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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-29-2015, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
 
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Some beginner questions about fret repair

i will preface this by saying, I am just barely above what would be considered a beginner when it comes to anything technical with guitars. I have been playing off and on for years, but never focused on really LEARNING until the past year.

I have 2 main electric guitars. The first is a 1990's Samick. Last year though, I splurged and got an RG550 20th anniversary Black. The Samick is actually pretty nice for it's age, and what it is. It is very obvious, just looking at the frets, that it needs some work. There are lots of worn spots, some far more than others. It can be a pain to fret notes on. When I bought the RG, I took it to a local guitar store (NOT Guitar Center, due to some bad experiences with their techs) and asked them to do a setup on it, and mentioned that I was getting a lot of string rattle on the low E. I got it back, and although it mostly was better, I still had a lot of buzz AND rattle at various points on the fretboard. I started trying to figure out the problem myself. One thing I found, was that although the neck was straight and level by itself, it was angled, making the strings at the nut have less than .5 mm between the bottom of the string and the first fret. That seemed very low to me. I put in a couple of shims, and things seemed quite a bit better. I still noticed that at various points on the neck, I still got buzzing, or I seemed to have to press much harder to get the note to ring properly. I started looking at it more, and noticed that a number of the frets show a lot more wear than the others, and most of them appear to be pretty flat.

That was a long way to go to ask my questions. I have seen quite a bit of good information on how to do fret leveling etc yourself. What I can't determine though, is how do you know whether a fret is worn enough to require this treatment? I mean, I know that if it feels wrong, it probably is, but is there some kind of "rule of thumb" to determine if it is time to have them leveled and or crowned? At what point do you determine they are too far gone, and should just be replaced?

For the Samick, there are enough frets that are really really worn down and flat, that it is probably easier/cheaper to just have them replaced. For my RG though, I am not so keen on replacing them if they can be saved, especially since it is only a few of them that I notice wear on.

Since I am not really good, and have no interest in playing professionally, things don't have to be PERFECT for me to enjoy them, but especially with the RG, after spending that much money on one of my dream guitars, I would like it to be as good as possible. I believe that the guitar place took advantage of my lack of knowledge, and did the bare minimum (as in, just cleaned it and put new strings on). I know it seems funny to trust some guys on the internet, but from what I have seen here, even when people have differing ideas on things, you all seem to be pretty knowledgeable.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 09:57 AM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

did you try adjusting the the truss rod on the RG? it should have a tiny bit of concave to it. If its totally flat i could see you getting some buzz

-Troy
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 10:22 AM
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

Quote:
Originally Posted by adarict View Post
i will preface this by saying, I am just barely above what would be considered a beginner when it comes to anything technical with guitars. I have been playing off and on for years, but never focused on really LEARNING until the past year.

I have 2 main electric guitars. The first is a 1990's Samick. Last year though, I splurged and got an RG550 20th anniversary Black. The Samick is actually pretty nice for it's age, and what it is. It is very obvious, just looking at the frets, that it needs some work. There are lots of worn spots, some far more than others. It can be a pain to fret notes on. When I bought the RG, I took it to a local guitar store (NOT Guitar Center, due to some bad experiences with their techs) and asked them to do a setup on it, and mentioned that I was getting a lot of string rattle on the low E. I got it back, and although it mostly was better, I still had a lot of buzz AND rattle at various points on the fretboard. I started trying to figure out the problem myself. One thing I found, was that although the neck was straight and level by itself, it was angled, making the strings at the nut have less than .5 mm between the bottom of the string and the first fret. That seemed very low to me. I put in a couple of shims, and things seemed quite a bit better. I still noticed that at various points on the neck, I still got buzzing, or I seemed to have to press much harder to get the note to ring properly. I started looking at it more, and noticed that a number of the frets show a lot more wear than the others, and most of them appear to be pretty flat.

