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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:36 pm 
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Mahogany
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First name: Conor
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I've got a customer with an old aftermarket neck on a strat style guitar. One of the frets is slightly out of place. He doesn't want to do a whole re-fret right now, and the guitar doesn't need it, (plus it's a maple fret board, so if I don't have to rip the frets out I don't want to.) But I was thinking I might be able to compensate the fret a little bit, by filing the crown slightly to compensate for its poor positioning. Any thoughts?

Conor


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 8:12 pm 
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Yes, that would work if you could compensate enough. You probably would need to put a taller fret in there to start with.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 8:12 pm 
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How far out of place?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:28 pm 
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If its a commercially made product - they are usually cut on a gang saw... Which makes fret slot errors less common...

Any chance somebody monkeyed with it ... Stuck a too-big fret in there then filed it down without regard to maintaining the centerline of the fret....


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:39 am 
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A strat style import new will cost less than the price of a quality refret. It's not uncommon for the economics to not work for many of the instruments that unknowing potential clients bring to repair people for advice and estimates. Maple boards may require refinishing too making them among the most pricey to refret for folks AND they take the longest with time for finish to cure, etc.

It's also highly unusual for a fret and ONLY one to be incorrectly located as you are describing. My hunch is that either we are not measuring correctly (no offense) or the "aftermarket" neck is for a different scale than either the guitar body was or our understanding of what the scale length is supposed to be.

I would be more inclined to suggest that the client go buy a new guitar with LOTS of choices again available for the price of a refret instead of chasing a mismatch of aftermarket, junk parts issues.

By the way as a rule we, our business won't work on "parts guitars" unless the stupid thing has been a successful, fully assembled instrument prior. It's been our experience that many aftermarket parts are utter crap and junk that rarely if ever perform or fit as billed. How do you quote assembling this garbage AND remain ethical and true to our very valued clients? You really don't so we won't go there.

We will perform most services on parts guitars once someone else loses their soul trying to assemble the junk without having major issues such as necks and neck pockets being incompatible, scale length errors, wrongly located bridges..... etc.

Maybe consider this Connor. The single greatest mistake that repair Luthiers commonly make in our experience AND that of many of our pro Luthier friends is to trying to be all things to all folks..... It can sink your business and put you out of business with the very high "opportunity cost" price. Just because someone attempts to deposit some crap in your shop and make it your problem you don't have to let them. I reject work nearly every single day because one of the following statements is not necessarily true 1) The work must have a defined beginning 2) The work must have a defined ending and 3) The work must have a mutually agreed upon definition of success. Exploratory surgery will put one out of business....

In this case I question our understanding of what this neck was intended to be for scale length wise and if it's a parts guitar and the neck was always like this it's never been a successful guitar if the scale length is off now has it?

Yesterday I turned away a bridge reglue, brace repair, binding on the neck reglue, new saddle (bone) and set-up. $300 to $400 worth of easy work that the client was ready to agree to. I turned it away because the client's POS Ov*tion was falling apart and the money would clearly be better spent instead of attempting to put lipstick on a 40 year old Ov*tion pig purchasing a new Seagull down the street. Our reluctance to even take the thing in led to the client buying a new instrument for the same amount of money and being WAY happier. They often thank us profusely for this and rave that we looked out for them even at seemingly our expense. And so we did too.

Truth be told instruments like this often suffer from "scope creep" and there ends up being far more wrong with it than my eyes spotted but since we took it in, quoted it, we own it and now have the opportunity to..... lose our souls on the POS.....

See what I mean? ;). I know this is not what you asked, you asked about crowning a fret to compensate for a possible placement problem which, by the way is possible but I still strongly suspect that this kind of a scale length error is likely the purchaser of the neck buying the wrong neck in the first place, or the bridge is in the wrong place or, or, or. Anyway don't let it be your problem and always, always, always be a faithful steward of what's in the best interest of our clients. Sometimes fixing BS is not what will serve a client the very best. They just don't know it yet.



