In January I had the opportunity to head out to Nashville for a few days to visit Joe Glaser at his shop, Glaser Instruments. If you’ve heard of him, it’s because he’s been around the industry for a long while, does work for some of the top guys and gals in Nashville and he invented and produces the Glaser B Bender. Other projects – the Lap Strat, solid body banjos with double locking tremolos(!) – are too numerous to mention. The visit was multifaceted and I was able to see how another top shop solves complex problems.
One interesting job on the bench was a Martin acoustic from the 70′s. The bridge was in the wrong place and it was playing very sharp necessitating a saddle relocation. If the slot is filled and then re-cut, the saddle will be too close to the pins, causing a severe string angle and a strange appearance. The proper solution is to make a new bridge, move the pins back and cut the slot in the correct location, and that’s what happened. Making the bridge was straightforward, but cutting the saddle slot was pretty interesting. After the bridge was installed, the guitar was put in the Plek machine, the slot location was programmed and the slot was cut to the depth and width that was specified. It was a very slick operation.
The scope of repair work was familiar to me, and covered neck resets, full restorations, re-frets, fret levels and all manner of small custom jobs. They sent out a few guitars with small extensions glued to the front of the nut at the G string to help with the common sharpness present in the low frets. We’ve done it a few times over the years, but it looks like a go-to move at Glaser. His clientele is largely comprised of professional musicians, and the mods and repairs were tailored to that type of player. The action was set generally higher than our customers like and the final crazy polishing of everything was not as much of a focus, but that is not to say that the work was anything but impeccable. The focus was on day in/day out reliability and functionality, not on pleasing someone pouring over the instrument with a magnifying glass.
Since Joe uses the Plek machine, the work flow is different than at SFGW. They are able to turn instruments around more quickly, and are able to do complex fretwork that would be challenging, if not impossible, for the manual tech. The Plek is most definitely only as good as its tech, and if the tech operating it can’t do great fretwork manually, it’s going to be tough to get a great result on the Plek. But isn’t that the way with any tool?
My visit was incredibly interesting, and Joe and his crew were gracious hosts. I met some country greats, saw some great country music and had better Indian food than I would have ever guessed existed in Nashville. We ended with a trip to Gibson, but I can’t tell you about that. It’s a secret.