That was a long way to go to ask my questions. I have seen quite a bit of good information on how to do fret leveling etc yourself. What I can't determine though, is how do you know whether a fret is worn enough to require this treatment? I mean, I know that if it feels wrong, it probably is, but is there some kind of "rule of thumb" to determine if it is time to have them leveled and or crowned? At what point do you determine they are too far gone, and should just be replaced?

For the Samick, there are enough frets that are really really worn down and flat, that it is probably easier/cheaper to just have them replaced. For my RG though, I am not so keen on replacing them if they can be saved, especially since it is only a few of them that I notice wear on.

Since I am not really good, and have no interest in playing professionally, things don't have to be PERFECT for me to enjoy them, but especially with the RG, after spending that much money on one of my dream guitars, I would like it to be as good as possible. I believe that the guitar place took advantage of my lack of knowledge, and did the bare minimum (as in, just cleaned it and put new strings on). I know it seems funny to trust some guys on the internet, but from what I have seen here, even when people have differing ideas on things, you all seem to be pretty knowledgeable.
1st, google for the fret rocker trick, to see if indeed some frets are taller than their adjacent frets. Alen keys is what I personally use, no need to spend the cash for anything more fancy. You'll get better by practicing this.

2nd, Fret leveling is not so simple as it seems, as it requires the neck to be in full working (with some relief under real conditions) state in order to correctly level the frets. There are very expensive setups for this kind of work.

If you feel courageous, then first practice on the sammick and then proceed to the Ibanez. If not, send it to some good tech near you.

Fixing your own guitar surely pays off, but requires tools, time and a lot of patience, and in the end sometimes you might catch yourself spending for time with setups/fixings and experimentation than actual playing. So its a tough call
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 02:47 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

Quote:
Originally Posted by adarict View Post
i will preface this by saying, I am just barely above what would be considered a beginner when it comes to anything technical with guitars. I have been playing off and on for years, but never focused on really LEARNING until the past year.

I have 2 main electric guitars. The first is a 1990's Samick. Last year though, I splurged and got an RG550 20th anniversary Black. The Samick is actually pretty nice for it's age, and what it is. It is very obvious, just looking at the frets, that it needs some work. There are lots of worn spots, some far more than others. It can be a pain to fret notes on. When I bought the RG, I took it to a local guitar store (NOT Guitar Center, due to some bad experiences with their techs) and asked them to do a setup on it, and mentioned that I was getting a lot of string rattle on the low E. I got it back, and although it mostly was better, I still had a lot of buzz AND rattle at various points on the fretboard. I started trying to figure out the problem myself. One thing I found, was that although the neck was straight and level by itself, it was angled, making the strings at the nut have less than .5 mm between the bottom of the string and the first fret. That seemed very low to me. I put in a couple of shims, and things seemed quite a bit better. I still noticed that at various points on the neck, I still got buzzing, or I seemed to have to press much harder to get the note to ring properly. I started looking at it more, and noticed that a number of the frets show a lot more wear than the others, and most of them appear to be pretty flat.

That was a long way to go to ask my questions. I have seen quite a bit of good information on how to do fret leveling etc yourself. What I can't determine though, is how do you know whether a fret is worn enough to require this treatment? I mean, I know that if it feels wrong, it probably is, but is there some kind of "rule of thumb" to determine if it is time to have them leveled and or crowned? At what point do you determine they are too far gone, and should just be replaced?

For the Samick, there are enough frets that are really really worn down and flat, that it is probably easier/cheaper to just have them replaced. For my RG though, I am not so keen on replacing them if they can be saved, especially since it is only a few of them that I notice wear on.

Since I am not really good, and have no interest in playing professionally, things don't have to be PERFECT for me to enjoy them, but especially with the RG, after spending that much money on one of my dream guitars, I would like it to be as good as possible. I believe that the guitar place took advantage of my lack of knowledge, and did the bare minimum (as in, just cleaned it and put new strings on). I know it seems funny to trust some guys on the internet, but from what I have seen here, even when people have differing ideas on things, you all seem to be pretty knowledgeable.
If your sure that you want to delve in the world of fretwork, I would suggest picking up some good diagnostic tools before doing anything else. At the very least you'll need a TRUE straight edge that can check both your frets and your board for straightness. They are available at all of the online luthier supply stores. You'll also want to have a good feeler gauge set that measures both in inches and millimeters. These two tools will tell you everything you need to know about the exact condition of your board and frets.

