Luthier for refret in DC / NoVA area?

es446

Member
Messages
15
Yeah I don’t bother with Phil Jacoby any more because he’s so abrasive and his prices are extremely high. I would have gone to Olde Town Lutherie up here before Phil. Jamie does excellent work and is much more interested in what the customer wants.

I am somewhat surprised the work from Phil wasn’t good. That’s usually the one thing that is solid.
That's the weird thing. The first half of the fret job looks good (old frets were pulled without damaging the fretboard, new frets are seated properly).

It's the second half of the fret job that is bad - the crowning, edges, and polishing. That and the surprise 25% unauthorize upcharge at the end where he basically stole money from me. And the whole time his abrasiveness and unwillingness to truly listen just made the whole experience suck.
 

Fireball XL5

Supporting Member
Messages
2,844
That's the weird thing. The first half of the fret job looks good (old frets were pulled without damaging the fretboard, new frets are seated properly).

It's the second half of the fret job that is bad - the crowning, edges, and polishing. That and the surprise 25% unauthorize upcharge at the end where he basically stole money from me. And the whole time his abrasiveness and unwillingness to truly listen just made the whole experience suck.
So sorry to hear about your bad experience and I totally understand your frustration.

I know Philtone uses a PLEK machine, and I assume you paid for that precision technology of a PLEK'd fret job. In addition to leveling, I thought the PLEK also crowns the frets as well?
 
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es446

Member
Messages
15
So sorry to hear about your bad experience and I totally understand your frustration.

I know Philtone uses a PLEK machine, and I assume you paid for that precision technology of a PLEK'd fret job. In addition to leveling, I thought the PLEK also crowns the frets as well?
Yes. I paid for the Plek service but I don’t think he used the Plek to crown the frets. I was excited about the Plek but he downplayed it’s role in the process when I dropped the guitar off and didn’t seem to like that I was excited about the Plek and he said something like “The Plek is only a tool”, so I don’t know if he used it for crowning. If it was used for crowning, then maybe he didn’t program the machine correctly because the crowning is lopsided and has a very sharp hard angle on the bridge facing side of the frets.

Maybe he can use the money he took me from the surprise upcharge on Plek lessons.
 

Jon C

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,057
[…j he said something like “The Plek is only a tool”, […]

That’s a fact, though.

Mindlessly Plekking without more is of no use, nor is it a magic wand. You don’t just toss the guitar on the Plek machine. :idea
 

RayBarbeeMusic

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,756
I’d checkout philtone in Baltimore.
Update.
Got the guitar back. This was an awful experience and I will not use this guy for any kind of work.

The (only) good - the frets were removed carefully without pulling on the rosewood, and the new frets are seated properly. The dead notes it had are gone. When I was in the shop, my initial impression was that the fretwork was okay. It felt rough to my hands but I thought it was maybe because I was not used to the guitar having taller frets.

The bad.

When I finally got home and got to spend more than 10 rushed minutes to inspect the work, I noticed the rough-feel I felt was not just because the guitar had taller frets than what I was used to. The two biggest issues are the final crowning/polish and the edges.

The fret edges were not beveled and smoothed out correctly so moving your hand up and down the neck, you feel little daggers jabbing you in the fingers. I spent a good two hours when I got home filing and polish the fret ends so that it would not stab my fingers.

The worst part is the crowning - something I can't fix and will need to ship the guitar to someone I can actually trust (was trying to avoid shipping it with this job, but alas, here we are).

The crowning (or lack thereof) is absolutely awful. The fret tops are SQUARED off. The worst edge is the side of the frets that face the bridge. The edge of the frets that face the headstock has a tiny bit of curve, but still not enough to call it a proper crowning job. The result is when you move your hand up and down the fretboard, you are hitting a hard edge along the whole side of all the frets (not edges, but the length of each fret itself).

The hard edge is almost 90 degrees on the bridge-facing side of the frets. Additionally, if you look at the frets closely you can see little tooling marks throughout. The polishing was minimal at best. For example, if you play a vibrato with your fingers, it emits a scraping sound - rough like sandpaper.

