Here’s my 10 WTF moments in my guitar repair/building experience.
Let me start out with my labor rates:
$75.00 an hour
$85.00 an hour if you watch
$95.00 an hour if you help
$125.00 an hour if you tried to fix it yourself first
Now I know that this is kind of a smart ass intro but it makes the point that you have to look at the job as a whole when making your estimate.
10. A 1981 Martin D-28 with the binding top and back coming off. Customer “fix” Scotch taping the binding on the body. Result: tape UV cured to the finish. Real fix: New binding and refinish of the sides.
9. Jack plug installed on the side of a Martin D-18. Result: Jack pulls out and takes a good chunk of side with it. Fix: Make football sized patch to repair side, refinish and install proper jack in end block.
8. Customer refinish of Gibson Flying V using bar top epoxy as a finish. Result: The epoxy is improperly mixed so a great deal of it never hardens. All of the studs for the tail piece were left in and covered with epoxy. Fix: Physically removing the epoxy, installing new studs and refinishing.
7. Customer installed Grover Rotomatics. Holes enlarged with conventional drill bit. Result: Cracked peg head when drill bit torqued and caught the wood. Fix: Re-gluing peg head, plugging holes, drilling new holes in the plugs and reaming out the ones that didn’t get drilled. Finally touch up finish the cracked areas.
6. I’ve said this before but think it needs to be said again… Customer using truss rod to “fix” action. Result: Broken truss rod. Fix: Well, the fix costs more than the instrument and the guitar was scrapped. This one depends on where the break occurred and what kind of rod was used. If it’s a conventional rod and the break is close to the adjusting nut, Stew-Mac has a tool to re-thread the rod and save it. If the break is farther down the rod or double action you may have to remove the fret board and that my friend is major surgery.
5. Customer installed strap button on heel of acoustic. This was a simple job that went horribly wrong because a pilot hole wasn’t drilled. Result: Cracked heal. Fix: Careful application of cyanoacrylate glue and touch up refinish. I’ve also seen strap button installations on guitars with bolt on necks where the pilot hole has hit the threaded insert in the heel. Make sure you know where the insert is placed on that particular guitar before you drill.
4. Cracked end block because customer used a drill bit meant for steel to enlarge hole for the jack used on an acoustic. Fix: This can be tricky. First you have to assess the damage and that can be challenging. Some of these miniature cameras work great. I’ve had success using a point and shoot on a timer to take a snap. If the crack is small you might be able to use cyano to repair it. If the end block is cracked all the way through, the back may need to come off and the block replaced… Again, not something you’re going to do on a cheap guitar. The proper way is to use a step reamer to get the correct sized hole.
3. This one is not so much a customer fix as customer negligence. A crack in the top of an acoustic that is not addressed right away. Dirt and grime are allowed into the crack and oxidizes the surfaces so that what could have been fixed with a diamond patch on the inside has now become a fix that includes taking away the rotten wood and inserting a splint. It can be very difficult to match the new wood with the old, and you better make sure the customer knows that his or her guitar will not look brand new.
2. Cracked peg head. Customer “fixed” with mystery glue and a wood screw. Result: Peg head and neck shaft not aligned. Fix: If the peg head can be re-broken you may be able to re-align the neck and re-glue (if it was glued with aliphatic glue you won’t be able to as the glue will not stick to itself). The joint may have to be resurfaced and new wood may have to be inserted, possibly a spline as well.
1. And now for my favorite customer fix… A re-glued bridge on an acoustic using Gorilla Glue and wood screws. This is an epic failure on so many levels. Wood screws should never be used to hold a bridge on (Gibson, take note) . And anyone who has ever used Gorilla Glue knows it has no place in guitar construction/repair. It’s a polyurethane glue that works very well in certain circumstances (water contact, etc.) but the foaming that occurs when the glue is curing can create a humongous mess. Fix: Take the bridge off and refinish the top. What could have been a $85.00 repair is now over $400.00.
The last thing to remember is that repairing a cheap guitar takes just as long and just as expensive as a high end one (sometimes more).