The Carvin / Kiesel thread

KnightBrolaire

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Isn't the question of "custom shop or not?" just where you'll put your own personal (basically arbitrary) line in the sand?

Are there any "custom shops" that do 100% of all requests, including custom shapes, whatever one-off hardware someone wants, non-standard pickups and electronics, illogical backwards multiscales? If so, they could all probably be counted on one hand. So if a shop doesn't build customer's own body shapes...does that make them no longer custom? What about not re-designing their neck angle to support a different bridge? What about not working with piezo electronics? Or if they won't do crackle paint jobs? If yes those still would count, and Kiesel doesn't count, then it's just a matter of where you draw your own personal line, then.

If you go to a pizza place and they say they can custom make you a pizza, and show you a menu of the available crusts, sizes, cheese, toppings and sauces, if they don't have honey calabrese sausage or kimchi and won't make it in-house, do they no longer get to claim "custom pizzas"?

Edit: note: I want to make sure that the above doesn't come across as chest-pokey or antagonistic. I'm genuinely curious about the conversation.
A true custom is bespoke. As in it's tailored in every detail towards the customer. Case in point, my Waghorn 8 string. I picked the scale lengths, the parallel fret, sent diagrams to Tom explaining how I wanted the spacing of the knobs/switches , how I wanted the neck profiled, had Elysian send him pickups, sent multiple mockups regarding finishes. Yeah I didn't get a totally custom shape, but I liked his sauria shape since it's a neat take on the typical superstrat (especially with the violin carve).

Kiesels are nothing like that experience. It's pick from these options or fuck off.
 

MaxOfMetal

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Isn't the question of "custom shop or not?" just where you'll put your own personal (basically arbitrary) line in the sand?

Are there any "custom shops" that do 100% of all requests, including custom shapes, whatever one-off hardware someone wants, non-standard pickups and electronics, illogical backwards multiscales? If so, they could all probably be counted on one hand. So if a shop doesn't build customer's own body shapes...does that make them no longer custom? What about not re-designing their neck angle to support a different bridge? What about not working with piezo electronics? Or if they won't do crackle paint jobs? If yes those still would count, and Kiesel doesn't count, then it's just a matter of where you draw your own personal line, then.

If you go to a pizza place and they say they can custom make you a pizza, and show you a menu of the available crusts, sizes, cheese, toppings and sauces, if they don't have honey calabrese sausage or kimchi and won't make it in-house, do they no longer get to claim "custom pizzas"?

Edit: note: I want to make sure that the above doesn't come across as chest-pokey or antagonistic. I'm genuinely curious about the conversation.

Nah, you're right.

The whole "not really custom" thing is just arbitrary buffoonery.

In literally every industry all "custom" means is "custom ordered to preference", which fits the definition of the actual word.

Just because a specific spec isn't available on an otherwise fully customer spec'd whatever doesn't all of a sudden make it "stock".

We only even say "semi-custom" because some weird nerds lose their shit if they can't get a volume knob moved two millimeters to the right.
 

xzacx

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The amount of Floyd love in this community here is making me rethink my opinion of them after not using one for 15 years.
It's really simple to me. There are Floyds (I use that as a general term that includes Edges, etc.), and then there are trems that don't work as well. I think a lot of people just one the one that works best, and that's all there is to it.

For me, it's the best of both worlds, because if I want to use the trem, great. And if I don't, a blocked trem is better than a standard hardtail. I personally prefer top-mounted Floyds just because I like the feel of the TOM angle, but I'm not gonna get picky if I can get something with more than 6 strings and a double locking trem.
 

gunshow86de

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The virtual builder is fun.
Leia.png
 

RadoncROCKs

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Kiesels are nothing like that experience. It's pick from these options or fuck off.

You say that like there are only three options to choose from. I get that it's not your idea of "custom" but there aren't many operations that have as many options to choose from in every aspect.
 

ian540s

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He's referencing the newest aries titanium which Jeff explicitly mentioned you cannot get 22 fret, nor Fishmans in the 8 string model.
This is correct, thanks.
I've worked as an engineer in manufacturing and I can tell you if the only difference in the Aries Titanium is a pickguard, that means that Jeff doesn't want to have more than X number of pickguard programs in his CNC program bank. He probably thought of 10 different combinations and called it a day. Why release a model that works with only a small percent of your regular options, or better yet why create a new option that makes so many of those regular options unavailable.

