Okay, to set the scene - I'm an amateur luthier, I've done some nice work, and I generally don't take on things that I haven't done.

Locally (in another town west of here), there is a guitar shop that advertises quality repairs. I've re-repaired this guys work in the past, and figured that I had just gotten an example of a failed job.

Yesterday, a friend pulled out an early 60's Gibson J50 that this shop had worked on.

The finish had been sanded off the sides and back, leaving divots in the wood. Clear finish had then been sprayed on, with no pore filler, and plenty of drips and inconsistencies throughout.

The frets had been replaced, and the ends had been filed so low that you can see the tangs on both ends when looking from the top.

The neck had been reset, and was now pulling out of the dovetail. The top had failed under the extension, and it appears that glue was used to fill the space.

It is horrible. I've promised to help get the guitar back to playable condition with  a neck reset, though I'm concerned that some awful glue was used for the dovetail. The rest is just amazing.

Is it proper to refer to this shop as doing terrible work, and steer people clear, or should I look for more examples first? Perhaps I've only seen this guy's worst work, and other work is good? Perhaps he is one of those guys who thinks that doing "budget work" that fails is appropriate?

I am mostly just spouting off here, the work done on that guitar was deplorable. I'll get pictures when I can.

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Personally. I keep my mouth shut about other peoples work. I consider it literally none of my business.  And IMHO it doesn't reflect well on oneself to judge in the negative. Though I do happily refer to people I know do good work.

Hey Mark!

I know it is always a drag to see poor work done by people actually charging money to do damage. But I must agree with Thomas. My primary course of action is to do the absolute best I can do for the instrument to get it where it needs to be.  Allow your work to speak for you. Let people see the difference. Obviously that takes time for the word to get out. But still, I understand that it is very difficult to explain to a customer why you need to fix not only what they thought they had payed to remedy but also everything else that has "occurred" beyond that, WITHOUT slaying the other tech And if they say. "well i just payed "so and so" to do that. Why do you need to do that?"  the instruments lack of playability and current state of sadness will simply display the answer...It's always rough but i am always extremely careful not to speak negatively about anyone else's work....So if the work i suggest is way beyond what the customer can pay or is willing to pay i simply suggest the absolute necessities..while on my intervention reports every issue that i identify is noted and the "estimate" for each repair procedure is listed.  then i allow the customer to ultimately decide what they want done. 

I see it like this....... " I am not competing with anyone, I am STRONGLY advocating a high quality of care and skill  for each and every piece I touch." I allow my work to speak for itself. Word get's around...quickly. 

Before and after pics never hurt. as long as you don't mentioning in the document the other shop or tech or sometimes even refrain from mentioning that it had been hacked up previously at all. Especially if the disaster had occurred recently (within a year..sometimes not even after that) Let the instrument speak for itself.

I hope this contributes to the positive vibes you need.

Enjoy the resurrection buddy!

I'm with Tom and Bob. Talking bad about another's work really only brings you down in the eyes of the listener. Let your work do the talking for you.

All very sound advice, here.  

Besides the professional reasons, there are good legal reasons not to speak ill of the other guy--lawsuits for defamation.  It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong, the cost of a defense will kill you.  Ever notice how a doctor will only take a history and address the problem you have now rather than comment on the misdirected treatment you may have received from a previous doctor?  If it was a serious malpractice issue he'd complain to the state medical board but not share his opinion with you for the same legal reason.  In that situation, there's a remedy.  Until we have state luthiers' boards, silence and competent follow up is all we have.

Let the instrument speak for itself and be meticulous in pointing out what it needs to 1) be functional and 2) be the best it can be.

I had work done on an early 60's J-50 (replace plastic bridge, glue loose back braces) that was low-mediocre.  Later, when I had a clue, I had it redone correctly by another luthier who did a great job--it enhanced the value of the instrument.  The first guy wasn't around long enough to take it back to so that tells you a lot about how the word gets around.

Larry, retired lawyer.

While I appreciate and applaud all the previous answers, I have a slightly different perspective as an amateur.

 I don't need to sell my business or protect my reputation in the same way the pros need to. I think this give me more freedom to comment on the work that I see being done on a guitar. I'm certainly NOT an authority and I don't try to act like one but that also helps me feel much more free to give an opinion of the work that I see. If a friend hands me a guitar, they are asking my opinion on that instrument and if it's recently been worked on, chances are they are also asking an opinion of that work . If I see something that I don't like or, more importantly, I don't think is good work, I believe I owe it to my friends to say so. They know that I'm not an expert BUT, most of the time, I am much better informed and have a much better idea of that constitutes good work than they do. If I don't tell them, who will. Of course, they are aware that it's my personal opinion but then that's what they are looking for. In some instances I have mentioned something that I though was overlooked and it was quickly and easily corrected when the owner returned to whom ever did the original work. Usually, the instrument is fine even if it's isn't how I would like it, as long as the owner is OK with it but as a  better informed friend, I believe I owe an honest opinion. 

IF I consistently see poor work from a shop, I don't broadcast it but I won't hesitate to recommend to anyone that asks that they avoid taking their instrument there. Usually it's the "cheaper" shop anyway and my recommendation are usually to find someone that's worth paying which usually means paying more. They know that I'm not looking for work and I've turned down more than one offer to pay me to "fix it". That seems to me to be a good way to mess up a perfectly good hobby and, possibly, a friendship.  

