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Looking for resources for repair work
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Author:  patch [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:42 am ]
Post subject:  Looking for resources for repair work

I built a 12 string for a collector here in town and have 2 more planned, he’s also asked me to see if I can do any repairs and maintenance on the rest of his collection. He has well over 100 12 strings, it’s pretty incredible, I’ve seen maybe 70 of them. Building and repairing seem to me to be two different skill sets but I think to get really good at one you ought to be good at the other too. I don’t have experience doing serious repair work, so I’m intrigued but intimidated. There are guitars with splits on the top or side or back, bridges lifting or sinking, etc. There will certainly be things that I’m not going to feel like I can do properly yet and that’s fine with him, he’s constantly going to LA and can bring guitars there too.

So my question is, other than searching through here are there other resources that have been really helpful?

I feel like there is an incredible potential here in learning repair work as well as getting my hands on all these 12s and studying them. For some reason I keep getting 12 string commissions, I’ve built 5 so far and I’ve been really happy with them but after I get to go through his collection I think my 12 builds could really improve.

Author:  Hesh [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

There's really no difference in repairing a 12 and repairing a 6 string in that the box's are similar and other than twice the strings, twice the nut slots, more tension, etc. it's simply repair work.

Just got a review on facebook last night from a new customer/friend with a 12 Guild. Every consideration that we or he had about the instrument was no different than that of a 6 string. Things such as neck angle...., lifting bridge (this was his situation) poor fret work, loose braces (again his situation), etc.

Beyond the additional tension 12's benefit greatly from perfect set-ups since the player has to overcome any high nut slots or high action. OTOH again this is really no different from a six string in that perfect set-ups are important for anyone and any instrument.

My suggestion to you Patch if you are interested in getting into repair work is this. Being a builder you already have far more than a clue about things such as regluing a bridge, gluing a brace, etc. You just need to learn to work with these things through the sound hole and on instruments where the top is no longer homogeneous and perfect but may have lifted fibers and top distortion.

Ultimately no book, forum, or other person can teach anyone to do repair work. You simply have to just dive in and do a bunch of it. This collector seems to have the opportunities to do just that.

Ask them if they have any beaters that they would not mind if you took on first to develop your chops while not making any mistakes on his more collectable instruments. Or, likewise consider eBay mules for the same reason. I suspect that his project may be something that you could do for a decade or more once you get started.

Also be aware many collectors collect utter junk.... and don't know it or don't care.... Instruments that are better off left dead... where the economics of fixing them, the cost to repair vs what they may be worth either tangibly or emotionally... will never match up. You can hurt yourself on these and one of the hallmarks of successful repair luthiers is knowing when to decline on certain jobs.

The Luthier who sticks his chest out and proclaims that he/she does not want anyone to think less of them because they decline on certain jobs will sure as shooting be out of business in several years time..... Keep that in mind, it may be one of the three most important parts of being a repair Luthier....

12's do suck a bit more time at times such as nut making, etc. But you're right doing repair work will make you a FAR better builder because you will truly understand why 12 strings fail and how they fail. Just be sure that what you work on has 1) a defined beginning and 2) a defined ending and 3) a mutually agreed definition of success and when you get paid..... Short of any of these elements decline on any job.

Sounds like a good opportunity and if it were me I would either be seeking out a repair situation with someone to guide me locally or having some trust in myself that I've learned enough by building, and building is a great education by the way along with what I read on forums to figure the rest out by doing and doing on non-valuable instruments for a while.

Most of the top repair folks alive today pretty much jumped in and did so without hurting themselves or anyone else. Many of them had some Lutherie education but ultimately you have to spend an afternoon with a Rickenbacker 12 to understand just exactly why you now hate Rickenbacker and don't want to ever work on them again.....

Lastly most repair Luthiers with any kind of a decent business would not take this on. We wouldn't either. Why? Because the romantic world of endlessly toiling with sharp chisel in hand by candle light is utter BS when it comes to the realities of paying the bills, insurance, taxes, etc. But for someone with the time and inclination and a revenue stream not dependent on long, drawn out jobs with uncertain outcomes AND the right steward who understands..... progress payments..... it could be OK.

