12 String questions

I have a couple 12 string questions.

First, the sound that made me want to relearn guitar and play was that from a nice 12 string. I just love the sound of a nice 12 string.

However, everyone says that it isn't really a good guitar to start out on.

Well, I'm a beginner and I'm not a total beginner. I used to play classical, but that was some time ago. However, I have found that after some initial awkwardness, I'm picking up the things I used to know pretty quickly (it also helps that I'm a teacher and I was able to practice several hours a day over the summer).

I'm also thinking that if what I really want to play is the 12 string, and if it is a slightly different animal to play, maybe I should start early and really learn to play what I want to play. Further, I have very thick fingers (playing my Les Paul is quite difficult for me, though my Seagull isn't too bad now that I have some practice). However, with the wide neck of a 12 string I find it extremely comfortable to fret when I go to the guitar store and try them out. Almost as easy as my old classical guitar.

So for someone who is a semi-beginner, and new to steel string guitars, how soon would be the earliest that you'd suggest the move to a 12 string?

My other question involves strings...I've noticed a couple of the guitars I'm considering (the HPL sided Martin D12X1 and all the Guilds I'm considering) have specific recommended or required replacement strings. I understand that a 12 string has a lot more pressure on it from the strings than a 6 string so it probably is a good idea to follow these suggestions. However, if not going with bronze strings would put undue stress on the guitar, does this mean that these are not particularly well made guitars? I would think that a well made guitar would be able to take steel strings, however I'd also expect a Guild or Martin guitar to be a well made guitar. So, I'm a little confused as to the reason for these string requirements.

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