Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wayne Rodriguez: Hamilton Area Guitar Technician

Wayne Rodriguez is an analog man. Shunning even the convenience of email, he prefers to pick up the phone and set up appointments in real time, voice to voice, person to person. So I called him up, and we met a few days later in a pub in Burlington for a chat. I appreciated his direct, personal approach with me, and I expect he is the same with his guitar-loving clientele.

Rodriguez starts right in, as if he doesn't often get to talk about what is so close to his heart. The next 45 minutes consist of him "unpacking" his profession, while I furiously scrawl notes. "Since my teens, guitar has been the mainstay of my life," he begins. "I'm aware of the modern day player."

"Some guys will spend their whole life looking for a unique sound. Santana says, 'The guitar is your face.'"

The importance of a personal consultation is key, "There are many difference between players, such as hand size, finger strength, type and style of playing. Awareness of the needs of the musician is important. A guitar tells me a lot about a player, and every guitar has its own personality. I need that face to face interview and I want to get it right the first time. So I work out of my house on a one to one basis. A music store may tweak the neck, but there are many adjustments to the saddle that are subtle. For example, the saddle and fingerboard radius have to match."

"It's not the instrument, it's the setup," Rodriguez claims. "That's how many guitars end up in closets: Someone buys a guitar, thinking it's properly set up for them to use, and they find it difficult or perhaps even painful to play. They give up and put it away."

As a guitarist himself, Wayne Rodriguez understands what a guitar player needs from his or her instrument. He became aware of the importance of the guitar technician when, at the age of 12, he had a disastrous experience. "My guitar needed a neck reset. Basically, the guy I took who I took it to destroyed my guitar because he failed to remove the neck properly."

When asked how he then got into the guitar tech business himself, Rodriguez shares, "Electric guitars took a change. The Floyd Rose tremolo bar was introduced. Strats were noted for whammy bars not holding the tunings. And the Floyd Rose whammy bar needed constant balancing and tuning - so I filled the gap in sales knowledge and technical know-how at the local music store, and was able to figure out what was needed to get those whammy bars working properly. I had no technical manual, just my own hands."

He continues, "I've been to no schools; I work on word of mouth, trial and error. I bought crappy guitars and pulled them apart. Musician's Supply was the store I used to work at in Cooksville. Back then, Yamaha guitars ruled. All model lines could be set up to be very playable. My basic setup would include filing the nut and fixing the saddle radius."

"For me a player interview is a key component to doing it right."

So, what are the essential tools of a guitar repair technician? Rodriguez rhymes off his list with ease.

The basic tools:
  • nut files
  • radius gauges
  • straight edge rulers
  • ruler measure in thousandths for string height
  • steel wool for fingerboard and frets
  • linseed oil to rejuvenate the wood
  • files for the bridge pins
  • various bits of sandpaper
  • hyde glue
  • nut drivers for tuning pegs and equalizing the tension
  • truss rod wrenches
Rodriguez also services classical guitars. He does full set ups, fret dresses, re-fretting, replacing bridges, and custom wiring. He refers refinishing work to a trusted associate.

What can players do to keep their guitar in top shape? Says Rodriguez, "Have your guitar set up properly in the first place. A properly set up guitar is easier to maintain, knowing that a good benchmark and initial inspection has taken place. Cleaning the guitar after each use goes a long way. Dust, bits of dirt, dried skin, and skin oil can build up everywhere. Have your guitar serviced at least once a year."

To get in touch with Wayne, contact glen@gbrpublications.com.

Originally published December 2012
Updated September 10, 2015

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