Good luck and if I can ever help you give me a shout.

Author:  John Lewis [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

Check out Frank Ford's and Dan Erlewine's repair videos. Stewmac has their Trade Secrets at Good luck!

Author:  Freeman [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

This is on my work bench at all times ... Guide.html

I started building about 11 years ago (and have built two twelves along with a bunch of other stuff). Building led to doing setups for friends which led to fixing a few cracks and broken headstocks and gluing bridges back on. Now I get a call almost every day from my local music store or one of the guitar instructors in town or someone who I have done work for.

A few random comments

- Repairing can be infinitely harder than building from scratch. Something has failed, you need to put it back together, often out of sequence of how you would build it.

- You'll spend a lot of time thinking about jigs and fixtures and clamps and working in tight spots.

- think about why something failed. You mentioned top splits - that is frequently a hydration issue which needs to be addressed before you actually glue up the crack. However I had one the other day that I was sure it would be a dry guitar but instead it been thumped pretty hard at the butt end and had some other damage - as I fixed that the crack pulled back together.

- I usually don't try to fix finishes and I tell my customers that. I don't do refinishes either. I know that some modern finishes are going to be impossible for me to work with and I frequently turn down those projects

- I am smart enough to know my limitations. I think I'm capable of resettinge the neck on a 1937 D-18 but I'm not going to do it. In fact when both my vintage Martins needed resets I sent them to people that I trust

- I will take on projects that others wouldn't touch. I've got Grandpa's old Kay on my bench right now for a bridge reglue - the guitar might be worth fifty bucks at a yard sale but its also a family heirloom. I fix instruments for students and for my local high schools Mariachi program. I do a lot of that work pro bono.

- I don't charge very much for what I do. In fact I probably loose money on every repair I do. How can I justify buying an $80 reamer to install one pickup and charge 30 bucks to install it? Well, now I have the reamer for the next one and the next one and ...

- A twelve string is no different from a six string from a mandolin from a vihuela from... Yet they are all different and every repair is different. Twelve strings do not have twice the tension, more like 150% if they are strung correctly, and they suffer the same problems as a sixer - neck resets, lifting bridges, worn frets, cracked headstocks


This one got glued back together, then a carbon fiber spline and a mahogany back strap plus a half-assed attempt at repairing the finish. The owner is a gigging musician and was overjoyed at the repair.


- Read everything that Hesh has to say, but remember his perspective. He is in business to repair instruments AND make money doing it. He has to weigh the business side very carefully and when he talks about turning down work he has very good reasons to do so. On the other hand his customers have expectations when they bring a guitar to him - I would send my old Martins to him expecting the work to be done correctly. I'm the antithesis - this is a hobby, I don't have to make money at it and I will take on some of the repairs that Hesh wisely avoids. (by the way, add the Ann Arbor guitar videos to your list of references - they are some of the best).

- don't promise your customers too much. Be honest with yourself before you tell someone that you can do something. Be reasonable with your estimates - both for yourself and your customer - most of the time it takes me a lot longer that I think it should.

- don't quit your day job

edit to add - two good references are the repair subforum of this forum (OLF) and of MIMF

viewforum.php?f=10137 ... 85bd5470fa

look at each thread and think about how you would undertake the particular repair, then read thru the comments by people who actually do this sort of stuff

Author:  patch [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

Good advice here, thanks.

I’m currently building full time and busy. Ordinarily I have to turn down small repair jobs because I don’t have the time and it messes up my build schedule. But I am interested in taking some of this on because of what is in the collection, and whose it is. Larry Bell has been a successful painter and sculptor since the early 60’s and has been collecting since then. It’s always entertaining visiting his studio. He just had a major exhibition at the Whitney and is standing behind John and Ringo on Sgt Pepper’s, he’s very much a character.

There’s a good opportunity to learn and not feel rushed to get the guitar back as soon as possible, he knows how busy I am. So I’ll take on the smaller jobs that aren’t as valuable first.

