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Luthiers and Time Frame Expectations

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by lagirlgwen, Jun 20, 2005.

  1. Hi All

    I purchased a 50's German bass about three months ago. Much excitement!!!! Even more anticipation!!!!!

    The Luthier (who shall remain nameless, but who came very highly recommended) has had my baby now for about 6 or 7 weeks. I called today and learned that a) the bass could not initially be located, b) he couldn't seem to recall what work was to be done and would have to check his notes to give me an estimate of time to completion, and c) he had not yet started work on it, but that it was nearing the top of his list.

    I do understand that being a Luthier is a time intensive and exacting craft - an art really, and that good work takes time, and that good artisans are worth the wait.

    My question to all of you more savvy souls - what is a reasonable wait?
  2. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I would think that a considerate luthier would not even take an instrument until he was fairly certain he could begin work on it within the next week or so. Whoever this guy is could have told you he's super busy for a while, and maybe even given you the name of someone else, rather than take your instrument and let it sit for almost two months without doing anything to it.

    "Nearing the top of his list" lol.... I bet he's finishing all of his violin, viola and cello jobs before he starts working on the "big ugly thing in the corner."

    Best of luck to you :), you'll get it back eventually and I'm sure that if the luthier is this busy, his work must be top notch. So at least you have that.
  3. The same thing happend to me with my bass and it was awful. I feel your pain brother lol. Great luthier work does take time I do understand that. But this guy was really busy but his work wasn't really that good and I ended up getting most of it redone, lots of $$$. So if it doesn't look like the work will be great or he is really just stiffing you then don't be afraid to take your bass back. Because in the end it is still YOUR BASS. Just my 2 cents.
  4. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    The best luthiers should be really busy. If they aren't you might wonder why nobody wants to use them. Balancing one's workload is one of the hardest struggles of craftspeople. Some are better at that than others. Some hire a staff and move work through with their assistance, some work alone refusing to compromise anywhere and put limits on what comes in when. How one decides when to take in work and when to wait until the line gets shorter is complicated.

    I know with me it's a constant tightrope to balance simple quick jobs for stable cashflow vs. long involved stuff with slow payouts. Turn around times are a big issue in my shop and we are constantly tweaking what and how we do what we do to address that. We are not always as successful as we'd like to be.

    The best shops are worth waiting for. Patience for the craftsman struggling with those issues is warranted if you are sure their heart is in the right place. If you don't trust them than take it elsewhere. If you are not sure, get references before you drop it off.

    Support the craftsman whose work warrants it, ignore those that don't, they will fade away and go out of business.

    There is no set time for turning around work. It varies from shop to shop, and is a complex equation of whats there to work on, how long it takes to do what's ahead of you and how much work what you bring in needs.
  5. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    I've never had any work done that didn't take a long time. I got a new bass bar last year and i took me 8 months to get my bass back.
  6. Thanks everyone, for your comments on reasonable wait times for luthiers to complete their tasks.

    I suppose that, since I'm a mere beginner who didn't purchase my instrument from him, I'm automatically less of a priority to the luthier I'd chosen. (The thing was - he was pushing Chinese made instruments as good "first" instruments and well, I just didn't agree in my case - personal choice and all.)

    Anyway - here it is,a couple of weeks later, and still no news. :rollno:

    Sooner or later - I do expect to have my pretty little 5/8 German in hand, and continue my lessons (which I've put on hold until I have something to actually practice on)

    Ultimately, I expect it will be worth the wait.
  7. This all sounds very unprofessional to me. Personally I wouldn't tolerate lack of contact and lame excuses for eight or nine weeks. You should be able to get an estimate, make an appointment, take your bass in, and have the work completed in something close to the estimated time. Yes, your appointment may get rescheduled, and sometimes jobs take longer than expected due to unforseen complications. But I think two months is excessive. If I were you I'd collect my bass and take it somewhere else.

    I'd be curious to know what sort of schedules our resident pro luthiers here maintain. I'll bet none of them would string a customer along for eight or nine weeks with no action.
  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I'd be in bad shape if I had to wait that long for my bass. I can't afford to subsidize my own vacation for that long.
  9. Was this luthier a real DB luthier or one of those string family people?
    Since you're in the L.A. area, you should check www.gollihur.com for his luthier list and just make sure you get a time commitment from him/her.
    As Marcus says, if you play the bass for a living, you're in deep crap if someone keeps your bass for months at a time.
  10. The guy I took my DB to is a "real" DB luthier and from what I understand, a highly regarded one at that. He probably took one look at me and figured "Newbie. She can wait. These other guys need their repairs to earn a living." (Still, you guys are right. Fifteen years ago, when making my living as a musician, there is NO WAY I'd ever have left my Noblet Bflat Artist in the hands of any store for repair for more than a week or so - I couldn't have afforded to eat!)