For some reason I watch the live streams sometimes, and his demeanor always says "buy my shit or leave". I wish smaller artists had a brand as big as Kiesel to represent without having to represent Jeff.
 

mbardu

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Nah, you're right.

The whole "not really custom" thing is just arbitrary buffoonery.

In literally every industry all "custom" means is "custom ordered to preference", which fits the definition of the actual word.

Just because a specific spec isn't available on an otherwise fully customer spec'd whatever doesn't all of a sudden make it "stock".

We only even say "semi-custom" because some weird nerds lose their shit if they can't get a volume knob moved two millimeters to the right.

Pedantic buffoonery in the guitar world?
Noooooo way. This would never happen :lol:
 

Buffnuggler

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I think Kiesel only offers like one neck shape right? You can make it skinnier or fatter but it's basically just a C. That is the opposite of custom to me. They have some beautiful stuff coming out of their factory in terms of top selection and finishing but the neck is really the soul of the guitar so if you can't control that it's really not custom, you are just choosing appointments.

That works great for some people, especially if you don't know what neck shape you like, so I'm not putting the brand down, but I think semi-custom is very appropriate. I wouldn't say every inch of the guitar has to be personally tailored, but choosing the neck shape is really the most important part of a custom build since that's how you bond with the guitar. All of Kiesel's customization is aesthetic.

Their guitars also seem to be quite heavy, I would only order one with chambering. They have like a 6 month wait time right now though so they are definitely doing something right.
 

CapinCripes

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really not custom, you are just choosing appointments.
You have discovered the carvin/kiesel business model. You get more options than most production instruments in a timely manner at an affordable price compared to a fully bespoke piece. But no you cannot customize literally everything. You get what you pay and wait for.
 

MaxOfMetal

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I think Kiesel only offers like one neck shape right? You can make it skinnier or fatter but it's basically just a C. That is the opposite of custom to me. They have some beautiful stuff coming out of their factory in terms of top selection and finishing but the neck is really the soul of the guitar so if you can't control that it's really not custom, you are just choosing appointments.

That works great for some people, especially if you don't know what neck shape you like, so I'm not putting the brand down, but I think semi-custom is very appropriate. I wouldn't say every inch of the guitar has to be personally tailored, but choosing the neck shape is really the most important part of a custom build since that's how you bond with the guitar. All of Kiesel's customization is aesthetic.

Their guitars also seem to be quite heavy, I would only order one with chambering. They have like a 6 month wait time right now though so they are definitely doing something right.

They used to offer the ability to scan whatever neck you send in and make a copy of it, as well as having a few "extra" profiles available, but no one really took advantage so they stopped after a few years.
 

olejason

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Yep, people tend to forget all the customization Kiesel has offered in the past that not enough customers utilized for it to make business sense to continue offering. The vast majority of guitar players don't obsess over every tiny detail on a guitar or even fairly noticeable stuff like neck shape or control layouts.
 

Buffnuggler

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i like their model i definitely just think it is semi-custom at most, its basically the equivalent of fenders mod shop, you just prioritize different choices, a step below suhr but faster, two steps below schecter masterworks.

thats cool theyve streamlined their process so much and are like a 5 month wait right now but again “not enough people used it so we got rid of it” seems like the opposite of custom. its not like it was a niche option, neck shape is pretty big, but yeah to be fair a standard C is pleasing to most players and gets the job done. but if youre eliminating options and streamlining everything to pump out guitars youre moving in the opposite direction of custom.

i actually have a kiesel on order so its not like im against the brand. a lot of guitar makers use the term custom loosely, very few live up to a true custom shop experience, not a bad thing, obviously the model works for them vs runs but they do get killed on resale.
 

spudmunkey

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but if youre eliminating options and streamlining everything to pump out guitars youre moving in the opposite direction of custom.
The thing is, if they did that, to keep the shop lights on, they'd have to raise prices way higher to make up for the volume drops. And at that point, they are competing with more established names and their custom shops, as well as more boutique brands.

Where they exist right now, using pricing as a brake pedal to keep themselves hovering at about 4,000-4,300 guitars per year, they are still keeping themselves in a pretty unique position in the market. Lots of "boutique" feature + made in the US + relatively short lead time + cheaper than, say, Jackson or PRS's custom shops.
 

