Share some anecdotes from the work bench

Adinol

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Let's hear some anecdote from the work bench - luthier or repair.

Here's a fairly recent one of mine.

Customer comes in to inquire about a setup. I put his guitar on my bench start looking over it and start explaining how his guitar would benefit. I have absolutely no issues if customers decide to pass, as most people don't know the costs anyway. But this particular customer was one of those time consuming ones.

Would do it. Wouldn't do it. Should do it. Shouldn't do it. What if we just adjust the truss rod? What if we just did this? What if we just do that? Would it cost less if I didn't have to do too many adjustments?

Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into what feels like eternity. He's still asking about options that are not even on the table, trying to find a way to lower the cost. Customer is still undecided. At this point I start having ideas that perhaps I should also start offering therapy services for customers that like to talk. Apparently I needed to know everything about his finances but the thought that he was taking up my time did not seem to cross his mind.

Finally he starts telling me that he would think about it, puts his guitar against the wall and is still talking. I wanted to tell him, "Be careful, don't put your guitar like that," but I couldn't interrupt him. As he is moving to reach for his gig bag he knocks over his guitar.

Guitar falls. Headstock breaks off.

Finally there's a moment of silence.

I reach for my price list and tell him it's going to be a $300 headdstock repair.

"Oh, this can be fixed?"

"Yes, it's a clean break... ....Would you like to add a setup to that?"
 

Subterfuge

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the customer was a very patient man .... I would have lost it !!!! LOL
 

LP1865

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@Adinol I can only praise your patience, wasting precious time with such a customer
 

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well this is not a do it for a living story, but it is a workbench anecdote, so i have this great piece of old honduran mahog, thick enough and them some for a les paul custom build but only 12 1/4 inch wide, so i take a template and play around with position, and find one i like so draw the outline with a sharpie. Then i spent a while deciding which part of bout is going to have the extra bit on, i decide the upper, as will leave the control cavity as one piece which i figure will just look better, so i realise that only one side needs flattening, as the top will be routed with templates.

So i duly set to with electric planer and spend an afternoon planing and sanding and get it pretty darn close, close enough to leave some wiggle room if carve goes a bit wrong on top. I then cut rough shape out and only then realise i used the wrong body outline, so the damned rough face is now the bottom of the guitar, effectively i am back where i started. but with a perfectly flat top to carve.
 

pshupe

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well this is not a do it for a living story, but it is a workbench anecdote, so i have this great piece of old honduran mahog, thick enough and them some for a les paul custom build but only 12 1/4 inch wide, so i take a template and play around with position, and find one i like so draw the outline with a sharpie. Then i spent a while deciding which part of bout is going to have the extra bit on, i decide the upper, as will leave the control cavity as one piece which i figure will just look better, so i realise that only one side needs flattening, as the top will be routed with templates.

So i duly set to with electric planer and spend an afternoon planing and sanding and get it pretty darn close, close enough to leave some wiggle room if carve goes a bit wrong on top. I then cut rough shape out and only then realise i used the wrong body outline, so the damned rough face is now the bottom of the guitar, effectively i am back where i started. but with a perfectly flat top to carve.
Or a lefty??? ;)
 

LtDave32

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Let's hear some anecdote from the work bench - luthier or repair.

Here's a fairly recent one of mine.

Customer comes in to inquire about a setup. I put his guitar on my bench start looking over it and start explaining how his guitar would benefit. I have absolutely no issues if customers decide to pass, as most people don't know the costs anyway. But this particular customer was one of those time consuming ones.

Would do it. Wouldn't do it. Should do it. Shouldn't do it. What if we just adjust the truss rod? What if we just did this? What if we just do that? Would it cost less if I didn't have to do too many adjustments?

Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into what feels like eternity. He's still asking about options that are not even on the table, trying to find a way to lower the cost. Customer is still undecided. At this point I start having ideas that perhaps I should also start offering therapy services for customers that like to talk. Apparently I needed to know everything about his finances but the thought that he was taking up my time did not seem to cross his mind.

Finally he starts telling me that he would think about it, puts his guitar against the wall and is still talking. I wanted to tell him, "Be careful, don't put your guitar like that," but I couldn't interrupt him. As he is moving to reach for his gig bag he knocks over his guitar.

