Two recent discussions have caused me some concern from a technician point of view. The reason I say this is that both issues if taken at face value are viable and presented as repair procedures. However, if all instrument types and finishes are taken into account (and they do not appear to have been) the use of these procedures will cause serious damage in some cases. The discussions were centered around the use of hairdryers and heat guns and soldering up fret dings respectively.
Firstly, a hairdryer is not sufficiently hot enough to cause a sound aliphatic glue joint to separate. Hairdryers are maxed out at 160 degrees F (any hotter burns skin) at normal operating distances. They are built like that on purpose. The creep/separation temperature for yellow glue is around 210 degrees F. So, if a joint separates with a hairdryer and a spatula chances are it would separate regardless of the use of a hairdryer, as it is faulty joint anyway.
The other option displayed was to use a heat gun which will set fire to just about anything you care to name in the guitar repair world - you may get away with this option if you are super-skilled and attentive and have a a sixteenth of an inch of poly two pack on the guitar - but come the first whiff of nitro or varnish and you will be toast - and so will the instrument. I routinely use heat guns to strip instrument finishes and it has taken years to master the technique (yep, I've torched a few trainwrecks in learning the techniques and wouldn't recommend it as a 101 gig).
Secondly, As for using eutectic lead/tin or lead free solder (Rockwell hardness 13-15) to repair a nickel silver fret (Rockwell hardness 60 -75) to repair a ding in a fret - this is simply unacceptable from a professional repair standard point of view and has no place in modern luthiery and repair as far as I am concerned.
Hard brazing silver solder (which is considerably harder and would work) can be used if the fret is removed, the solder applied with a brazing torch or similar, and then replaced (a useful procedure if you are a collector or vintage sort of person and all that goes with that) after re-work hardening the annealed area on the fret.
Attempting to solder a fret in-situ on a maple board is similarly inviting disaster and I would not do it even if I thought I could. To get the fret hot enough for the solder to bond will turn the surrounds brown.
Now, I'm not here to be contrary, and I'm not here to thrash and trash newbies or ridicule left field stuff - quite the opposite. I'm sticking my neck out here to reinforce the notion that modern guitar repair both at the professional and amateur level has no place for dodgy, unproven or dangerous (to a customers instrument) practices.
The boss and convener of this forum and his highly experienced peers have demonstrated the level of expertise and sound practices which exist to standardize and educate those who aspire to and those who practice the trade.
These fine hard working dudes set de-facto national and international standards which should be upheld and taken forwards.
I am concerned with anything which takes our trade backwards.
I certainly hope not either....There is no need in that. I hope everyone will proceed with the matters-at-hand.....repairing fretted instruments! Thanks Tadej, for your 'rational' response to the 'percieved riff'..!
I am 'sort of' embarassed to have been a 'partial cause'.....
I too, agree that the extra-special response to this subject was slightly 'over-the-top'...
Then again, I am a Newby and probably don,t have a vote yet.....;-)
Tadej my friend please know that my remarks to you that will follow are by no means intended to be disrespectful of you or anyone else for that matter. Please also know that I have read many of your posts in the past and that I greatly appreciate your thoughts and your participation here.
With this said our mutual friend RetroRod has set a very good example for us all of understanding that agreement, or in some instances disagreement need not be personal nor a show of disrespect. We simply may disagree at times and in my opinion it need not even be that egos are showing as you suggested. Some of these folks are very proud, understandably so, of the knowledge that they have amassed over time and many, many hundreds of repaired and improved instruments.
It's true as you say that this is a craft but I do have to respectfully disagree that it's not science. Some of us do approach this craft from a scientific point of view and if you worked with the guy that I do you would know this all too well. In fact if we took the idea of using solder to fill voids in fret wire it would at some point, as it already rightfully has, come down to materials science, hardness, etc. This is science when we begin discussing Rockwell hardness and/or how various materials behave when heated, etc.
The first ever forum that I participated with was a builder forum and we all seemed to get along fine learning what we could about building mostly, at that time...., acoustic guitars. Then along came Rick Turner who is well known in the trade and not one to mince words to put it lightly. Rick made no bones about telling us all that we didn't know..... squat.... until we had also paid our dues in the repair world. Rick also told us that short of having the repair experience that he had we were simply doing nothing more with our guitar building than building "model airplane kits" and that our efforts were only producing "GLOs" (guitar like objects....).
I was personally offended and didn't like Rick or his comments much at all back then.
Then I took some time and thought about what Rick said.... And although it took me a bit of time not being the brightest bulb in the pack... but I came to a slightly different conclusion. My new conclusion was that regardless of the delivery Rick's message had value, perhaps great value. So I tried as I might to see what Rick offered as that "opportunity" that you will hear me speak of from time to time.
I decided to stop building and get repairing and my plan was that once I learned some things about repair, certainly enough to service my own guitars for any conceivable thing that I might encounter with a warranty claim, I could go back to building and my guitars should/would be better for it.
A funny thing happened to me along the way - I discovered that I enjoy repairing instruments more than building them and I also discovered that I actually enjoyed repairing instruments more than anything else (that I will speak of here...) that I have ever done.
