Is a “handmade” guitar really better than one with a CNC-carved body? Well, some people would have you think so! In this YouTube video Rhett Shull gives you all the facts on both sides of the argument.
CNC vs. Handmade Guitar
CNC stands for Computer Numerically Controlled, and means that someone programmed a computer that controls the lathe electronically to carve the guitar body. Do handmade guitars have more ‘mojo’ or more ‘soul’? Well, of course not, but some players seem to have a disdain for CNC manufactured guitars and so will pay a premium for ‘handmade’ versions of the same instruments.
In this YouTube video Rhett Shull visits boutique guitar builder Novo Guitars in Nashville TN, a company that builds guitars designed by boutique guitar legend Dennis Fano. During the film you’ll see a CNC machine route out a Novo Guitars Miris T semi-hollow body guitar in around 7 minutes. So speed is certainly a plus for the CNC machine compared to the time it takes one man to do the same job by hand!
Traditionally, the tool of choice for the same job of hollowing out a chunk of wood is a Pin Router. The video shows the same model of guitar routed out using this more time-consuming method. Yes, it is done by hand, but it is slower and potentially more dangerous for the operator. If something were to go wrong, it would be the person routing out the guitar that would be likely to get seriously hurt.
So are CNC machines a better tool for the job?
They are certainly more accurate, consistent and safer than using a pin router. And you can certainly make a far more consistent copy of a given design, including angles and depths all at the correct measurements, when a computer is controlling the lathe. Whereas with the handmade pin router process, there is certainly margin for error and potential issues with manufacturing consistency.
My advice, check out the YouTube video below and make your own conclusions from it.