The Workbench

This one’s on the other bench.

2

Wow!! Looks ugly..... As always, I'm anxious to see the progress you make,Curt!

4

Wow! That's a heck of a body of work!

5

Thanks, I only added projects of interest so those are just a few since I've been open.

6

Hey Curt, how is the future of luthiers looking to you? The local father/son operation here closed shop a few years ago. Do you see many apprentice or trade operations preparing the next generation of luthiers?

I keep company with a small group of very crafty guys, who can make anything out of anything. Toolmakers, mechanics, cabinetmakers. I don’t see anyone coming along to fill the void when they retire. My sons have no interest in making or repairing things.

Looking at the crazy skills required to disassemble a guitar neck just made me curious.

7

There will always be people fixing guitars but I do think that part of the business will start to die over the next decade. When you think about it there are an infinite amount of tweaks that are performed on guitars and probably ten different approaches for each tweak.

One question I constantly get is that I should be teaching someone and then I answer we'll start with your guitar. I think the problem we are having today is how narrow our education system has become. Kids aren't being taught how to problem solve or how to work with their hands. I had wood shop in 7th grade, metal shop that included welding freshman year along with auto shop and typesetting. This wasn't done in an isolated vo-tech it was in the main school and everyone had to take a mix of classes. The vo-tech approach isolates kids that wouldn't normally want to work with wood or metal.

The repair tasks aren't difficult they just need to be thought through and it requires intense focus, distractions lead to big mistakes. In my case I'm completely self taught which isn't totally true because all those shop classes taught me how to think. From what I see today is a lot of talking and not a lot of thinking.

It's not hard at all, no fear.

8

The other part to this is who should be training people to do this work?

Each major manufacturer has a process to be certified but none of them offer any training that I'm aware of. Taylor has online information and training specific to their guitars and you are required to score 100% to be certified. If you fail you need to wait a year to take the test again. The problem is you could have clubs for hands with fancy book learnin' smarts and they would qualify you. I asked about in house training and they said they don't really do that.

Some of the schools I read about are more feel good training, they have you assemble a guitar from parts already cut out. I'm sure there are good schools that get you 70% where you need to be but there are so many variables that it is impossible to teach everything. Every guitar company out there builds their guitars uniquely and most are constantly changing how they do it.

Most small shops can't afford to hire anyone or have an apprentice. My insurance is currently 8K if I have anyone else working in the shop at any capacity it goes to 12K. If I hire one employee I have to have Workmans comp, 3K and then I would be spending several hours a week doing paperwork for 941's and everything else. Then after all that I would have to pay an additional $500.00 each year for the privilege of paying those 941's and all the other withholding stuff as they don't accept checks.

The future of this business will probably be one person home shop operations where the majority of the work being setups, pickup swaps, frets and all that. Should each manufacturer train outside people to service their products? And if the answer is yes then how far back to they cover and what would the class be limited to.

Years ago Baxter offered to host my website which he did graciously for several years which I recently took that burden from him. When some of my close friends saw the site they thought I was crazy for giving away too much information. I'm trying my best to share the process that goes deeper than setups with pictures and no words. It's all there, not as a look at what I did but I hope people say I can do that and they have a reference to follow.

I've reached my word quota for the month...

9

You should have no regrets. You are transparent in your processes and if people want to try and do it themselves, have at it. If they want it done right, they'll make an appointment with you, or someone local, hopefully as good but I doubt it.

Your work is awesome and I think people recognize that. From what I've heard/seen your pricing is very fair, as well. It's sad that work like this only comes from the few specialists that still value the trade and love what they do but that will keep most of those people doing a pretty decent job, one would think. Just seems to be less of them.

It's also sad to see that laws and insurance companies and such has made your mentoring process un-affordable and less attractive. Everyone needs a slice of the pie and greed sets the standard.

Keep doing you.

10

Wonderful repair log as always. Is that glitter on the neck??

I am an amateur guitar builder/repairer, who is also self-taught. (I'm currently refurbishing an old Peavey Reactor Telecaster copy that I got from a garage sale for $10!). I've built several guitars from a classical to hollowbody and solid electrics, and plan to build more when I can carve out some time .