Guitar falls. Headstock breaks off.

Finally there's a moment of silence.

I reach for my price list and tell him it's going to be a $300 headdstock repair.

"Oh, this can be fixed?"

"Yes, it's a clean break... ....Would you like to add a setup to that?"

That's friggin' priceless. The guy couldn't get out of his own way to save his life.

I've got some "too much talk" inlaws. When they show up, it's going to be an hour long conversation, right when I'm in my shop and working.

Now, I love talking shop. Even with customers. But the endless, on-an-on drone of a one-sided conversation? No thank you..
 

LtDave32

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well this is not a do it for a living story, but it is a workbench anecdote, so i have this great piece of old honduran mahog, thick enough and them some for a les paul custom build but only 12 1/4 inch wide, so i take a template and play around with position, and find one i like so draw the outline with a sharpie. Then i spent a while deciding which part of bout is going to have the extra bit on, i decide the upper, as will leave the control cavity as one piece which i figure will just look better, so i realise that only one side needs flattening, as the top will be routed with templates.

So i duly set to with electric planer and spend an afternoon planing and sanding and get it pretty darn close, close enough to leave some wiggle room if carve goes a bit wrong on top. I then cut rough shape out and only then realise i used the wrong body outline, so the damned rough face is now the bottom of the guitar, effectively i am back where i started. but with a perfectly flat top to carve.
ouch..
 

LtDave32

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I once had this fender-style neck I was making out of maple with a lot of burl-wood in it. Curly, swirly, great figure. Especially on the headstock. Beautiful stuff.

So this is the first evening at home my future wife is spending with me on a date. I cooked a marvelous dinner, and she expressed a desire to see what I do in the shop, early in the evening.

Remember, I'm still a the date stage, trying to make the very best of impressions.

Since the headstock is shaped, I decide to press in the tuner bushings for a test fit, and check the alignment of the tuners.

I go to press in the low E tuner bushing. Goes in fine. I start to press the A tuner bushing, and it's giving me a bit of excessive resistance. And it's right in the middle of a grain swirl in that burl wood.

I press harder with my thumb, and half the headstock just falls off.

With her standing right next to me. Right in front of her.

Boing! on the floor it goes. The Great Luthier..

Complete silence.

I have this urge to take this fret-boarded, fretted, dotted, finished neck and heave it with a mighty throw across the shop.

As my ears burn red hot, I look at her. She's got this "oh well" smile on her face.

I calmly set the broken neck on the bench.

We leave the shop calmly, and wander back into the house for another glass of Pinot Noir..

This is the night I learned that burl wood can mean cracks and weak spots. Good lesson.
 

Freddy G

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I had a client today picking up three guitars that were in for some serious mods. Good client. We are in lockdown here in Ontario so I was out on the front porch with him showing him the work that was done. Anyway, I was out there with him for about 40-45 minutes.
When I came in Mrs G. said to me...."you know, you sometimes let your clients take up too much of your time....you might want to be more firm and cut them off after basic business is concluded".

And she is absolutely correct. I agree that time is money and it behooves me to listen to some guy's life story when he's coming in for a set-up.

Then she asked "what did you guys talk about all that time".

I showed her the check that he wrote as a deposit for a custom guitar build. Funny...she didn't say anything after that except..."oh" :cool2:
 

the great waldo

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I was at the end of a really busy Friday and had a really nice martin 000 12 fret on the bench which a customer (one of my regulars) had just bought for about 4000 euros and wanted me to check over. I had another uninvited customer walk into the workshop who started asking me a lot of daft questions about his super epiphone les paul that was better than any gibson. I moved over to him to have a quick look and get him out of my hair without realizing the Martin was still plugged into the amp. You can guess what happend next !!! I caught the cable with my foot ,The Martin flew off my bench and past my stool and landed face down on the floor with a fantastic Kerang ( I think I spelt that right ) The owner heard the sound as he was down some stairs nearby and asked what the noise was. I said that was the sound of me destroying his new guitar !! He laughed . I thought thats it at least an extra soundhole in the guitar / split top broken sides etc, etc, When I picked the guitar up I couldn't find a mark on it anywhere. I told the owner what had happened and refused to take any payment for the work I had done on it and was ready either to give him the money for the guitar or make him a new one. He was absolutely great about it all and said shit happens ! He did call me up a week later and said he'd found a small dent in the headstock and said I should'nt worry about it. I said I do worry about it and fixed it the next time he dropped by . The guy with the epiphone I felt like smashing in face !n all honesty it was my fault and I shouldn't try to keep everyone happy at the same time. Lesson learnt at luckily not a great cost. On with the motley !
cheers
Andrew
Ps I really shuld czech my spellling out betta !!
 
