Ever had a Bad "Pro" Setup?

ckfoxtrot

Member
Messages
3,915
Any horror stories out from anyone here about bad guitar setups or anyone want to commiserate with me? :rotflmao

At the end of last year I had a local/family owned shop work on a few of my guitars. I usually do my own setup work but I knew the nut slots could use some fine tuning and I didn't want to tackle it myself on my "nicer" guitars, even though I have the tools necessary and have crafted a bone nut from scratch on an older/cheap guitar I have. I was also pretty busy with work at the time and my back was bugging me a lot, to the point where I didn't want to be hunched over my guitars working on them.

I guess I should have known better than to take in multiple guitars at the same time.

I got the guitars back with a range of issues, like the pole pieces being covered in metal shavings on one guitar, rough frets in spots on a guitar after the shop said a few frets needed to be leveled, chips on the top side/back of nut slots on 2 guitars, strings binding in nuts slots (one string on one guitar even creaking/pinging at the nut during bends), overall questionable setups, bad intonation, etc.

How about anyone else? Was I just super unlucky? :facepalm

I've been sorting these issues out since then but it has definitely been pretty irritating. I don't know howTF a shop gives a guitar back to a customer with metal shavings stuck to the pickups. :FM
 
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dazco

Member
Messages
14,400
I setup my own and have forever But because of that i can easily see how having a pro set yours up is a coin flip. No one's ideal setup is the next guy's ideal, and even if you tell the tech what u want there are as many ideas of what u mean when you describe it to him as there are techs. Having done all my own setup all the way to having done many refrets i think i have a pretty good idea of how to get what I want, and i have many years of experience. Yet i would not tell anyone that i can set thier guitar up perfectly for them. I can for ME, but people and guitars just vary so wildly that i wouln't feel comfortable reading the person or assuring them thier guitar is capable of what they want w/o major work that goes beyond a basic setup and into fret work. Or even worse, a slightly warped neck or other unpredictable issue.

So it's just my opinion, but when u take your guitar to a tech for setup, unless the guitar is just way out of wack and will therefore benefit from a basic setup that will be much better to most any owner, theres always a fair chance u will be unhappy or at least not particularly thrilled. Especially if you are nit picky and/or the guitar is already close to it's potential w/o major work.
And of course the other hurdle....finding a tech thats good. Many aren't. Theres one here in L.A. thats well known and good, yet early on a saw a guitar he refretted and it was one of the worse fret jobs i ever saw ! He's gotten a lot better and now has a crew but had you run into him at that point chances are pretty high judging by what i saw that u would have been unhappy with the work. Unfortunately thats not uncommon and guitar techs are not regulated by govt like contractors and doctors etc etc. You can just put up a sign and be open for business.
 

CanuckChris

Member
Messages
1,608
Not horror stories, so much as getting a guitar back after having a nut install done and finding the set-up was just "meh" at best. Nothing wrong with the guitar, just not set-up to my preferences even though I communicated what those were. Since the set-up came "free" with the nut install, I wasn't too bummed about it, just mildly annoyed that a newly set-up guitar required yet another new set-up :D
 

Amargosa

Member
Messages
39
Had two bad experiences with one place. Dropped of my new American Performer Tele and a Les Paul that was a family treasure. The Tele needed slightly lower action and the Les Paul G string was binding a little at the nut. I asked him to just clean up the nut slot.

On the Paul, he felt the nut slots were too low and took it upon himself to replace the nut without telling me and damaged the neck paint. Then he tried to touch it up.



He sent me to a "pro" in Los Angeles to fix the paint. The "pro" sprayed so much overspray that you can no longer read the serial number or year on the back of the headstock. I sold it at a major loss as it looked like a repaired neck break. I'm heartbroken as it was a family treasure.

The Tele had "too much paint" in the neck pocket so the first guy tried to scrape it away to lower the neck. He screwed up the finish around the neck pocket and neck in the area. Then he tried to touch up the blonde finish with green paint. The pro he sent me to did a lousy job on that one as well. I've lost half the value of that guitar. At least it didn't kill that guitar's soul. I've kept it and it is an excellent instrument... in spite of being abused by two "professionals".
 

seward

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,037
I don't think I've ever gotten a botched setup, but I've paid for enough setups that didn't really seem to make the guitar any more playable that I'm now trying to do it myself.

Truss rod (for neck curvature and action), string height (for action), and the other thing (for intonation). What am I missing?
 

Calebz

Member
Messages
1,539
I don't think I've ever gotten a botched setup, but I've paid for enough setups that didn't really seem to make the guitar any more playable that I'm now trying to do it myself.

Truss rod (for neck curvature and action), string height (for action), and the other thing (for intonation). What am I missing?
Nuts and maybe saddles.

Then it's on to fretwork!
 

monty

Member
Messages
22,033
I've had a couple. Once, picked up my guitar after a full set up and while at the cash strummed a couple chords and the thing was fretting out- I'm not talking about while bending I'm talking hitting chords.
One shop had my Strat in and my Wolfgang. Strat came back decked and the Wolfgang with a full on float- the opposite of what they should be, lol.
 

