What Was Different About Pre-1994 PRS Custom 24 Models, If Anything At All?
I just wanted to ask some other true PRS players the question posed in the above thread title?
I have a gorgeous 1992 PRS Custom 24 (it's a translucent, emerald-like green lacquer over a gorgeous piece of wood). It's not a ten top, and it does have a bolt-on neck. Absolutely love the thing. I'm pretty anal about my guitars so it's almost completely flawless ... not even a hairline scratch on the black backing. I picked it up from a PRS collector and private dealer several years ago, and bought it brand new (although about 15 years after it was produced). It was never played. And, due to how damn hectic I've been since I picked it up, it still looks the same as when I bought it other than me regularly oiling the neck and working to polish all of its hardware to shine.
My question comes down to its worth, I suppose. I was talking with some other musicians, and a couple of them were pretty sure that any of these models that dated prior to 1994 are more valuable. They stated that this was due to more hand craftsmanship during this time period. We all know all the true American-made PRS guitars are extremely high quality, but due to the fact that less machining and more hand labor was done prior to 1994, the guys I talked to seemed to agree that anything predating the 1994 era kept a higher value (at least as far as a regular CE24 goes). And no, it doesn't have the Dragon pickups, either.
I found some evidence supporting this through various blogs but the info seems spotty at best.
I'm just damn curious now. Anyone have any information about this?
Looking forward to reading some comments/feedback. Anyone that replies -- thank you very much for your time.
A few things that come to mind is pre `91 Customs had Brazilian rosewood fingerboards, the sweet switch, a one-piece Mil-Com bridge, and abalone inlays. After `91 Brazilian rosewood was phased out as well as the sweet switch. Bridges changed to the two-piece Excel brand.
If the guitar has a bolt-on neck, it's not a Custom. All Customs are set-neck guitars. What you have is a poor man's Custom 24 (a.k.a. a dressed-up CE24).
Last edited by Em7; 09-12-2012 at 10:05 PM.
I just read your post again and have to clarify a couple things. Your guitar is not a Custom 24 but a "Classic Electric" CE-24 because it has a bolt-on neck instead of a set neck. Your guitar will not have a Brazilian rosewood fretboard even if it was made before `92. It will not have a sweet switch unless it was special ordered. Being a `92 it will probably still have a one-piece bridge. The pre Stevensville guitars probably have a bit more hands on work only because PRS bought all sort of tools to outfit the new factory in order to ramp up production, cut cost and create standards. A lot has been made about the early guitars and some of it is warranted while some it is just hot air. The first run of CEs starting in `88 were made with alder bodies, optional maple tops came a year later. The neck heel was small in comparison to the post 95 guitars. In `95 PRS changed from alder to mahogany. Many "CE"people prefer alder over mahogany. Personally I really like the early CEs and would pay a premium for one of the alder bodied, small neck heeled string machines.
You need to join my lobby. I currently have an opening for a vice-chairman.
Originally Posted by CE-man
You know what ... you're absolutely right; I appreciate it. And, yes, after I read your first post, I researched off PRS's Website, as well as some other sources, and found (and can confirm) your below information (again, based on the more credible sources that I did locate).
I did in fact misstate it as a Custom 24 ... It is, as you stated, a CE-24.
I do appreciate your information and thanks for the response. That being said, though, I would hardly call the guitar a "Poor Man's Custom 24," you know? It's the least expensive guitar in my collection and I just had it professionally appraised for $1,775.00. So, at least it's now worth a few hundred bucks more than I paid for it.
Thanks again for the feedback.
Originally Posted by CE-man
Not really, it still has an alder body, which is where I draw the line.
Originally Posted by Em7
Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc
Agreed. You just can't call any quality U.S.-made PRS a "poor man's" guitar, especially given its manufacture date.
Again, thanks for the feedback and info from everyone. I appreciate it.
Again, CE-man, thanks for the info and research. I do appreciate you taking the time to help me out on answering this.
