A *BUYER BEWARE* review of the HOBO DEPOT and Johnny Long

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by neutralomen, Aug 2, 2021.

  1. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    I have been meaning to post this review for a while, but since the issues I've had working with this repair shop are so vast and numerous, I haven't gotten the time to sit down until now.

    A little backstory. I bought an old Riverhead Phantom Bass from a local pawn and needed a total restoration. A refinish, rewire, and overhaul. You can read more about the journey in this thread.

    I had been following this plucky independent bass repair and refinisher named Johnny Long. He runs a business called "the hobo depot bass shop" basically out of his shed. However, he both seemed like a nice guy, he seemed passionate about his work, and finished work he posted on socials looked like decent enough jobs. Since this particular bass was a cheap acquisition due to how much work it needed, I decided to take my chances on Mr. Long and the Hobo Depot.

    Here was the bass when I sent it to him. It was heavily worn and the previous owner put a jumper on the preamp and mangled the wiring. It needed to be totally redone with a new preamp.



    I sent him the bass and I asked for the following services:
    -total refinish from the original pearl white to a solid gloss white
    -apply restoration decals that I made myself and sent
    -re-wiring and installing a new preamp supplied by me
    -replace knobs with new old stock knobs, supplied by me
    -shim the neck with .25 degree shim, supplied by me

    He told me he could do it. That was his first mistake. If the finishing work is too complex and you don't have the infrastructure for that complex a finishing job, don't take it in the first place.

    He quoted me at $1600. That was a little steep, but I know if I went through Pat Wilkinson or a bigger company, it would be considerably more. We agreed upon the price and he began work.

    The first warning sign was in our early text exchanges, he started giving me a little bit of an unprofessional attitude. Now, I admit, I am a bit neurotic when it comes to my instruments, but the types of texts I was sending him were little details like "oh I forgot to mention, please be careful when removing the old volume knob because the previous owner glued it on." He replied "this isn't going to be very fun with the daily texts..." My response was congenial and deferential, but that was a red flag. like, yes I'm being a bit thorough, but I'm paying you a lot to perform a service...a prerequisite to that service is not for it to be "fun" for you. That was definitely weird and unprofessional. I stopped contact for a while.

    He sent me some progress via some photos, which were looking pretty good, but I noticed the first major mistake. The little scoop in the rosewood at the end of the fretboard had clearcoat continuous with the finish on the white. He just left the old finish there with masking marks and clear chips to the original clearcoat. he was just going to leave it like that!

    I brought it to his attention, and then he just clearcoated in a straight line, ignoring the arc of the scoop!


    I then had to send him a guide so he could sand those edges down so the clearcoat followed the original shape. Bear in mind, these are small potatoes, but it was definitely a foreshadowing of what was to come.

    He sent the instrument back to me. Besides the fact that the relief was like ".018 like a bow and arrow, and I had to set the whole thing up from scratch, as soon as my eyes set on the instrument, the cosmetic flaws and DAMAGE on this brand new refinish began to present themselves. I will show a series of pressure dents, playing rash, globbing paint, and areas where the finish is rough like sand paper. This doesn't actually show the extent. there are dozens more imperfections. the more you look, the more you find.

    surface ding 1.png


    horrible masking errors like this one

    You get the picture. This was a $1600 restoration. this is totally unacceptable work. And that's JUST the finishing work. The following also happened.

    -he shielded the cavity 123_1008.jpeg
    which is all well and good, but if you notice, he put shielding on the rim where the plates go on which means, he technically shrank the size of the cavity. Consequently, he JAMMED the panels back on. I literally couldn't get them out. I took a tremolo spring and hooked it into one of the screw holes and pulled as HARD as I could until they popped out. I was lucky it didn't take a bunch of paint with it. I then had to diamond file the plastic panels down to size so I could safely replace and remove them.

    -he GLUED the shim in place so now if I ever want to remove it, it's impossible.

    -....he didn't let the finish cure before installing the neck. I took the bolts off to try and see if I could remove the shim because it looked glued in in the photos...the neck is STUCK on there permanently because the uncured finish bonded with the body finish. So now i'll need to pay a luthier to carefully razor blade inside the neck pocket to free the neck, and who knows how he will remove the shim.

    So, needless to say, this repair was a completely botched job. I wrote Jonny Long a long email complete with these photos, giving him a run-down of the issues, why they're issues, and what to look out for next time he tries to take a job like this.

    I remained polite, and went out of my WAY to say I wasn't asking for any money back, and that I wasn't trying to give him any problems, but as a paying customer, had to bring this stuff to his attention.

    No apology. No acknowledgement. He just disappeared and I never heard from him again.

    Thanks for reading everyone. BUYER BEWARE. The HOBO DEPOT can definitely NOT handle refinish or restoration work. He bit off more than he could chew. He should NOT have taken the job. I wish I could recommend him for a rewire or pickup swap, but even that he botched with the shielding so really, I can't in good conscience recommend his services.

    Nice guy, well-meaning, but I'm sorry to say he was unprofessional, did an unacceptable job, and disappeared without so much as an apology when politely confronted.

