What we're up against

Sven

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The title isn't dead serious. I'm not a pro builder and I can easily get enough material for my builds. But look at this vid from a Chinese guitar maker. The fact that the factory is in China is of less importance, it could be anywhere and still frighten me with draining the wood supplies and flooding the market at the other end.

That said, look at the machines! Gang drilling for side dots, applying brace glue in a cnc machine - I couldn't imagine stuff like that. And still some hand tools show up.

I almost felt sorry for them mis-spelling a three letter word at the very end.

 

Timbuck

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That was great Sven...I use one or two of those methods myself..But not as quick or in such volume...scary stuff :uhoh:
 

Beau Hannam Ukuleles

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They must be very proud to be producing such generic objects in such a large volume.......just what the world needs......
Always interesting to see factory methods though. Thanks for posting this.
 

anthonyg

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Well after your introduction I thought I was going to see a machine doing everything and was surprised to see SO much handwork. They were shaping the neck heel by hand and I was a littler perturbed by how freeform they seemed to be in gluing on the fretboard. There may be errors there.

Anthony
 

Mivo

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They must be very proud to be producing such generic objects in such a large volume.......just what the world needs.......

Inexpensive, mass-produced musical instruments of a presumably good quality that was previously unheard of, is a good thing for the world. It means more people have access to better instruments. The quality of products out of China has really increased in recent years.

I don't see it as a danger for custom builders. You guys make instruments that meet a client's exact desire. Works of art often. There's little overlap. Custom ukes have gotten more expensive, so while a grand may no longer buy a luthier-built instrument with some extras, it will now buy a very well built high-end Chinese uke. And $200 probably now buy much better quality factory ukes than just a few years ago.

Everyone seems to win.
 

resoman

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I almost felt sorry for them mis-spelling a three letter word at the very end.

Almost but not quite. That video is seriously disturbing, especially seeing those hundreds of guitars traveling on the conveyor.
If people would quit buying this stuff they'd go away
 

Rrgramps

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I just came up from my shop, trying to decide on which binding machine to build or purchase. Then I saw this video, and think how Ribbecke, Dooling, Fleishman, LMI and SM binding machines don't have near the automation shown in this video.

Then I thought, "doesn't matter," that's not what my hobby for. In fact, my hobby doesn't even have to have a salable product. It's my own personal mountain, and I may never reach the top. ...and I don't care. But I do care that the company in this video sells mediocre instruments, which may drive some of the market away from custom luthiers who are in it for their livelihood.

They still can't or don't produce a Ken/beau/Pete and others here, quality instrument. There will be market room for those.
 

bikemech

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The title isn't dead serious. I'm not a pro builder and I can easily get enough material for my builds. But look at this vid from a Chinese guitar maker. The fact that the factory is in China is of less importance, it could be anywhere and still frighten me with draining the wood supplies and flooding the market at the other end.

That said, look at the machines! Gang drilling for side dots, applying brace glue in a cnc machine - I couldn't imagine stuff like that. And still some hand tools show up.

I almost felt sorry for them mis-spelling a three letter word at the very end.


Certainly this says more about the market and the world population than it does about the Kepma Guitar company.

They must be very proud to be producing such generic objects in such a large volume.......just what the world needs......
Always interesting to see factory methods though. Thanks for posting this.

I'll bet they are very proud. In addition to the modern production methods, there is certainly a lot of hand-work going into those guitars. And perhaps the quality is better than some imagine.

Creating instruments with no soul.

Bob

OK.....

I almost felt sorry for them mis-spelling a three letter word at the very end.

Almost but not quite. That video is seriously disturbing, especially seeing those hundreds of guitars traveling on the conveyor.
If people would quit buying this stuff they'd go away

Disturbing? Maybe you are commenting more on consumerism or on the usage of world resources than the techniques of the factory; that I can understand. But factories are producing instruments in large numbers because people demand them. And there are a hell of a lot of people out there in the world.

We can only hope they sound poorly. Otherwise we are in trouble.

Why would you be in trouble? Do you sell to the same market?

I have to say, I don't quite understand all the derision in this thread. Maybe you are all coming at it from a small-builder's perspective. Ok. I get that. But I found the automation, the techniques, the speed, the volume fascinating. I had not previously heard of Kepma Guitar but I would guess they are producing the guitars in the volume and quality that their market requires, otherwise they likely would not be in business. I'd guess that some of these same techniques are used in North American factories as well. Godin? Martin? Magic Fluke? etc.
 
