Idiot Luthier Problems / Need Advice

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by BatmanJones, Oct 4, 2020.

  1. BatmanJones


    Aug 29, 2015
    My blood pressure is raising as I write this.

    I wanted this particular luthier to de-fret a bass and epoxy the fingerboard so I could use roundwound strings and not damage it (previously had flatwounds on it). $200 for de-fretting and $50 for the epoxy job with a 4-6 week turnaround. No problem. The man in question is an older gentleman and his shop has a 5 star rating on google reviews. I figured my baby was in great hands seeing as this guy has probably been in the game for decades. I went to pick it up today after he had my bass for nearly two months. Still not really a problem, however in that time he:

    - broke a G string
    - made me pay for the new strings when he discovered he had no long scale flatwound G strings in his inventory (tack $25 on the price tag)
    - replaced them with the wrong gauge (mediums instead of medium-lites)

    Alright, whatever, I can look past that. I wasn't stoked about it but I'm not going to throw a fit over it. I planned on throwing some roundwounds on it when I got it back anyway. I am frustrated though, seeing as I explicitly told him over the phone the exact gauge of each string in a set of medium-lites. Also I now have a set of flatwounds sans G string and I guess it's up to me to find a replacement (tack another ~$12 on to the price tag). But wait, there's more!

    - he expoxied the neck instead of the fretboard

    He didn't even take the neck off- there's a missed spot in the epoxy near the neck plate so this guy can't even mess up correctly. When I originally got the bass, the first thing I did was sand down the back of the neck to get rid of the gloss because I can't stand the feel of it.

    I'm pissed.

    When I picked it up I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw the fingerboard with no finish (or oil finish). I figured maybe this guy was on some next level stuff as far as the materials he was using (listen man, idk). I've never taken a bass to a luthier before so this is new to me. It wasn't until I got back home that I saw the neck had gloss on it instead of the fingerboard and it clicked in my head that the guy had it completely backwards.

    I can't disparage his set up, and it looks great, but it's not what I wanted. The problem I have is that this guy is located about 80 miles from me (the price tag is sprouting wings at this point) and I really don't want to drive there and back once more and leave it with him for god know how much longer. Plus he's pissed me off.

    What would you do in my shoes? I'm now 100 unnecessary dollars deeper into a project that I'm not satisfied with. Should I ask for the $100 back? One mistake is fine. Two mistakes and I'm still coolin. But three mistakes on my dime is b*llsh!t.

    Curious to hear your thoughts, thank you.
  2. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I wouldn't sweat it on the strings. You planned on replacing them anyway. A sloppy refinish on the back of the neck other than the fretboard is a major screw up. I doubt he used epoxy to finish a neck so he didn't even follow directions there. I would 1) stop payment on a check or call the credit card company and tell them the bill is in dispute. 2) Call the guy and see what he has to say.
  3. jbrew73


    Dec 24, 2006
    Have you discussed this with the luthier yet?
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    That's along the lines of what I'd do.

    Sounds to me like he's looking to see what other people think about this before moving forward... but I shouldn't be answering for him.

    A big part here for me would be whether or not I had in writing that I asked for the fretboard to be epoxied. I've watched enough Judge Judy to know that THAT is pretty much what its going to come down to. If you can prove your agreement he has to fix it. If you can't prove it and its your word against his, then its a more delicate situation. And its going to depend a lot on whether he wants to do the right thing or not.

    And FWIW, I'd be pretty pissed. Probably a lot more than you seem right now.
    BatmanJones likes this.
  5. You should discuss it with him before you do anything else.
    You also should have inspected and played it just a bit, before you left the shop, and before you paid him for it.
    You would have been able to complain to him then and there. This way, it can always appear he did it correctly, and you’ve had second thoughts. Do you have an order form or receipt that specifically says “epoxy fretboard”? Does he have one (which you signed?) which says “epoxy neck”? You have already sanded the work he did, so your argument has less validity.
    I’m not taking sides - but he probably thought you left satisfied, and now are second guessing your choice.
    Your best option, is to discuss it with him, and hope he will work with you on it. Good Luck.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2020
    MonetBass and BatmanJones like this.
  6. thabassmon


    Sep 26, 2013
    New Zealand
    I think you have to super clear with what you want, they see a lot of instruments, and what you have been thinking about for a while is news to them. Have it written in bold lettering, there may be some time pass between the conversation and the work.

    I have taken my instrument to a luthier, asked him to install a new nut a make it as buzz free as possible (obviously with more detail than that). What came back was maybe the buzziest I've ever heard from a bass, he should of never told me it was ready for pickup because it wasn't.

    Before the job I told him I need to be able to access every note on the fretboard and be able to use any technique without it buzzing, I asked "can you do that", he said "yes, of course".

    Before the job I told him I do not want shredder low, I got shredder low, I do not want him to remove the excess material above the slots, he did it anyway.

    I took my bass home, I even told him quite clearly I usually do this myself, but I was curious at how much better a luthier can be, now I know. But to be fair to the luthiers this particular one could be a hack, still doesn't stop him from charging $10,000.00 for a custom five (not me).

    I took off what he did and redid the job myself, now I have no personal need for a luthier and it looks like I never did. Background note, trades in carpentry and Roofing, built models as a kid with many scratch built parts out of everything from Brass to Resin, as well as a lot of experience with airbrushing, spray painting, sanding, polishing. And metalwork and woodwork at school.