To truly take on the task of fret repair you have to be committed to it. There's a large investment in tools that, in most cases, aren't good for anything but fretwork. You also have to be willing to invest a huge amount of time in researching the project, then more time actually doing it.

Fretwork is NOT a "dark art"- it's pretty straight forward. It IS something that can easily be done improperly. Be prepared to do the same work over and over again.......mistakes do happen.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 03:19 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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Originally Posted by RGTFanatic View Post
If your sure that you want to delve in the world of fretwork, I would suggest picking up some good diagnostic tools before doing anything else. At the very least you'll need a TRUE straight edge that can check both your frets and your board for straightness. They are available at all of the online luthier supply stores. You'll also want to have a good feeler gauge set that measures both in inches and millimeters. These two tools will tell you everything you need to know about the exact condition of your board and frets.

To truly take on the task of fret repair you have to be committed to it. There's a large investment in tools that, in most cases, aren't good for anything but fretwork. You also have to be willing to invest a huge amount of time in researching the project, then more time actually doing it.

Fretwork is NOT a "dark art"- it's pretty straight forward. It IS something that can easily be done improperly. Be prepared to do the same work over and over again.......mistakes do happen.

Actually, I wasn't so much interested in doing it myself, more trying to understand HOW to know when such work is necessary.I don't trust myself doing it, particularly on the RG550XX. I would be devastated if I messed up that guitar.

I have seen lots of great tutorials on how to actually DO the job, but I don't know how to tell if the frets require work, and which KIND of work. The issues with buzz and rattling on my guitars, I know could be related to other things, but it was while investigating the causes, that I realized that for all the talk of fret leveling, crowning, and replacement, I hadn't seen anything that gives even a rule of thumb on how to know if it needs work.

Mostly this is academic for me. I like to understand a bit about things, because especially after the "setup" job that was done from the last guitar store I went to, I would like to have some idea of if I am getting taken advantage of, you know what I mean?
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 04:43 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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Originally Posted by adarict View Post
Actually, I wasn't so much interested in doing it myself, more trying to understand HOW to know when such work is necessary.I don't trust myself doing it, particularly on the RG550XX. I would be devastated if I messed up that guitar.

I have seen lots of great tutorials on how to actually DO the job, but I don't know how to tell if the frets require work, and which KIND of work. The issues with buzz and rattling on my guitars, I know could be related to other things, but it was while investigating the causes, that I realized that for all the talk of fret leveling, crowning, and replacement, I hadn't seen anything that gives even a rule of thumb on how to know if it needs work.

Mostly this is academic for me. I like to understand a bit about things, because especially after the "setup" job that was done from the last guitar store I went to, I would like to have some idea of if I am getting taken advantage of, you know what I mean?
Absolutely. I started learning fretwork because I found myself in the exact same situation as you. I'd paid one of the most highly regarded luthiers in Chicagoland to level, crown and dress the frets on one of my Prestige guitars. He did a crap job of polishing and never leveled anything.

Every neck is different. Because of this the time to address problems can be different. The best thing you can do for yourself would be to get the straight edge and feeler gauges I mentioned before. It would also be very helpful to a fret rocker as Panix said. These tools can be expensive, but they'll last a lifetime. Look to different vendors for better prices. If you have a quality machine shop around you, you can have a notched straight edge made for a LOT less money. I made my own......

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools...aightedge.html

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools...et_Rocker.html

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools...er_Gauges.html
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 05:02 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

Watch some youtube videos about fretwork, there are so many and good ones. Watch this guy for example "willseasyguitar".
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2015, 09:48 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

Quote:
Originally Posted by adarict View Post
i will preface this by saying, I am just barely above what would be considered a beginner when it comes to anything technical with guitars. I have been playing off and on for years, but never focused on really LEARNING until the past year.