These users thanked the author Hesh for the post (total 3): Clinchriver (Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:15 pm) • Lonnie J Barber (Fri Sep 22, 2017 7:18 pm) • david farmer (Fri Sep 22, 2017 2:26 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:22 pm 
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Thanks everyone, he's a friend, and a pro who doesn't have a ton of money who's used the guitar as his main guitar for years. We're going to leave it as is for now, since we're just going to level and dress the frets, and probably won't be left with enough fret to really compensate it.

As far as the unusual-ness of the problem goes, you can actually see with your eye that the distance between each fret is progressive and consistent up to the problem fret. After that fret it resumes proper spacing.



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 2:25 pm 
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Hesh, you always make it sound so simple. pfft :)
If you recommend a new instrument to someone, don't forget to mention newness is no guarantee it won't be messed up too. Otherwise, They may be at your door with it saying WTF!
If you can do a great fret dress, how much would someone have to spend to get the equivalent on a new guitar?

One fret out would be truly oddball. Put me in the sceptical camp. But, if true, I might try selling him on a wide asymmetrical fret if your dressing them anyway.

Just my 2


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 2:38 pm 
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If he's been making money for years playing a guitar with a fret visibly out of place,....... well, if it ain't broke don't fix it!

He's not in Milli Vanilli is he?


Last edited by pat macaluso on Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:04 pm 
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david farmer wrote:
Hesh, you always make it sound so simple. pfft :)
If you recommend a new instrument to someone, don't forget to mention newness is no guarantee it won't be messed up too. Otherwise, They may be at your door with it saying WTF!
If you can do a great fret dress, how much would someone have to spend to get the equivalent on a new guitar?

One fret out would be truly oddball. Put me in the sceptical camp. But, if true, I might try selling him on a wide asymmetrical fret if your dressing them anyway.

Just my 2


Thanks David your take is always appreciated.

I may make it sound simple but I actually agonize over this kind of thing and it stresses me out. I need and want to be SURE that I have the client's best interest in mind and that my own biases are not directing me to forget about Mr. or Mrs. Customer.

Believe it or not I am also inclined to save stuff that others might turn away because my own vision sees the opportunity for the client in it. Anyway we live and learn.

BTW when we took over the business from a failing music store that one of the reasons that they failed was attempting to be all things to all people... we inherited a pile of garbage instruments waiting to be repaired.... Old achtops that needed neck resets so the previous owner had talked the clients into leaving them for the repair folks to turn into lap steels..... There was even a Bandura (Andy Birko territory) that no one knew how to work on so it had been here for over ten years and the owner had not inquired....

It took us several months to contact the owners (Dave found the Bandura owner believe it or not) and we, Ann Arbor Guitars returned all of the property to it's rightful owners at considerable expense to us. Remember we have not even been in business when this crap was taken in..... Another forum member here, Link Van Cleave called us up one day to say he had dinner with a couple in northern California who had been contacted by me.... It seems I traced a dulcimer that had been left at the previous store here for years to the Mom of a couple who lived near Link and were friends of his. They told him that I contacted them, they told me that their Mom had died but they would be delighted to have the dulcimer so I packed it up and over nighted it (it's safer the less time the shipping goons have it...) to them on our dime and Dave and I refused any renumeration. Mom's are important!

Anyway there is another side to the tough businessman here who will go at times to the end of the earth for a customer as if my life depended on it. On other days I might want to throw them down the stairs....;)

The duality of man....;)

Oh yeah. The place that they bought the guitar lets them bring it to us in an acceptance period of sorts and if we bless it they keep it. So they had that going for them too. But you are right new stuff can suck too but it's been my experience that today's junk is FAR better than the junk when I was a kind. Chinese imports today are hands above Silvertones that had action so high you could slice hard boiled eggs with them.

Anyway I'm convinced that there are some occupational hazards in our biz but once you understand that human nature need not be your problem unless you let it you can still enjoy this business a great deal.