Last edited by PRS79; 09-12-2012 at 11:49 PM.
I'm with the cause 100%, but I'll pass on the vice-chairman position. :big grin:
Originally Posted by Em7
You're quite welcome my friend, we're all here to share the love and knowledge.
Originally Posted by PRS79
You should introduce yourself in a new thread and include a pic of that emerald CE. There's a lot of love for the CEs here.
The craftsmanship pre and post Stevensville is really not an issue. The rough shaping was done mechanically either way, either with a duplicarver or cnc. Final finish was and is done by hand.
If anything, cnc helps keep tolerances tighter. That is a good thing. Ron Thorn, the epitome of a small shop artisan, posted the following several years ago.
Originally Posted by Ron Thorn:
First off, there is no shop, large or small, that is entirely CNC. It does not exist. I think most individuals would be surprised by what a guitar component looks like when it comes off a CNC. It is no where near complete, there is still plenty of hand sanding, fitting, etc.
Here's a break down of what I do with the CNC and "by hand".
Fretboards - you asked "why
they've gone to the CNC and what aspect of things is better". The fretboard is so brutally important that it is ideal for CNC accuracy. I perimeter, slot, radius, and rout for inlays all in one set-up on the CNC. Than insures spot-on fret slot placement (VERY important to the quality of the guitar), consistent radii including compound radiusing, and inlays that are very tight and free of sloppy filler/gaps.
Total time on the CNC: 20 minutes
Necks - Once the blank has been bandsawn ("by hand") to an oversized shape the CNC will machine the neck carve, perimeter the neck and heel, shape the headstock, drill for tuners, rout for truss rod and rout for logo & purfling. This is done through 6 different set-ups.
Total time on the CNC: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Bodies - The CNC performs all cavity routing (top & back), neck pocket routing, perimeter, top carve, and bridge location holes. On a pivot style trem, such as a PRS trem, the location of those 6 holes must be perfectly inline to prevent binding of the trem during use.
Total time on the CNC for a body with carve top: 3 hours
Inlays - Production inlays, such as my Firesuns and "T" logo, are cut on the CNC for a perfect fit into the routes on the fretboard and headstock. I also "rip" my purfling strips on the CNC too.
Total time for one guitar's worth: 15 minutes
Components - I machine my own 1-pc. brass tremolos, pickup covers and rings, knobs, back plates, truss rod covers, and jack plates.
Total time worth: Approx: 10 hours.
Granted, all of these parts are "custom" for my guitars exclusively. I could purchase all of these parts from guitar supply shops but prefer to make my own.
None of the above times include any programming, set-up or material preparation...all of which are done "by hand".
This term, I assume, includes feeding or pushing the component through a power tool such as a planer, jointer, drum sander, bandsaw etc.
Pre CNC: The wood is bandsawn to an oversize thickness and feed through a drum sander to flatten.
Post CNC - The fretboard needs to:
Have the side dots drilled and glued in.
Inlays and purfling glued in.
Glue the board to the neck blank.
Level and true the board.
Fret and fretdress.
Total time "by hand": 13 hours for the above operations. My fret preparation (cutting to length, nipping the tang, grinding the tang), fret installation and dress is a total of 6 hours alone...no CNC for any of those operations.
The wood is milled and rough cut to shape, using tracing templates, on a table saw and bandsaw before it gets to the CNC.
Install the truss rod and filler strip,
blend the neck into the fretboard,
inlay logo and purfling,
final shape the neck carve to spec using rasps, spindle sanders and lots of elbow grease sanding then sanding some more,
gluing the neck into the body.
Total time "by hand": 8-10 hours easily.
Split top, joint edges, bookmatch glue together, sand to thickness.
Mill/sand body to thickness.
Locate and glue top to body spread then sand and drill locating hole for the CNC.
Drill for controls, side jack, wiring channels.
Radius back edge on router table.
