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Gunsmiths and Calendars

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by $$$SHTR, Aug 17, 2009.

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  1. $$$SHTR

    $$$SHTR Member

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    Is it me?? It seems that every Gunsmith I have ever meet, or have had any dealings with, could not read a Calendar. Is,”a couple of weeks", really more than 2 months?? Is it an unwritten rule that gunsmiths are the only businesses that can not be held responsible for a quoted completion date?? Maybe some of you Gunsmiths out there can shed some light on how to read a GUNSMITH'S calendar. Please do, as I hate to be told something will be done at a certain date, only to find out, not only is the item is not completed, but not even started.

    I think most Gunsmiths do great work and are reasonably priced, but they all need a lesson on reading a Calendar.

    Tomas
     
  2. Gatguy

    Gatguy TS Member

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    As a semi-retired gunsmith (in business 50 yrs) I can only speak for myself; I sometimes would take in 10 to 15 guns a day for repair or modification, each of them with individual problems. A casual observation over the counter can change drastically when on the bench, hence an estimate of 'when it'll be done' can change into a time consuming ordeal (much of the time at your own expense), i.e: having a screw twist off and having to be drilled out, re-tapped, and a new one made, such expense never being recovered from the customer. Also estimates become valueless when 'the home gunsmith' has broken something off or probably even twisted that screw off! Long hours at night trying to keep up with the continuing backlog of work becomes very frustrating; listening to every hunting story imaginable, waiting while every scope in inventory is laid out while some guy decides which is best, explaining the ballistics of every weight of bullet in a given caliber, and dozens of similar stories. Try to do some of your custom work while people are waiting for that firing pin job, stop and start, keep an eye on the bluing tanks and work the front counter. Hire more gunsmiths you say? Many gunsmiths for hire are fresh out of some g'smith school with little experience and also expect $20 an hour to mount scopes and install recoil pads.
    Yes, that 1 hour job sounds easy to you but when there are 40 or 50 jobs ahead of you; well, either shop around for someone who can do it faster or,just wait....that's why they call it an estimate!!
     
  3. sliverbulletexpress

    sliverbulletexpress TS Member

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    Compared to contractors they are saints.
     
  4. JACK

    JACK Well-Known Member Supporting Vendor

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    Doug Braker 218-947-3600
     
  5. 635 G

    635 G Well-Known Member

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    Greg Hissem-doesn't take work until he knows he can do what the customer wants in a timely manner.

    Phil Berkowitz
     
  6. PerazziBigBore

    PerazziBigBore TS Member

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    If you walked in Dan's shoes for a week..you'd understand.. But there is a big spread from a gunsmith.. and the village blacksmith.. At the Grand.. I saw the work of both..
     
  7. AveragEd

    AveragEd Well-Known Member

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    The first responder to this thread pretty much summed the situation up.

    Around here, we are blessed with a number of skilled craftsmen who build and repair guns, make and refinish stocks and do adjustable combs and pads. But they are all one-man operations and are very busy, which should say something about the quality of their work. If they were to hire, say, a counter person to hold hands with the customers while they do the skilled work, their costs would escalate as would their very reasonable rates.

    Last winter, I had the stock and forend's oil finish redone and the pistol grip extended on my Beretta 687 trap gun. The gentleman had it eight weeks and the cost was less than $150. Everyone who sees it compliments me on it and two other Beretta owners are planning on having him do theirs this winter. Sure, he estimated four to six weeks at the outset, but he fell on some ice and cracked a kneecap during that time, so I cut him some slack.

    My choices are using one of those shops or taking my gunsmithing chores to the local Bass Pro Shop, where I'll pay $50 per hour and still wait too long for the completed work. Oh, wait - BPS closed their gunsmithing and fine gun departments without warning and gave customers 30 days to pick up their guns, many of which were in pieces.

    Ed
     
  8. GunDr

    GunDr Well-Known Member

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    Ed and Dick pretty much sums it up. One week you can work without interuptions and see about a 2 week back-log. The next Monday morning brings UPS, Fed-X, and the Post Office with 3-5 guns everyday, and each of those guns will take a day to do. If you wonder why it takes a day to do a $300 job....

    Each package needs to be opened, inspected, work order written up, entered into the BATF log book, tagged, and racked. 20 minutes to a half hour on each. Throw in a phone call to the customer for a quick quote or ommissions in their letter, if needed. That phone call will easily burn up 20 minutes.

    Oh yea, I need to get the completed repair boxed up and UPS shipping prepared, either for the afternoon pick up or for the next morning. Another 30 minutes. If you insist that the gun gets returned by the post-office, I now need to lock up the shop and drive to the PO before it closes at 4:00pm.

    OH-oh, now entering are a half dozen walk in customers. Damn, don't really need this....a couple of "old-timers", needing their $30 22s repaired. Well there goes that $300 job. I can't turn these guys away. There on a fixed income and cannot afford a new or used Ruger 10-22. They also cannot afford a $65 per hour labor rate either. So I spend over an hour talking with them, writing up the work order, placing an order for a new part (after spending time just trying to find the part), cleaning the gun, installing the part and test-firing it. $12 part, $35 labor.I do a lot of "charity jobs". I'm the only gunsmith within a 100 mile radius, And live in probably the poorest county in the state of MN.

