PRS Employee Spotlight - James Zimmers // PTC
Posted Sep 14, 2015
The Paul Reed Smith Tech Center (PTC) is in the business of making your guitar dreams a reality. In addition to standard PRS repairs and maintenance, the PTC specializes in overhauling your guitar to meet your unique needs as a musician. In this blog post, we have a chat with one of our PTC employees, James Zimmers. James has been an employee at PRS for 14 years, and working with guitars since the age of 14 - about 20 years! Check out our Q&A with him below!
PRS: Give us a day in your life, what is it like working in the PTC?
JZ: Amazing, I come in around 7:30AM and the first thing I do is evaluate the new PTC guitars that came in overnight. The folks in shipping will put new work on the freight elevator and I’ll pick it up and check it in. We look at the paper work that comes with it, making sure the info on the work sheet matches the guitar in front of us. Serial #’s match, model info is correct, etc. After that I’ll get to my bench and start getting to work on these projects! If there are any guitars that require substantial cutting or routing, I prefer to do that work in the morning. The rest is just assembling, wiring, and tweaking guitars while loving every minute of it. I never know what I’m going to get next and that’s a thrill. From extremely old 1980’s PRS guitars to newer customer guitars, I’ve seen and worked on it all.
After lunch, I’ll meet up with the customer service guys and answer any questions they have gotten from customers who have guitars currently in our cue for service. I’ll help answer technical questions, and any other specific things about PRS models that the customer service guys need help with. Often we will keep customers up to date if they have questions about work being done - so we use that time to go over that.
PRS: What made you want to work towards mastering the art of guitar building and repair?
JZ: When I got my very first guitar at age 14 it was actually broken and I had to fix it before I could use it. I think that lit the spark in my belly at a young age to want to pursue this for a career. Of course I wanted to be a rockstar too but that’s always a challenge to achieve :). I thing there is magic in working on guitars and taking them to new levels to see what they can become, from a good setup to unique modifications, it’s all challenges and rewards.
PRS Why work for PRS?
JZ: Well, if your goal is to make the best guitar possible, it’s a good place to start. Also, honestly, I grew up in Maryland, I was a local kid and everyone I knew growing up wanted a PRS. To be able to learn from Paul himself is huge to me, his name is on the headstock and he is still working on them every day here. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience and it’s incredible and humbling to be able to work closely with him. Also, a cool thing about Paul is that he is as interested in sharing that knowledge as I am interested in learning it.
PRS: What is the most challenging PTC job you’ve ever worked on?
JZ: A lot of times the challenging ones are the most fun to me. Three really come to mind though:
#1. We converted a 12 -string guitar to a 9-string.
#2. The Vernon Reid S2 Vela job where we added a Floyd, Midi System, and custom neck carve.
#3. The third job was an older one from years ago. We took an old Mira, installed a “Kaoss Pad” and gave it a custom sparkle paint job with a mirrored pickguard and truss rod cover. It has a 5-pin midi output as well as a magnetic output! The Kaoss Pad could also be used to control the artist’s computer and software during gigs.
PRS: What is your favorite PTC job that you’ve worked on?
JZ: Just like the jobs above, often times the most challenging are my favorite. Seeing the process through from start to finish is really cool, especially seeing the smile on the customer’s face after they gig with their new axe.
PRS: You’re a musician yourself, have you ever used your PTC skills to mod a PRS to better fit your needs musically?
JZ: All the time, I’m always messing with electronics and pickups to better fit my style. The genre of music I like to play, a sort of industrial punk rock, calls for some whacky stuff. I’ve installed midi systems in my guitars, put a Floyd Rose on my SE Baritone, and I’m always experimenting with new things. Also, I should say that I’m a big fan of our SE guitars, they can take a beating and keep playing great.
PRS: Why is having a well setup guitar important?
JZ: It’s extremely important, a well setup guitar will feel better, sound better, and stay in tune better (and give you less tuning issues). Also, a well setup guitar means that you can use the tool to its full potential, you don’t need to skip a fret because you know its dead or not intonated properly. Also, I believe a good setup will help get you more/better tones from your amp because the pickup height is correct. A “great” guitar with a poor setup can be a terrible experience and on the contrary you can give a “worse” guitar a great setup and it will instantly become your number 1.
PRS: Do you have any general advice for people wanting to take care of their PRS properly?
JZ: Keeping your guitar in the proper climate (temp/humidity) is huge. Clearly, I believe setup is important too. You can’t just change string gauges dramatically without properly adjusting the guitar. Lastly, a good whipe down after your play will protect the finish and keep your electronics from getting dirty or rusting.
For everything else, there is the PTC. Give us a call!