    Attached Files:

  2. A9X

    A9X Inactive

    Dec 27, 2003
    Ouch. You have my sympathies. I hope you can get it sorted out with someone else who does a great job.
    I'll watch the other thread in hope.
    FRoss6788 and MattZilla like this.
  3. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    unfortunately I can't afford to get this "repair" re-repaired. Eventually I'll have to hire a luthier to undo whatever damage is possible to undo, I'm not sure how tenable re-finishing it AGAIN would be but that's not going to happen for a while. Such a bummer.
  4. A9X

    A9X Inactive

    Dec 27, 2003
    I'm sorry to hear that. Are you handy at all with tools? Because if you are, ask in the Luthiers Corner forum here on TB where there are a number of pro and amateur luthiers who might be able to help. Maybe not, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
    dwizum and RSBBass like this.
  5. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    I do my own basic setup and repairs. I have lots of tools for measuring relief and action, making adjustments, installing shims, and even spot leveling frets with a fret kisser/fret rocker/diamond files, but anything beyond that is beyond my very limited skill set. I would need professional help with this for sure and it's never free.
  6. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    Sorry to hear of your trouble.
    I must admit that I’ve noticed a couple red flags pop up with that shop
    And white is one of the more difficult refinish colors, or so I’ve been told
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
    BassikLee likes this.
  7. cataract

    cataract Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Birmingham AL
    As a former employee of the GC in Richmond VA I can attest to him being on the “watch list” there for buying & returning used basses but replacing some of the parts before doing so..

    I traded in an old Kalamazoo bass of mine to put towards a new Nate Mendel signature, Johnny ended up buying it and a few days later when I came in I saw it sitting on a stand behind the registers— it had been returned & my boss asked me to take it apart to make sure the Gibson mudbucker was the original & not a replacement. Of course I asked “why” and he told me they’d had more than a few basses come back missing the pickups / hardware they left the store with, so now they gave everything he returns a once over when they come back.

    I was bummed to hear about his behavior, I haven’t really talked about it in any public forums before now. But yeah, seemingly nice, charming fella but definitely on the shady side IMO
  8. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    wow! That's a really scumbag thing to do, to poach rare parts and return a bass for a refund. I don't want to judge the guy. don't know him too well. My personal opinion is, he's got "big fish" syndrome. This is exemplified in his playing/apparent opinion of himself and his local band/church playing. This may translate to being a bit delusional about his abilities as a repairman. Like, the finish not fully cured sticking the neck to the body...that's a very very rookie error and it should never have been made. I don't think the man has an objective perception of what he is and is not capable of. As I said in my post, he should have said "this job is a little too complex for what I'm equipped for in this shop, but I can recommend a more equipped repair shop to help you." This would be the response from an ethical professional aware of his strengths and weaknesses. I'm trying to keep my cool about this but I am out a LOT of money. It's not like it was a good job with a few imperfections. This was badly botched.
  9. johndb

    johndb Bass is the Place! Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2014
    I am sincerely sorry for you in regards to how this all played out. Unfortunately, it's an expensive lesson and a cautionary tale at this point.
    There is so much knowledge on this board, and so many TBers that would have steered you in the right direction as far as quality refinishers. Pat Wilkins is reasonable for the high quality of his work.
    $1600 is a pretty hefty sum to spend restoring a bass. Not many people would spend that much fixing up an inexpensive instrument unless it had sentimental value. For that, I admire your commitment. I'm not sure if you paid upfront for the work (I hope not), but one should always inspect the final work before paying for it. Almost no one gets paid in full before the job is done. Not even the hospital or the doctors that performed my double lung transplant!
    Good luck, and try to enjoy the bass if you still can at this point.
    Markshan, Guiseppe and ColdEye like this.
  10. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    That's just it. He sent me many photos for me to look at and "approve" the job. It just didn't occur to me that HE would, in good conscience, conceal the NUMEROUS deep dents and dings. The last thing I thought would be discovering such numerous and severe imperfections because the repairman should not be willing to sign off on a job like that.

    It's for an 80s tribute band. I wanted it to photograph well and look good on stage. It's fine from a distance but still. it really bugs me.

    Yes lesson learned. I will definitely be going to pat wilkins from now on.
    Guiseppe and Admiral Akbar like this.
  11. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    The price would have been right had they been able to perform the work.
    It sounds like they were inexperienced and working way over their head.

    To properly finish, it requires a huge amount of time and effort.
    And of course most sheds are nowhere near setup to be spraying quality finish.
    A true professional refinisher will have a dedicated spray booth.

    Now since you're able to spot all these problems, you have the knowledge, why not DIY and finish it properly?
    Markshan, MrWolf14 and 5fingerfrenzy like this.
  12. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    Sorry this happened. Can I suggest that before you give a full on restoration to a new tech to have them do a small job first and check out their work and customer service.
    Bevan777 likes this.
  13. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Why is that, do you think?
    Bevan777, Admiral Akbar and vid1900 like this.
  14. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    Uh yeah I'm aware you get what you pay for but even though my budget could handle 1600 at the time I don't have infinite money. I was hoping to get lucky dealing with a lesser known but hopefully competent repairman and I was wrong.
  15. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    He outsources his refinishing to a local auto garage. That said though; this auto painter also did a pretty lousy job. Even the areas without clear DAMAGE are lumpy uneven and not properly cured
  16. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    That...would have been really smart lol.
    Sithian and RSBBass like this.
  17. KaseOfBass

    KaseOfBass Put some stank on it... Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    I'm sorry this happened to you. I've seen his videos and while he seems like he has some skills as a player, he made too much noise with his mouth for me. For what it's worth, I've spoke to Pat about some refinishing work before and I don't think it would've been anywhere near the $1600 you were charged, but I may be wrong since that was several years back.
    ErnieD likes this.
  18. neutralomen


    Jan 31, 2018
    A normal refin on a solid body only is like 450. My job would have required both the body and neck refinished complete with special precision masking for the Fingerboard, the application of restoration logos, AND a new preamp and wiring installed. I'd be astonished if pat would do all that for under 2k. But maybe I'm wrong.
    KaseOfBass likes this.
  19. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    Shadakakaa indeed.
  20. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Pat quoted me somewhere in the neighborhood of $550 to refinish one of my American Elite 5’s in burgundy mist with matching headstock and new logo applied. But that was with me taking the bass apart and sending him just the body and neck. Not a bad price.