Most of the sonic signature of the guitar comes from the top. Often the wood is graded more on a cosmetic basis than a sonic basis and as with other things, the more scarce or perfect it is, the higher the price. For many years Sitka spruce has been the wood of choice for top wood . It is strong, light and relatively inexpensive. There are plenty of other soundboard options though. In the spruce family there are , "bearclaw" Sitka, Englemann, European, Lutz or Adirondack Spruce, as well as Cedar, Redwood or one of my favorites, Port Orford Cedar (a type of Cypress) . Price range $50 to $350.
Back and Sides
The cost of the wood for the back and sides can be significant. This can range from inexpensive woods such as mahoganies to extremely expensive woods such as Brazilian Rosewood or African Blackwood. Most of the guitar's sound comes from the soundboard. See my page "About Guitars" for a more through discussion of tonal properties. There are many lessor known but still very good choices for back and sides. If cost is a factor, consider saving here. Price Range $100 to $3.000. Don't panic! Many of the beautiful and tuneful woods can be had in the $350 price range and there is nothing quite like the crispy crunch of the inexpensive mahoganies.
Elaborate shell, herringbone, bindings, purflings or special inlays can also significantly add to the cost without changing the sound of the instrument. That being said, they could be important to the look and aesthetics for you, and after all, it is a custom guitar. You may want to personalize and customize your special instrument. Included in this group would be the fingerboard, bridge and headstock veneer as well as the tuning keys. There are so many options here, that'd we would need to discuss their cost individually.
It's pretty easy to add $200 to $1000 in this category.
You may not need electronics. If you do need them there are so many options in this category that we'll need to discuss them individually. Roughly it could add $150 to $700 depending on your choice.
You may not need one but if you do a good quality TKL hardshell case will add about $180 to the cost. If I'm shipping it, I must include a hardshell case for protection.
Labor And Stuff You Don't Think About
This is all the stuff like bracing, truss rods, frets, necks, head and tail blocks, adhesives, abrasives, lacquer, solvents and stain, kerfing, paper towels, rags, tooling, repairs, and shop overhead.
Much of the cost of the instrument is the labor associated with the production of the basic instrument. This includes the labor for wood processing, parts production, fitting, assembly, finishing and set up of the instrument. This remains reasonably constant from one instrument to another regardless of the material used.
As you might expect, things that add more labor add more cost to the instrument. This would include things such as cutaways, arm bevels, sound ports, working with some exotic, difficult to bend and process woods or special designs or elaborate inlays and rosettes, etc. It would be necessary to price these on an as needed basis.
My base labor and incidental rate is $2,650. Included in this is the time needed to determine the guitar that's right for you and all the processing, fitting and assembly and setup of a basic, standard guitar. All other special inlays and requirements are in addition to this.
We have an email, phone or shop visit about what you believe you want. I'll prepare an estimate of the price. Assuming it is agreeable, we will move forward with selecting specific woods and refining the estimate. Often we begin without all the details determined but they are worked out and priced in advance as the project progresses. For me, the build is also a relationship with the client and I do my best to provide fair pricing for any changes to the original estimate.
Basic Guitar -- Great Sounding, Great Looking, Clean
Typical Attributes: Straight grain 2A Sitka spruce top, Khaya Mahogany back, sides and neck, indian rosewood headstock, fingerboard and bridge. Vinyl or Ivroid body bindings, no purfling, simple 3 ring or herringbone rosette, Mother of pearl soundboard dots, chrome mini Gotoh tuning keys, satin finish, no electronics. No case.
Level Two Guitar -- Great Sounding, Great Looking, More Exotic Woods and Trim with Minimal Electronics
Typical Attributes: Bearclaw Sitka spruce top, First grade Indian Rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck. Ebony headstock, fingerboard and bridge. Wood body binding and purfling, 3 ring mother of pearl rosette, chrome Gotoh 510 tuning keys, gloss nitrocellulose finish, under bridge K&K transducers. No case.
Level Three Guitar -- Great Sounding, Great Looking, More Expensive Woods and Trim with Upgraded Electronics and Features
Unique intays, Typical Attributes: Adirondack (Red) Spruce top and bracing, Gabon Ebony or 4A cocobolo back and sides, mahogany neck, Ebony or cocobolo headstock, fingerboard and bridge. Wood body binding and purfling, 3 ring paua abalone rosette and paua bar position markers, cutaway, arm bevel and soundport, chrome Waverly tuning keys, gloss nitrocellulose finish, under bridge K&K transducers with volume control. No case.
Ella Model. Khaya mahogany back and sides with 3A Sitka spruce top. Ebony binding and purflings, split rectangle pearl fingerboard markers and pearl bar position markers. Gotoh 510 Cosmo tuners. No case.
3A cocobolo back and sides, ebony binding and purflings, bearclaw sitka spruce top, cutaway, 3 ring paua binding, Gotoh tuners, shell position markers, No case. Fishman electronics.
Ebony back and sides, Adirondack spruce top, Port Orford Cedar Laminated neck, Special inlay headstock and fret markers, ebony bindings and purflings. No case. Black gloss nitro. No electronics.