Hey there. Had a Gibson LGO brought my way for a set-up. On inspection, it is very dry and behind the bridge it was up more than I like to see. I have it humidifying for the next week with a little pressure behind the bridge. Someone in the past had sanded the bridge down to compensate for neck angle issues. Bridge pin holes from High E to G are cracked too. I am gonna talk with him tomorrow about the fact that it needs a neck set and a new bridge made. My question is... if he just wants it playable at the moment is it ok to fill in the crack on the bridge with dust and thin super glue or is it frowned upon? I know he doesn't want to spend a boatload of cash.... Also, I don't wanna  take his 50 bucks if I should really be pushing for what really needs done. I like to give people options. Any advice would be sweet!

Thanks as usual for all the great advice,


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 I would think that the repair you talk about would be fine till he can afford to get the axe 'really' up and running. Chances are of course, that he will never do it as these were such cheep 1960s Gibson crap guitars (if I remember my Gibson History properly!) 

You're only as good as your worst work. Other potential customers won't necessarily take into consideration the context of a particular repair. Most guys will only see the half hearted lick em' and stick em' work and think that's what you're about.

I wanna help people as well as help the instrument down the road. How much should I really worry about other repair techs judging my work especially if they are not there? This is something I am constantly struggling with.... Right choice wrong choice etc.

Good advice so far, David.

I see the question being asked as: "When is a setup not a setup?"

"How much should I really worry about other repair techs judging my work especially if they are not there?" It's not other tech's you need to worry about. Read on.....

Nathan put it as concisely as it can be said:  "You're only as good as your worst work. Other potential customers won't necessarily take into consideration the context of a particular repair. Most guys will only see the half hearted lick em' and stick em' work and think that's what you're about." 

I've bold-faced The most relevant points you should consider.

You're also challenged with the philosophical question of "If it really needs a neck reset, and if one is not done, have you really "set up" the guitar or did you just fix a couple splits and restring it? In my book, that's either NOT a setup or a poor setup.

You'll also need to address the future cost/performance ratio of a neck re-set. Agreeing 100% with Kerry, these weren't much to write home about when they were new. For the price of the work, which will likely include a refret after resetting the neck and a new bridge, nut & saddle, your customer could get an extremely nice used import solid top acoustic that will look, play & sound better. Those guitars are also notorious for having poorly fitted or loose braces.  Make sure you evaluate all aspects of the instrument.  The total cost of getting it back into fighting shape could escallate quickly & dramatically.

If the Gibson has sentimental value to the customer, discuss its future as either a fully repaired & well set-up guitar or (effectively) a wall hanger. The customer will have to decide.

We all love to 'help people', David.  We also have to decide where to draw the line between providing effective repairs & service by delivering good playing instruments and quality lutherie or serving customers as a sheepish mechanic for hire who's end results do not dignify the craft.

How's this for an idea:  how about you call the job a 'stabilization' of the instrument. Charge the customer $10 for the glue job (stabilization) + the usual cost for a restring. Be up front and tell the customer the work you did was NOT a setup, and discuss the fate of the instrument if the work that's needed to turn it into a functional instrument isn't performed. Offering sound advice and guidance IS part of our job description.

If your customer passes on the work required to make the guitar "whole", don't lose any sleep over it. Customers that are adversarial about the cost of proper repairs also present an X factor.  If they agree to the big buck repairs, and infer that they were 'pressured' into having the work done, they have the potential to be a customer from hell in the future.

As for my personal 2 cents: I'd go with the 'interim stabilization' idea, impressing upon the customer that it is NOT a  setup, perform ALL the needed work or I'd pass on the job.

Good luck, man. You asked a very pertinent question :)

Some interesting views here.

In my neck of the woods, the Ann Arbor area, Older Gibsons are very desirable including a well set-up and maintained LGO.  They are viewed as something different from the current crop of cookie-cutter imports and part of Michigan's heritage as well.  Add in the possibility of sentimental value such as prior ownership by a now dead parent, friend, etc. and we see these guitars regularly and the clients are not so cost adverse when advised of the associated costs of keeping an LGO in tune and playing great.

Something that I have noticed is how we all, we repair folks, seem to do some trembling ourselves for our clients and prior to giving them an accurate estimate of the associated costs of repairing one of these cool, old, little guitars.  We seem to think that the need for a neck reset and the associated costs are likely a deal breaker when we have not even had the discussion with the client yet.  What's happening I believe is the natural human tendency to transpose our own feelings, perhaps being cost adverse, onto the client in advance and then worrying about how the unexpectedly high resulting cost estimate will be perceived.  Sound familiar?

Conversely there is the issue of doing the minimum necessary or only what we were asked to do and how the next repair person may view the work.  I recall a post on another forum where the poster was dissing the work of a Florida Luthier because it did not represent best practices for dealing with every conceivable thing that needed addressing with the instrument in question.  When all the while and truth be told we can't know or have any view of the circumstances of the repair work of others.  We don't know the budget, circumstances, etc. but still some will critique (unfairly in my view when one can't know the circumstances...) or stress over what might be described as quick-fixes and/or only a partial addressing of the issues.