RJLII

Member
Messages
10,286
Yep. I have a 2011 ES335 I bought new. The action was pretty high from Gibson so I took it to a local guy that once did setups for a regional luthier and then at at a large local retailer. He did a splendid job and the guitar played low and fast. A couple years later I developed a back buzz on the low E and took it to a local luthier. He ranted that the guy had set the action way too low and it needed a new nut. The price was fair and he had a stellar reputation so I said go for it. He did a fantastic job with the work. He matched the yellowed lacquer perfectly, but had the action set about right for a D-45. It plays like a flat top. When I told him I wanted it to play low and fast like before, the response was “I’m a musician, not a magician”. I need to find a different guy to tweak it. I love the guitar but it plays like a truck now.
 

Telechamp

Member
Messages
2,141
I took my 2014 Ric 360/6 in for a setup by my usual Sam Ash tech at the time - who normally did good work. 60 bucks. I left him explicit instructions on how I wanted it set up. After I got it home, I still wasn't happy with the set up, and he obviously didn't do some of the things I had asked him to do - i.e. action height, high E string slipping off the edge of the fretboard, loose G tuning key, etc.

So I took it back in to a different (second) SA in town a little over a month later (this was the problem) - and this guy did do it right, but charged me again - 60 more bucks - for yet another setup. I guess my problem was that I waited over 30 days to take it back in for the 2nd (correct) setup.

I protested about the second charge - in that the original SA guy didn't do it right the first time. But the new tech said he didn't have a choice - that Sam Ash required the second charge, as more than 30 days had passed. No way around it, he said..

Learned my lesson there. If you're not happy with the first setup, take it right back in - Don't dilly dally around...

'My bad' I guess - on waiting too long to take it back in to the second SA guy - but they still could have worked with me a little, I think. I'm a pretty good customer at both local SA's.
 
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Brian N

Member
Messages
1,676
I've had bad experiences but they don't compare with most of the heartbreaks I've read in this thread so far. Both times I took a guitar to them and told them what I wanted (nut slots, truss rod, a bit of fret leveling) and they just ended up adjusting the truss rod and charging me for a basic setup. Two different luthiers at two different shops. Those were the only times I've gotten a pro setup done. Still wish I could find a decent luthier to take my guitars to.
 

bigben55

Member
Messages
2,417
I paid for exactly ONE pro set up. I cant say it wasnt perfect, just not perfect for me! I told him "high action, ample neck relief" to go along with my 11-50 strings. Got not enough of either. Apparently the tech couldn't fathom me wanting my action THAT high or relief in the .016-.020 range. People go to techs to get super low action with no fret buzz. I literally cannot play ultra low action guitars, and need a decent amount of string tension.

I do my own setups, and they're always perfect...for me!
 

ckfoxtrot

Member
Messages
3,915
I've had a couple. Once, picked up my guitar after a full set up and while at the cash strummed a couple chords and the thing was fretting out- I'm not talking about while bending I'm talking hitting chords.
One shop had my Strat in and my Wolfgang. Strat came back decked and the Wolfgang with a full on float- the opposite of what they should be, lol.
It's weird, the shop I went to set up the saddles differently on 2 of my Fender Strats. On one, they adjusted them how you'd normally expect, with the heights more or less staggered according to the fretboard radius, but each saddle itself flat/level. On the other Strat (the one that came back with metal shavings all over the pole pieces), they titled each saddle from side-to-side to follow the fretboard radius, in addition to adjusting their heights.

Maybe that might be a preference for some people, but I've always seen it recommended that the saddles be flat and had never actually seen a guitar set up like that in person.
 

musicman1

Member
Messages
3,932
I have some meh set ups too. Nothing bad but i still had to fine tune string height and action which of course means intonation too. Its at the point where i just get done the work i need and i do the set up.
 

ckfoxtrot

Member
Messages
3,915
I have some meh set ups too. Nothing bad but i still had to fine tune string height and action which of course means intonation too.
Ya, I think some fine tuning after a setup is to be expected to some extent, but the nut slots and frets should be issue free.
 

hunter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,783
I have paid someone to do crappy fretwork on a guitar. Once. And they left metal behind that killed the neck pup along the way. Had to take it to some one else to get the frets fixed and send the pup for a rewind. So yeah.

Fortunately now I have someone who is good. He is expensive but every time I get ready to complain about the cost, I remember the episode with the other guy. Paying for peace of mind I guess. And quality.
 

TS808

Member
Messages
1,659
I had also taken my strat to a family owned shop to have the nut replaced as well as a setup done. Normally I do my own setups but with the nut needing slotted, I figured I didn't want to chance it. Took the guitar in and the owner said his son would do the setup telling me he was "really great". Got the guitar back after two weeks (yes two weeks and several phone calls) and the nut was not even the correct size, and the bridge saddles on my strat were all tilted (not perfectly horizontal to the baseplate of the tremolo). I was able to fix the tremolo and the saddles but wound up taking it to another tech for a new nut.
 

Tootone

Member
Messages
5,722
If a luthier doesn't have a testimonials portfolio on his web page I won't employ him.

Yes, bad previous experiences. Nothing horrific, but had to then pay another guy to get it done properly.
 

Chicago Slim

Member
Messages
4,056
I have bought used guitars that had a Professional setup, that was almost unplayable. I couldn't see anything wrong with the guitars, so I bought them and fixed them. While teaching at a music shop, I was their neck tester and sometimes made adjustments. I was considered the pickiest person that they new.
 




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