Customers in your shop

The place to chat with your fellow MIMForum members about whatever you want that doesn't relate to instruments, or isn't specific to one instrument family. Pull up a chair, grab a cold one out of the virtual 'fridge, and tell your friends what's on your mind.
Jacob Porter
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Customers in your shop

Post by Jacob Porter »

Hi All,
I'm starting in on my eighth build and am encountering a new thing for me. On previous builds, I have willing provided pictures of the customers' instruments during the build if they wanted them. On this build, the customer seems to want to be in the shop with me every opportunity he can. I'm finding it a little unnerving since working in the shop is usually cathartic for me and dealing with someone looking over my shoulder constantly is a bit stressing.
I'm wondering how some of you have dealt with this and what advise you might have.

Jacob

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Barry Daniels
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Location: The Woodlands, Texas

Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Barry Daniels »

Don't allow it. Stand firm and be insistant. If you need an excuse, you can say that you checked with your insurance carrier and they do not allow people in your shop during operational hours, which is often true. Someone looking over your shoulder is distracting and unsafe and your work will suffer. They are paying you to build a guitar; not for hours of entertainment.
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Mark Swanson
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Mark Swanson »

Yes that's right. It may be hard, but try to tell them that you need to be alone and concentrate. It would drive me absolutely nuts.
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Jacob Porter
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Location: Midland, TX
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Jacob Porter »

Thanks. This was the answer I was looking for. Guitar building shouldn't be a spectator sport.

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Charlie Schultz »

And if he's the type of person that likes to micro-manage things, he'll be questioning every cut you make and that will really slow you down (and be very frustrating).

Nick Middleton
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:49 am

Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Nick Middleton »

This issue reminds me of a sign of Repair Shop I once was at:

It read something along the lines:

Hourly Rate: ($)
If you stay and watch while I work ($ Tripple the above amount)

I think you need on like that!

Arnt Rian
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Arnt Rian »

I'm "instrument doctor" at some festivals during summer, so I'm used to doing easy stuff, like set ups and quick repairs, while I talke to people and have an audience. However, I hate having visitors in the shop when I build, I just get too easily distracted. I would be worried that I'd mess up the work, myself or both, since I would never be able to concentrate like I'm used to, and it would drive me absolutely nuts. No way would I accept a commission from a customer on those terms. Too many years farting around on my own, I guess...

Louie Atienza
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Louie Atienza »

It's happened to me when I had my cabinet shop... It's happened when I had my home improvement business and customers constantly loved to watch me work; though in the field it's harder to work secluded. And it never fails; something always seems to go awry when people have their eyes leaned on you. I tell them for my safety and sanity, that I need to be left alone to do my work.

I have a helper who comes in a few times a month, and I allow him to buid his guitar while I work on other things in the shop. And even the few questions he asks when doing something new irks me sometimes. Unfortunately for me this is a necessary evil. Even friends stopping by unanounced annoys me. I would approach your customer respectfully and explain to him that this work demands total concentration, and if he wants you to do the best work for him he will respect your workplace and privacy; unless he doesn't mind you going to his job and looking over his shoulder!

A more polite (but time-consuming) thing wuld be to completely stop all work, and limit the shop visit to just showing what progress has been made. You can have a friendly conversation, then politely tell your customer (as the two of you walk toward the door) that you have to get back to work. They'll get it after a couple visits that you don't do any work when visitors show up.

David King
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by David King »

I find an audience actually helps me stay focussed and work more efficiently. It's the same thing at rehearsals, an audience of even one and I pay more attention. There is a limit to this. After about 2 hours I'm completely spent and need to take a break.
The worst is when someone brings me an emergency repair and then waits while I complete it. They usually show up at noon and I end up skipping lunch trying to get the work done before sound-check. At some point along the way things will start going south and the stress level can really multiply as the time-crunch and hypoglycemia set in. I had a fellow show up with his eight year old boy (who also hadn't eaten all day). The poor kid starting getting antsy and picking up sharp things from the benches while the dad tried to ignore the situation. Never again!

