Before I came into repairs and restoration work with Guitars, I dabbled and tweaked and played with my own partscaster guitar, and before that, I tried to figure out just how guitars worked while learning to play on my dad’s old ‘68 12-string Aria. I didn’t know much then, but the Aria hadn’t been played in years and so when I decided in my mid-teens to pick it up and teach myself, I was immediately frustrated with the pots crackling and cutting out so much when adjusting the tone or volume.
I understood that likely the wiring was the issue, but what I quickly came to understand better, was the need for a proper way to work on the guitar without damaging it. The more I struggled to gain better access, to get it to hold still while I worked on it, to not almost drop it on the floor from the kitchen table, the quicker I realized I did not have the proper working conditions to be doing anything more than a string change.
When I’d invested in my own guitar, years later, I had this loving and overprotective relationship with it that dictated that even string changes were to be done with the utmost care to prevent scratches, dings, and dents. At first I used pillows and old quilts to prop it up properly, but I found the pillow too giving and the neck would still move around too much to my liking. I thought a bag of grain would be ideal, but I was living in the big city at the time and nowhere was I going to find grain. I got inspiration when walking through the grocery store one day when picking up a bag of rice; it had a similar flow or movement about it that a bag of grain has. I bought a 20kg bag of rice and used that and a yoga mat for years as a repair bench. The bag of rice provided me with support for the neck, and the yoga mat’s rubbery and soft texture stability for the guitar body, neither would cause scratches or dents on the instrument.
On my first day of class for Conestoga College’s Guitar Repair and Design we were all assigned our own bench to work on and there was this amazing contraption for us to use, called a StringTech TechDeck (hereon known as TechDeck only). The instructor, Michael McCormick, explained it’s use, it’s functions, and just how awesome it is as a tool for repairs on any type of stringed instrument. He concocted it after decades of repair work and realizing how a specialized bench was really needed.
This was the best tool I had ever seen for keeping the instrument immobilized, supported, and all the while, protected. I was immediately onboard.
The TechDeck has leather strapping that can be moved and positioned almost without limitation. The instrument rests on leather covered padding that is several inches thick. I can lock down a Fender Strat or a stand-up bass, an acoustic Guild or a curved back mandolin, all with very little adjustments but with maximum support. It’s extremely versatile in how it can be used, it’s not relegated to one function. For example, I can position the instrument on it’s back to perform a fret leveling. I could put the instrument on its side, giving me access to the neck for cleaning up the nibs after a refret. It can even support the instrument properly to lay it on it’s playing surface, giving me access to the back panels or backside of the neck.
The TechDeck is one of those tools that when someone sees it, they know you mean business. Trying to perform any kind of reputable work on anything less is amateur at best, foolish at worst. I would not consider subjecting any work I was commissioned to do to anything less than the TechDeck. At least, certainly not the kitchen table.