    Now should the above be an excuse for not honoring a promised turn-around time? No it should not. The gunsmith does need to know his limitations to promised jobs. I try not to make anymore than two promised dates a week. Doing more does a dis-service to those jobs already here. It's very hard for any of us gunsmiths to turn away work, so we tend to over extend ourselves. We need to know there will be something to work on next week or next month.

    Right now I'm planning on taking in a part-timer to help me out this winter. He knows it will not be a $20 an hour job. He currently gets laid-off each winter. He'll be paid cash, and issued a 1099. His pay will be a percentage of each job. You know where those cheap 22s will go. He will not be working on your guns. You guys and gals send them to me, and it'll be ME who will work on them.

    This summer is different from my previous summers. June, July, and August, in the past, were my slowest months. Not this year. Those three months have shaped up to be my biggest months this year so far. Right now I have a 4-5 week back-log. Does this mean I will not make promises...NOT!! If your gun broke and you need it back next week, you'll get it...most times.

    I do feel your angst when the gun isn't returned on time. There are times when thngs fall through the cracks, and you end up drawing the short straw. It's NOT intentional.

    Doug
     
  9. Ruck

    Ruck Well-Known Member

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    Doug, thank you for saying what I wanted to!! Life in my shop is a carbon copy of your post.

    Ken Rucker....Speedbump Stockworks
     
  10. RickA

    RickA Member

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    Jul 31, 2007
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    100
    Yes good post Doug, and if you guys think gunsmiths are bad have you been to a taxidermist lately. Most really good ones are at the least 1yr out some as much as 18 months and many times your told I'll get to it as fast as I can get in line. Hell I forgot what the bird looks like by then LOL. I don't like to wait much for anything but good service and quality work...... well I can wait as long as necessary for that.
    Rick
     
  11. Gatguy

    Gatguy TS Member

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    Thanks for the back-up Ed & DR, if you add our comments together and perhaps some more from other working g'smiths, then it should help to reinforce the plight suffered by most all gunsmiths/gunmakers when they take on this business for their livelyhood. This has been my living since 1958, I've never done anything else, and so far it hasn't changed a bit! Be patient with your mechanic, give him time to do the job right....it'll be less time than having to wait while it's done over!
    Dick
     
  12. GunDr

    GunDr Well-Known Member

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    MrkSLC,

    If I read your comment correctly, Yes, nobody wants to hear that any job will take 4-5 weeks to get the gun back. Everyone wants it back in their hands yesterday. So if we say 4-5 weeks, you'll go somewhere else. Eventually that someone else becomes 6-8 weeks. I truly believe that most of the gunsmiths known to this site have very reasonable turn-around times. Metal and wood refinishing does take extra, especially if you do mechanical repairs also. I would be extremely happy to send work to anyone that can do the quality wood refinish I expect, in a 3 week return, but I know this guy would then be overwelmed with work, and the time would drop to a longer turn-around.

    Here at my shop, I'm the chief cook AND bottle washer. I'm the boss, the employee, secretary, janitor, and maintainence/repair man. Trying to allot time just for these is a battle.

    What I would like to add to my previous post is we're in the same boat as most everyone else. We hope to have a job tomorrow, next week and next year. With the Libs breathing down our necks everyday, we need need a little something to keep our heads above water for that possible day we get kicked to the curb.

    Doug
     
  13. grntitan

    grntitan Well-Known Member

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    The Truth.....You can't handle the truth....Another promp for Greg Hissem. Work was done in one week and back to me within 10 days of leaving it with him. All that time his Mother was having major surgery. He does what he promises.-----Matt
     
  14. zzt

    zzt Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm a consultant and system designer. I too cannot afford to turn away work, because it comes in batches, and I need a back log. I've never missed a deadline. Sometimes that means working 12 hours a day, six days a week for a month or more. That's okay. It's the price I pay for being in a somewhat seasonal business.

    I expect the same from any contractor I deal with. When I need work done, I call the "smith". I discuss what I want done, how long it will take, and when I need the gun/part back. As just one example, I wanted my barrels worked on. I called a barrel smith to discuss. I told him what I wanted done, and the date I had to have the work completed and the gun in my hands. I told him you can have the gun whenever you want; you pick the date. Just make sure i get it back by x. He picked the date. I sent it to arrive early, just in case. The day after it was due, I called to ask where it was. I was told he hadn't had a chance to look at it yet. I told him to send it back immediately.

    I still needed the barrel work, plus I wanted an adjustable butt plate and new pad installed. I called Kerry Allor and discussed the project. He said his workload was such he could not work on the gun for a month. He picked a date, about 10 days before by deadline. He told me if I got the gun to him by that date, he would guarantee to complete the work and have it back to me in time. I sent the gun early. Along the way I asked if he would work on my trigger. He gratiously agreed to have that done as well.