The real trick is spotting the basket cases (instruments or people) on the way in and blocking their entry. That, by the way frees one up to give the best customer service ever to the very valued clients who truly deserve it.

Hope you are doing great too!



These users thanked the author Hesh for the post (total 3): david farmer (Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:30 pm) • Lonnie J Barber (Fri Sep 22, 2017 7:24 pm) • Clinchriver (Fri Sep 22, 2017 4:24 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 7:31 pm 
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I grew up poor. My guitar was a Kay with one of those actions that someone was cutting cheese with. I remember tying broken strings together so I could keep playing. That taught me the best part I like about guitars is those notes next to that crooked fret? Are all over that guitar. The fun is finding them. ;-)


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2017 9:48 pm 
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Lol.

I think I would break out Ye Olde Calipers and measure the actual fret slots vs scale length..... Just to verify somebody didn't seriously mess up a recrown sometime in ancient history.

Then - if its really out... Either use a jumbo fret and move the crown where it needs to be.... Or tell him you can fill that slot and re-slot the board for a new fret. Fill it in with a little strip of veneer. Use a pin gage to establish where the new fret goes and reslot it. Stuff a new fret in.. Level back, recrown, and off you go The repair will be far from invisible... But it will be fixed...


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 10:51 am 
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Haha, Pat and Lonnie, I was just thinking about that this morning. I'm sure we'd all cringe picking up the guitars some of those old blues guys used to entertain people in the 30's, (either that or we'd sell everything we owned to get our hands on that mojo.) I'd say the intangibles often trump mechanical perfection when it comes to valuing a musical instrument. And in a pinch as a player I'll work around whatever I've got in my hands rather than stop playing.

I remember the first repair I ever did as a teenager, I dropped my Raven 335 copy (which might as well have been fretless) and crunched the input jack over on its side breaking the wood all around it. It was on the front of the guitar, which was some weird faux flamed laminate, a big washer and I was back to rocking out in no time.



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:34 pm 
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Those old fellows played unamplified in noisy/rowdy bars. They played hard with fairly high actions and big fat strings so they could be heard over the dancing... No doubt they had popeye forearms...

They also had some pipes - as most of those old country bars had no PA what so ever...


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:30 pm 
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Hesh, I was thinking about your philosophy this morning regarding the work you accept. Which I think makes a ton of sense, and is full of wisdom.

What about a situation where a customer has an inexpensive guitar, but they love it and there's nothing wrong per se. For instance an inexpensive epiphone les paul, they've played the day lights out of it, and now want the plastic nut replaced with a bone nut, the frets dressed at least, and maybe partially refretted, and a full set up. They paid $250 for it at a pawn shop. They could probably find a comparable guitar used, or maybe spend just a bit more to replace it with a new one, but there is nothing wrong with the guitar. Do you accept this work?


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:46 pm 
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Conor_Searl wrote:
Hesh, I was thinking about your philosophy this morning regarding the work you accept. Which I think makes a ton of sense, and is full of wisdom.

What about a situation where a customer has an inexpensive guitar, but they love it and there's nothing wrong per se. For instance an inexpensive epiphone les paul, they've played the day lights out of it, and now want the plastic nut replaced with a bone nut, the frets dressed at least, and maybe partially refretted, and a full set up. They paid $250 for it at a pawn shop. They could probably find a comparable guitar used, or maybe spend just a bit more to replace it with a new one, but there is nothing wrong with the guitar. Do you accept this work?
I would. But on guitars that are barely worth as much as the work that I'm doing, I get at least half up front.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:46 pm 
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I'm not Hesh, but I would be on that job like a chicken on a June bug.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 5:55 pm 
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LOL! Actually, I prefer those kind of jobs. Less to worry about and I find myself more relaxed and working quickly. I pretty much charge the same amount for the same work no matter what kind of guitar. I just had a 69 Les Paul on the bench and as soon as I learned it was worth 14k I found myself slowing WAY down! LOL

Does anyone charged more for expensive guitars just because there's more liability? I probably should!