 Mark, the way a lot of us handle this sort of thing is like this: We don't say anything, and let their work speak for itself. Even privately, talking about instrument repair shops that really DO actual bad work can lead to some incredibly bad things happening personally. The instrument is already wrecked from what I read right? Give it back to the guy, and tell him that there is nothing you can do, that it is the 'other' folks repair, and he should bring it back there. If he has a problem with it, then THEY have to do something about it. Saying anything in a case like this, just leads to your  hands getting dirty, and that dirt  could be hard to get off.

 Also by saying nothing, your reputation stays intact, which in my opinion, is much more important.

 None of this means that you can't steer folks away from them either. You can just say that you don't recommend them, and be done with it.  

 As a side note,and to be transparent, I am well known on this site for passing by 'already fixed and it broke again' projects. Especially if they were obviously done by rank amateurs. 

Hey all, thanks for your thoughts, it does seem that the high road is the way to go in this case, even if it is a bit painful. Luckily there are some extremely high-quality people around here that I can recommend, which is perhaps more constructive than just bashing the hamfisted guys. 

I'll have to ask my buddy if he has the paperwork from the repair - that might be rather interesting. 

This also speaks very well to the "The work you let out of your shop is the work that will represent you" discussion. 

I agree with showing discretion. I'll add one point. Last week a guy came in completely frustrated at the playability of his Martin guitar. He thought the instrument was inherently flawed because he'd had it repaired twice by the same shop, paying $200 for the privilege, and it never got better. Why wouldn't he think it was flawed, having spent real money at a guitar store to have it repaired? I took one look and agreed with his complaints about the playability. The work was truly amateurish, haphazard in nature and, sadly, accomplished nothing more than to create an opportunity for me. Rather than speak ill of the other shop, I simply stated what my approach would be to make the guitar whole again. It was an easy job. The guitar is now near the factory spec again and the customer is happy. The point is that the customer had no understanding of guitar geometry (and I wouldn't expect him to; unfortunately neither did the previous tech) and he got taken advantage of. When the customer picked up his guitar from me, he very quickly came to his own conclusions about where to go for future service. I didn't have to say a thing. 

I'll likely be the odd man out here...

I subscribe to professional courtesy as a rule but there are exceptions.  When the price that I must charge a client AND the effort that I must expend are negatively impacted by a previously done, hack-job repair my view is that the honest response to the client, always, is to never do anything to take their choices away.  This is actually how I live my life as well.

More specifically if my repair quotation will be more than it might have been to make the repair and right the wrong of previous poor work, judgement, thinking, glues, etc. it's my view that the client has a right to know why they will be charged more and why the repair will require more effort as well.

Most of us have competition and one of the many possible reasons that clients decide to go where they decide to go is that they may believe that the provider of choice is honest and open with them.  It's the ole trusted adviser role which, by the way, has to be earned or at least should have to be earned.  Being a trusted source, adviser, and repair person to me includes living by a set of values where the instrument and the client come first.  If improper repairs in the past damaged the client (costs and residual value, playability, tone, etc.) is it not the honest thing to do to explain where the the problem(s) are?  To me the answer is of course!

Mind you I don't get personal in my critique, rarely ask who did the deed, etc. but when I see unsound practices that again will impact the future of the instrument, complexity of the repair, and subsequently the price and my reputation I'm going to be open and honest and call em as I see em.

You will never find me bad mouthing the competition or "negative selling" that's something else and not my bag on a professional level (but among peers I'm not so guarded...).  And I also believe that engaging in activities of being the self-appointed quality police often is more revealing of the wanna-be-quality-police-officer.... in terms of personal shortcomings and is not something that our industry will ever benefit from.  

But if my client asks me why my approach will involve more time, effort, and subsequently cash I see an obligation to tell them why and explain in as much detail as is desired why what was done to their instrument previously may have helped get us to where we are today.  It's only being honest, it's never personal, and in my role as a trusted adviser I also consider the truth as just another way to never, never, ever do anything to take anyone's choices away from them.

I recently refretted a Martin HD-28VS that had just been refretted by someone else. The other guitar guy was a builder who does not solicit repairs. The owner was buying a guitar from him and asked the guy if he would fix his guitar so he did.

I'm guessing he was used to installing and dressing frets prior to attaching the fingerboard to the neck (or else he gave it to an apprentice).  I had to charge extra to repair the ebony (I made over 40 fills) and to repair the finish along the fretboard edge.  I only billed him for about half the extra time it took because I felt like I was in an awkward position.  He asked about the up charge.  I squirmed and said I worked to a standard and the guitar needed the extra attention, which I described in detail.  He was happy with the result and happy with the price, but I think he was looking for confirmation that he was correct in his evaluation of the other guy's work.  I think I implicitly criticized the guys work by going into detail about the problems, but I never said anything about the other guy. 

I agree that bad-mouthing is a bad business practice especially if it's done to grab a competitive edge. I've always thought it was the move of the stereotypical used car salesman though the motive in that case is more  likely deceit than honesty.  However, sometimes the customer asks a question that deserves a truthful, if diplomatic, answer.

The best is if the customers tell their story, online, etc. If you say it, the guy could make up bad stuff about you and start telling everyone.


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