So, you found the deal of the century. You've come across an instrument either through eBay, private sale, dump find, etc...... and you got it for next to nothing or for nothing at all. If you think about it, there is usually a reason for this piece to land where it is. I've seen a lot of eBay buys that have turned out to be really good deals and some that have been disasters. More than likely the main reason is the original owner never had any setup work done and figured it to be a bad piece.The worst case scenario is that the instrument had been abused, the owner never disclosed the problems and now you have it with a costly shipping charge to send it back and are having trouble getting in touch with the sender. You've got to be ready to play this game and realize that getting burnt is a possibility.
Now, I'm not going into how to play this game but more into the instrument itself. Many times customers have the instrument that they need to get checked out and will bring it over after receiving them. Often with the complaint of high action.There have been times that everything looks good from the outside but not on the inside. Loose bracing on acoustics, neck angles that are off, pickups or controls that are dead requiring a complete gutting of the electronics, etc.....Now, it's starting to add up as far as repair goes and the customer is wondering how cost efficient it was to get the piece.
Well, you get the piece over to be checked out. You're hoping for the best and figure that since it didn't cost much, you don't want to put much into it. All well and good in theory, but now, it's time for reality. When it comes to doing a repair, it doesn't make a difference whether the piece cost a lot or a little, the same work goes into the repair with the same amount of time. In fact, I take that back. The cheap overseas acoustic (electric) can sometimes actually take more time to do the same repair than if it is being done to a well built piece. Low quality control at the factory, poor gluing practices, bad materials from the start and a host of other skipped steps in the building process, all contribute to the repairs down the road to require more time and effort to correct. Unfortunately, the customer wants to keep the cost down. There is still one factor that remains, it still takes at least the same amount of time on the cheap instrument as the higher priced one. Just because the instrument costs less doesn't mean the price is adjusted accordingly. Having talked to other repair techs around the country, there are some that even raise the initial price to make sure that they are covered when the unforeseen damage rears its ugly head half way through the repair and re-adjust the price down if everything goes as planned. Not a practice that is common but probably should be. The customer has to realize that on these 'got it at the right price' instruments can actually cost them more than if they had gone and bought a new piece from the local music store. Granted, that is not possible at times because the instrument that they wanted cannot be had locally, is discontinued from the factory and there is no other way to get one or the customer can't afford the new one and is trying to get one at a price they can afford. In this case, fine, but expect that there can be unexpected repairs that can show up after the job gets started as can happen at anytime and on any piece. If it's possible, you may be able to get some of the work done and wait on having the rest of the work done to be able to get things started and moving in the right direction without breaking the bank all in one shot. On very inexpensive instruments, there may be a work around that you would never do on a Martin, Gibson, etc.... that could be more cost effective and still accomplish what needs to be done. It may not be the most cosmetically appealing repair but at least it's another option that may work for your budget. Ask the repair tech when you are given a estimate. A good tech will not be offended by such a request and should be willing to come up with another option, if possible, and be able to explain why or why not it could work. This can't happen on every instrument because, depending on the work needed, with the way one repair will effect another on how it is done, may just not be possible. For those that are willing to play the game and know the risk, they make out fine. For the first time buyer on eBay or the free instrument given to them from another person-type customer, be prepared. If the instrument has been sitting around for while with the string tension pulling on the neck all that time, the repair can start to add up