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LtDave32

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These are great stories.

Stories From The Bench!

Keep 'em coming..
 

Adinol

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OK, here's another one. This one is not so funny, if you're not living through it, but it just shows some of the unusual requests that customers will bring to a guitar tech.

Just about over a year ago, a customer (older gentleman) came to me to complain about the sound that his guitar makes when he strums a chord. According to this customer, his guitar makes a "meaow" sound (like a cat) when he does a single strum of any chord.

He said, "Listen," then strums, "Did you hear that? The guitar sounds like, meaow, meaow." Could I make the guitar not make that sound?

I told him I couldn't hear "meaow" so I can't fix it if I don't know what's wrong with it. "I think the guitar works fine," I told him (and I meant it).

I'm not trying to ridicule the customer, some people have perfect pitch, some might hear what dogs can hear, but I couldn't hear the "meaow" sound.
 

cmjohnson

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This one isn't funny at all.

I'm working at the music store, where I usually do all the fretjobs, and one of my friends (another guitar tech, let's call him Joe, names changed to protect EVERYBODY) ) is doing some minor work on a cherry red Gibson blueshawk. Standing next to him is "Frankie", the local village idiot and part-time crackhead (literally) watching what Joe is doing.

Well, Joe is working with superglue and drops one drop on that red nitro lacquer finish on the face of the Blueshawk.

No big deal, right? We all know what to do in that case. DON'T TOUCH IT. Or spray a spritz of accelerator on it to cure it fast. But Crackhead Frankie reaches out and before Joe can react, he rubs the glue off with his fingertip. ....and takes off the finish clean down to the wood. :facepalm:

If it had cured it'd have been no big deal at all. But now...oh boy.

Well....as luck would have it I had a perfect color match to use to drop fill it. But...though I was not the one at fault...every time any of us attempted to patch that repair up and then sand it back level with the finish, using the most gentle sanding and scraping techniques, we always got sand-thrus around the patch, making the damaged area bigger with every try. It was making FOOLS of us all. That finish was so ridiculously thin on that guitar, it must have been down in the micron range.

Three capable, competent guitar repairmen. Me, Joe, and Sean. We all tried. It beat us all. Eventually some deal was made with the owner of the guitar that made him happy. He was amazingly cool about it. Did we feel like the King's horsemen who couldn't put Eggy back together again? No... more like Larry, Curly, and Moe. :sadwave::sadwave::sadwave:

I was never told exactly what the final deal was, but I suspect that the guitar was sent to Gibson for a full top refinish on our nickel.

Moral of the story: If you EVER let a bystander watch you doing a repair, tell him in no uncertain terms to keep his hands in his pockets and keep them there no matter what happens unless it's to reach for a fire extinguisher or a first aid kit...and even then, don't USE it without being told to.


Other story: A guy comes in with a Rickenbacker, I think it was a 360 or something like that. (Not much of a follower of Ricks unless there's a Morty, too.) Checkerboard binding on the BACk edge. It had been cut for humbuckers and the owner wanted it restored to its original pickup type.

After bouncing around some ideas and coming to terms with the difficulty level involved in restoring the missing wood on a hollow guitar, we agreed that I'd make pickup rings out of 3 ply B/W/B pickguard material that would adapt correct pickups to fit in the humbucker routes. And that part actually worked rather well.

Oh..the guitar had a broken neck, around the 5th fret. And it was DEVASTATED. I have no idea how it could have been broken that badly but it looked like it was smashed with a sledgehammer. The shop owner (and friend of the guitar's owner) took on the neck repair himself. Which he did by splicing in a new section of hand made laminated maple and walnut to match the original neck. Did a nice job of it. But there was a bit of a transitional lump between the original and the repaired areas of the neck. He decided it was good enough so then it got passed to me for finishing.