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 6:43 pm 
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Haha, at the music store I used to manage we were a drop site for a pretty well respected Luthier who would come through town and pick up work regularly. He had a client dropping off a pretty mint early 50's Gibson J-185, that I think at the time was worth about $10k and pretty rare. The form the owner of the store had people sign had all this stuff about liability and how the store wasn't responsible for instruments that were left for servicing, etc. I'm not sure what I should have done, but the luthier was expecting this guitar, and the owner who made a special trip of a couple hours wasn't interested in signing any paper that said we weren't liable for the well being of his guitar. I took the guitar without having him sign the paper, hid it in the bowels of the store, and didn't sleep very well that night. Thankfully the luthier showed up as expected the next day and everything was fine.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:00 pm 
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Conor_Searl wrote:
Hesh, I was thinking about your philosophy this morning regarding the work you accept. Which I think makes a ton of sense, and is full of wisdom.

What about a situation where a customer has an inexpensive guitar, but they love it and there's nothing wrong per se. For instance an inexpensive epiphone les paul, they've played the day lights out of it, and now want the plastic nut replaced with a bone nut, the frets dressed at least, and maybe partially refretted, and a full set up. They paid $250 for it at a pawn shop. They could probably find a comparable guitar used, or maybe spend just a bit more to replace it with a new one, but there is nothing wrong with the guitar. Do you accept this work?


... or he can buy a brand new, fresh from the factory, Gibson Les Paul Gold Top, and still have to have a new nut, fret level and dress, and set up done. Sad, but true.

Alex

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:20 pm 
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Conor_Searl wrote:
Hesh, I was thinking about your philosophy this morning regarding the work you accept. Which I think makes a ton of sense, and is full of wisdom.

What about a situation where a customer has an inexpensive guitar, but they love it and there's nothing wrong per se. For instance an inexpensive epiphone les paul, they've played the day lights out of it, and now want the plastic nut replaced with a bone nut, the frets dressed at least, and maybe partially refretted, and a full set up. They paid $250 for it at a pawn shop. They could probably find a comparable guitar used, or maybe spend just a bit more to replace it with a new one, but there is nothing wrong with the guitar. Do you accept this work?


I'm not sure that anyone here on the OLF can understand my philosophy for what work I want to accept and what work I will not accept. It's also a case by case basis meaning that what this exactly... means to me as well is fluid and more or less expansive based on the opportunity for both the client and us.

In your current example if we can add demonstrated value to our client with a defined beginning, end, and definition of success I'm all for it provided that.... any risk to Dave or I or our business, our values.... and our community is not unreasonable.

I work on inexpensive instruments near daily and I also work on instruments that may be worth more than my late model car near daily as well. Who's more important? Everyone. An example that we offer to our clients frequently as well is that we have A list famous clients and also will make an inexpensive guitar easier to play for the developly disabled little girl. Who's more important to us? They both are but the little girl gets more of the extra miles AND I think we both get a bigger kick out of that too.

The Epiphone will get the same attention and provided that it's current steward is not an a-hole.... we would accept the work. Our prices are the same though that we would charge for an American Les Paul standard unless it's a vintage one where we would and do charge a premium.

It's a common practice in the business to charge a premium for highly valuable vintage instruments unless there are mitigating factors. We do this, Elderly Instruments does it and each place is difference but a 50% premium is not uncommon. We carry well over $250,000 of personal property protection for other people's stuff and these jobs tax that coverage and can at times depending on timing limit what else we will take in at the same time so that everyone is fully covered.

But yes, provided that the client is not an a-hole we would do the job with the same methods and attention that the $75,000 D'Aquistos that we work on receive. The term "priceless" is most certainly relative to who's using it. My ax may be priceless to me and a POS to you or vice versa.

There are other factors too and it can be very complicated or glaringly simple.

