Guitar Repair FAQ
Can I call you on the phone and talk?
When it comes to phones, I'm a Luddite. For one thing, I'm impossible to get on the phone- I don't even have a phone in the shop. There are several reasons for that. One, I typically have my arm in a guitar, a heat lamp on one, glue in the pot, am clamping something, or whatever and I just can't stop to talk. Two, I have to balance ranching, pastoring, and guitar work and my "guitar time" is valuable and limited. Talking on the phone eats up too much of it- the average phone call will run 15 minutes and 2-3 of those a day will chew up a lot of time. Three, I (used to) get a lot of calls from people asking for information on this or information on that or what do I think of this guitar or that guitar. I don't mind answering questions, but again, it takes a lot of time. Therefore, I don't have a phone in the shop. When I come in the house, that's family time and I don't want to spend it talking on the phone.
By far the most important reason I don't like to talk on the phone, though, is that I lose the paper trail. When we talk on the phone, I have to write stuff down and I lose it or forget it or whatever. With e-mail, I'll have it right there for reference. It's not uncommon for me to have 3-4 70's D-28's in the shop, all for the same thing except 1 small difference between them. The e-mail paper trail is crucial for me to remember what's gotta be done to each. E-mail is by far the best way to contact me. When I have a minute, I walk over to my computer, see what's there and reply. If I need to leave the reply sitting for a bit while I clamp something, I can. If I need time to think, I have it. If I reply at 4 am, so be it.
If I have to talk on the phone, I will, but I don't like to. In fact, I avoid it like the plague.
Can you shave the 1 ¾” neck on my D-18 GE to 1 11/16”?
To do this right, the neck will need to be removed, all the frets removed, and the neck shaved. Then, the entire finish will need to be stripped, the entire neck stained and refinished. Then you’ll need new frets, new nut, the neck reinstalled, etc. It’s a LOT of work and if I were to do it, would cost about $800. And what are you going to do about the wider bridge spacing? That 2 5/16” spacing will lay right on the edge of a 1 11/16” neck. So, basically, no, I won’t do it. Instead, I recommend that you sell the guitar and talk to http://www.myfavoriteguitars.com about the Clay Hess model, which is a D-18 GE with a 1 11/6” neck.
Can you replace a 1 11/16” neck with a 1 ¾”?
This is easier than the above example, but I still need to come up with the neck. Here you have the reverse problem with bridge spacing- you’ll have a wider neck, but narrow bridge spacing. It will look funny. And, I can’t get a Martin decal for the headstock. Actually shaving the neck is the easiest part of the whole operation and this would cost about $800, too, not including the new bridge and bridgeplate and saddle.
Can you reshape my current neck to a V, softer V, round, etc. profile?
This is do-able, most of the time, and I have done it. The problems here are in the refinishing. I will either have to strip the entire neck (which means removing it from the guitar, which is a neck-reset), or I’ll have to work with just the shaft of the neck. It’s impossible to perfectly match the original (faded and aged) stain. Plus, I don’t spray nitrocellulose lacquer and will only do a French polish shellac. This is a much lighter finish and 80% of people don’t “get it”. Shaving necks will weaken them, too. You may very well have problems with the neck bowing or the guitar not holding tune as well. The value of the guitar will be chopped in half. This is your risk. I’ll charge about $200 for this, for shaping, restaining, and finishing with shellac.
Can you make a nut with wider spacing to mimic the feel of a 1 ¾” neck?
To an extent, yes. I can definitely make a nut with wider spacing, but it will not, IMHO, really feel like a wider neck. For one thing, the neck is actually the same and there a certain heft that a wider nut just doesn’t duplicate. Plus, the strings will be closer to the edge of the fingerboard and that will change the feel. Actually, one of my favorite feels is a 1 ¾” nut with near 1 11/16” spacing- the exact opposite of what you’re asking for! I like this feel because the E’s feel “solid” and feel like the interior strings. But, of all the neck modifications, this one is the easiest to do.
One thing to consider is that a nut will equal string to string spacing (as opposed to equal center to center spacing) will automatically feel wider. So, if your current nut is not equally spaced, take that into consideration.
Do you have an opinion on tall or wide frets?
Many players like or think they might like taller and or wider frets. I personally do not and here’s why. Tall frets hurt my fingers! Yes, the common statement is that tall frets teach you to play with a lighter touch, but they do that by forcing you to play lighter. I don’t press hard but I like to just barely feel the fingerboard under my fingertips and I can’t do that with tall frets- I feel like I’ve lost touch with the instrument. Taller frets are also harder to slide on, and you do need some finger pressure to get a good clean slide. Wide frets will hurt intonation, IMHO, especially, as they wear down and the surface gets wider and wider. Both frets have their purposes- I do like taller (.050”) frets on electric guitar where it takes less pressure to fret anyway. The taller frets make vibrato and bends much easier. But on acoustic guitars, I like to stick with standard .040” tall frets and just keep them in good condition, replacing when necessary to maintain full height.
Will you work on my ___________?
Maybe. I currently work primarily on Martin, Santa Cruz, Collings, Bourgeois, Huss and Dalton, and some smaller builders. I will also work on other brands but there may be an additional time charge if the guitar gives me trouble. I’ve worked on these "other brands" in the past and they often end up taking 2-3x the time, with finish problems, non-standard construction, strange glues, plywood bridgeplates, etc., therefore I have to charge a little more.