I think it was humorist and co-founder of the Algonquin Round Table, Robert Benchley (not to mention forbearer of author Peter “Jaws” Benchley) who quipped, “There are two kinds of people in this world…those who put people into two groups, and those who don’t.” I’m definitely in the first group. And for the purposes of this essay, the two groups into which I’m dividing people can be thought of as “Makers” versus “Customers.” To put it another way, when something needs fixing, or you can’t find exactly what you want, “makers” do it themselves, while “customers” hire it done. Nothing wrong with that. Depends on the task, I suppose. If it’s something I can do myself, I’ll do it. If it’s something I can’t (major surgery springs to mind) I’ll hire it done. But some people delegate a lot more than I. For instance, when I couldn’t find an iPhone 6 Plus belt holster to my liking, I made one. No big. Not hard to do. And I enjoy working with my hands. But I’ve gotten lots of questions about the case. It usually goes something like this:
“Nice case! Where’d you get that?”
“Made it myself,” I reply.
“Seriously? Wow…looks great.”
“Yep, and it’s got a pocket for business cards, and the belt loops are set up so you can slide the case where you want it.”
“Very nice…um…would you make me one?”
“Sure! But I’d have to charge you for it.”
And that’s when the positive vibes and story narrative breaks down, because I’d have to charge several hundred dollars for such a case. See, that’s one of the joys of making it yourself – if you know what you’re doing, you can get something that would otherwise be really expensive, for the cost of materials plus your time. And if you enjoy doing it, it’s easier to justify the time you spend on it.
Since my favorite music store, Shreveport Music, is no longer right around the corner from my house, guitar repairs have become something I do mostly myself. I’m sure this area is lousy with great guitar techs, but I’d rather do it myself. So I fabricated a bracket for a pick guard on my new(ish) archtop – a design the manufacturer SHOULD have used, instead of gluing it to a block of foam and then to the instrument top. But then I discovered it was time to rewire the pickup to volume control to input jack harness.
I’ve always had something of a love/hate relationship with wiring. But in this case, it was a great deal. Not sure just how. but I seem to have lucked into soldering MUCH better connections. The volume control now works as you’d expect, a gradual rise in volume from “zero” to “ten” (or to “eleven” if I’m playing rock). Very smooth, and a surprise, because the way it had been wired before was sapping the output, and giving me little control over the volume. Took maybe an hour of my time. And now it works perfectly.
Doing-it-yourself is also pretty economical in most cases, IF you know what you’re doing. And if you don’t there’s always YouTube, community college or “Dial-a-Friend,” where you can learn by doing.
There’s also the satisfaction that comes with a job well done. There’s no feeling of accomplishment like taking something you own and love, and going from “broken” to “works better than ever.” Very cool feeling.
So tonight, when I’m playing yet again another open mic night, looking for gigs (Apparently Gig wears a red and white, horizontally-striped shirt and a red/white striped watch cap. And is nowhere to be found.) But while I’m playing, I’ll have the pleasure of using something that I fixed and made better. And I didn’t have to spend a dime to do it.