    It would have to be a crazy custom build for me to use a luthier again, but even then I think I'd rather do it myself. I have two exclassmates that build their own instruments (guitar and bass respectively) with one building a double bass and fabricating the tuners himself, it looks quite doable to me.
    wraub, BatmanJones and Guild B301 like this.
  7. BatmanJones


    Aug 29, 2015
    I have not, his shop was closed by the time I got home and doesn't open up til tomorrow.
  8. BatmanJones


    Aug 29, 2015
    Lol I'm glad you feel my pain man. Trust me I'm pretty hot. And in regards to your comment, whenever I've trusted people to do the right thing I end up disappointed so the idea of disputing the charge is enticing as hell right now. The receipt simply states "convert to fretless, use binding markers, coat with urethane". No specification on where the urethane is going, I figured it to be an absolute no-brainer that I wanted it on the fingerboard. Now, when I first talked to him about it I said I wanted epoxy, he said "we'll probably do a different coating". I figured something a little harder than just a damn poly coat. You know, maybe something similar to what I actually wanted and in the spot I wanted it.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  9. Sounds like you were assuming, and so was he. You both ‘thought’ the other one meant the same thing you did.
    Maybe I’m just confused by the way it’s written here - but what do you mean by “I figured something harder than poly” - when his receipt apparently says polyurethane? Did you only get a receipt afterward? With this job, it is is definitely easy to assume the wrong thing.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2020
  10. Cliff Colton

    Cliff Colton

    Nov 7, 2016
    In the ordinary use of language, “convert to fretless, use binding markers, coat with urethane” refers to the fingerboard. To interpret it any other way would invite the luthier to splatter your bass case with urethane and afterward contend you told him to do it.
    RSBBass and Qlanq like this.
  11. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I don’t take basses in for work very often but when I do there’s only one guy I use. I always leave him with handwritten instructions of what my goals are. We go over the instrument together, he asks questions if any clarification is needed and he makes notes.
  12. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I can't imagine any experienced Luthier agreeing to epoxy coat a fretless fingerboard for $50. That's a $200-$300 job by itself, a lot of labor.

    So there was obviously a big miscommunication when you took it in, about what you wanted him to do.
  13. You may be right - but apparently they DID interpret it two different ways.
  14. BatmanJones


    Aug 29, 2015
    Alright that's good information to know. I wish the guy would have been straight up with me about that instead of coaxing me into using a poly coat.
  15. BatmanJones


    Aug 29, 2015
    After reading these I'm realizing I'm just gonna have to take an L on this and move on. I'm gonna be sanding a $50 bill off the back of that neck. For no more than what he did I really really wish I would have just done it myself. It would have been a fraction of the cost and done in a fraction of the time it took. Oh, and I'd still have a full set of flats. I'm super salty if you couldn't tell already lmaooo

    I can't foresee what good it would do me to call him, it's probably just gonna piss me off even more.
    Guild B301, Qlanq and hbarcat like this.
  16. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    To add to that, I so often hear people refer to the neck when they mean fretboard. As in "I prefer a maple neck to a rosewood one".
    wraub, thabassmon, RSBBass and 2 others like this.
  17. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    With all due respect, I am a little surprised that you're not willing to invest a 5 minute phone call into hearing what he has to say, even if you're not interested in getting him to fix it.

    You asked, "what would you do in my shoes?" I would call him, explain why I'm upset, and see what he says.

    I don't mean to project into your situation, but I often find that when I am pissed at a vendor or merchant, there's a complicating factor I hadn't considered, and/or the merchant was willing to work with me in some way. There are always the cases where the guy's an actual jerk, and in those cases you can just hang up and walk away or pursue your own solution elsewhere. But I try to give other people the benefit of the doubt before assuming they're idiots. I find that's the best way to cut to the heart of the matter and get a resolution.

    If you try to initiate a chargeback, there's a very good chance your bank will require that you make a good faith effort to settle the matter with the merchant first anyways.
  18. BatmanJones


    Aug 29, 2015
    I can tell the luthier is a nice enough guy, it's not like he did shoddy work or tried to screw me, it's just a miscommunication. With that said, I have no desire to take it back to him or any luthier from this point forward. So at that point it's basically me calling him to chastise him. And he's about twice my age so that's weird. I might still call, if I do I'll let ya know how it went.
  19. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I can see your perspective. I guess it depends a bit on how the call goes. It's hard to know since none of us interacted with the guy directly and can't get a read on his personality and communication style like you probably can. And if you're not interested in bringing it back to him, it is water under the bridge to a certain extent.

    It is telling to read through your comments. I can see how it may have been unclear from the start what you were asking for. He probably talked you out of using epoxy because he assumed from the start that you were talking about the neck, and he thought it would be inappropriate to use epoxy as a finish on the back of the neck.

    I can tell you one thing - people ask for weird things, and often use unintentionally misleading or flat out incorrect words when talking about bass parts, finishes, or repair procedures, so it pays to be specific and follow up to make sure both parties are on the same page. When people ask me to do things, I try to show them a photo - or an actual completed project, especially if I'm trying to suggest something that may be different than they asked for, or if they're asking for something that doesn't quite make sense to me. Then, I can say "so this is what I'm going to do for you, it will look like this. You asked for epoxy but I would do satin poly. It goes on nice and thin and feels fast, like bare wood. Here's a neck I just finished in satin poly." That gives them the opportunity to say something like "no you dummy, I want you to coat the fingerboard, not the back of the neck! Leave the neck alone!" I don't bring my instruments to other people, but if I did, I'd just do the same thing in reverse - show them a photo or some other direct clear evidence of what modification I was hoping for, and make sure it's described in writing and they are giving clear indicators that they understand exactly what it is.
  20. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    he might not have been an actual idiot. it sounds like he misunderstood. one has to be specific these days even with the assumptives like what else would you do after you pulled frets -coat the fingerboard with cake flour? i work with GSA contracts and nothing is left to chance with those. you have to itemize this stuff for everybodies benefit these days.

    a phone call couldn't hurt. perhaps he would appreciate the wake up moment? maybe he truly misunderstood and would be willing to make good double quick.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2020

Share This Page