Ottawa's guitar repair shop

The Devil is in the details

The golden age of guitars has arrived. The incredible popularity of the instrument and its music woke up a manufacturing monster almost a century ago. It took a long time to get to the point we're at today, but the combination of globalization, giant freighters, CNC machines, automated manufacturing techniques and the internet has thrust us into an age when a very good guitar does not have to be an expensive guitar. You can walk into most large music stores, try an instrument made in Indonesia and find yourself wondering why you would pay for a Western made instrument. To be honest, I sometimes wonder how the western guitar companies are going to survive.

This being said, there are instruments that will always feel, play and sound better than any guitar you can pick off a shelf at a store, in a factories custom shop or a techs bench. This is an instrument who has received a Luthiers touch. And we, Luthiers, will be around for centuries to come.

Let's use the example of a partscaster (a guitar, usually stratocaster or telecaster style, made from manufactured parts such as Warmoth or AllParts). If you order all of your parts, unpack everything and start assembling the puzzle, you can easily be playing the instrument within two to three hours if you've done it before, maybe half a day if it's your first The guitar will feel OK, but it won't feel magical. I can easily assemble an AllParts guitar in a matter of an hour and a half, but I can also pay attention to all the things that I feel matter in the end product. Pay attention to every screw, sharp edge, solder point, adjustment, piece of hardware, fret end, crown and slot. When I put together a parts guitar, I plan for 20 hours of work, because it matters. If a set screw is a hair to long, and I can see that the musician could feel it, I take it out, shorten it, remove the burrs and put it back in. The frets on these necks are usually perfectly level, but the fret ends and fretboard edges are machined to a nice clean edge. Even though this looks great, it feels terrible. Every fret end has to be shaped, with a small file, so that no straight edges are present. Then they have to be sanded and polished, and often levelled. The edges of the fretboard have to be broken, just enough to feel like they were worn in. The bone nut has to be not only shaped, but polished to a mirror finish.

And the details add up. Every washer and screw can be made better than when it left the factory. By the time the deed is done, the instrument truly feels magical.