I have 2 main electric guitars. The first is a 1990's Samick. Last year though, I splurged and got an RG550 20th anniversary Black. The Samick is actually pretty nice for it's age, and what it is. It is very obvious, just looking at the frets, that it needs some work. There are lots of worn spots, some far more than others. It can be a pain to fret notes on. When I bought the RG, I took it to a local guitar store (NOT Guitar Center, due to some bad experiences with their techs) and asked them to do a setup on it, and mentioned that I was getting a lot of string rattle on the low E. I got it back, and although it mostly was better, I still had a lot of buzz AND rattle at various points on the fretboard. I started trying to figure out the problem myself. One thing I found, was that although the neck was straight and level by itself, it was angled, making the strings at the nut have less than .5 mm between the bottom of the string and the first fret. That seemed very low to me. I put in a couple of shims, and things seemed quite a bit better. I still noticed that at various points on the neck, I still got buzzing, or I seemed to have to press much harder to get the note to ring properly. I started looking at it more, and noticed that a number of the frets show a lot more wear than the others, and most of them appear to be pretty flat.

That was a long way to go to ask my questions. I have seen quite a bit of good information on how to do fret leveling etc yourself. What I can't determine though, is how do you know whether a fret is worn enough to require this treatment? I mean, I know that if it feels wrong, it probably is, but is there some kind of "rule of thumb" to determine if it is time to have them leveled and or crowned? At what point do you determine they are too far gone, and should just be replaced?

For the Samick, there are enough frets that are really really worn down and flat, that it is probably easier/cheaper to just have them replaced. For my RG though, I am not so keen on replacing them if they can be saved, especially since it is only a few of them that I notice wear on.

Since I am not really good, and have no interest in playing professionally, things don't have to be PERFECT for me to enjoy them, but especially with the RG, after spending that much money on one of my dream guitars, I would like it to be as good as possible. I believe that the guitar place took advantage of my lack of knowledge, and did the bare minimum (as in, just cleaned it and put new strings on). I know it seems funny to trust some guys on the internet, but from what I have seen here, even when people have differing ideas on things, you all seem to be pretty knowledgeable.
As a tech at guitar center I am sorry to hear about your experience. I try to be as honest as possible to the customer about what I feel confident in doing. That said I am not comfortable doing a full level, crown and polish. I don't have that experience. I have done some minor LCP work on guitars but not major or full on refret jobs.

These processes aren't especially difficult, however they do require some tools and are easy to mess up without some experience.

It is possible that the tech at your GC was just a bad tech. They are out there and usually dont stick around long at GC.


As far as level crown and polish goes get the right tools for the job. www.stewmac.com has everything you need. They are expensive but their tools are specifically designed for the job.

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools...tting_Kit.html

To polish the frets afterward, i use 1200 grit sandpaper. It takes longer as opposed to using a more coarse and working up, but you are much less likely to make the profile of the fret uneven and/or cause yourself more work. After the 1200 grit use 00 steel wool to polish to a shine. If you are really particular you can go to 0000 steel wool.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 05:19 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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Originally Posted by j.arledge View Post
As a tech at guitar center I am sorry to hear about your experience. I try to be as honest as possible to the customer about what I feel confident in doing. That said I am not comfortable doing a full level, crown and polish. I don't have that experience. I have done some minor LCP work on guitars but not major or full on refret jobs.

These processes aren't especially difficult, however they do require some tools and are easy to mess up without some experience.

It is possible that the tech at your GC was just a bad tech. They are out there and usually dont stick around long at GC.


As far as level crown and polish goes get the right tools for the job. www.stewmac.com has everything you need. They are expensive but their tools are specifically designed for the job.

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools...tting_Kit.html

To polish the frets afterward, i use 1200 grit sandpaper. It takes longer as opposed to using a more coarse and working up, but you are much less likely to make the profile of the fret uneven and/or cause yourself more work. After the 1200 grit use 00 steel wool to polish to a shine. If you are really particular you can go to 0000 steel wool.
What kind of training does GC require for someone to get a tech job? Do they offer continued training?
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 07:24 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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What kind of training does GC require for someone to get a tech job? Do they offer continued training?
to start out as a tech you just need to know how to do restrings and setups for the most part. Some minor repairs knowledge helps. I was a tech at another music store before so i had a bit of a leg up.