MaxOfMetal

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My biggest problem with the "it's not really custom" thing is how arbitrary it is.

Like, how many neck shapes do they need to be custom enough?

Who decides this?

Back in the 80's and 90's, even the guys willing to make "anything", because it was all by hand, would still decline stuff if they didn't think they could pull it off or it would be too expensive or time consuming or they just thought it was stupid.

Someone like Rick Toone, or Michael Spalt, or a handful of other guys, will do completely bespoke instruments, but they still build within their own sphere of familiarity. Are they not custom?
 

mbardu

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My biggest problem with the "it's not really custom" thing is how arbitrary it is.

Like, how many neck shapes do they need to be custom enough?

Who decides this?

Back in the 80's and 90's, even the guys willing to make "anything", because it was all by hand, would still decline stuff if they didn't think they could pull it off or it would be too expensive or time consuming or they just thought it was stupid.

Someone like Rick Toone, or Michael Spalt, or a handful of other guys, will do completely bespoke instruments, but they still build within their own sphere of familiarity. Are they not custom?

The rule is very simple, don't overthink it!

We like Schecter Masterworks/Suhr/ESP, so everything they do is "custom shop", even if it's a plain black/base specs PT/Modern/Horizon.

But we don't like Kiesel so they don't get to be called even "semi-custom", even if you pick your own combination for woods, finishes, fretboard radius, frets, scale length, electronics, bezels, headstock, hardware etc

Or at least that's my takeaway from the discussion :lol:
 

Buffnuggler

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My biggest problem with the "it's not really custom" thing is how arbitrary it is.

Like, how many neck shapes do they need to be custom enough?

Who decides this?

Back in the 80's and 90's, even the guys willing to make "anything", because it was all by hand, would still decline stuff if they didn't think they could pull it off or it would be too expensive or time consuming or they just thought it was stupid.

Someone like Rick Toone, or Michael Spalt, or a handful of other guys, will do completely bespoke instruments, but they still build within their own sphere of familiarity. Are they not custom?

Yeah it doesn't matter at all, it's not like any of these builders are trying to be "the most custom" builder, they are just trying to run a business model that works for them. I just think Kiesel's niche is really interesting because it is less customized than most brands but they've made it work well. They've survived some bad press and seem to be at the top of their game in terms of orders so clearly its working, they've signed some great players and most people seem pretty happy with their guitars.

I'm definitely not trying to knock Kiesel but I do feel like only offering one neck shape is very "non custom." I'm surprised they've made it work so well because generally neck shape is a pretty big draw in brands, just look at Ibanez and Fender, lots of variety in neck shapes. Being "less custom" isn't a bad thing though and like others have said it's what allows them to streamline their process and its what works for them. Like you said, it's not really significant anyway, there can be variations of custom guitars and Kiesel has clearly found a sweet spot.

I don't think it's any better or worse than just ordering Musikraft necks as many builders have done. They have a cool operation and its all in house as far as I can tell.

For me personally, true custom shop is when you can build out every aspect of the guitar (not any shape you want, but every aspect of the available shapes) and preferably the neck is done by hand, which means the guitar is probably going to run you 5k+ from any of the "big boys." I understand that a lot of people favor CNC necks but I love the uniqueness of hand shaped necks and they are my preference.

One of my friends is convinced that Fender Masterbuilt necks are CNC and not hand shaped but I don't know if I believe that lol.
 

MaxOfMetal

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Yeah it doesn't matter at all, it's not like any of these builders are trying to be "the most custom" builder, they are just trying to run a business model that works for them. I just think Kiesel's niche is really interesting because it is less customized than most brands but they've made it work well. They've survived some bad press and seem to be at the top of their game in terms of orders so clearly its working, they've signed some great players and most people seem pretty happy with their guitars.

I'm definitely not trying to knock Kiesel but I do feel like only offering one neck shape is very "non custom." I'm surprised they've made it work so well because generally neck shape is a pretty big draw in brands, just look at Ibanez and Fender, lots of variety in neck shapes. Being "less custom" isn't a bad thing though and like others have said it's what allows them to streamline their process and its what works for them. Like you said, it's not really significant anyway, there can be variations of custom guitars and Kiesel has clearly found a sweet spot.