Hesh, I absolutely hate Rickenbacker 12s. There was on in the rental shop I worked in back in the 90s and I always hated when that thing would go out and I’d have to deal with it.

Author:  Freeman [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

Patch, doing repairs will make you a better builder. Every time you see a headstock broken along the grain you'll think about yours. Every time you reglue a lifted bridge you'll wonder if yours are adequately glued. Every time you try to get the neck off a Yamaha 12 you'll wonder if some future tech can reset the neck on yours.

Your fretwork will have to become perfect - almost every guitar I work on needs something with the frets. You'll learn to improvise, you'll spend half your time with a flashlight and inspection mirror looking thru a sound hole. You'll learn triage - what needs to be done, what shouldn't be done.

I just came in from my shop. I'm working on a cedar over cocobolo OM that might be the last guitar I make for myself and I glued the bridge back on Grandpa's old Kay. Took maybe an hour for the bridge, I'll charge the owner for a half. It needs a lot more, Grandpa was pretty hard on it.

ps - would be good to see some of your 12 strings. Not too many of us here build them, I enjoy seeing other peoples approach.

pps - if you like John and Ringo you'd better not be dissin' Rick's. The 325 is pretty much an icon

Author:  DanKirkland [ Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

Hesh is absolutely correct when he stated that ultimately the best way to learn repairs is to do it. (He's also a super guy so you really should take advantage of his knowledge, he (and others on this forum) have helped me out quite a bit.

Some items I've learned in my short career.

1. Junk guitars will not be missed. I used to buy those little 15$ POS guitars from yard sales to learn the basics. If I screw it up, I got my 15$ worth of education on how NOT to do something.

2. Read and learn about other trades. Boatbuilding, furniture (building and restoration), timber framing, violin repair, all these are woodworking in one way shape or form, and guitar repair/building is at it's core VERY fine and refined woodworking. I learned how to cut a scarf joint from reading about the techniques used to repair ship masts. I learned how to spline cracks from a violin repairman who showed me how to do it. There is something to learn and glean from every trade involving wood.

3. Never be afraid to turn down work. I know Hesh touched on this but I recently had an experience where this proved to be true. A client wanted a cheapo acoustic "restored" and I turned him down because it wasn't a good business move. He came back with a 1940's Gibby for a restoration/repair because he trusted my judgement since I turned down the other job. Both of us had a good day, I made money, he got his grandmother's guitar back.

4. Money trumps sentimentality almost EVERY time. Sounds harsh, but never get suckered into a repair because of a sad/amazing story associated with it. Always look at the bottom line, that dictates whether it's worth it or not. Sometimes there are ones where it's worth the time and money (if they're willing to pay for it) most of the time it isn't.

Since you already build I'll assume that you know FAR more than I do. Each repair is a puzzle with different pieces than another one, you just have to learn to like puzzles. Repairs can/are quite rewarding especially when you bring an old warrior back to life that has both sentimental and monetary value.

Author:  bluescreek [ Tue Dec 19, 2017 4:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

I have been doing this almost 20 years. If you want to learn how to do repairs and trust me , building and repair are 2 different animals , start by buying cheap yard sale guitars. When you can take on apart and put it back together and it doesn't look like it was apart , you can start. Repairing guitars and stringed instruments is about problem solving and working things out.
Often you are doing things that may not have been done before . Then you have to look at why and how the repair id being done. Museum quality work doesn't always mean it doesn't show but it needs to be reversible. Then there is the sentimental repairs where you will do something that will be worth more than the instrument. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO CHARGE A FAIR RATE.
More often people fail in this business because they start before they are ready. Learn your kraft first. Don't hang a shingle out till you are trained. This is business , don't give yourself away but be fair in the price.

Best of luck but don't be surprised if you become an overnight success after 20 years.

Author:  Hesh [ Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Looking for resources for repair work

bluescreek wrote:

Best of luck but don't be surprised if you become an overnight success after 20 years.

laughing6-hehe laughing6-hehe :D Very, very true, Merry Christmas John!

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