I was struck by the comment..

"When some of my close friends saw the site they thought I was crazy for giving away too much information."

There is already a wealth of information out there on guitar repair. For example, there are many detailed YouTube videos on refretting, spray finishing, removing a bridge, etc. BUT...that doesn't replace actual experience working with tools, jigs, materials, glues, and finishes. There are an infinite number of little "issues" that can arise in the process of doing something - for example you remove an acoustic bridge to find it has cracked (what do you do?). So, like Curt said, it's all about problem solving and testing out ideas, seeing if they work or not. You should see all the jigs I have laying around my shop that I built on the fly to solve some problem or other.

I remember when I was learning how to carve a guitar neck. I decided I didn't want to try out my lack of skills on a nice piece of mahogany. So - I made a neck from some lumberyard pine boards! Came out great and I still have it around the shop as a momento.

11

You should have no regrets. You are transparent in your processes and if people want to try and do it themselves, have at it. If they want it done right, they'll make an appointment with you, or someone local, hopefully as good but I doubt it.

Your work is awesome and I think people recognize that. From what I've heard/seen your pricing is very fair, as well. It's sad that work like this only comes from the few specialists that still value the trade and love what they do but that will keep most of those people doing a pretty decent job, one would think. Just seems to be less of them.

It's also sad to see that laws and insurance companies and such has made your mentoring process un-affordable and less attractive. Everyone needs a slice of the pie and greed sets the standard.

Keep doing you.

– Suprdave

I agree 100% with Suprdave here. I'm still amazed at the great Hot Rod purple nitro finish you applied to my 68 Corvette. Thank you!

12

Curt, you do amazing work, and are a tremendous credit to human ingenuity and resourcefulness. Your observations on the public schools system is spot on. College and tech schools have been progressively dumbed down, to accommodate the poor education of students showing up on their doorstep.

I was in the electronics service and repair industry for many years, and I got to see many groups of young people entering the workforce in that field. I had brilliant young people, who had amazing recall of technical materials, but with very few exceptions, had to be totally trained in the most basic tasks (ie: soldering, drilling, wire harness lacing, even using the correct screw drivers and other hand tools). I had to constantly remind myself that these wonderful young people were blameless, and that we as a society had let them down, and had allowed this to happen little by little.

When we cut shop, music, and art programs (due to a lack of funding), we set industry up, to bridge the gaps. Every one of these programs teach critical and abstract thinking, that can be adapted to tasks that come up in higher education and on the job, post High School. The lack of basic skills was very deep, I ran into people who couldn't read an analog watch, use basic hand and shop tools, or even clean up the shop properly. There were exceptions, of course, but it was indicative of a huge underlying problem, that had to be dealt with by additional training from industry.

I don't believe that training a young adult in basic skill sets, has the same impact on the person, as learning these skills earlier in life does. The window of opportunity, when the brain is most malleable, is during childhood and adolescents. Skills learned during these ages are remembered for life, miss the window, and the impact can be far less.

13

I agree 100% with Suprdave here. I'm still amazed at the great Hot Rod purple nitro finish you applied to my 68 Corvette. Thank you!

– BuddyHollywood

that is really striking! i imagine it must be tough to find the right colors for a design as unusual as the 'vette. it even goes with the pickguard's shade of black!

14

It's almost the same with old car restoration -- the really skilled guys are having a hard time getting the next generation interested. Not saying the new/next/young generation is worse... just different. Still there may be a leveling off of interesting the vintage guitar scene for a number of concurrent factors -- oldest thing I own right now is 1974.

Still I would like to see all the cool old guitars (and cars) maintained and appreciated.

15

i think the biggest and seemingly most obvious reason for drop-offs in the guitar market is that the baby-boom demographic bulge is dying out. there just aren't as many new humans coming up, so axiomatically sales will fall. i expect they aren't selling as many saxophones as they did in the heyday of modern jazz, either.