They have different certification levels. D-A . A being highest with knowledge and ability to repair almost anything. You get your D level by doing some online training and being observed.


C-A are the same, with increasing levels of difficulty/complexity of repair. The only thing i dont agree with is wiring/rewiring is one of the more complicated tasks in B certification if i remember right, but to me wiring is a basic thing.

The last couple of tech before me either went to Hollywood or Dallas to receive office certification training for C-A.

Guitar Center has a surprising amount of resources available on how to do repairs for not just guitars, but effects pedals and amps as well. There is also a surprising amount of talent and knowledge working for guitar center as techs. Guitar Center has come to understand the importance and value of not only selling but servicing as well. They want to become a full service, one stop shop.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 08:03 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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to start out as a tech you just need to know how to do restrings and setups for the most part. Some minor repairs knowledge helps. I was a tech at another music store before so i had a bit of a leg up.

They have different certification levels. D-A . A being highest with knowledge and ability to repair almost anything. You get your D level by doing some online training and being observed.


C-A are the same, with increasing levels of difficulty/complexity of repair. The only thing i dont agree with is wiring/rewiring is one of the more complicated tasks in B certification if i remember right, but to me wiring is a basic thing.

The last couple of tech before me either went to Hollywood or Dallas to receive office certification training for C-A.

Guitar Center has a surprising amount of resources available on how to do repairs for not just guitars, but effects pedals and amps as well. There is also a surprising amount of talent and knowledge working for guitar center as techs. Guitar Center has come to understand the importance and value of not only selling but servicing as well. They want to become a full service, one stop shop.
That's a great model. Obviously it hasn't been implemented nation wide. Of the three stores near me, none of the techs have the ability to do more than string change/tune up stuff. There's one guy in Plainfield that I know is working hard to get better. He's made significant improvments over the last year or so.... but he's the only one. It seems to me that they would want a master tech at each location in a high volume market. That may not be very cost effective though.
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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That's a great model. Obviously it hasn't been implemented nation wide. Of the three stores near me, none of the techs have the ability to do more than string change/tune up stuff. There's one guy in Plainfield that I know is working hard to get better. He's made significant improvments over the last year or so.... but he's the only one. It seems to me that they would want a master tech at each location in a high volume market. That may not be very cost effective though.
I am in Wichita Kansas. We have one Guitar Center, and only a couple other guitar shops. They have one guy that seemed to know what he was doing, but he isn't the official tech. He is really friendly and helpful on the sales floor. The two guys that actually worked as techs, one of them had apparently never worked with floating trees. Granted, I struggle when I restring mine, but I am not a professional. The other guy never got a chance to work on my guitar. He was so unbelievably rude that I left the store.

I really like this place, because there is such a wide range of skills. On the tech side of guitar, it can get overwhelming. It is hard to even know where to start. I'm hoping to learn at least what the right questions are. 😊😊
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 09:47 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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That's a great model. Obviously it hasn't been implemented nation wide. Of the three stores near me, none of the techs have the ability to do more than string change/tune up stuff. There's one guy in Plainfield that I know is working hard to get better. He's made significant improvments over the last year or so.... but he's the only one. It seems to me that they would want a master tech at each location in a high volume market. That may not be very cost effective though.

well it is possible that the guys doing tech work aren't actual techs. They may be sales guys doing restrings and setups on the side. That is what they were doing before I got hired on. This would maybe explain why they haven't gone to any training. They also may be too busy to loose a tech to go to training or the store can't hire someone part time to shoulder part of the work the other tech gets trained. There are a number of possible reasons.