To add insult to injury, when I went to pay, the final bill was 25% above the written estimate because of additional work he did on the pickup rings THAT I DID NOT ASK FOR. When I told him I would not have approved this if he had asked me first, his response was "time is money". Well, sir, my money comes from my hard work and time spent working - I'm not your free-money tree. I should have been asked if I wanted $100 worth of extra work that had little to do with the fretwork. He did this work anyway and charged me extra money on top of the estimate without my consent.

The final price was $525 plus two day-long drives to Baltimore and time away from work. I could have just shipped it to my regular guys for that kind of money (and possibly less).

From the beginning, I should have trusted my gut. When I arrived at his shop, he immediately began to upsell me services and did not at any time listen to my actual concerns. I asked for a refret and a new nut, and rather than hearing my concerns/desires he did most of the talking and offering so many options that I was overwhelmed.

From my experience, good luthiers do the opposite - they listen more than they talk, and they don't overwhelm you with options that you don't need to make decisions. My request for "smaller vintage frets" was responded to with a plethora of fret catalog part numbers and multiple measurements, that only confused and overwhelmed me. Most of my initial visit he spent time saying my Bigsby-to-bridge break angle wasn't steep enough, and insisted on additional work to correct this. I've had this guitar for years and the string break angle has never caused me problems because I use thick flatwounds.

Sorry this is so long, but this experience sucked. I get a lot of work done on guitars that I buy/sell and was really hoping to find someone local who is excellent and fun to work with. This was an unpleasant and abrasive experience, and the final result was not worth the stress of dealing with an abrasive know-it-all, who doesn't actually know it all. I've got roughly 15+ refrets done over the last 20 years and this ranks at the bottom.

Disclaimer: This is solely my opinion from personal experience. This guy responds to questions like he's used to getting sued, so I want to make sure I cover myself here - this not intended to be statements of facts - just my personal subjective experience/opinions of having my guitar worked on.
If you had done a search on that guy on these boards, or in general, you could have saved yourself the hassle. Cornucopia of horrible experiences well documented.
 

RayBarbeeMusic

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,756
I don’t think he used the Plek to crown the frets.
The Plek wheel crowns as it cuts; you then have to polish.

A Plek is just a tool, and it's best use is running lots of guitars in a short amount of time and, if you know what you're doing, get decent results. Better than a lot of people do by hand, because there are a ton of hacks out there. It's best use is not to get the best fretwork, because it can't.
 

es446

Member
Messages
15
I agree with Phil's statement about the Plek machine only being a tool.

In my experience, the best fret work I've seen are from guys without Plek machines (the Chicago shops and Saul Koll come to mind).
 

es446

Member
Messages
15
If you had done a search on that guy on these boards, or in general, you could have saved yourself the hassle. Cornucopia of horrible experiences well documented.
Lesson learned. Guy stole an extra 25% from me and delivered an unfinished fret job.

And the whole thing about the string-break angle has me laughing now. I didn't have a problem with my string break angle before he insisted on "correcting it", and now that he "fixed it", my low E keeps popping out of the saddle. What a train wreck.
 

twinrider1

Member
Messages
14,005
Sounds like you found your guy but here is another option for anyone looking.
http://johningramguitar.com/
Give John Ingram a call. Just see how you get along over the phone. I haven't used him personally but a friend that is a career musician and that I've known since 7th grade is a happy customer of his. He's in Annapolis, a little further down the road.

Anyone here that has used John Ingram, feel free to add your experiences, positive or negative.
 

Fireball XL5

Supporting Member
Messages
2,844
The Plek wheel crowns as it cuts; you then have to polish.
So if the Plek machine crowns the frets as it cuts, and the Plek is supposedly a precision tool, what would be the explanation for the poor lopsided crowning of the frets the OP described?

I know you've posted here that you've had a lot of experience running a Plek machine, so I'd be curious to get your thoughts?
 