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Jim McConkey
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Jim McConkey »

Visitors are not only distracting, but they can be a legal liability. I once went to visit another well-known luthier, who refused to let me into their shop (even as a fellow luthier) because their insurance wouldn't allow it! That's a little paranoid, but I certainly wouldn't want anyone in my shop while I was working with power tools. If you are comfortable with the customer, offer a non-work-time shop tour (and turn the main breaker off!), but I would not recommend trying to work with others in the shop. A local mill-turned-specialty-mall has an on-site luthier, and he has solved the problem by having a large picture window so that others can look into his shop and see him at work, but they can't bother him.
MIMForum Staff - Way North of Baltimore

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Mark Swanson
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Mark Swanson »

I tried to gain entrance to the Warmoth guitar shop the last time I was in Washington, and they would not let me in to see the place for that very reason.
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Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

When friends stop by the shop it's time to pop open a beer and relax. I don't try to work and entertain guests at the same time. As a cabinetmaker in my day job I've seen too many accidents happen from a moments inattention. Explain to your customer that for your own safety, as well as his, you can't have him in the shop while you are working.

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John Kingma
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by John Kingma »

I've had 2 customers in my shop in the past but in both cases it was limited to a short social visit while I was sweeping the floor. I would not allow anyone in the shop while I was working. If a customer insisted on checking in once in a while when I was working, I would decline taking on the project.
John Kingma,
Builder of Fine Sawdust & Expensive Kindling

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Pat Foster
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Pat Foster »

Do what Frank Ford does. If the customer comes in while you're working on their project, put it down and work on something else.

Pat
I like to start slow, then taper off.

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Greg Robinson »

I use the liability insurance excuse fairly regularly. I've never had anyone push after mentioning that.
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David King
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by David King »

I just had a family of 6 adults + the family dog (a nervous Jack Russell) stand around me and watch while I diagnosed a defective series/ parallel switch and replaced it with a series/ single/parallel switch. That seemed to go OK in spite of the fact the the 4 wire color coding was unique. They then asked me to replace the other switch and that's when all hell broke loose. Trying to get both pickup in phase and hum canceling in all positions of both switches took me about an hour of moving wires around and scorched fingers. I answered a LOT of questions in the meanwhile as the kids did the math to figure out how many possible permutations of 12 lugs and 14 wires there might be. I kept up a cool front and managed to get the job done before my blood glucose crashed. It was an interesting trial to go through and I think I'm stronger and probably smarter for it. No recurring nightmares yet which I can't say about having been a waiter 3 decades ago.
It might be time to dump the liability insurance...

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Mark Swanson
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Mark Swanson »

David, if you could take that and still do a good job then I have a whole new respect for you!
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Steven Wilson
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Location: Eastern Shore Maryland

Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Steven Wilson »

In my day job working electronics I often work better under the stress of prying eyes (inspecters-clients-coworkers). But in the wood working shop, I think of how many shop teachers I've had missing fingers. Unless someone is there helping me, I don't like them there.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Barry Daniels »

School shop teaching use to be where you went when you lost too many fingers to do real work.
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Jason Rodgers
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Location: Portland, OR

Re: Customers in your shop

Post by Jason Rodgers »

When it comes to sharp tools and high rpm machinery, keep folks out! I've trained my family to wait at the shop door until tools are turned off and my head is up from whatever I'm working on. My daughter tapped me on the shoulder once when I was at the drill press and I spun around and almost devoured the poor kid.

But when it comes to being watched when doing your job, it depends on the job, and it depends on the person. I know teachers who want 48 hours notice and sweat bullets when they have a classroom observation by an administrator. I make known that I have a no-notice open-door policy and find that I actually do better when I have admins hovering with clipboards. Different strokes for different folks.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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