The new finish: Pure gloss black, scraped back over all binding. I paid DUES on that finish and that scraping work. I've never put more time and effort into making a finish perfet as that one. And aside from the visible lumpiness of the neck at the repaired area, it was....I'm just going to come out and say it. It was a perfect finish.

When I got done with that, with all the scraping, sanding, clearcoats, more sanding, and polishing every square millimeter of that guitar, I handed it to the shop owner and said "Here. I'm done with this. if you decide to go back and try to rework the neck repair now, you're on your own. This guitar has gotten all the work I'll ever put into it."

I come in a few days later...and he'd sanded back the neck repair area to try to get it more flush to the original neck. (And he succeeded.) :iough:

I reminded him that I'd washed my hands of any further work on that guitar. He could refinish the neck himself. I just couldn't stand to look at that turd anymore.

When he got done with the repair and the repaint of the neck, it looked really good. But you could see the difference between my finish work and his. Mine was better. Whatever...the final outcome was that the guitar's owner was very happy with the final outcome and that job put a nice bit of money in my wallet. And believe me, I earned EVERY penny of it.
 

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OK, here's another one. ......, his guitar makes a "meaow" sound (like a cat) when he does a single strum of any chord.

He said, "Listen," then strums, "Did you hear that? ......
The old guy just wanted you to find him a little Pussy.....
 

Adinol

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I just thought of another fairly recent one... this one's pretty funny.

This lady brings her acoustic guitar to me, saying that the guitar won't play any more. I take the guitar from her, place it on my bench and I see right away the neck had a back bow.

At that moment, she got distracted by her phone and stopped paying any attention to me. I quickly grabbed the sound-hole truss rod wrench an quickly released the tension that was causing the back bow. She didn't see me do anything and then put her phone away to talk to me.

I pretended to had been waiting for her to finish with her phone and said, "So, what's the problem?"

"The guitar is buzzing all over the place. I can't even play it."

I said, "Hm... There's an easy fix fro that. You just need the Buzz Away Spray."

She gave me one of those looks that I could imagine her mouth was slightly open, despite the fact that I couldn't actually see her mouth behind the surgical mask.

I grabbed a guitar cleaner spray bottle and gave the guitar a couple of squirts of spray. I wiped it off and said, "This should do the trick," and handed the guitar back to her.

She was really looking at me like trying to figure out what kind of nut case she was dealing with. I'm sure that prior to coming to me she must have spent a great deal of time troubleshooting, possibly Googling for answers or what not.

I said, "Have a seat and see if it's still buzzing."

I guess she was starting to be afraid of me by that time, thinking crazy people can be dangerous if provoked Nevertheless, she sat down and started playing. Now she was stunned, and said, "It's not buzzing any more. How did you do that?"

"Well, it's really not that complicated. You just spay and walk away."

I can just imagine how she went home then trying to tell her husband that the technician used two squirts of some spray to make the buzzing go away. And her husband saying, "What the hell are you talking about?"
 

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This doesn't REALLY qualify but....unfortunately my mentor who taught me a lot about guitars in the early days, and who was still progressively teaching me the fine art of understanding and repairing tube amps, died just this last Sunday morning and I was the one who first discovered his body. He'd been in very poor health lately and getting worse, and being as ultra stubborn as he was, he would and did refuse advice to get to a hospital. I saw this coming and was as surprised at his death as I was at the rising of the sun in the morning. Not at all. He failed to respond to multiple phone calls in good time, so I called a mutual friend and asked her to try. She called back before long and reported that she hadn't gotten to him, either, so she was going to head down. I closed up my workshop and went down there too.

When I got there, she hadn't gone in. I opened the door (unlocked, fortunately, otherwise I'd have had to crawl in after pushing the window air conditioner out) and walked in and found that he had died in his sleep.

Nothing amusing about THAT.

Somehow I ended up in charge of all the arrangements. He died with no will, no known living family, and no assets other than the contents of his shop, which he was living in. By mutual agreement and knowing his previously verbally expressed wishes, I'm handling the final arrangements and the cleanup and disposal of what little he owned.