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RayBarbeeMusic

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,756
So if the Plek machine crowns the frets as it cuts, and the Plek is supposedly a precision tool, what would be the explanation for the poor lopsided crowning of the frets the OP described?
Without seeing it, I can't tell you. What I can tell you is, the plek grinder wheel cuts and crowns at the same time; the crown shape is build into the cutter. It is also highly unlikely for the cutting wheel to be that lopsided with relation to the fretboard to create a visibly lopsided crown without doing other damage.

Now, what Jacoby did to it after? God only knows.
 

RayBarbeeMusic

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,756
Not really a helpful comment, but I guess if it makes you feel helpful...
On the contrary. Hopefully it helps the next person who would otherwise do the same thing, i.e., take some recommendation off a board without researching the recommendation. If the OP had researched Jacoby, he would have seen quite a few posts here and around the net about bad experiences that mirrored exactly the experience he ended up having. That was avoidable.
 

eoengineer

Supporting Member
Messages
1,941
On the contrary. Hopefully it helps the next person who would otherwise do the same thing, i.e., take some recommendation off a board without researching the recommendation. If the OP had researched Jacoby, he would have seen quite a few posts here and around the net about bad experiences that mirrored exactly the experience he ended up having. That was avoidable.
I’ve seen more praise about Philtone, and the only negative statements I’ve seen have mentioned wait times, not quality of work.

This does remind me that I need to amend my statement about the fretshop. I took the guitar back And we talked about it. He very graciously took it in with no additional cost.

I got it back recently and it’s actually playing pretty solidly with lower action.

Whatever experiences people have had in the past, his shop has been here for a few years now and seems to have integrated into the community. He made it right, we’re good.
 

es446

Member
Messages
15
I’ve seen more praise about Philtone, and the only negative statements I’ve seen have mentioned wait times, not quality of work.

This does remind me that I need to amend my statement about the fretshop. I took the guitar back And we talked about it. He very graciously took it in with no additional cost.

I got it back recently and it’s actually playing pretty solidly with lower action.

Whatever experiences people have had in the past, his shop has been here for a few years now and seems to have integrated into the community. He made it right, we’re good.
OP here. I did see both the good and bad comments before making the drive to Baltimore. What I noticed about the bad comments was that a lot of them (also on other forums) were mostly about how long it took (in many cases it was months). But the same folks leaving bad comments, then said it was worth the wait because they were happy with the fret work. Phil's turn time for this particular job was really good (exactly 3 weeks). The other negative comments I saw were about his abrasive attitude. I experienced a little bit of this in the beginning when I noticed he wasn't actually listening to me about why I was there and what I wanted done to my guitar.

What's the "fretshop"?
 

es446

Member
Messages
15
On the contrary. Hopefully it helps the next person who would otherwise do the same thing, i.e., take some recommendation off a board without researching the recommendation. If the OP had researched Jacoby, he would have seen quite a few posts here and around the net about bad experiences that mirrored exactly the experience he ended up having. That was avoidable.
Yeah, I should have searched more. Most of the complaints I found were about the turn time and his attitude. I did find others about the fretwork afterward.
 

es446

Member
Messages
15
Give John Ingram a call. Just see how you get along over the phone. I haven't used him personally but a friend that is a career musician and that I've known since 7th grade is a happy customer of his. He's in Annapolis, a little further down the road.

Anyone here that has used John Ingram, feel free to add your experiences, positive or negative.
I gave him a call before and he was very nice. He was my first choice from the recommendations but he said he was so backed up that he wouldn't be able to get to my guitar for "many months". :(
 

Bossanova

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,396
Has anyone in the region used John Thurston, out of Dundalk? My friend recommends him but I have no experience.
 

Losov

Member
Messages
535
Was wondering why you didn’t just go to Marguerite Pastella in Newport News, but I just learned that she closed the shop, presumably when her husband became ill.

Good info about Phil, though. I’ll certainly be crossing him off my list.
 




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