Yikes!  What is up with that HUGE scratch on the cover?

Yes, I screwed up (ie. fucked up).  I was changing out pickup rings on a customer's guitar and ended up putting a HUGE scratch in the polished nickel humbucker cover.  This is a total rookie move, but things happen - it's all in how you handle it.

These pickups have slotted adjustment screws, which are notorious for don't-loose-focus-or-you-will-slip-and-scratch-something.  Just ask anyone who has installed Waverly tuners.  If your mind wanders for a second, the screwdriver slips off of the screw and you just put a scratch in the guitar.  It happens almost immediately followed by cursing and barrage of self-depreciating outbursts.

After settling down, I made a phone call to the customer and told them that I needed to replace the cover as I had just put a huge gouge in it.  The pickup happened to be a Lollar Imperial, so I removed the pickup from the guitar, boxed it up and shipped it across the country to have them install a new cover. A week later, the pickup came back with a fresh new shiny cover.  (Note that if I replaced the cover myself, it would have voided the pickup's warranty.  Also note that the guitar Gods further punished me as this guitar was a hollowbody with 4-conductor switching options - why couldn't I have scratched a guitar with a control cavity? Because you needed to learn a lesson Kevin).

This time I used my Stewmac screwdriver kit with this wonderful slotted screwdriver that captures the screw.  I did not use it the first time as I was leaving a metallic halo on the new maple pickup rings, but I was just using too much pressure.  This screwdriver set is worth the price for this bit alone!  Guitar builders using Waverly's take note.

Stewart-MacDonald's Guitar Tech Screwdriver Kit, using the "no slip" flat blade.

I'm extremely transparent with my clients and often explain things in far too much detail, but I pride myself in this transparency.  It's hard to admit when you make a mistake, but I've found that completely owning up is the only way to go.  That and make sure you don't repeat the same mistakes.  I asked Lollar to return the scratched cover so I could have a little don't-fuck-this-up-again momento.  When things go wrong (and they always will to a certain degree), they are huge learning opportunities that you need to take advantage of.

Some takeaway thoughts:

  • Experience is gained by making new mistakes, not repeating them.
  • Your gut reaction is to protect your ego.  Fight this urge and stay objective.
  • Come clean when something is your fault.  You would be surprised how disarming honesty can be to people.
  • Being a professional means that you don't make excuses.