    When I dropped the bass off (right before I departed for an international trip) he promised me to scope it out and then call me with timeframe and estimate (above and beyond the verbal I received when I dropped my bass at his shop.) That's why I called when I returned: surprised I hadn't heard anything and more surprised still that he had no recollection, other than making me feel small about my small bass (called my 5/8 a 1/2 then seemed to have somewhat a supercillious attitude, suggesting that it was too small to be of much good to me)

    That's why I asked you guys. You've dealt with luthiers before, and I really didn't know what to expect. Overall, I'm pretty disappointed and plan a trip to the luthier's shop to see where I stand, expecting I'll get more action face-to-face. Thanks for the feedback. I'll keep you posted.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Far too long to wait for an instrument to be repaired IMO. Unless it is MAJOR work being done to it, ie//bassbar repair, sound post patch, crossbars etc...there is no reason that it should take more than a few weeks. I have never waited longer than 2 weeks come to that, and I have always had my basses worked on by the best luthiers around(Heinl's/some good private luthiers in Toronto). I would start getting on his case, or get the bass back and take it to someone else.
  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I'd move on. That luthier needs to learn the consequences of poor customer service. Even if it is a large job that requires a bunch of time and/or they are super busy they owe you respect and appreciation for your patronage and patience. There is no excuse for disrespecting a client. If he/she doesn't want to do the work she/he shouldn't take it in. If they do want the job it should be given the same weight as any other.

    Here comes the rant, I’m flying way past the topic here…

    Like surgeons, often luthiers are put on pedestals or worse they adopt “god complex” types of arrogance. This is not to be tolerated. Craftsmen yes, genius perhaps, but not infallible. As patrons of these services we have the right to ask questions and to discuss opposing points of view in whatever detail is required for customer comfort. We have the right to a full understanding of what procedures are being considered for the instrument and why. Much of this work is subjective and open to interpretation. No one person has the last word (although some come close). We need not accept anyone's opinion as anything more than one person's opinion.

    In the end the person paying the bill has the final say.

    Ok, I’m sure there could be a list of things almost all luthiers agree on. As people dealing with the public luthiers are often confronted with under informed or misinformed customers that make the preceding a challenge. Those customers should be referred elsewhere and not argued with, strung along or patronized. Like customers, luthiers should be given respect and patience too as they are most often artisans first and business people second. While the work is subject to interpretation I’m guessing a person who spends all day working on string basses for years or decades probably knows the “right thing” better than someone that spends all day practicing, setting up and tearing down gigs or has some other unrelated day job. No matter how much time they spend reading stuff on the Internet.

    If we put our trust in the experience of these people we should be rewarded by fantastic work, respectful, considerate, and confident customer relations, and if the work is good a healthy bill which we pay without complaint.
  13. Bud Rink

    Bud Rink

    May 5, 2000
    NYC, USA
    a) the bass could not initially be located, b) he couldn't seem to recall what work was to be done ​

    Regarding points a and b - what is up with that? This guy could be Stradivarius himself, but that gives you an indication of your importance to him as a paying customer. I agree with those who recommend to move on.
  14. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    la girl...

    I have also had similar experiences with luthiers. For me, finding the right guy to work on your instrument is just part of your growing process as a bassist. In my case, it took me quite a while to find a luthier who I trust 100%, but now I know who to go to for all my bass needs.

    Like everyone else, I agree, you should move on and probably not use the same guy again.
  15. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    I've run into this sort of attitude with a couple of bass luthiers in the distant past: "I'm an artist -- art isn't done on a timetable, and the product is worth waiting for." In one case the wait was somewhat justified by the result, in the other, not nearly...

    The problem is that I don't wait well. In any circumstances.

    But when any of us take money for what we do, it's a business, and there is an imperative to be businesslike.

    Mike Shank does all my bass work now. Great work, reasonable prices, and this: he won't make a completion promise that he can't keep, and when he makes a promise on a completion date, he always keeps it.

    I can't tell you how much that's worth to me.
  16. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA

    Sounds like your guy is disorganized and overwhelmed. I've personally had to extend a few deadlines, usually due to other emergency repairs or illness, but I've never misplaced an instrument or its work order! I'd be concerned about the work getting done correctly, if at all. I think sometimes we luthiers take in more work than we can really handle, because of the "drought/famine" aspect of the business. That said, a luthier who can't find an instrument and has no idea why it's in his shop sounds like someone to steer clear of. Somebody above mentioned luthiers developing a "God" complex. Well, I know a lot of fine bass luthiers, and every one of them is down-to-earth and approachable. There certainly are a few with big egos, but that's another story...
  17. christ andronis

    christ andronis Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2001
    move on

    Thumbs down to this dude
  18. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    I believe it is what one lluthier ffriend to all here described as the "How's it feel to meet me" syndrome. ;)
  19. Kinda like..." Enough about me...what do you think of my playing?"
  20. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    LOL Paul, good one!