International Luthiers Supply, Inc.Awful, awful, awful

This review was posted by
a verified customer
Verified customer

Where do I start. International Luthiers is a "company" that sells wood, supplies, and tools for violin, guitar, and other stringed instrument making. I put company in quotes because it's hardly a company at all. Rather it's one, maybe two people sitting behind a desk taking your money. First off, they don't have an online ordering system. I decided to send in a mail order form since the speed of the order wasn't a factor for me. They received the order on May 16th 2008, my card was charged on May 19th.
And so I waited.

And waited.

...And waited some more.

A month went by with no delivery. So I emailed them again and again without a single reply. I tried calling. No answers. I think one of their phone lines is set to busy and the other line no one ever answers. Nearly two months had gone by and by that time I was fairly certain I had gotten scammed. I asked my father (who's a lawyer) to try and contact them. Every one of his emails went unanswered. He finally figured out that they pick up their phone most often in the morning. They told him that the order had been sent, but it "must have been lost". I knew this was a lie because after I realized my order wasn't coming, I decided to look them up on google. The search came back with a few forums with complaints about this company, which were very similar to mine. No order received, claimed it was lost, emails never answered, etc. The man on the phone told my dad that he would send out another order and that we could call back the next day for a tracking number. So we did. Needless to say the tracking number was bologna and returned nothing on USPS's website. However, after a little legal coercing, today, a week later, July 24th 08, the package finally came. Two and a half months later.

And how about the contents of the package? One of the items is flat out missing. Another is being shipped in a separate package, which I won't be surprised if it takes another two months to get here. The carving knives are rusty. One of the pieces of wood is split. Packing protection consisted of two crumpled up magazine pages shoved in a corner.

Long story short, if you're interested in stringed instrument making, do yourself a huge favor and look somewhere else. This company has 17 complaints with the Better Business Bureau. I wish I had known this before I ordered from them. I came so close to getting on the next flight to Tulsa and putting a brick through every one of their windows.


  • Wi
    Willy Ware Sep 24, 2013

    I had several transactions with this company, in person and by mail, in the 1980's. Always very pleasing and professional. It breaks my heart to learn what has happened in more recent times and I join those who lament the apparent passing of what was once one of life's unexpected luthiery jewels.

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  • Da
    DAN BELO Apr 18, 2013


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  • Da
    David Afford Jun 23, 2011

    I also ordered from this company many times in the past and always received my items as ordered and in good condition. I remember there was always a woman that answered the phone (Apparently Mrs. Brown).
    In the last two years I have gotten the same response from International Luthiers as everyone else on the thread and now after reading Mr Lane's response I understand what is going on or what has gone on. IS there nothing that can be done to help out this once very friendly and efficient business.
    It's too bad to see this outfit go down the tubes. Thay had been a great company to deal with.
    So sad.
    Dave Afford, Lunenburg N.S. Canada

    0 Votes
  • Ri
    RichChess Jan 28, 2011

    I placed orders in the past that were never filled. I tried calling and writing but never recieved an answer. Since the order wasn't over $100, I just took it as a loss and moved my business elsewhere. I'm sorry if things happened in the lives of the owners but this ins't my problem as a consumer. They out-right stole from me. If they couldn't fill the order, they should have returned my money.

    1 Votes
  • Gu
    guitar woodrat Sep 23, 2010

    I ordered $128.00 worth of products and recieved half of it and part of it was the wrong merchandise. I called and told them and that I would send the wrong parts back. they said they would send the rest of my order which it has been 2 1/2 years and no parts. Can't get thru on the phone no one will answer. I have been scammed, the worse part I'm disabled and could have paid a little more and got my parts. Hopefully someone will read this and be able to help me get my money back or my parts. Jr Branscomb Cumberland Gap, Tn.

    1 Votes
  • Ch
    Chuck Hutchison Feb 17, 2010

    I placed an order on the 16 October 2007 for $185.00 and have yet to
    > receive it as of 17 Nov. I called three weeks ago and talked with
    > ADAM BROWN and he told me it was still sitting on the table and he
    > forgot to ship it but
    > would get it out that day. A week later, still no package. I call
    > and the phone rang busy all day. Finally, at 5:00pm CST, ADAM answers
    > the phone and tells me the same story of how he has been too busy and
    > it is STILL sitting on the table. He promised me it would go out that
    > night, well, here it is over a month later and still have not received
    > it.
    > Since then, I have been calling everyday and their phone just keeps
    > ringing busy all day long. I'm afraid I have lost my money.
    > Has anyone else had problems with them in the past month? Is this
    > company going bankrupt?
    > Don't buy from this company in Tulsa, OK Don't order anything from
    > them or give them your credit card number. They had time to take the
    > money out of my bank, but do not have time to send me the goods.
    > I posted this a month ago or so and since then several other posters
    > have replied saying they have been swindled also from International
    > Luthier's Supply, Inc.
    > I'm just trying to keep this thread going in hopes that the word may
    > get out. I'd hate to see anyone else lose their hard earned money
    > from a operation like this. Surely the law must get involved. Hey,
    > maybe the Attorney General's Office. Keep sending your comments and
    > I'll have them when I contact them. Think that will help? Give me
    > some ideas if you would please. You may contact me from my email
    > address.
    > Thanks,
    > Chuck Hutchison
    > Herrin, IL.

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  • Ri
    Richp Jan 11, 2010
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    I still haven't recieved my order and I gave up trying over a year ago! They just took my money. No response to my emails, no answering their phones.

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  • Br
    BroJack Nov 08, 2009

    I have to agree with G.A. Lane. In the past they were the greatest people to do business with. Mrs. Brown was very sweet and after a while even came to know my voice over the phone. I started ordering from them when I was in college in the late 80's early 90's. I bet I still have one of the little black and white catalogs around.

