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Need some advice (long post)

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by jazzmonkey, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. jazzmonkey


    Mar 7, 2010
    Greetings TB denizens,
    I’m in a situation here and I need some advice from some fellow bassists.

    I recently purchased a used ’08 MIM ‘70s RI Fender Jazz Bass (March 16th). Well the bass had some issues, but it seemed like a good and the issues at the time seemed like nothing major, I actually still believe this. I always do the standard setup stuff to my instruments, but there is definitely a fret issue going on here and stuff like fretwork is definitely out of my league, primarily b/c of tools. Well I take it to a local repairman, who isn’t licensed by Fender, but guarantees his work none the less. The shop is actually a furniture shop, but he does guitarwork and some minor amp repair. I gotta say, he is about the most easy going person I have ever met, he is really patient and very willing to talk to his customers, and I enjoy talking to him, he definitely has a lot of knowledge.

    Well I brought him the bass and asked him to re-slot a leo quann BAII that came on the bass (the strings weren’t lining up with the pole pieces), and to also make the bass buzz free at the fender recommended settings. Actually my first request from him was to level and dress the frets, but he said he likes to exhaust all options before going that route, so that’s when I told him what I was looking for in terms of setup. He also said that each player likes different things and that I shouldn’t use the Fender recommended setup specs as a hardline rule for doing setups. I still don’t understand why someone would justify an instrument just not being able to play well at factory recommended settings, I guess this should have been an immediate red flag, I mean isn’t that the point of taking your guitar or bass to a tech? Why would a tech argue that?

    Anyway, after about 2 weeks, he calls me in saying it’s ready, but as soon as I go to the shop and pluck one string, guess what BUZZ! Well he says it wasn’t buzzing for him right before I came in, and that it was probably b/c he plays with a pick, and I always use fingers. Well he offers me to either take it home and try it for a few days and make any adjustments that I think will help, or to leave it there for him to have another go round with the bass. Well I leave it there. I forgot to mention that he had shimmed the neck with 2 strips of very thing maple veneer to raise the neck high enough so that the action would lower, believe it or not, the BA bridge was too thick to allow the strings to come down to a good level, I still can’t believe that such a popular bridge that so many people put on fenders is such a POS on this bass.

    I made the mistake of offering to bring a set of flatwounds that came with the used bass to try and alleviate the buzz, definitely a mistake since that’s the easy way to fix the buzz, but also to make the bass sound like crap. It helps him fix the buzz without having to really do anything else.

    Well in another 12 days I hear back from him saying it’s ready. This time with the flats on there, it was virtually buzz free, but the action was still higher than the fender specs, and my personal preference, but I said I would bring it home and give it a try. Flats sound exactly that, flat. Totally not appropriate for a jazz bass IMHO. Well a set of rounds and guess what, BUZZ! Well I twerked it out some more and got it somewhat decent, but still enough buzz coming through the amp to really annoy me. Plus I think the BAII is way to trebly. I like good jazz snap, but this is just a bit much. Plus I didn’t like the idea of a shim in the pocket, so I pull off the neck and put on the stock bridge. Well this is what I found.
    He told me that he had to put some tape on the neck to fix a bad angle in the pocket, but he failed to mention that he had scratched up the heel by cutting the tape to size ON THE NECK! Now call me picky, but whether or not it’s visible with the neck on, how do you justify putting scratches on a customers gear that wasn’t there before? How hard is it to make a measurement and then cut to size, or lift up the edge of the tape and cut that way, NOT ON THE NECK!

    I actually had noticed the scratches the first time I came it when it was supposed to be ready, when the shims are in there, there is just enough gap to see them. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt until the other night when I saw that it definitely was his half assed work.

    I also failed to mention that there were steel wool shavings all over the pups as well that he failed to clean up after he was finished. I swear there is a little ding on the back of the headstock that wasn’t there when I brought it in.
    Then I start scrutinizing, and the frets that he has supposedly been working on still have string bites in them. I don’t know if they are visible, but here goes.
    They are on more frets than this, I just thought these would photograph better.

    If the fretwork had actually been done, am I wrong to expect these to be gone?

