers, playing his instruments for the first time... not at all.
So, where would I be in 15 years? In my workshop. What could I do there? Building guitars, but differently than 15 years ago. Benjamin Paldacci Benjamin Paldacci Guitars