So here's the story, I had a customer come in with an Aria Elecord. The guitar has had some work done to it by the customer. He replaced the original fingerboard by himself because the guitar was making string noise. He brought it in and I told him that I really didn't hear anything that I'd be concerned with, but he insisted. The neck had a slight back bow with the truss rod loose.  I agreed to properly refret the guitar with some medium fret wire and so I did. I leveled the board to take care of the back bow and under tension the neck lies where it should.

The guitar plays cleanly up and down the neck with action at the 12th fret at about 1mm on the high E.

Now he's back a few days later and he's complaining about string noise that is produced as he switches between chords as well as stating the the frets are too round and that he's "bumping" into them.

He comes in acting like a luthier and throws around names of some famous jazz guitarists that he "plays" with. 

He wants me to make the frets less "bumpy". I told him that purposely filing down the frets would be counter productive and suggested that he let the frets wear in a bit. 

I knew I should've declined this job just based upon his attitude when talking with him, but didn't want to lose a potential client. 

I'm just asking for some advice as my own inclination is to send him on his way and be done with it. Filing perfectly good frets just to accommodate a neurotic player is a waste of my time. 

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Hi Gary.

You have a certified customer from hell.  From what it sounds like, this guy is a total idiot.

I'd refer him to a tech in your area that you're not that fond of.  It'll be a double blessing.

Don't worry about the name dropping. IF he actually knows some important players, they probably think the same of him as you.  Tell him to ask those famous cats who they take their guitars to, and suggest he do the same.

BTW: His 'issue' is his technique.  That's one of the hardest nuts to crack because it ALWAYS makes THEM the source of the problem....which they are.

In summary: do YOURSELF a favor & dump this guy. There's no disgrace in that and in the long run, your overall reputation will benefit.

Best of luck with this :)

Or you could spend the 45-60 minutes that it would take to accommodate his wishes, and leave him nothing to complain about. Your reputation and integrity will likely remain intact, and you may gain a lot more by making him happy than by sending him packing, knowing without a doubt he will wag his tongue about your work, forever, to anyone who'll listen. "Kill them with kindness" my father used to say.


From my read of the situation, I imagine this guy will NEVER be satisfied.

Killing him with kindness is for reasonable folks who are simply frustrated.  I get the impression this guy has been a pro-a-hole most of his life.

The toughest task for a luthier is to meet a customer's demands when the customer is completely WRONG.

Gary: If you decide to do more work... get a written and signed & dated spec sheet that describes exactly what this guy is wanting, including fret dimensions of the finished fret and the type & shape of "speaking surface" he is demanding.

There's a 100:1 chance he won't be able to do it. The next question you should ask him (in that situation) is" "If you can't tell me how you want it, how can I get it there?".   It's called CYA. If you do it to his spec's and he's not pleased....well, you simply gave him what he wanted....with proof written in his own hand.

I stand by my 'dump him' comment. Those kind of guys are THE PIA's of the craft.

I'd tell him to get a second opinion at the local big box store and, while he's there, try out a dozen guitars including a fretless wonder (though I seem to recall that new Gibson Customs no longer have such low frets). He should be sufficiently confused after that excursion. Maybe he'd even conclude that his Aria plays better than he remembered.

Some guys like low frets. I would sand/file them down.

What are the crown dimensions of the fretwire you used? Is there a way for you guys to figure out his preferred fret crown dimensions?

I recall a pretty good refret demo that I watched about 10 years ago at a luthierie conference. All these years later what I remember most is a story the presenter told about a difficult fret job on a gretsch he did for a fussy customer who initially agreed to let the repairman use the fretwire of the repair-shop's choosing. After the refret was done the customer returned, calipers in hand, unhappy with the size of his new frets. As I recall, the repairman redid the refret with a fret size of the customer's choosing at no additional cost. I believe he summed it up as "The customer is always right, especially when they're wrong".