I can't speak to the tech being rude to you. I'd like to think that maybe he was having a ruff day, or something else was going on. At least that is what I hope. I am always more than happy to answer questions or let people watch what I am doing, or explain what I am doing. It is important to know a little bit about your instrument. It also helps me be clear on the work that needs to be done, the cost and give them more information on how to do preventative maintenance/cleaning/service.

Also if you are buying or have bought your guitar from Guitar Center, I appreciate your business. I have given people free restrings/setups/trussrod adjustments because I do appreciate them buying from our store and the service is a small token of appreciation. I'll also do this if a customer likes a guitar but is a little uncertain. We have sold a few 2k gibsons after i set them up to show what they can play like.

Either way, doing things like that may not make me a month end bonus but people will come back. It also makes it so much easier for the sales guys to sell a guitar that has been setup versus one right out of the box.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 10:28 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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Originally Posted by j.arledge View Post
well it is possible that the guys doing tech work aren't actual techs. They may be sales guys doing restrings and setups on the side. That is what they were doing before I got hired on. This would maybe explain why they haven't gone to any training. They also may be too busy to loose a tech to go to training or the store can't hire someone part time to shoulder part of the work the other tech gets trained. There are a number of possible reasons.


I can't speak to the tech being rude to you. I'd like to think that maybe he was having a ruff day, or something else was going on. At least that is what I hope. I am always more than happy to answer questions or let people watch what I am doing, or explain what I am doing. It is important to know a little bit about your instrument. It also helps me be clear on the work that needs to be done, the cost and give them more information on how to do preventative maintenance/cleaning/service.

Also if you are buying or have bought your guitar from Guitar Center, I appreciate your business. I have given people free restrings/setups/trussrod adjustments because I do appreciate them buying from our store and the service is a small token of appreciation. I'll also do this if a customer likes a guitar but is a little uncertain. We have sold a few 2k gibsons after i set them up to show what they can play like.

Either way, doing things like that may not make me a month end bonus but people will come back. It also makes it so much easier for the sales guys to sell a guitar that has been setup versus one right out of the box.
What are the chances you'd relocate up to Chicago???

I was going to highlight the important (to me) parts of your last post, but it would have been the whole thing.

You would think that in a market such as mine, a person would never have to work on their own guitars. Sadly, the crews at both GC and Sam Ash forced me into learning everything I could.

I'll be honest, I haven't even walked through the doors of a box store in more than two years. There just wasn't much of anything on the walls that interested me. I'd occasionally find something in the used section, but that was rare. If something did interest me- it was unplayable. I once asked for some simple tools to set up a nice looking 3120 that had come in but I was denied.......I had to move along. I used to spend a good amount of money in that store and had a good repore with more than a few of the employees. Between my sons and I. we were "regulars". One day everyone I knew was gone. Their replacements were uneducated on any of the gear and ,probably, severely underpaid. It turned what was a fun thing for myself and my boys into a waste of time. Since then- everything has been bought online.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2015, 11:32 PM
 
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Re: Some beginner questions about fret repair

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What are the chances you'd relocate up to Chicago???

I was going to highlight the important (to me) parts of your last post, but it would have been the whole thing.

You would think that in a market such as mine, a person would never have to work on their own guitars. Sadly, the crews at both GC and Sam Ash forced me into learning everything I could.

I'll be honest, I haven't even walked through the doors of a box store in more than two years. There just wasn't much of anything on the walls that interested me. I'd occasionally find something in the used section, but that was rare. If something did interest me- it was unplayable. I once asked for some simple tools to set up a nice looking 3120 that had come in but I was denied.......I had to move along. I used to spend a good amount of money in that store and had a good repore with more than a few of the employees. Between my sons and I. we were "regulars". One day everyone I knew was gone. Their replacements were uneducated on any of the gear and ,probably, severely underpaid. It turned what was a fun thing for myself and my boys into a waste of time. Since then- everything has been bought online.
I understand what you are saying. GC has seen some changes, some better and some worse. They have changed a lot in the short time i have worked there. There is a new CEO and a lot of policy changes. I can't say that i agree with all of the changes, but I wasn't consulted. In the end I hope it means that GC can shed some of it's bad image.
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