OK, hopefully, everything has gone right and you got the instrument that you wanted and repairs were minimal. Everything worked out perfect and your cost stayed down. But, in those times where this is not the case, realize the costs can add up.I know a lot of techs will adjust the price to help out the customer but this practice is now disappearing. Too many times, I have advised customers to cut their losses and not put anything into the instrument and return it to the place of purchase. With this advise not being followed, the customer prays for the best and hopes the costs stay down. Time is the problem. I have seen where an instrument had been poorly repaired before the customer gets it and now you have to factor in that you, now, have to undo a bad repair and re- do the repair to correct things. It actually takes more time now rather than to just tackle the repair from it's onset. If you are being advised to not have the repair done, take the advice and listen to it. You may want to have another opinion on it which is fine but it's your decision. You will be the one covering the bill so you have the last say on it. If the repair has been started and more damage has been discovered that hadn't been seen before, you decide whether to go forward or put it on hold. If you decide to stop things, realize that there has been time spent on the instrument all ready and this will need to be covered. Don't expect a tech to put time on it and eat the time spent just because you decided to stop the project. This is costly to the tech that could have been working on someone else's instrument when you were advised not to go forward with the repair in the first place. There are those customers that feel that, seeing that the repair was stopped without completion, that they should not have to pay for anytime spent on it. All well and good for the customer but for the repairman, the frustration is enormous. There are only so many hours to a week that the repairman can make a paycheck and if the hours are now not covered, it's extra hours put in to make up the difference. Never mind that, the next time the customer walks through the door, the price may be pushed up on the next repair to try and make up the loss on the first repair to whatever degree. And if you left the last repair hanging on the tech, he may be unwilling to do anymore work for you period. There is a certain amount of responsibility on the customer to keep things fair. Don't expect the repair tech to just eat the time.
I'm not trying to scare any one off by getting these pieces. There are some wonderful pieces out there to be had that just need someone to care enough to resurrect them and start using them again, especially the older vintage pieces. They may not be the big name or high-ticket price piece but are special in their own unique or different way. They may hold a place in a companies history that makes it unique with the way it was built or the woods that were used at the time. These are solidly built pieces that, at times, sound real nice on their own merit and sometimes, either matches that high priced item tonally and possibly sounds better when set up correctly and brought back to life. Some of the old Harmony's and such, have solid wood bodies and real ebony or rosewood fingerboards that have incredible color to them or beautiful figuring to the wood that you don't find in most models today. I've seen ebony fingerboards that were not dyed and are completely black with no streaks to them at all. Real nice spruce tops on acoustics with nice straight grain. A lot of times these days, the ebony fingerboards are dyed to bring a nice even tone to the color and also because there is a rarity of good naturally solid colored boards to be had by anyone. These companies used these materials because they were readily available. Granted, these materials were not used on the low end of their models but the high end that the companies pushed out really need to be looked at closer. Although, these days from what I'm seeing, the prices are now starting to climb on these higher end models which was bound to happen. There are getting to be fewer and fewer people that can afford the higher end pieces such as vintage or new Martins, Gibsons, Fenders, Guilds and so on. When this happens, the next affordable market are these low end companies' top of the line models. Eventually, these will get out of range for some. Hopefully, these people find a nice instrument at the yard sale or on eBay at the right price and it doesn't need much work. Just realize that it can happen that you need to put more money into these at times than you were possibly thinking of putting into it to get it up and running properly. It may seem like a crap shoot on whether you get burnt or not, but getting the instrument to a qualified repair tech, during the allowed evaluation time, will help to alleviate possible trouble down the road and possibly help you at not getting stuck with a lemon that needs too much work with not enough funds to back the repair needed to bring it up to your expectations. Learn as much as you can about a certain model or style of instrument. Do the research. Punch into Google or Yahoo a certain model you are looking for and check the first two or three pages of hits to learn about that model. You'll probably find a few that are up for sale at different music stores and start getting a general idea of what they ae going for these days. Then, at least, you have some information to know whether the instrument on eBay or from the neighbor is a good price or not. You may be able to come up with a review or two about a certain model and get some one else's opinion that may be helpful on your decision. You may find that you land with a different make or model that you haven't even heard of but worked out great with the budget and sounds just as good as the other brand you were thinking of getting. There are those times that you actually pay a little more than what you were expecting but if you studied up enough on things,you'll find that you are willing to pay the extra but land with a better instrument than you were willing to pay for in the first place. All because you did the research.
© Copyright 2021 Bay Fretted Instrument & Repair All Rights Reserved