You did nothing wrong at all in suggesting your method and practices here and I for one appreciate your input and thoughts. I'm also sure that others do too. Additionally Rusty did nothing wrong in pointing out that there is a concern for when a practice is promoted that may not be a sound practice. And everyone here who voiced an opinion and shared their thoughts were simply doing what we do on discussion forums - discussing the matter at hand.
Quite honestly this thread remains pretty benign in my experience in terms of how we have all remained pretty respectful of each other even though we may disagree. Hats off to ALL of You!!!
One of my many, many flaws, Tadej, is that I am WAY too long winded.... But if you got this far what I wanted to suggest to you is that this is actually an opportunity for you to perhaps have a Rick Turner moment in your Lutherie journey too. Maybe the delivery sucked and/or was not what we would have preferred to hear but what about the message? If enough, experienced repair folks believe the solder fret fill to be less than an ideal fix why not accept the possibility that it is a less than ideal fix? It also speaks to the idea of peer review in so much as we all see the work of others at times and some may not exercise as much professional courtesy with the client as to hold their personal thoughts about how a repair was done in the past to themselves.
I think that you made the right decision when you joined this forum and I also think that if you honestly do an inventory on what you have learned here that you will have to admit to yourself that there is GREAT value here on FRETS and that some of the talent here is pretty extraordinary in both the experience that they share and the manner in which they do so.
No one is telling you or I that our efforts are only producing "guitar like objects", no one is telling any of us directly that we don't know squat, and no one is in my opinion being disrespectful of anyone else.
You believed or believe in a practice and some others don't believe in the practice. So what? Let's get past this and maybe, just maybe see that there is an opportunity here, at least one more likely several. And the opportunity is to learn, share, enjoy each other, and understand that there was a time not that long ago that the information shared on this forum in one weeks time was often not available to Luthiers at all unless they traveled to industry gatherings and/or read the very few periodicals available.
We are the lucky ones in so much as the answers that we seek may only be a Google search away. And this was part of Rusty's original point and that was that we should be concerned that the information that we put forth for the rest of the world, member or not, is to the very best of our ability correct, safe, sound, and effective. And this is why those who may not agree with using solder to repair a fret had to say so.
One last thing if I may please. Back to Rick Turner, who, by the way is a friend of mine I am now happy to say. Before I hung up the Power Point presentation and turned in the frequent flier cards I was a "guest" in comparison to these dudes and dudettes who make their living in our trade. And as a guest I needed to understand, and initially didn't... that what may be minutia to me may be far more important to those who make their livings with Lutherie, care about their reputations, the quality of their craftsmanship, and the customers that they are privileged to have "earned."
As such at times some of us may get pretty passionate about that which we may have struggled long and hard to learned and now share. It's not ego my friend - it's pride and very much something to be very proud of! This stuff is NOT easy nor is it something that anyone can make a decision to be or do. Some talent is required, an ability to learn, to be humbled at times, to be wrong and accept it, and all the while still come back the next day because one's passion outweighs any ego that you may speak of. I'm not offended that you brought up ego here because I will simply respectfully suggest to you that many here have worked very hard to learn what they know and freely share. Again, in my opinion it's not ego - it's pride and well deserved pride too.
At the end of the day you are correct there are no industry standards, no bar exams to pass from state to state, no residency required, and no formal accreditation, diploma, celebration, or notoriety. There is at the end of the day only the work, good honest, important work. Work that one with a passion for this work will thrive doing (most days....).
I'll bet that you will agree with me when I suggest to you why some of us do this Lutherie gig and why it's important?
Because everyone deserves to have great music in their lives.
The best to You and everyone else and Happy Holidays
WOW!....A most eloquent essay, Hesh! I cannot speak to your lutherie skills. But as a writer and communicator of thoughts.....first rate !
Much passion....to say the least!
And Merry Christmas!
I like to think of the variables -
#1 - Who is repairing, and why? The range is from Super-Professional who is making a living (or what substitutes for one) doing this work, to Joe kitchen-luthier (that's me) trying to the his best imitation of a Pro, to Joe I-Have-No-Idea-How-I-Got-Into-This. Sadly, we don't all indicate our experience on our signatures.
#2 - What is getting repaired? Is it a Golden Era Martin? A very nice parlor guitar? A well-made import? A crappy import? A super-crappy-import that is, at best, a guitar-shaped-object?
#3 - What is the emotional baggage in the project? Is it a project that is simply a fee, fix, and return, or an emotional basketcase? Is it a personal project for oneself, or a labor of love for someone else, or a labor of "Dammit, let me fix that before you make us all deaf with it!"
#4 - What tools are available? This is pretty self-explanatory.
#5 - Experience.
Take all these factors, make them paramount in importance, yet invisible to all actually concerned, and you have a forum. Heck, I range from fixing crappy guitars for students with a glue gun and some popsicle sticks, to restoring instruments that I just about have no business even considering at my skill level.
I still get so much out of this forum, and appreciate almost every post here.