SAND from 150 grit to 320/400
Total time "by hand": 10-15 hours depending on the wood species.
Prep, mask off, stain, seal, color, top coat, lots of sanding in between, lots of sanding after, buffing...the list goes on. No CNC for these ops.
Total time "by hand": 28 hours if all goes right the first time...it never does.
Installation of components (tuners, pickups, bridge, etc), wiring, cutting the nut, set up.
Total time "by hand": 6-8 hours
The above is only visually productive acts, not including ordering wood and components, e-mails, shipping, and just plain running the business.
So, if we deduct the custom components and use off the shelf bridges, pickup rings, etc. The average total time is:
CNC: 5 hours, 20 minutes.
"By hand": 69 hours, 30 minutes.
I consider my shop to be fairly state of the art, I have a large HAAS CNC for the woodwork, and 2 smaller CNCs for the pearl inlay work. The only additional automated CNC-type machinery would be a Plek and a robotic buffer. I could see that only reducing the "by hand" total by a couple/few hours at most.
Not mentioned would be a custom one-off inlay that I, or my father, would do "by hand" with a jeweler's saw and a mini router. The time spent on that could be from 45 minutes to 100s of hours depending on the design.
However small in comparison those 5 hours, 20 minutes seem...they are VERY important to the outcome of the guitar. Accuracy and consistancy are unmatched. There are features, such as my double offset purfling, that just can't physically be done by hand. Fretslots accurate to within .0005" of an inch...heck, the wood will expand or contract more than that by the time I turn the lights off in the shop at the end of the day...but it's good to know they are as accurate as can be.
Inlays that are gap free and clean are important to me. I'm not a fan of filler and I don't want that to be a part of my product. Even with hand cut and routed inlays, I feel we are one of the best at making them tight and clean.
Can I build a guitar with out a CNC, sure.
WOULD I now if I didn't have one...I doubt it, because I would always feel the guitar isn't as good as it can be WITH the help of a CNC.
There you have one take on it from a CNC builder."
It's a common misnomer to call 1994 and earlier the "pre-factory" era. It's a misnomer because the first factory opened in 1985! "Pre-Stevensville" or "pre-CNC" would be better terms. This early period has been romanticised somewhat like the early days of Fender, and so these guitars carry a premium price tag. They are, and I suspect always will be, more collectable.
I think they started making some guitars in Stevensville in '94 (if memory serves, need to consult the PRS book), but the change in production for the Custom 24 came in '95. The model has evolved over time and the only noticeable difference from a '94 to '95 is the enlarged neck heel.
With the move to Stevensville, they started using CNC routers instead of the duplicarvers. Both devices achieve the same aim, but some people think using CNC somehow makes a guitar not handmade or that it takes the "soul" out of the instrument. (Re-read Jester's post to debunk that!)
The "mojo" factor carries a lot of weight with guitarists, and the early guitars have it.
Hi. I'm naked.
I am also pretty sure that the fretboards on the early CEs were BRW. My '88 looks like it is BRW, and to quote Orkie wehn I asked him about my CE: "That's all we used back then."
Though I suppose it's possible that while they were being phased out to IRW, there were some of both in the CEs and CUs alike.
No Longer Here
Some guitars were started in 1995 in the Virginia Avenue factory and were finished in 1996 in the Stevensville factory. As far a I understand, few if any guitars started their build in Stevensville in 1995 and anything completed in 1995 came out of Virginia Avenue.
Jester, great info from Ron. It really does highlight how much hand crafting goes into any quality guitar and he's spot on about CNC being the best option for the operations he uses it for.
Auth. PRS Dealer
The top carve appears to have changed when the CNC was introduced. Also the thickness of the maple on the edge of the top is thicker on the CNC carved bodies. Somewhere I have a side by side shot of pre '95 and '95 and later showing the difference in the edge. I will try to see if I can find it.
Anyone at the Experience can go to the archives and see for them selves.