Recently a client dropped off a bass for work and his case was plastered with stickers for an organization that as people Dave and I are very much against. Dave had even protested against the organization. Turns out the guitar owner was the President of this organization as well.

We learned all of this after we worked on his guitar. I did the work, head down, doing what I do, next....

Long story short it offered a dilemma for us because we had just empowered someone to harm the very people who we want to help.

Refusing service to someone is also not easy when you already finished their work.

The proceeds from this job were donated to the very organization that this guy's organization sought to eliminate. How appropriate and clever, Dave came up with the idea. I usually don't come up with ideas that include giving away money....;)

Political? Yep. But a real life, last two weeks example of things that can impact what work we do.

Also in the last two weeks a client with a bad reputation for being an a-hole and who was well known to our clients and other shops contacted us. Once I knew who I was dealing with he ended up being as offended as perhaps he has ever been by the brick wall that I became to him. I did at one point ask him if he wanted to compare endowments.... he was such a jerk and so very competitive with me. We didn't want him on our property and I told him so in very frustrating terms.

:D I've done $200 of work on a $99 guitar because it was important to someone and they fully understood the economics. I've also thrown in free work for wealthy people, poor people, lots of vets, some homeless, and a man who will have a big hit documentary on Netflix next year that will be discussed on this forum more than likely based on the subject matter.

So Connor it all depends, each situation is different. But yes we do commonly help people even if that means working on a POS for more than it is worth. It also means free work because we can and we roll that way and refusing service to a-holes because I can be an a-hole too and they are not worthy. I had a cop tell me that our shop is private property and I can tell anyone I want to leave.

Lastly the premium for vintage instruments is not uncommon. I don't think we've charged it often though because unlike most places we turn things around very quickly and I seem to always forget to charge the premium when drooling over how cool the instrument in question is. We are well known for managing "work-flow" using 21st century methodologies since that was my past life with corporate America. This means that the neck reset that most shops take 2 - 3 months to do we do in two weeks. Refrets in two days, set-ups in two hours. Our friends at our regional competition say we've changed the game and raised the bar with our quality and turn around. That was the goal too.

BTW your Epihone would likely get a full refret not a partial because from experience we want the opportunity to reshape and true up the fret board so that the client gets perfect fret work. We would only charge though for what was agreed to and this might be the partial. Values you know on what we are willing to let leave our shop.

Lastly we are in the business of helping people. We make money but believe it or not that's not the big reason why we do this. Speaking only for myself this is a retirement gig I hope to do 4 - 5 more years and then go home to rot away and smoke medical pot and watch war movies all day....;). Hey, at least I'm honest....

I do this because I love it. Monday I have two waiting for me to do one belonging to a very nice Catholic Priest, a Black Gibson acoustic, love black guitars and a P-Bass for a U of M mathematics and computer science student who may be following in my foot steps with who he wants to work for. I'll be looking forward to the work all this weekend because I love this stuff.

You know too when I go home in the evenings from repairing guitars all day and billing $500 - $600 a day myself I pick-up my black American Strat, turn on my Fender Super-Sonic, press my Dunlap Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face and rock out to Purple Haze. Or I might pick up one of the dozen or so high-end acoustics here in my condo and play "Ohio" by Neil Young. There may be guitars in my day sometimes over ten hours a day.

That's why I do this, I love it. So Connor when you love something who do you think is doing whom the favor by bringing me that Epiphone (and not being an a-hole)? ;). Hopefully you can see from all of this that I truly want to help just about everyone but if you want your business to survive you have to be a bit guarded for the jerks.

I used to work for the world's biggest company in history at that time. Job one was not making money. Job one was shielding the organization and it's members from unwanted liability. Because of our size and wealth every slip and fall artist was filing law suits near daily against this company. We were trained to be number one or number two in all that we do or go home and die....

That's how we run our Lutherie business, do the best work available AND be mindful for unwanted liability.