I don't think it's any better or worse than just ordering Musikraft necks as many builders have done. They have a cool operation and its all in house as far as I can tell.

For me personally, true custom shop is when you can build out every aspect of the guitar (not any shape you want, but every aspect of the available shapes) and preferably the neck is done by hand, which means the guitar is probably going to run you 5k+ from any of the "big boys." I understand that a lot of people favor CNC necks but I love the uniqueness of hand shaped necks and they are my preference.

One of my friends is convinced that Fender Masterbuilt necks are CNC and not hand shaped but I don't know if I believe that lol.

Even for necks you're not getting a final carve on a CNC mill. You'll get the rough shape, but it'll still need hours of hand sanding and shaping to get the final product.

I've been to most of the big OEMs and the larger shops. Every neck gets hand work. All of them.

Some might get a bit more than others, but CNCs spitting out finished anything is a myth.
 

Buffnuggler

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Even for necks you're not getting a final carve on a CNC mill. You'll get the rough shape, but it'll still need hours of hand sanding and shaping to get the final product.

I've been to most of the big OEMs and the larger shops. Every neck gets hand work. All of them.

Some might get a bit more than others, but CNCs spitting out finished anything is a myth.

For sure, the hand work is still time consuming and I don't mean to disparage builders who order necks and then hand finish them, I just really love the feel of older purely handmade necks and I think it's really cool when those same concepts are executed by high end custom shops who otherwise wouldn't use it. I posted about it in another thread but it was really amazing to see Ibanez do a Soft V AZ for their 50th anniversary, which I imagine was fully hand worked, and probably played amazing. IMO a V is the hardest shape to get right and is usually at its best when done entirely by hand.

To be fair though, as Kiesel has said, when you are ordering a guitar and want consistency, you don't really want a hand shaped neck, but for builders who have really good reputations for neck shaping and making great necks, it just seems to impart a certain character to the neck to me. Maybe it's just hype/seeing with my wallet, or maybe it's the "vintage" thing, but all my favorite necks I've played have been handmade, and of course some of the worst have been too.

I remember hearing that Charvel/Schecter, at least for their parts order stuff in the 80s, expected shops to shape the necks once they got them, not sure if there is any way to prove that, but people told me that the Dream Machine stuff was "finished," but that the expectation with the parts guitars was that the necks would come "wide fat" and then you would hand shape them to "wide skinny" by the shop. Like you said, the concept of a custom guitar is always changing! Most boutique builders I know order necks and then hand finish them.
 

mbardu

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For sure, the hand work is still time consuming and I don't mean to disparage builders who order necks and then hand finish them, I just really love the feel of older purely handmade necks and I think it's really cool when those same concepts are executed by high end custom shops who otherwise wouldn't use it. I posted about it in another thread but it was really amazing to see Ibanez do a Soft V AZ for their 50th anniversary, which I imagine was fully hand worked, and probably played amazing. IMO a V is the hardest shape to get right and is usually at its best when done entirely by hand.

To be fair though, as Kiesel has said, when you are ordering a guitar and want consistency, you don't really want a hand shaped neck, but for builders who have really good reputations for neck shaping and making great necks, it just seems to impart a certain character to the neck to me. Maybe it's just hype/seeing with my wallet, or maybe it's the "vintage" thing, but all my favorite necks I've played have been handmade, and of course some of the worst have been too.

I remember hearing that Charvel/Schecter, at least for their parts order stuff in the 80s, expected shops to shape the necks once they got them, not sure if there is any way to prove that, but people told me that the Dream Machine stuff was "finished," but that the expectation with the parts guitars was that the necks would come "wide fat" and then you would hand shape them to "wide skinny" by the shop. Like you said, the concept of a custom guitar is always changing!

To each their own.
If I'm going to buy a one-off guitar, that is most likely going to be non-returnable (except for Kiesel lmao), then I'd prefer a neck shaped by CNC 100% of the time.
This way I am sure of what the general profile will be and won't end up with something wonky because it was done by hand.

There's a point at which it's kinda better to have automation and the precision of machines to help out and not everything vintage is necessarily "better".

Would Ibanez of all brands skip CNC? I'd be very surprised if they did, but who knows..
 


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