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RichM

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I don't want to quote bikemech's entire post, but he makes a lot of good points. There is a demand for mass-produced guitars. Watching this video, I see a factory that has automated many processes, but also continues to do skilled and semi-skilled handwork. Those are decisions that make sense for a factory; they know they are cutting corners, but they are choosing the ones that make the most sense for the product.

I've toured the Martin factory a few times, most recently about a year ago. Each time I go, there is more automation in place. While there is more handwork going on at Martin, a lot of the images in this video are very similar to what I saw at Martin. Martin makes as many as 80,000 guitars in a year. They make more instruments in a day than many luthiers make in a lifetime. So yeah, there's automation involved.

Many Asian imports are junk (believe me, I've owned some of them). But many are quite good. I bought my first guitar in 1975 for $60, and it was junk. According the the infallible internet, that $60 would be worth around $200 today, which would buy a darn good starter guitar. For people starting out, or of limited means, there are much better choices available today. Leaving politics out of it for the time being, why wouldn't we want people to have more choices?

I own instruments from some of the finest luthiers building today, and I'm thrilled to own them. I also own some mass-produced instruments by companies like Eastman, which are very good. But they aren't in the same league. I can't see someone saying "I was going to buy a $10,000 boutique guitar, but now I'm going to buy a $150 guitar from China."

As far as instruments having no soul-- I think that comes from the player.
 

Michael N.

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What's the problem? It's nothing new. The American factories have been moving to greater and greater automation for many decades. I think Martin switched to spraying sometime in the late '30's. I can't think that they took that decision because they thought it was slower. . .
 
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Bonanza Pete

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Bike Mike, my comment was not a derision of the automation employed by this company. It is the future.
I was merely responding to comments that they must be poor quality. A person had better be able to offer something unique or exceptional to compete doing it manually.
 

Timbuck

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I don't think that the word is mis-spelt ..if you look again there is a very large red T in the centre...maybe it's a case of not seeing the T's for the wood ;)
 

jcalkin

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I did repairs for a music store that sold a few brands of off-shore instruments. Some of the guitars were reaching for the $1000 retail range. They were beautiful to look at. But a number of them had problems, chiefly to do with wood shrinkage. If the salesmen agreed that the guitars were NFG the store was ordered to smash and toss them. It was cheaper to replace them rather than ship them back and repair them. The store was desperate to make some money off them but I always declined the repair work as too complicated for the fee the store was willing to pay. Defective, low-end Fender amps were also ordered into the dumpster. Its an often overlooked form of waste that must be rare among small-output makers.
 

Beau Hannam Ukuleles

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The overlap happens when I buy 5 spruce tops, they buy 100,000 spruce tops and the same for rosewood back/sides...now all rosewood is on CITES. Thats overlap.
But I agree that affordable instruments (of any quality) are good and better thing then say, plastic toy guns or some other non necessary thing.

Inexpensive, mass-produced musical instruments of a presumably good quality that was previously unheard of, is a good thing for the world. It means more people have access to better instruments. The quality of products out of China has really increased in recent years.

I don't see it as a danger for custom builders. You guys make instruments that meet a client's exact desire. Works of art often. There's little overlap. Custom ukes have gotten more expensive, so while a grand may no longer buy a luthier-built instrument with some extras, it will now buy a very well built high-end Chinese uke. And $200 probably now buy much better quality factory ukes than just a few years ago.

Everyone seems to win.
 

mainger

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They must be very proud to be producing such generic objects in such a large volume.......just what the world needs......

What's the proportion of guitar players in any given population? 1-2% maybe?
Population of China: 1.3 billion. 1,300,000,000... That means having to produce at least 13,000,000 guitars just to meet the low end of the domestic demand...
 

rubykey

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Yes it is a sobering reminder of what a huge use of resources gets expended to make these guitars and our many many many many ukuleles. Most of us here own cheaply made ukuleles produced in Asia. And precisely because they are so inexpensive the hording (AKA UAS) is so tempting. Thank you for sharing and thank you for all your insightful comments.

My takeaway is this. Support the Crafts People who make ukuleles. Treat yourself to a hand crafted ukulele. It doesn't have to be high-end custom. There are builders on this forum who make beautiful instruments for a reasonable cost. I recently bought a Blue Frog soprano from Vic Jones. It's such a delight to actually communicate with the person who designed and built the instrument and to know that his creativity, heart and highly skilled craft went into making it. I think about that often while I make musical merriment.
 
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Pete Howlett

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Anyone remember Taylor Guitars 'Factory Fridays'? I learnt so much watching them... rather than ridicule and whine it woudl be well for us to watch and learn.