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..
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
There's a lot of misunderstanding of the build process and the role and process of CNC and hand work to unpack here.
I really suggest reading some of Ron Thorn's old blogs about CNC. Ton of good information from someone who has pretty much mastered both.
The short of it is that the CNC is little more than a time saver for roughing in neck blanks. It doesn't have an outsized impact on the final product, because it doesn't make final products.
Weird examples - has anyone argued for Suhr being full custom and Kiesel not? Whereas ESP lets you draw your own shape, so pretty hard to imagine anyone arguing that that's not full custom.
But yea, the distinctions are dumb, but this seemed like a strawman dig.
I'm just curious, but do you think Ron does the necks by hand for his Masterbuilt guitars for Fender? They are advertised as "built like the old ones," but I've been told they are teamworked then basically handfinished by the masterbuilder. With a 3 year wait list I would assume they are really going through the process and doing it like a vintage Fender. They have a whole custom program at half the cost so I'm not sure why you would pay double just to have a masterbuilder basically select your woods and sign off on the guitar, but I am definitely curious either way.
Do you think these Ibanez 50th guitars they did for the LACS and JPCS runs were done on a CNC and hand finished or do you think they were all done by hand? I think Tak did all the woodworking for the LACS ones, seems like a pretty tall order to turn out that many hand built guitars while also running the LACS, so I assumed the bodies were CNC'd but the necks were mostly done by hand?
Again, nothing against CNC, just wondering what the process looks like for the highest tier of a company like Fender or Ibanez.
All of those proudly have "Custom Shop" forms or "Custom Shop" builders or the like.
Schecter was quoted as an example too.
Yet the only shop that doesn't get to call what they do "Custom" is Kiesel apparently
ESP would almost be there....but sadly they don't do logos apparently?
Well it'd be weird for any of them to open a semi-custom shop since that's basically forum nerd speak and not marketing speak, but when it comes down to established definitions, I think if you can make up your own shape you're probably as custom as it gets. I don't know anything about Schecter so I won't comment there, but I think one of the top forum examples of semi-custom is Suhr, so it's weird to see it here flipped around like a double standard.
When I read your comparison sentence, it reads like:
Like it's weird that everyone gets to call themselves marsupials, like kangaroos and turtles, but not snakes?
I know with Fender it depends very heavily on what you order. Most of the Masterbuilders have apprentices and associate builders and helpers to do a lot of the roughing. Not to mention access to the wood and paint shops. Masterbuilers will also work together on certain projects.
But are they roughing in every neck or body? Not at all.
If you follow the builders on social media you'll see how they work from time to time. Needless to say, there's plenty of CNC use.
Again, all CNC does is rough cut bodies, necks, and fretboards. It doesn't actually make guitars. It just starts some parts. So there is no difference between a CNC or hand made neck, because the actual functional aspects like shape, frets, edges, etc. are still done by hand.
You're really reading waaay too far into it.
Just like the ESP part...it's just a joke.
Who cares how "semi" custom it's called
Very interesting, thanks for explaining more. I saw on one of the videos of the Ibanez 50th collection that there was a body being cut on a CNC machine but it also seemed like there was a lot of intense woodworking for the neck shapes. I feel like with factory Ibanez guitars, the necks are very similar for the most part, I've played a bunch of AZs for instance which use mostly the same shape (vs a Wizard with so many variations) and all the AZs felt identical.
It also gets confusing because a lot of boutique builders do more of the "parts" thing where they are getting necks that have been shaped but then they are hand finishing them. So in that sense I guess it is going CNC--->Musikraft does the rough work--->Builder then hand finishes the neck and gets everything perfect. And that's pretty different from just having a CNC cough up a blank slate that is then shaped into the desired neck. It's not done like an old Fender or Gibson, but that's still basically a handmade neck. But ordering a neck already cut to a shape and then putting some finishing touches on it also seems pretty common, and is really more akin to doing partscasters.
Then you've got examples of what people were saying with Kiesel, where I've heard that the CNC for the necks, if you do the thicker or thinner option, doesn't actually change the "shape" of the C, if that makes sense. So in that sense, it does seem like the necks are pretty "shaped" out of the CNC right? Or that they don't have much ability to tailor the shapes due to the demands of the process. Seems to be a lot of variety, I'll have to check out Ron's posts.
That's crazy about the masterbuilder thing, that's pretty much what my friend told me and I honestly never believed him lol.
The special editions really are no different in my eyes, even with the little extras, but I get the sentiment.Let me throw a monkey wrench into the works:
Kiesel Special Edition:
You get more communication, sometimes get a couple of top and/or fingerboard options, a little more leeway to change a spec that hasn't already been completed, and progress photos.
But it's pretty much just reserved for people who have bought a few, and made it to the waiting list, current about 2 years if I understand correctly.
All of the above, plus you go to the factory and literally select specific pieces of wood, and maybe other perks that I'm unaware of (other non-build-related things like a factory tour, I think lunch, and depending if they have started a part of the build by the time you get there, maybe press a button on a machine for your build).
While Kiesel is technically a custom shop, it's just difficult to call it a full one. A custom shop is about the experience from start to finish. It's about being able to choose whatever specs you want and to be able to work with the luthier hand in hand to make changes and wants for your needs.
Kiesel is not this. Kiesel is nothing more than a production line of legos that allows you to pick from options. You place your order from predefined options, hit send, and that's it. You cannot contact them, make changes, no updates, nothing. You wait for the production line to pop out a guitar.
Nothing wrong with that, but that's not the custom shop experience in my personal opinion. This is why so many of us call it a semi-custom shop due to not getting the full experience. Comparing my Aviator experience to my Kiesel experience is as night and day as it gets. I was in full contact with Aviator the whole time. If I wanted anything changed, I messaged them and it was done. Besides maybe shape, I could change or add anything single thing I wanted. Custom inlay? No problem. I got updates throughout the process, a personal certificate, and even now I can still reach out for anything and they are ready to help.
So in my opinion:
Semi-custom shops: Kiesel, Balaguer, Fender, Agile, etc
Full custom shops: ESP, Mayones, Aviator, Skervesen, Schecter, Blackat, etc.
Again, it's just a made up term though. Just an easier way to categorize custom shops is all.
This is it. Most shops operate within certain limits and there will always be things they don't do. They have their base options, but some will entertain customizations more openly with each customer.Each instrument is made to order from a set list of options they are able to do. Textbook semi custom/custom shop.