I used to work for a company that made high-end woodworking tools and I couldn't agree more with you in regards to your assessment of the QC concerns with the Plek. It's just not the way one goes about it, is it?
I'm also just a humble restorer and maker, so I have to agree with the financial restraints for someone in a similar position as me. As Frank noted, perhaps if one just pumped out set-ups..a LOT of set-ups, then it would be feasible...but it's just not my thing.
Maybe it's the old phrase "it ain't the tool, it's the carpenter" that sticks in my mind when I consider the Plek. I've been fortunate over the years to work on the instruments of some truly great, professional musicians. In all honesty, I have never had a professional musician inquire about the Plek. Folks who could practice more however..now that's another story. Somebody wanting to sound like Hendrix but can't fumble through "twinkle-twinkle" is not going to be helped by a Plek'd instrument...
Hey Doc! I'm chuckling here because I could not agree with you more and on all points too!
In our Lutherie business we do a lot of volume so I deal with the public often. I can't tell you how many times I think to myself when someone is considering changing this or that that perhaps if you went home and actually learned to play the thing your problems would be solved....:) Of course I don't say that but I sure do think it, often....
Same experience here as well and out of over 3,000 clients in the last couple of years plus only one has inquired about the PLEK. Of course what we told them was very much what I posted here and their responses was OK, and they left their guitar for our manual methods fret dress.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a $100K investment that needs to be running 6 hours a day every day to begin to pay for itself....
Thanks for your thoughts Doc, much appreciated.
Hesh & Doc,
I've thoroughly enjoyed your technical & humorous points on the justification for a PLEK machine.
It's been quite a while since the subject has come up, but this time, the device has been in service for a while and we've all seen the best & worst of it's "talent". Doc also shares my observation that even though an instrument is new and has been PLEK'd, MOST instruments need a "refined setup" before they're ready to roll.
Hesh.... One thing you may want to add to the list of associated expenses is the addition of a staffer who is dedicated solely to the feeding & upkeep of the machine. I don't think a salary of less than $50K a year would attract the "qualified" hardware/software experts needed to run, maintain, feed & water the beast.
Doc.... It's great and SOOOOOOOOOOOOO refreshing to have you on board. In addition to your experience & knowledge, I especially appreciate your reinforcement of the fact that most players should invest in lessons and instruction than fancy gear if they wish to 'improve' their talent. I personally am committed to the theory that 90% of a guitarist's "sound" is in their hands.
I tell my customers to spread the word that their instruments have had the PLAC system employed. In my case, it stands for: Paul's Level A Crowning. See what I did there? ;)
Thanks for the info & grins, guys :)
Thanks for those very kind words Paul. I hope to be of some help on this board and certainly eager to see what else I can try and get my brain to retain.
One thing I've immediately stared to consider is the actual documentation of work I do, along the lInes of the very usefull photo essays I've seen here. I have notes...lots of notes and scribbled diagrams but few photos. Some shops didn't permit stuff like that but mostly, I suppose it's just never popped into my brain..hard enough to keep just focused on one task I guess ☺ Hopefully he old noodle will remind me to snap a few pictures as I go. I have a few resets in the shop right now so maybe I can add some photos of the neck/body joints to the gallery.
- I like the sounds of that PLAC system...HA!
Hey Paul and happy New Year to ya my friend!
Dully noted and great point on the human required to feed the PLEK beast too. That does add a lot of costs as well as all other things that can come with that human, some good, some not so good...:)
I like your naming convention too for your precision fret work but if I employed your naming convention it would likely not serve me well: Hesh's A Crowning or HAC....:) Or how about in G*bson's case in honor of Henry: Juszkiewicz employed repair criteria or Jerc...:)
Whoops.... I better go lawyer up..... Thankful for the fist amendment here too...:)
We believe that we can obtain better results with our manual methods.
Here's what's wrong with a PLEK from my perspective. First it's a proprietary machine running proprietary software and completely dependent on the mother ship, PLEK for updates and routine maintenance. If PLEK goes teats up.... and that is always a possibility, everyone with a PLEK is SOL unless someone else takes on the IP (intellectual property).
Next the same tooling that a PLEK uses to do the actual work it also uses the same rails for the QC checks to check itself. In machining it's a cardinal rule that all quality checks have no dependency on the tool(s) doing the actual work. It's amazing to me that something taught in machining 101 was not factored into the design.
We have been offered a machine for free and declined.... Why? Because if we take on a methodology that is again dependent on a mother ship, annual maintenance, and thousands of dollars that need to be spent annually to maintain the machine AND receive updated software it's not a fixed cost by any means.
Not to sound arrogant but some years back we searched for a PLEK that would agree, not the machine mind you but the human associated with it... to a duel. Our manual methods against the PLEK. We could find no takers and those friends of ours who have PLEKs thought that they might harm their relationships with PLEK if a couple of guys in Ann Arbor out performed the $125K machine.
I agree that in a production environment it can be a pretty cool way to go. But it also depends on if you let it do it's job fully and not be like Gibson who leaves ugly tooling marks all along their frets in an effort to use the PLEK to a very minimal extent.
But again as someone who was involved with enterprise software all of my life and the roll-out of same any proprietary system is only as good as the financial health of the company standing behind it. Add in a software component, the lack of user manipulated/defined functionality and instead running canned programs written by folks who may not understand what we do and why and it's likely to be a disaster, a very expensive one at that too.
I priced them a couple of years ago and one could be had for less that $100K but add in the annual maintenance contract, a must.... and initial training which they charge for too and Frank's $125K number is what I figured as well.
Lastly I know a bit about why some shops succeed and why some fail... Debt is our enemy in any business with growth limited by the actual physical abilities of the folks working the biz. Fixed costs are your friend, mine too... With this in mind taking on this huge commitment of funds, time, etc. and it could financially sink an otherwise profitable Lutherie business.
And really lastly do the math for yourself and decide how long you want to amortize that $125K for the Mr. T starter set Plek over time. Next add in annual maintenance contracts, training, replacement parts and then determine how many fret dresses and refrets you need to do daily to just break even.
I could not make the numbers work for us and that's that.
Well said Ian!