Sometimes All You Need is Just a Little Patience... but Nobody Needs Axl Rose.
Y'know sometimes being a guitar tech has parallels with Big Daddy Kane who once spake "Pimpin'... It ain't easy."
Apart from the washboard abs, fabulous hair, unmatched charisma and ass that just wont quit that are all prerequisites for this biz. There is one quality above all others that is required to do the job and do it right.
Trouble shooting is the name of this game, and that can mean multiple assemblies and disassemblies of any and all components. Woods, bone, plastic, surface finishes, electronics, taken apart altered and put back together again and again, till it's as optimal as possible.
This may seem a tedious work to some, but it's just the way it goes. There are of course many methods/systems of work flow I utilise to decrease the time spent on an instrument, but you simply cannot predict the weirdness you may find in any riff stick.
Incorrect nuts, truss rod issues, pickups incorrectly polarised, cold solders, factory defects, an old man fashioning a kayak out of a log... Well not that last one but you get the gist.
Let's look at an example of a standard...ish job. Dig if you will this First Act Sheena. It looks pretty good now but thats because it's at the end of the process. Here's a point form run down of the steps taken on this troubled riffer.
Initial inspection/evaluation, confirmation of electronic operation, separation of neck and body, truss adjustment to straighten neck, plastic nut removal, neck tape up, fret marking, fret level, fret marking, re crowning, 120/180/400/1000/1500/2000 grit and paste re-polish, bone blank cut and shaped, string position measured marked and cut, body cleaned/polished, neck cleaned polished, neck/body rejoined, restring, action check, nut file/cut adjust and polish, neck relief adjustment, saddle action adjustment, tuning/intonation and final sound test.....
That was a lot.
But, that's just the regular stuff. Now the real fun begins because sound check?
Discovery and testing of pickup fault, discussion with owner about options followed by implementation of decisions, removal of faulty pickup and old electronic harness, discovery of damage to pickup mount, file and refinish of pickup mount, confirmation of recommended schematic wiring, installation and wiring of pickup and harness, re tune, sound test aaaaaaaaaannnnnnndddddddd ground noise.
Sooooooooo back on the bench with a multimeter conductivity test and discovery of no ground to bridge. Not even a hole with a missing wire. So, strings off, bridge removed, new grounding portal drilled, ground wire installed and bridge re-seated, confirm conductivity, strings back on re-tune, sound test aaaaaaannnnddddd.... We're done! Final polish and back to the owner.
Thats a fair old bunch of works but I have to let you know this wasn't even a really tough one. This a base sample of the kind of stuff I do on the reg to make sure things work well, and isn't even an in depth explanation of how each step was met.
So as you can see patience is crucial to success in this endeavour. You have to methodically approach each individual instrument and not get discouraged by set backs. For some this might seem too much hassle but for me its so satisfying to get a great result for the owner. Making these guitars riff as hard or harder than ever before.
Also Axl Rose, not my cup of tea. Thats not even how you spell axle.
Till next time stay safe and riff hard.