It seems to be an upward trend, but I’ve noticed (and done) more repairs at workshops in recent years.
Among the repairs I’ve seen are string replacements, bumper replacements, freeing stuck rotors, dents repaired, chemical cleanings, ultrasonic cleanings, mouthpiece modifications, gold plating of mouthpieces, and water key installations. I’ve yet to see on-site bell cuts, but I guess that’s coming.
Despite what many of my fellow vendors believe, I think it’s an increasingly competitive marketplace out there. Many of the vendors, especially small shops that sell instruments and accessories, are also headed up by repair technicians, many of whom are the leading techs in our industry.
Eager to please and eager to earn market share, they are all working hard to distinguish themselves and demonstrate skills to an ever more demanding clientele.
So, is it a good thing to have repair work done at a workshop?
In general, because the technicians are among the most skilled and most knowledgeable, I would have to say that having repair work done at an event is probably not much of a risk.
All the same, I have my reservations. I know what can go wrong, mainly due to problems that were hidden on initial inspection or did not seem serious enough to warrant caution. And if something goes wrong and I don’t have the tools to fix it, then both I and my customer are in trouble.
It’s practically impossible to take a full complement of tools to a workshop, and so a repair tech doesn’t have a full range of options or solutions. I sure would hate to take a player’s horn out of commission just minutes before a concert.
And there’s the question of general safety, as well.
I witnessed a very ugly scene as one tech berated another for doing on-site gold plating. It turned out that the plating chemicals did not use cyanide, but I still had my doubts as the tech donned a respirator – a piece of safety equipment no one else in the room had! Soldering requires flames and fumes.
Mini-lathes have safety issues, as well, as does practically any power tool. Is a workshop really a safe enough enviroment? Is everyone involved insured properly? These are questions that hosts and vendors will wrestle with in the coming years.
On balance, I would have to say that the “workshop as work site” is probably a trend that is here to stay, but I caution all involved to consider the ramifications of on-site repairs before attempting them.