16

My youngest brother teaches a high-end “shop” class in a high school located in a northern suburb of Columbus, OH. They start with basic tools and work up through sophisticated power and computer-driven tools which would be the envy of many shops. His students routinely turn out stunning wood-working projects - including guitars and basses, both from kits and from scratch.

It’s the only such class in the city, and one of few in the state - but it happens.

My 13-year-old granddaughter, who helped me put together a some-assembly-required Red Flyer wagon several years ago (when none of the other grands were interested) regularly surprises and amazes me with her grasp of basic physical, mechanical, and natural principles. She not only retains facts and principles from the generally excellent science education she’s getting in the public schools of Bloomington, IN - she’s also able to use them to logic through new problems as they’re presented. (I am surprised and amazed because it was far from apparent during her early school years that any of this would be of interest to her.)

This week she’s participating in a robotics camp. 13-year-old girls building robots - I love the future!

From observation, I would tend to agree that “millenials” seemed to miss out on a lot of manual, mechanical, technical, and scientific education and training - besides absorbing an abysmal attitude of entitlement and a stunningly poor work ethic. But among the very youngest of that group (depending on how you define it), and those coming in the cohort after them, things may be different.

Out of all the young hires I’ve worked with in newspapers lately, one young woman - now a year out of college - has an incredible knack not only for analyzing and understanding technical issues (in the computer & networking domain), but for seeing how all the parts fit into the whole in the workflow of systems. She has a grasp on the production processes of the entire operation that I rarely find in men twice her age. Thankfully, her boss recognizes her skill set, appreciates how it benefits the enterprise, and has advanced her rapidly to appropriate roles. She’s quick to learn (you show/tell her once, and next time she beats YOU), intuitive and thorough, respectful of the goal and careful about breaking things - but fearless in learning and applying fixes. People underestimate her because of age and gender exactly once.

So a couple of points. I’m hopeful we’ve seen the nadir of disinterest, poor education, and a blasé who-cares attitude on the part of “these kids today” - the future looks brighter for the kids just now coming up, the next batch. And more and more, the best men for the job will turn out to be women - as it always should have been. Of all the social changes of the last several decades, the freedom for girls and women to be who they are, and follow their aptitudes, interests, and talents wherever they want is likely to yield the most (and the most lasting) benefits for all of us.

Also, hand-wringing over the lack of technical, practical, and problem-solving skills on the part of whoever-comes-next seems to ignore whoever has engineered the incredible technical advances of the last few decades. SOMEbody’s got some chops. At least in the computer and software industries - as well as in the burgeoning “maker” community - I suspect it’s all them durn kids we keep chasing off our lawns.

And while on one hand it’s true (or at least a truism) that old guitars and old cars aren’t as compelling to many of the young as they are to us (and why should they be?), and thus that it seems there are fewer experienced technicians to work on them...on the other hand, there have never been more independent builders and luthiers making guitars.

So I don’t know. Ob la di, ob la da.

17

to clarify, i don't think the guitar will die out...i do, however, expect that it will recede into the background somewhat, much as the electric organ has fallen out of use due to synths and lack of applications outside of the industry (when churches have p&w bands, the organ player in the loft is obsolete).

18

There are a lot of independent builders and many assemblers out there today as well, not to mention all the third party builders that manufacturer for the name brands.

19

I operated a wholesale paint and body supply shop for 33 years, the dark years as I remember. Our main supplier DuPont realized that their future in the refinish business depended on an edgamucated workforce so they assisted opening up training centers to train not only painters but more importantly bodymen. It was a struggle for many years because demand in the workforce was so high that they could earn 90K easy working in a shop with very little guidance so why go to school. I think it was one of the reasons DuPont sold the OEM and refinish business.

20

This one is ready to be picked up, it feels and sounds great, I'm happy that it was able to be saved.

21

The guitar was left under a leaking pipe overnight. When Stephen brought it in the wood was spongy.

22

And PolyEster can't get enough of the new record.

23

Polly dyed her hair...please tell me she changed her own top.

24

Same shirt, she decided on hair though.

25

She looks better as a Blonde, good Summer Beach thing going...

Tell us about the new release CD.


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