    So here I am, with a bass that is really aggravating me, and a tech that won’t do what I ask him to do, and takes FOREVER! If he would have just taken the neck off and leveled the neck with a radius block and crowned and polished the frets like I asked him to, I would be in bass heaven right now. I know it’s something that can be done in a matter of a couple of days, actually a few hours if it’s worked at consistently. I realize that he has other work, but I really don’t understand what I waited nearly a month for. I should have just gone to a “licensed by Fender” tech and right now I would be playing a butter bass.

    He says he guarantees his work, but I don’t want to be without my bass for another 2 weeks. And in all honesty, I don’t know if I want this guy crudding up my bass any more than he already has, plus if he can’t get it right in a month, I’m thinking he can’t get it right. I mean honestly, what “professional” guitar tech takes a month to do a SIMPLE PROCEDURE, and still doesn’t get it right? I am contemplating just asking for some of my money back since he did get the bridge slotted like I asked for.

    What do I do? I have every intention of addressing this half assed tape job, and now he has opened the door for me to mention the steel wool mess stuck to my pups. I am really pissed about this whole situation, since I spent just about all the “luxury” money I had for the time being on this bass, and now I’m stuck with a bass I’m not happy with simply b/c I made a bad decision in my choice of techs, and perhaps my used bass purchase. Thing is, I am really having a hard time getting up the nerve to confront him the way that I want to since he is such an amiable person. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I just wish he was a regular old a$$hole like most of the other local techs that I’ve dealt with so it would it easier to address my frustration with him.

    Sorry for the lengthy post, just kinda letting the thoughts flow.

    Thanks for reading folks,
  2. testing1two

    testing1two Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    There are a lot of things to address here:

    1. Regarding factory specs, the tech is right in saying that factory specs are only the beginning. Aggressive players need higher action while many other need much lower action. The point is that a bass with a straight neck and level frets should give you a wide variety of adjustment range.

    2. If you paid to have the frets leveled and dressed, then you didn't get what you paid for. Keep in mind he may have stopped short of completely leveling the frets because doing so would have filed them down to almost nothing. But if you only paid for a setup then he probably did the best setup he could without addressing the frets.

    3. The maple veneers for the neck shims are a very nice touch, don't throw them away. Most people use business cards. If you have the frets leveled you'll want those shims handy.

    4. Using tape as a shim material was a shortcut and not what I would call a professional standard for repair. Cutting into your neck was careless. A repairman should work on every instrument with the same confidence and respect, whether it's an MIM jazz bass or a real '62.

    5. Turnaround time is a fact of life. Good techs are busy and usually have lead times anywhere from 1-6 weeks depending on the difficulty of the work. You have a slightly different issue: your tech has a day job which means his primary responsibility is to the furniture shop. Some professional techs offer rush service but expect to pay a premium for stepping to the front of the line.

    6. It's always frustrating to not get what you paid for. But don't let your frustration take your eye off the prize, which is to have a bass that plays the way you want it to play. It's ok to tell him you're not comfortable with the tape and knife marks on your neck and the incomplete fret leveling. But you need to have an open discussion about what can be done to make the bass play to your satisfaction and you need to say that because this is the 3rd or 4th time the bass has been brought to him, you need to be put at the front of the line.

    Did I miss anything? Oh yes, as always YMMV, IMHO, ASAP, ETC...
  3. Jo6Pak


    May 2, 2007
    Some techs are obviously better than others. When trying someone new, you are taking a chance they know what they are doing. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. I've run into a couple piss-poor techs in my day, most of us probably have. I chalked the experiences up to just that, experience. I also never let either of the two morons touch another instrument or mine. Sorry you're out whatever he charged you for the bogus work. You could ask for some or all of it back, but I wouldn't let him touch your bass again. He's already had enough chances to get it right. Try and find another, reputable tech and give him a shot at it. I do all my own work now and if I can't do it (beyond my capability or not willing to spring for the tools), it doesn't get done. I'm not a working pro, so I can live with less than perfect instruments. Good luck Bro'...
  4. jazzmonkey


    Mar 7, 2010
    Yeah, factory specs may be a beginning for some folks, but after about 6 years of playing bass, I am well acquainted with my particular touch when playing, so I knew exactly what I was looking for, and I know that the Fender factory specs complement my style well. I always go for that, even on non-Fenders. And being that this is a Fender bass, I expect nothing less than the bass to be able to take said setup and buzz only when I dig in. It’s like buying a clock radio, reading the manual on its features, and then finding out that it doesn’t have those features, or your particular unit is having issues with them, what a rip!