Thanks for the replies on this guys. I usually try to accommodate a customer if what they're asking is reasonable. I asked him to bring in one of his guitars for me to have a look at or to describe to me how he crowns the frets that he likes so much. ( He explained to me that he does his own fretwork, as well as fret work for friends and never is able to feel the frets, yet he can't explain how he does it because"he can't see it while he does it'' )

I'd like to make him happy with job, but there's nothing wrong with it. At a certain point I have to draw the line. I was paid for a fret job that took 6 hours and in the guitar plays nicely. I'd be the first to redo it if I had felt otherwise. 

Paul, I'll certainly get a signed document stating exactly what he wants if I decide to spend more time on this. You're are right though he's a pro! I should have been wiser and turned down the job! 

Thanks again for your assistance guys. 


We've had two clients who likely because of their age (50 - 60) could not deal with high frets and both complained that today's jumbos feel like "speed bumps...."  One instrument was a new US Strat with frets .060ish high and the other was a new Les Paul also with frets .060ish" high.  Because of the common ages of the two and the fact that both instruments are very different beasts with different fret board radius and they both have the same complaint this is leading me to believe that it may be a generational thing.  Nonetheless it's very real to the players regardless of the merits or not of their complaints.

In both cases we milled the frets down to about .035" and in both cases the clients were absolutely thrilled.  They both also said that we "saved" the guitars because they had so very much trouble with the jumbos that if nothing could have been done off to Craig'slist both instruments would have went.

The Les Paul guy calls what we did a "save" and also restored his happiness in his brand new ax.

By the way one of these old farts the one with the US Strat was me.... ;) and the other was a commercial client so I understand the complaint and it was absolutely real to both the Les Paul guy and I.

Maybe I learned poor technique and drag my fingers when sliding, dunno...., but I hate jumbo frets and so too do others that I have talked to who all, by the way, seem to be older farts like me too.  Go figure.... ;)

A word of caution milling nearly half the fret height away is a LOT of work especially the recrowning... so be fair to yourself when quoting and know in advance that you will be hard at work on a new case of carpal bicep....;)

Just do the best you can, where it plays perfect for you. If the customer is still not satisfied, suggest he take it to another repair shop for a second opinion.

Sometimes you get very picky customers that hear things you don't. Hopefully you don't run into many like that, but that's life.


Hello Gary, 

I've got a funny feeling this customer is not going to be satisfied untill he has actually done the work himself, and sprinkle some of his own magic fairy dust over the guitar (since he's allready into replacing fingerboards, doing his own fretwork, and more or less telling you how it's done). 

I can imagine it's hard not to get fed up with this customer, but sending him on his way will only work against you. You can rest assured that he will start to talk negatively about you after that.

If you can look beyond the attitude, and fussiness. It sounds like your customer is having second thoughts as to how much he likes new/or high frets/ a well adjusted neck. If you can look at it from this point of view. He's a customer who just doesn't like the feel of his "new neck" with high frets (which you can take care off easy enough).

But I must agree with Paul. When you decide to take on the work. Make sure you get a good idea/measurement of fret height. Let the customer sign the spec sheet. And show him the measurements after you are done with the fretwork.

It might be all in vain, but at least you tried your very best to please your customer.

Good luck!

People always think they're being reasonable.

That said, sometimes I find it better to take the long view and presume that on occasion I'll be dealing with an unsatisfiable one, and that I'll have to call it quits.  When that time comes, I say that since it's clear I can't provide satisfaction, I'll decline any payment as a token of good faith.  That way, there's no possibility I can be accused of acting one way or another just for the $$, and the owner can go away with feelings intact.

Sure, there's a cost involved, but the time is already spent on the job, and I don't want to waste any more flailing around trying to sort things out when it might prove impossible.

Gotta remember that the worst, most demanding and irrational ones have reasonable, high-quality, money spending friends, and referrals are often the most valuable customers we get.


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