[:Y:]


Last edited by Hesh on Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:28 pm 
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Conor_Searl wrote:
Haha, at the music store I used to manage we were a drop site for a pretty well respected Luthier who would come through town and pick up work regularly. He had a client dropping off a pretty mint early 50's Gibson J-185, that I think at the time was worth about $10k and pretty rare. The form the owner of the store had people sign had all this stuff about liability and how the store wasn't responsible for instruments that were left for servicing, etc. I'm not sure what I should have done, but the luthier was expecting this guitar, and the owner who made a special trip of a couple hours wasn't interested in signing any paper that said we weren't liable for the well being of his guitar. I took the guitar without having him sign the paper, hid it in the bowels of the store, and didn't sleep very well that night. Thankfully the luthier showed up as expected the next day and everything was fine.


Heritage Insurance specializes in Music stores, Luthiers, collectors and valuable vintage stuff. We've been with them for five years now and they are great. We also know people who they settled claims with very quickly and to the satisfaction of everyone.

We consider that we have a duty to have heavy insurance coverage from a quality company, Heritage is underwritten by the Travelers who is one of the big guys in the biz.

I touched on something above but if your exposure based on the time on site of the valuable property is minimized because you turn things around quickly odds are less that you will ever have an issue. On the rare occasion that with permission I might post pics of someone's pre-war Martin, one of the Stooges SG's etc we have permission and I wait until the instrument has left AND there is nothing else here except that Epiphone that needs a new new and partial fret job...;). I know I know I said it was valuable to me too.... Kidding of course.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:35 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Alex Kleon wrote:
Conor_Searl wrote:
Hesh, I was thinking about your philosophy this morning regarding the work you accept. Which I think makes a ton of sense, and is full of wisdom.

What about a situation where a customer has an inexpensive guitar, but they love it and there's nothing wrong per se. For instance an inexpensive epiphone les paul, they've played the day lights out of it, and now want the plastic nut replaced with a bone nut, the frets dressed at least, and maybe partially refretted, and a full set up. They paid $250 for it at a pawn shop. They could probably find a comparable guitar used, or maybe spend just a bit more to replace it with a new one, but there is nothing wrong with the guitar. Do you accept this work?


... or he can buy a brand new, fresh from the factory, Gibson Les Paul Gold Top, and still have to have a new nut, fret level and dress, and set up done. Sad, but true.

Alex


Very sad and true. It's amazing that these things are supposed to be PLEKed..... Someone is living on their laurels.....


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:41 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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pat macaluso wrote:
LOL! Actually, I prefer those kind of jobs. Less to worry about and I find myself more relaxed and working quickly. I pretty much charge the same amount for the same work no matter what kind of guitar. I just had a 69 Les Paul on the bench and as soon as I learned it was worth 14k I found myself slowing WAY down! LOL

Does anyone charged more for expensive guitars just because there's more liability? I probably should!


Just use decent work practices all the time and nothing changes for the valuable ones. Shields, safe layout of where your tools are and where you reach, etc. We've put over 5,000 guitars though our shop in the last five years or so with no damage at all caused by us that was not very minor, completely repairable, and this may have only happened a couple of times as well.

When I was an apprentice I asked Dave once what happens if I mess the thing up? He replied you fix it, being a Luthier means you know how to fix your mistakes. OK, and so we do. ;)

This 14K guitar could have qualified for the premium. BTW these premiums in my experience rarely provoke pushback and instead are rather reassuring to clients that you are not a newb with valuable stuff. Go figure.



These users thanked the author Hesh for the post: pat macaluso (Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:26 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:21 pm 
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I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm thinking when Gib**n gets done with the latest round of price gouging, er "increases", we'll all be seeing more things with that "E" word on the headstock.



These users thanked the author fumblefinger for the post: Hesh (Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:31 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:28 pm 
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Yup. And I'm cool with it.

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Stop saying "How stupid can you get?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge!



These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Hesh (Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:31 am)
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