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Knowledge Base  -->  Taking up  -->  Make or Buy | Making | Materials |

Excerpts from several articles and customer opinions. First published Feb 2003

Make or Buy Your Instrument

Advantages and disadvantages

The ways of obtaining a musical instrument are either by buying it, building one from scratch or using a kit. The first option can mean buying an original instrument, assuming one is available, buying a reproduction or buying a new design.

  • A KIT is a set of materials, tools, accessories, documentation, license and service, so that you can put them together and assemble a working product. The level of completion of the parts, depends on the provider and will imply the needed work to assemble the instrument.
  • A PLAN is a drawing of the instrument. The level of detail is variable. Sometimes includes list of materials, step-by-step instructions, license and service.
  • A FINISHED is a working instrument that can include some tools, accessories, documentation and service.

Buying an original instrument

There are some issues trying to buy an original instrument: availability, forgeries, price, maintenance, etc.

Buying a reproduction

You could think that with a copy of an original design you will be benefiting from the mature experience of one of the finest makers of the instrument who worked at a period when the instrument reached one of its high-points. But with a new or modern design you will be benefiting also from the technology and the experience acquired of the study of many similar instruments and their evolution with the years or centuries.

There are a number of very good makers who reproduce copies of original instruments or ones derived from originals. This means that the cost will be less than that of an original and the instrument will be in first-class playing order. If there are problems, the maker will be available to handle them, something which may not be possible with an historic original instrument.

Building an instrument from scratch

Building an instrument is undoubtedly very satisfying, starting with pieces of timber and producing a fine, playable instrument of which one is very proud. Almost every one who has produced an instrument from scratch gets the conclusion that if he were building another, he would make one from a kit where all the hard work had been done!

Building an instrument from a kit

Some woodworking skills are needed to build an instrument from a kit, but can be quite like making a cake from a packet if the kit comes with pre-shaped parts, a detailed full size drawing, easy to follow step-by-step instructions and pictures of all the important details.

Some kits require you only to put screws into pre-drilled holes and glue together pieces of wood. Others will expect you to mark out, cut to size, trim, etc. The more work you are expected to do, the more risk of mistakes if you do not have experience and the less the cost of the kit.

Comparison table

Following you can find the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining your instrument from several points of view.

      Finished   Kit   Plan

The quality of an instrument is not only its sound.

Basically it is measured by the stability, the durability, the easiness to be fitted, played and repaired…

The design and the materials do the 95% of the quality of an instrument, included its sound. Only a very bad construction can avoid to reach the 100% quality.

  The RWC has the accumulated know-how and expertise of the best craftsmen during more than 100 years.

Our finished instruments are made after the best designs, with premium materials and in the best conditions.

We pride ourselves in the quality of our work. Our craftsmen work in our own workshops to produce the parts for all our instruments, each instrument being carefully hand built to the highest standards.

  The RWC kits are designed so that anyone can get a professional instrument.

The materials are chosen because of their tonal and durability qualities and are considered the best for their function.

The designs are all of them based in existing instruments considered the best in the world.

We supply in our kits the same top quality parts used in the finished instruments.

  You can choose the quality of the materials and even do some modifications on the design.

If you choose a plan is probably because you are confident in your skills and the quality of the instrument will be accordingly to them.


      Finished   Kit   Plan
  Comparing several instruments   In a shop you can compare the sound of several instruments. It is difficult to know the exact used materials and the construction techniques, which have a big influence in the future behaviour.

If you order the instrument to a maker you have to trust in his experience and renown.

  You can compare the quality of the design and materials, but not the final sound of the instrument.

You can test one instrument made from the same kit by another builder, but it will not be exactly the same.

  You can compare the design, dimensions and construction techniques.

This is more than 60% of the quality of the instrument. The lasting percentage is divided into 35% for the materials and 5% for the construction.

      Finished   Kit   Plan
  Time   You can enjoy your instrument just after buying it.   Even though the kit can be very easy to assemble, you will need time to finish and tune it.

Respect to buying the plan, buying a kit you save the time to select the materials and to make the parts.

  You will need enough time to collect all the materials and tools, to make all the parts, to assemble them, to finish and to tune the instrument.

Some common materials are only useful for musical purposes if appropriately treated. It is the case of the wood for the soundboxes that usually is quartersawn and naturally seasoned for five to twenty years.

      Finished   Kit   Plan
  Room   You will only need the space to store and play the instrument.   All the RWC kits can be assembled at home. Only for the biggest keyboards a small workshop, garage or empty room can be necessary.   In addition to the space needed to assemble the instrument, you will need some room to make the parts. This tasks are quite more 'dirty' and a small workshop is necessary.
      Finished   Kit   Plan
To know an instrument is not only to know how to play it with musicianship and virtuosity.

Old musicians built and fixed their instruments. They also experimented modifications in the instruments in order to get other or better sounds.

  You will not learn about the construction of the instrument.   You will learn everything about the construction of an instrument.

You will also learn how the parts are made, but you will have not a big practice of making them.

Making an instrument will give you such a familiarity with its operation that you will be able to fix, repair and even modify it.

  After finishing your instrument you will know everything about selecting materials, making the parts and assembling an instrument.

You will also be able to fix and repair it.

      Finished   Kit   Plan
The cost to have a ready-to-play instrument has to include the cost to get it and, in long term, the cost of its maintenance.

In occidental countries, the price can be approximately 40% due to the materials and 60% to the labour.

In developing countries like China, India, etc, up to the 90% of the price of an instrument can be due to the materials and only 10% to the labour.

  Some of the cheap imported historical instruments now available may turn out to be a false economy.

Occidental handmade instruments tend to be expensive to buy, but the expense is likely to prove well worthwhile, given the hundreds of hours of pleasure to be had from them.

In any case, historical instruments tend to keep their resale value reasonably well, if you have to sell again.

  It is difficult to valuate which of the three forms is cheaper if you consider your time of getting the materials and building.

Obviously the kit allows you a smaller outlay than buying a finished instrument but you will have to dedicate some time to assemble it.

If you have to sell the instrument you will find that the dedicated time is generously compensated.

  If you buy the plan, the first outlay will be smaller, but finally you will need to buy all the materials and tools, and some of them are not easy to find.

Maybe you will have to wander to many shops and it will cost you the transport. Or you will have to order some pieces abroad and the shipping costs will increase dramatically the final cost.

Getting the materials and tools can take quite long and be frustrating if you do not know who can provide you with them.

      Finished   Kit   Plan
  Conclusion   Our finished instruments are all of them of the best top professional quality.

You will not be able to find anywhere the same quality at that price!

If, for whatever reason, you are not satisfied with your purchase you may return it for a full refund [more]

  You can have the same professional instrument at a fraction of the price with our kits.

The kits contain the same top quality parts and show you how to build the instrument, letting you into the secrets of the craftsmen who make the instruments.

Each kit is supplied with a detailed working drawing and comprehensive instruction manual to take you a step at a time through each stage of the construction process and allow you to work at your own pace.

  Building an instrument from scratch can be a challenge and requires a degree of skill.

We only recommend to buy the plan if you have a quite well assortment of tools, easy access to the materials, the room in which to make it and enough time to dedicate to the instrument.

Read also:

More questions

If you do not have experience making a musical instrument from a kit or if you doubt about the feasibility and quality of the result, you can also be interested in other doubts and questions sent by other people.


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Last modification: 03 de mayo de 2019
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