At the end of the day though my view, regardless, is that our own personal standards for the work that we do are important and we have to stick to our guns when provided with an opportunity to not meet these personal standards.  There is also the duty to the client, the instrument, and the all mighty budget (the client's) as well.

If our standards prohibit us from buying a client some time and filling a bridge pin hole crack with glue and dust when the client cannot afford a bridge replacement my opinion is that our standards are self-limiting and may not serve our market as well as we might.  I also believe that it's our duty to give the best possible information to the client at all times as well. If it needs a neck reset - tell them it needs a neck reset.  You didn't cause this, it's not your fault, and being the bringer of bad news may be no surprise to the client.  After all they brought the guitar to you and not because all was well with it either.

This is where each and every one of us has to weigh these personal standards with what's appropriate for the instrument in question, the client's desires, wishes, and budget.  In some ways it's not unlike the personal interaction of a doc and patient.  This is also where those who plan on being in the biz for the long run must provide not only quality work and the associated "value" that quality work represents while also never losing site of idea that as service providers it's always going to be a balance of what might be needed in a perfect world (and unlimited budget) and what might get the guitar and client by for a spell while not being something that eliminates future choices for more extensive repairs.

Or, in other words, do what you can to help so long as what ever you do does not eliminate or limit future choices for more extensive work to bring the thing back to top shape.  Fill the bridge pin hole crack with dust and glue (so long as it's not one of those awful plastic bridges...) and set the thing up as well as possible.

It's great in my view that you wanna provide the client with options too - that's always a good thing!  Set their expectation as accurately as you can in terms of what to expect if only option one is elected, say no neck reset.  Provide the other options as well including associated costs, time to complete, etc. of the neck reset.  Again it's not your fault that the thing needs work.

Dust and glue is an appropriate repair for this sort of guitar (without the plastic bridge...).  Stick to your own personal standards and not because you worry about how others view your work - stick to your own personal standards because they are yours!  And at the end of the day as you see the work of others in the future try to remember that we did not have a view of the parameters that they had to deal with in terms of client wishes, budget, etc.  

Most of all though what's always uber important to me is setting expectations properly.  If it needs a neck reset, tell em it needs a neck reset.  Same for a bridge replacement, etc.  Discuss some options including an option that addresses all manner of issues with the guitar.  Other options such as filling a bridge pin hole crack should also be offered if, and this is the important part, if the repair is appropriate for the specific instrument.  I would not be using dust and glue on something valuable, historic, etc but I would most certainly use it on an LGO (that is of course if it is not one of them with that awful plastic bridge)....

So again it's aways going to be a balance of sorts that considers things such as personal standards, budget, client wishes, and what's appropriate for the instrument.  There are no absolutes in this biz... but it's always a great idea to be as honest as you can, provide the client with the best info possible, options are a great idea, and once you have weighed and considered all of these things I have a feeling that you will arrive at something that will provide value to your client AND that you can live with as well.  I'm still hoping that this LGO does not have that awful plastic bridge... ;)

Wood bridge on this one. You all have given me more than enough to think about today at work! Thanks for all the help. Let you know how it goes.

These guitars have very small spruce bridge plates that are usually chipped out between the string holes. I would not be surprised to have the crack between the string holes open up under string tension (especially if I did the gluing). These guitars were built to a price and some people love them. You can't impose logic on love. I have one of these (1960, big deal) that I learned to play on. It is still the neck I feel in my hands when I'm not holding a guitar I "improved" it many times and will try to undo my sins later, doing penance by adding a plate overlay replacing a missing brace, refinishing and so forth. No easy fix for past misdeeds.

You can glue the bridge but don't assume you are stabilizing the crack.  

To do everything this guitar needs including replacing the first 3 to 5 frets (why do I know this) will be a ton of work for which it is unlikely you will be able to charge appropriately. You may do it anyway and feel very good when the guitar is finally out of your hair.



A couple of years ago, a new customer drove to my shop from a few hours away to show me an imported flat top manufactured in the 70's that needed a bunch of work, neck reset, etc...  He was willing to spend a few hundred dollars for some function over form versions of these repairs.  I told him that I wasn't a good fit for the project so he paid me for a half hour of my time and searched elsewhere for a willing tech.

About one year later the customer got in touch with me again.  He mentioned that he found a luthier who fixed the old imported guitar for a few hundred bucks.  The customer acknowledged that the other shop helped him out by doing these function over form repairs within his budget.  Even so, he told me that he wasn't happy with the quality of the repairs done by the other shop. 

The customer then brought me a valuable old guitar for an overhaul that included over $1K in repairs.  

Even though the customer knew the context of the 2nd rate repair work done by the other shop, they didn't earn his loyalty as a customer because what he really wanted was someone to take their time and do a nice job functionally and cosmetically.

It probably isn't a good idea to underestimate the "eye" of a potential client. Just because someone isn't interested in trying a repair on his own instrument doesn't mean that he/she doesn't know a quality repair when they see it. If you want to be know as the "Quick and Cheap" repair shop than be quick and cheap but if you intend to build a reputation for quality work, you really should approach every repair with that in mind.


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