    When I say buzz, it’s just that, buzz, not rattle, not clank, I’m sure you all know what I mean, that shimmering type of buzz that really shows up in the amp, almost like distortion.

    He told me the neck was really straight without any twist, and I have also verified this. There is no reason that this bass shouldn't be able to setup to my preference after getting proper fretwork.

    Oh yeah, the frets on this thing are HUGE. You can tell if you look closely at the pics, they are super wide, and very tall, so they have plenty of room to work.

    Maybe I wasn't exactly clear about this, but the guitar work portion is part of the same business as the furniture restoration shop, not his personal gig, so it certainly shouldn't be a subordinate priority. And as far as the charge goes, he charges less for a whole fret job than he does for a setup, and since he was working on the frets and the bridge, he charged me for a setup. I found it odd that a setup would be more, but he describes the setup with polishing, replacing string(price of strings not included), intonation, cleaning fingerboard, and minor fret dress if necessary, I forget what else, but there are a few things more.

    The last thing I told him was that I wanted it to setup to fender owner’s manual specs without buzzing, the first thing I asked for what to have the frets leveled and dressed, but he didn’t want to do that right off the top. I don't understand why, I have read from many people in forums that believe that even many new necks benefit greatly from this, and really reputable posters too, people who have done detailed pictorals of their own fret-jobs. It makes perfect sense to me. These frets need it, I know it.

    He told me that he uses micro calipers and measures each fret and gets them all the same height. That seems like it's only good in theory, only it takes no account of the fingerboard itself, which essentially dictates the height of the frets more than the frets themselves since they are seated in the board. This method only levels the frets relative to the board on an individual basis, while using a radius block levels the frets relative to each other, which is what you want. Maybe he doesn’t have a radius block, I dunno.

    I forgot to mention that the bass came with a brand new set of DR SS lo-riders, and he ended up breaking the A string, and I understand why, it’s likely to happen when un stringing and restringing while doing work. The problem is that he didn’t tell me about it. First time I came to pick it up after 2 weeks, I was playing in the shop, and noticed that the A string was slightly different looking in tint. He’s like, “oh yeah, I broke a string, but I had a set of DRs that I took that A string from.” They weren’t stainless though, and that blew his cover, I don’t think he was planning on telling me. Plus I think it was a Hi-Beam, not a Lo-rider.

    I kept the veneer. He did do a good job fashioning these 2 pieces.

    On one hand, I like the guy, and he has so much time in this thing already, I will feel so guilty asking for some money back.

    On the other hand, I only had this bass for 3 days before I took it in to him, then waited for a month to get my bass back with bonus neck heel scratches and steel wool shavings on the pups, complete with original buzz. Great, the work is guaranteed, so I can bring it back in to wait more time for more scratches and steel wool with minimal improvement in buzz.
  5. jkramer5


    Jul 14, 2008
    Fairfield, CA
    If I were you, I'd address my concerns, if at that point you feel comfortable asking for a refund of some kind fine. Then I'd let him know that that's the last time he'll see your money. It doesn't fix the problems and sloppy work he did, but it's about all you can do. Fine another tech, explain your issues with the last one and let him know fully what you want and expect for your dollar.

    This guy is sloppy with something that gets held in the hand and that kind of work is a no go in my book. No matter what the pedigree of the instrument, it's yours and he should treat it with the respect that deserves.
  6. jazzmonkey


    Mar 7, 2010
    Thanks for the replies you all. I have yet to write him an email cause I'm pretty busy now with end of semester projects and graduation is just around the corner. I come back with an update when I do.

  7. jazzmonkey


    Mar 7, 2010

    I wasn't going to post an update out of laziness and I didn't think anyone would really benefit from it, but it seems that not posting one has come back to haunt me.

    Regardless, I ended up taking the bass back to the tech for the third time, and wouldn't you know it, third time is the charm. I gave him a bunch of s**t and voiced my dissatisfaction. He ended giving me first priority and within the week I got my bass back playing much better. Although I will not be taking anymore work to this fellow, he did make things right in the end.

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