    I had the gun back on the day he promised, with three beautiful barrel jobs and a trigger job that still works just like on day one. I was, and still am, a very happy camper. Stunning work, and he keeps a promise. Guess where any future barrel/choke/forcing cone work is going?

    Same deal with the butt plate and pad. I called Greg Hissem, told him what I wanted, and said I didn't want to be without the stock for any more than two weeks. He said send it to me by X and I'll have it back to you in less than two weeks. He did, and his work was better than first rate. Guess who will be doing my stock work from now on?

    Now contrast that performance with the stock fitter who quoted $350 and two weeks for an adjustable comb, adjustable butt plate and new pad. Four weeks later the gun was done. Oh by the way, he ran into a few problems and had to work harder than he thought. So the price is now $500. If I don't pay it, I don't get my gun back. Any wonder I moved on?

    Now to address the notion that you have to fib to get work, and you don't actually have to meet the customer expectation. Bullcrap! My clients work the same way. They want everything yesterday. What's new? When you promise to have something done by a certain date, you gave your word. Honor it. If you can't, stop making promises you do not intend to keep.
     
  15. KENENT1

    KENENT1 Active Member

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    it is the same in my business, a machine shop, customers always want parts yesterday, I usually quote 4 to 5 weeks for an order, when you get the po, you have to check it out because some customers will still put a 2 week delivery, and try to hold you to it because you took the job.


    tony
     
  16. wireguy

    wireguy TS Member

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    I can't imagine a tougher way to make a middle class at best living than being a gunsmith. Demanding work on items that are considered treasures by their owners, demanding clientelle, much non-productive time that isn't compensated. The proffesionals who do it and turn out quality work are some of the most under appreciated people in our culture.
     
  17. senior smoke

    senior smoke Well-Known Member

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    This is no knock against gunsmiths, in fact they have helped me alot of times over the years. from an outsider looking in, most gunsmiths in my area have hours that a banker would envy. some come and go as they please, and flip their sign to close at anytime of the day, dispite having a hung sign stating their scheduled hours of operation. some of these gunsmiths that i know do not run their shops like a regular business. i know of one gunsmith in the area, who will always say 3 weeks for any job you give him. in his gunsmith langusge try 6 to 8 weeks. the only way i get work done on time from him is if i offer a nice bonus to have work done by a certain date. low and behold the work gets done on time then. i would be the first to say that i know nothing about fixing guns, or running a gunsmithing business. what i do know is how a customer would like to be treated. if you give a customer a date that work will be completed, and due to circumstances beyond her control and you can not get it done, call the owner of the gun and tell him, instead of having the guy come to your shop and be told it's not done. to be very honest,if you are a gunsmith, do you treat your customers in the manner that you would like to be treated? if the answer is yes, congrtulations, if not, consider changing your ways.
    steve balistreri
     
  18. 635 G

    635 G Well-Known Member

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    Concerning the smith who changed his price because he had to work harder is pure boloney. A quote is a quote. I was an electrical contractor & if I under bid a job I bit the bullet. Wow, if I could charge the customer if I ran into difficulties, I would have been able to retire 5 years earlier.

    Phil Berkowitz
     
  19. Gatguy

    Gatguy TS Member

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    Steve, it is sad to hear of such experiences you have had with gunsmiths, I would say they are bordering on being un-ethical. Moreover, it sounds as if these individuals are only part-timers because, as a former full-time gunsmith of over 50 years, if this is your living, your shop is damn well open if you want to eat and pay the bills! Unless you have a 'sugar momma' in the background you are working at least 12 to 14 hours a day and most weekends. My doors were open from 8:00AM to 6:00PM 6 days a week and unless I was sick you could always find me there! Having to bribe a 'smith' to do your work on time is un-excusable at the least! As I posted earlier, time schedules are hard to keep and I've blown some myself....I'm human, tired, and overworked by my own choice and a customer shouldn't have to suffer for my frailties, therefore, if time was running short I never failed to call them and explain at least; never ask them to pay more for me to get it done sooner! If I had to I would work long into the night to get it done on the PROMISED schedule. Sorry some jerk has given you this opinion of us (hopefully not all of us)!
    Dick C.
     
  20. $$$SHTR

    $$$SHTR Member

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    If any of the gunsmiths I have dealt with in the past had told me, straight up, that the job would take X number of weeks, I can accept that. It's telling me 2 weeks when they (gunsmiths) know it will be 4 to 5 weeks minimum, for what ever reason. I ran an embroidery business and I would be overwhelmed with orders sometimes. I never told someone I could get the order out unless I knew I could. When I did under estimate my work load, I would call the customer and let them know I would be late. That way, they (customer), could take the order somewhere else if necessary.

    It's not how long it takes, it's treating the customer like an intelligent person, rather than the attitude that this is the only place you can get the work done, so I can act like the only business in town. Take it or leave it.

    I've yet to use the same gunsmith twice. Hard to build a repeat business this way. I would like to find a gunsmith who appreciates the customer vs the customer is a pain in the a$$.

    Maybe it's me, and I haven't kept up with the computer generation, but, as far as I'm concerned, customer service is still king.

    Tomas
     
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