There are two kinds of botch job: everyone else's...and mine.
You might think I'm perhaps a trifle vain to distinguish my own
botches from those of everyone else, but the distinction is all
in the approach - and, of course, the end results.
But why should a craftsman of such stature and reputation (that's
me, in case you were in any doubt, OK?) even deign to so much as
mention the word, let alone contemplate undertaking such a dubious
Because sometimes a botch job is exactly what's required.
I suppose I should clarify what the term means to me.
Most people will think of a botch job (also known as a bodge, a
kludge, a lash-up) as being a complete disaster. Indeed, under ordinary
circumstances there's even a sliding scale of incompetence that
relates to the finished article which ranges from "A bit of
a mess" through to "A right pig's ear" or a "Complete
dog's dinner" - and all the way through to the magnificent
"Cor blimey! 'Oo the 'ell did THIS??"
In my books though, or at least in my workshop, a botch job is a
workaround - a job that isn't perhaps terribly aesthetic but nonetheless
technically competent. More often than not it's used to recover
from someone else's inferior botch.
For example...I've just finished repairing a broken clarinet barrel.
The clarinet's a Buffet B12 - not a very expensive instrument, but
quite suitable for a beginner. This particular instrument had a
broken barrel. It looked to me like the barrel had taken a knock
whilst it was fitted to the top joint, and the knock was of sufficient
strength to crack the barrel cleanly inside the lower tenon ring.
Ideally you'd toss the barrel away and buy a new one - but they're
£30 plus, and when you're on a bit of a budget every penny
counts. Given that the barrel is made from a plastic it's a perfect
candidate for glueing because the break will be nice and clean,
and the relatively large surface area will ensure a join strong
enough to withstand the use a barrel can be expected to be put to.
Unfortunately the would-be repairer who'd already had a go at it
had simply slapped lots of superglue on the broken portion and simply
plopped it back onto the barrel without any consideration to lining
it up correctly.
Naturally, the glue doesn't know any different so it promptly sets
hard - and the result was "A complete dog's dinner".
I quite like the challenge of these jobs. Everyone benefits in
the end - I get to apply some thought to the job and the client
saves a few quid as long as they don't mind a visible repair. I
also get a hefty dose of job satisfaction out of it, a sense of
winning against the odds.
In this instance I re-broke the joint and cleaned off as much old
glue as possible. With the break being inside the tenon ring I realised
that all I needed to do to ensure a reasonably accurate fit was
to ensure that I fitted the ring (with the broken portion inside
it) square on the barrel. If the ring was lined up correctly then
whatever sat in it would also line up. A little turning on the lathe
gave me a nice clean lip on the barrel for the ring to sit snugly
upon. All I needed to do now was reglue the part. Because of the
previous glue job all the nice clean edges were lost, so superglue
wasn't an option. Where there's space in a joint a thin glue tends
to make for a poor job, so I applied some black-stained resin glue.
This would take up any discrepancies in the join, and once hard
the bore of the tenon socket could be skimmed out on the lathe and
the end tidied up.
In all, about £10's worth of work, and I doubt the barrel
will break again in normal use.
I'm happy, the client's happy - and no-one would even know there'd
been a botch job without carefully examining the bore of the barrel's
So if that's the case, why do I consider it to be a botch job?
Well, had I had first crack (excuse pun) at the job I'd have aligned
the broken parts properly and set them with a superglue. Because
of the near perfect fit of the broken parts you'd have hardly been
able to see the merest hint of the original crack. That's my idea
of a proper job. If I really wanted to go to town I would have turned
the tenon down on the lathe and fitted a whole new sleeve into which
I could turn a new tenon - but that's a job more applicable to an
expensive wooden barrel.
A very common botch job is seen on old Martin saxophones. These
have soldered-on tone holes, and down the years the solder tends
to degrade - and what with the knocks and bashes a sax tends to
get in its life, these joints often crack.
To try to resolder the tone hole without completely removing it
first is a botch job of the very worst kind. Oh, you should see
the mess that makes!
By the time the solder has degraded, the surfaces are heavily oxidised
and covered in gunk (blown through from the tone hole). There really
is no other way to do the job - you have to unsolder the tone hole,
clean up the mating surfaces and resolder it to the body. Makes
one hell of a mess to any remaining finish, mind you.
There's a 'second degree' bodge often seen here - whereby someone
attempts to fill the crack with glue.
This is OK, but more often than not there's more glue around the
crack than there is in it - and you really only ever get one go
at gluing a job...so if it fails, it means the tone hole has to
It's a real shame to come across an otherwise spotless Martin and
find that just one tone hole has a crack in the joint - and that's
when I'll reach for the superglue. Mind you, I use a special type
of superglue, one with gap filling properties. Providing there's
at least 75% of the original joint intact, the superglue will do
a very fine job of filling and securing the remainder - and for
as long as it takes for either the rest of the joint to give way
or other tone holes to start dropping off.
It costs but a few pounds to sort the job and it leaves the horn's
finish untouched - as opposed to the 'proper job', which could run
up to £40 or more depending on which tone hole needed sorting...and
you'd have a less than nice witness mark around the tone hole where
the lacquer gets burned away.
I've used this particular botch countless times - and it works
in other areas too. Had a client drop by with a brand new horn that
had taken a knock, and one of the stays of the low C key guard had
come adrift. You can often do a small solder job on a modern horn
without harming the finish (they use epoxy lacquers these days -
very tough indeed), but there's still a degree of risk.
The guard had two stays still in play, so it seems quite reasonable
to simply glue the remaining one in place. Couple of quid, and no
harm to the finish.
That was five years ago, and I said to the client at the time that
we'd fix it properly when he REALLY drops the horn. He hasn't yet
- and the glued stay is still in place.