    Sean, I hate it that you had a difficulty with them. They used to be one of the most reasonable suppliers of lutherie materials in the business. Good luck finding much else these days. The prices of woods have skyrocketed and as Lane says, the foreign market is taking over. It is a senseless shame, but then we are the ones who have sold our inheritance overseas.

    Bottom line, ILS inc used to be great and I hope they get back up on their feet someday.


    0 Votes
  • Ga
    G. A. Lane Aug 23, 2009


    I have been reading about the many complaints regarding International Luthier’s Supply in Tulsa. Many of you who have noticed the change in services will recognize a pegged timing point in the disruption of service there. There was a significant event that changed the regular operation of the company. - - - About a year and a half ago!!!

    I have also been doing business with the Brown family, owners of the company, for over twenty five years: have done some mail order, but mostly have been a walk-in, cash and carry customer during this time. So, for one, I actually know and am a friend to these people who are being talked about in the thread, and also I sort of know what has happened to put the company on an unbalanced footing – probably totally closed by now.

    Long story short –Mrs. Brown, surviving wife of Harold Brown who established the company back in the fifties, died about a year and a half ago. She was also the principal bookkeeper and whip over the mail order department, responsible for inventory and stock ordering, etc. Her two sons, Frank and Steve, were raised up in the business and knew what it was all about, but had other ambitions besides managing the complexity of this thing. Dr. Frank actually moved off to NYC to pursue his music and left the company (operational aspects) to Steve and his family. I say operational because Frank withdrew a portion of the financial assets of the company as his inheritance in probate. The building where the company was housed was sold and the assets were distributed among siblings.

    So Steve inherited this situation where not only were the two other principal employees / partners of the company gone out of the picture, a significant portion of the operating capital and liquid asset of the company were removed, but also the physical location of the company became nonexistent (reduced to a crammed packed storage unit). This is a true tragedy because for a fact Steve, his son Adam, and his two daughters who came in to try to make things work out are really very nice folks, and prior to this time they kept the ship on an even keel for the most part. . . . I have never had problems with the service in over twenty five years until this situation came up. .. . . And if you can understand, they got pounded from just about every side imaginable in a rapid fire succession.

    I can appreciate the concern, frustration, and anger of those who have lost (or let’s put it this way, “who have money tied up in this situation”), but I am not so inclined to throw such a poisonous batch of stones at the Brown Family. Given a similar situation to deal with, many of those who are being so vocal would probably come up smelling like a dirty rotten rat as well, and would probably be the first to put all the blame over onto the other companie's insufficiencies!!!

    Another aspect of all of this has to do with the overbearing shift of manufacturing and investment capital to overseas markets - set up in the 1990's and effectively secured with the signing of the Most Favored Nation Treaty. After that time any competitor for a market share (particularly US based companies) against the investors of outsourced and foreign owned manufacturers and suppliers were systematically "screwed right royally" into a situation of bankrupcy and even worse. Take note of the extent of defamation and smearing of the trade reputation of the Brown Family that is taking place in this thread of comments for a simple example of how forceful this agenda has become.

    I actually had the chance to observe first hand that Steve Brown and his son Adam were working at break-neck speed to update the technology of their business and maintain access to the supply of quality materials necessary to compete with the "expanding at light speed" foreign suppliers. They were literally slam dunked not only by the overwhelming bulk of those very well financed operations, but also by the fairly cruel and unjust defamations that were affixed to their reputations by circulated reporting like this thread.

    The always busy phone line??? Well that was a telephone modem used to monitor the on-line mail order catalogue.

    I don't know exactly what the family could have done differently to prevent this "being pushed out of business" to have happened, but I do know that they were dealt a pretty unfair hand by the foreign competition and the cripling effects of Clinton Administration policy. International Luthier's Supply isn't the only company in the US that has been shot down in this way. And it is a further shame that half of the responsibility in all this rests on the attitudes of an American consumer base that has been groomed to expect the right to Cheap, Foreign, Microwave service.

    This is written so that you might understand the situation a bit better. . . . . Hey the Yobamma administration wasn’t there to bail these guys out: in fact they wold have more likely found a way to dump a bunch of financial penalties and legal shackles on them.

    G. A. Lane

    -1 Votes
  • Fl
    flmaple Jun 05, 2009

    I ordered stuff from them from early 80s till 2006. The merchandise was good and the service was prompt. Something must have happened to them, probably due to bad economic times.

    I called their number this morning. It is disconnected. I think they went out of business. It is really sad. They had items no one else had. Their violin varnishes were superb. I will miss them.

    1 Votes
  • Qu
    quercus Apr 07, 2009

    I hate to see these complaints. I did business with this company many years ago, and they were exemplary. If my catalog was out of date, and the price of my item had gone up, they'd honor the old price (and send a new catalog with my order). Sometimes the shipment went out before payment had cleared or even arrived. There was never a problem, and they were great to deal with on the phone.

    Today, I was thinking about a new project, and wondered what the materials would cost. A search for "International Luthiers Supply" revealed many complaints of a similar nature. They must be under new ownership; nothing else could explain the difference. Sadly, I conclude that they are to be avoided. The old owners must be anguished.

    1 Votes
  • Je
    Jeff Mar 05, 2009

    This is a shame. I ordered my first violin wood kit and tools from this company maybe 7 or 8 years ago, and had since ordered several other tools and other accessories. They weren't the fastest shipping company I'd dealt with, but I had no experience like all these I've read. Might have had a back order issue, but never a non shipment when they debited my card. I was recently hoping to place another order with them, but after reading so many negative reports am now reluctant. Shame, too. Really wanted items I've only found them to offer.

    1 Votes

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