Is this right for you? Let's explore 12 things you'll need to understand and master as a guitar tech. After absorbing this overview, you'll be able to answer that question for yourself. I'll describe what to expect if you have a shop where customers come to you for everything from small jobs to major repairs. If you decide to tour as a tech, the basic principles remain the same, though your workbench and tools will have to be streamlined by necessity. On the road, you'd be primarily doing setups backstage before each show, rather than the repairs, mods, and restorations that are the bread-and-butter of a shop.
Keep in mind that developing your physical skills is just one part of the training: Guitar repair also requires strong analytical abilities. For example, it's critical to know what procedure to do first, based on the construction and physics of the guitar, and how this first step will affect each subsequent one. Correctly evaluating the condition of the guitar involves tuning it, taking measurements, and inspecting it for any damage or defects. For acoustic and hollowbody guitars, you must always examine the braces and other interior components, looking for cracks, separations, and other types of damage. If you find any structural problems, they must be repaired first. Again, understanding how to evaluate a guitar before you begin any work is a fundamental part of your training. A skilled instructor can show you how to do this based on decades of hands-on experience.
The more you know about an individual's playing style, the easier it is to set up or repair the guitar to match it. And it's worth the extra effort: Once you've mastered bespoke setups, your customers are likely to bring you more guitars to work on.
Neck resets are a common repair that all professional guitar techs should learn and master. Not only is it part of restoring a guitar, but it's a critical factor that determines whether the guitar will be playable or merely a wall hanger. To get a sense of what's involved in a basic reset, check out my Guitar Shop 101 column " How to Shim a Bolt-On Neck."
To repair top cracks, techs use deep throat clamps and specialized cauls to ensure the crack closes flush when glued. Repairing side cracks involves powerful rare-earth magnets, spool clamps, and cauls. Back cracks are little more complicated because you can't use any clamps. In this case, you'd use rare-earth magnets and cauls to close up the crack.
When repairing top and back cracks, you need to be aware of the braces. If the crack crosses a brace, it's best to reglue the brace at the same time. You'll need some custom cauls to do this, especially for the back.
Bridge repairs are another bread-and-butter job for the qualified tech. Often you can address a playability issue with a good setup, but in some cases a bridge has to be replaced. With electric guitars, this typically involves putting new saddles on a fixed or tremolo-style bridge, or replacing a Tune-o-matic-style bridge that has collapsed from years of downward pressure. I describe the latter in " How to Install a New Tune-o-matic Bridge."
The bridge plate plays an important role in the structural integrity of the guitar's top. Over time it wears out and eventually cracks. If the plate is simply worn out, there are ways to restore it. However, if the plate is cracked, it must be replaced. Otherwise, it will eventually crack the bridge and cause braces to fail.
Replacing the bridge plate can take hours, and just removing it requires several specialized tools, cauls, and equipment. Bridges and bridge plate repairs are fairly common in vintage guitars. I recommend you practice these repairs on several inexpensive guitars to develop your skills before attempting to work on a customer's prized instrument.
When a brace fails in an acoustic guitar, it can cause significant damage. Loose or cracked braces can create body cracks, bridge and bridge plate failure, and a dramatic change in the action. In many cases, this can give the false impression that the guitar has a poor neck angle, when the real issue is brace failure that's causing the top to either collapse or belly up. A loose brace can be reglued, but a cracked brace may have to be replaced. Repairing top braces requires deep throat clamps with brace and top cauls. Never over-clamp a brace. This can damage both it and the soundboard.
At my shop, we first saturate the wood with a 50/50 mix of TiteBond II and water. After cleaning up any excess, we then apply full-strength TiteBond II and clamp the two pieces together. This repair requires custom cauls to prevent damaging the finish and to ensure a solid glue joint. To let the glue completely dry, you'll need to wait 24 to 72 hours before stringing up the guitar.
I'll leave you with one final thought. In the world of lutherie, there are two directions you can follow: guitar building and guitar repair. I can tell you from personal experience that it's very difficult to do both. Building requires a lot of equipment, tools, materials, and money. Repair and restoration doesn't require nearly as much to get started. Building guitars can be very satisfying, but it's tough to make a living, especially given the competition. However, as I mentioned at the start of this article, repair and restoration are always in demand. Well-trained professional guitar technicians can make a great living if they work efficiently, effectively, and intelligently. If the idea of becoming a guitar tech resonates with you, your first step is to acquire hands-on training. Tools and materials will flow from there. Good luck!
Egyptian Hip Hop, meanwhile, four wide-eyed Mancunian hopefuls tipped in the BBC Sound of... poll earlier in the year, are comparable to Klaxons and Battles. Their sun-dappled guitar sound flooded the Queen's Head Stage; funky backbeats toasted an enthusiastic audience freshly arrived, who gave them a pivotal portion of their day. 2b1af7f3a8