I must say this has been quite an interesting reading marathon for me. Thank you everyone for an enjoyable late-night substitute for actually doing the Lutherie that I should be doing.
Hoping everyone has a good holiday season,
I'd have to agree Rusty
Soldering frets is just substandard as well as risking damage, and hot air applied to an acoustic guitar is likely to induce cracking as well as all the issues with finish you have mentioned.
About 90% of youtube tutorials are wrong in some significant manner, unfortunately even when they are produced by someone earning their income from repairs. Check out Davey4557 for a good laugh, the guy even thinks you should seat the string ball end on the end of the bridgepin.
Go ahead and be totally honest when you think some recommendation is wrong, it perpetuates bad practice otherwise.
It was nice to read you Hesh, thank you!
You know this thread got me so sleepless yesterday and I went and browsed my parts to find that roll of plumbing solder and here are the specs written on it. 97/3 SAC305, which is 96.3% Sn, 0.7% Cu and 3% Ag. Silver alone does melt at higher temperatures than regular soft soldering, but when alloyed the flow temperature is lowered. That's the hardest type of lead-free solder.
So there's actually silver in it. I spoke to a good friend of mine who does all the advanced amp and electronics repairs on my behalf and he confirmed silver is added to most of solder, especially SMD soldering involves lots of silver that's why they are hard to desolder with a common WalMart soldering iron.
When I pull the frets and heat them up with soldering iron I always use my regular 60/40 solder, because it transfers heat better. I have tried heating without it but on some guitars binding melts before the glues does. The solder always sticks to the fret. For guitar repairs I use 40 or 60W (@240V)soldering irons with the hottest and most expensive nickel coated tips with hollow stems (they heat up much better but require frequent sponging and tinning). Now you see the funny part here is that a good quality soldering tip is always nickel coated, but Rusty insisted solder won't stick to a nickel silver fret.
Let's stop this nonsense and face the reality - Rusty and all of the others are completely right in their own opinion, but that doesn't mean that a miserable minority of us, labeled as n00bs, don't have experience, tricks and best of all - some useful knowledge.
I am a qualified Scientific Instrument Maker which required me to obtain, among other things, a detailed understanding of metallurgy and soldering/brazing processes. I have also completed and obtained military- spec qualifications for two NASA High Reliability Soldering Courses which comprehensively covers most important practical and technical aspects of soldering.
This is not to say I know everything - but what it does say is that I know something - and much of it is technical fact (not opinion) that is simply restated for the benefit of all our collective knowledge.
Additionally, Tadej, this forum operates with a high degree of respect, personal restraint, consideration and politeness and does not become adversarial or confrontational as a rule. It is also, in the main, bereft of personal invective, sarcasm, name-calling and insult. There are good reasons for this and we all typically maintain our dignity and manners when posting, even when upset.
Notwithstanding, I thank all that have taken the time to contribute to this robust thread and I particularly appreciate the depth to which the topic was disected, the many well crafted discussions and even a few kind words!
However, in closing - one thing that I didn't quite put clearly was that I believe that Frets.com and the information and training material provided by FF and his eminent peers along with the raft of training and information material put out by Dan Erlewine and the crew at Stewmac provides us with a de-facto "Standard" for repairs.
Obviously, this is a generic and general statement: there are many outstanding luthiers, training establishments and repairers out there who blow me away with their expertise, innovation and skills- but we need to start somewhere to get a feel for what is an acceptable contemporary basic level in our repairing skill sets.
Once we can do that we can better explain to those coming up to replace us or assist us just what levels of skills are fundamental to our trade.
Thanks again, Regards,
Wow. This thread has covered so much ground in such fine detail that I had a hard time thinking of anything to add of any consequence until now. I'm with the science side as much as the craft side, but I'm also with the artist side. It's the creative minds that often open our eyes to new ways of doing things. Those who dare to attempt something different may suffer consequences, but they may also unlock new avenues of approach, to the benefit of everyone. I see this forum as a meeting place for all those ideas, presented, discussed, knocked down or affirmed. I count myself in the "grey hairs" but I am always open to new approaches to my work, and I don't care if it comes from an old timer or a newbie. If it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't. Best to all and keep the ideas flowing.
Tedej, I gotta say,I like your posts and you attitude about repairs. Please don't let our 'curmudgeon-ness' stop you from posting is what I am saying. All opinions are valid here Bucko! And I'm glad you are here!
The next time I wish to be portrayed as a bad or ill-tempered, resentful, person given to stubborn-ness and displaying adversity to new ideas (a curmudeon) I will ask my daughter for an opinion.
However, I suppose it's a step in the right direction having been tagged as an ego-fueled, grey haired narcissist in the previous posts. I don't take offence; been called worst, but I prefer insults to be accurate and, if possible, witty if the originator is unable to resist the overwhelming temptation to publish such trifles.
However, I am also glad to be here (or as Keith Richards once remarked - "glad to be anywhere") and happy to have the company of such a diverse and disparate collection of colleagues. This is a nice place.
Not entirely seriously, Rusty.