His closest friends (myself include, as I knew him 36 years) have gotten together to clean up his shop and find homes for his tools and equipment that has any value. We've sent a ton of garbage to the dump. In the process of cleaning up we've found a lot of stuff that brings back memories and also a lot of things that have raised many eyebrows and let us see sides of our friend that we never really even suspected.

After finding the fifth box of pornographic DVDs, it started getting REALLY funny.

We found far more photo albums stashed among his books than I would have suspected.

We're arranging to have a live music, food, and drink memorial for him in a few months. And thanks to those photo albums, we are going to have so much FUN putting together a photo essay on him to display to all, which will be everything he'd want it to be. Happy, sad, innocent, devilish, sublime, ridiculous, flattering, funny, and of course, a few photos will be embarrassing.

And every person who owns one of his custom built amplifiers that we can locate will be asked to bring his amp to put on display as a "reunion of his children", so to speak. He'd have loved to see them all together at once. We'll try to make that happen.

We have yet to create his final amusing anecdote but we're working on it.
 

LtDave32

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After finding the fifth box of pornographic DVDs, it started getting REALLY funny.

We found far more photo albums stashed among his books than I would have suspected.



There was this old dude at the end of our cul-de-sac, "Mr Foto". White guy, not Japanese as one might think.

This beer-tubby ol' guy was a liquor sign repairman for a living. Yep that's what he did. He had his garage turned into a shop, and in that shop he repaired beer and liquor signs of the 1960's.

Before he'd enter the shop, we'd see him sitting on the concrete steps leading into the house. We'd ride our bikes right up in the driveway to witness "the event" . He could with one hand draw his tobacco pouch out of his top pocket, with the other hand prepare a rolling paper, and in one swift and seamless move, open the drawstring with his teeth, trickle the tobacco out into the paper trough, bring the paper to his lips and lick and roll and twist a cigarette while replacing the pouch with his other hand. It was a pure sight to see. Simply amazing. He had it down to an art form.

Anyway..

In that shop along the walls were dozens of those calendars that had a plastic film over the picture that you pulled up to reveal this bimbo with HUGE boobs. They were everywhere. At ten years old, this was fascinating. He also had piles and stacks of what he called "titty books" like Knave, Buxom, Cavalier, etc etc. What these books were, were naked chick books for the "other guys" who liked ordinary "Haus frau" type of women. We'd come in to look at the beer signs (so we said) and try and pull a calendar cover up or sneak a peek into the titty books. He'd say "get out of there, you" but do nothing, so we kept right on peeking..
 

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This one's right out of the oven. It happened just yesterday.

Guy brings in a Harmony Rocket H53 archtop guitar. He wants a setup. While I'm looking over the guitar he says, "I like the action the way i is, don't change the action."

So, I tell him that I'll measure the action before the setup and then restore the same action after I correct the neck relief. Nope! He doesn't want to change the relief. He likes the relief just the way it is.

I try to explain that he has a little more upbow than what would be considered standard and that I should straighten the neck just a bit. Nope! If I do that it might start buzzing. So, I look at the bridge and notice that it is carved straight and positioned perpendicular. I tell him that the intonation can't possibly be right and I show him what an archtop bridge saddle should look like, with the compensation carved in. I also explain how the sample I was showing had the compensation carved fro a wound G string. So, I tell him that I will have to slant the bridge a bit to get the same approximate intonation as we see on my steel string acoustics and I show him how the saddle on an acoustic is slightly slanted.

Initially he didn't like the idea, perhaps mostly because of how it will look, but then I pointed out that the bridge on a 335, which is a similar guitar, is permanently installed slanted and that it is a commonly acceptable look. So, he did agree.

I checked the string slots on the nut - nothing to tweak there.

Now, since I am not in the business of ripping off customers I tried to think of other things I could do to justify him paying for a full setup. So, I explained that I would normally clean the guitar and polish the frets, but that I would not normally go through the length of doing a multi stage mirror finish fret polish, just for a setup. I showed him a sample neck with mirror finished frets and said I would give his frets the same treatment. He was happy about that.

The customer was quite familiar with the concepts of action as well as neck relief, but did not know much about the intonation. I am still trying to figure out what he wanted to adjust.
 


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