Repairs and maintenance

BudeStrings instrument repairs

BudeStrings instrument repairs
Antique Banjo neck

Repairs maintenance and refurbishments are carried out on most string instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins, banjos, basses, violins and ukuleles. Repairs are also carried out on electronic keyboards, amps and leads.

Most jobs need to be appraised on their own merit although the guidance below does set out some approximate prices:

String replacement, cleaning and basic setup- from £50 plus strings

Budestrings instrument repairs
Freshly set up guitar

I see a lot of instruments which have never been set up properly, which means their owners have never experienced their instruments at their best. A good setup which addresses nut and saddle heights, correctly set neck relief as well as a good clean and polish are the basis of all good string instrument care and optimisation, be it a cheap entry level instrument or a high value collectors piece. It’s always worth it and every stringed instrument should ideally be set up every 6-12 months.

Full setup including fret level – from £80 plus strings

BudeStrings instrument repairs
Indepth setup

Many entry level and medium range instruments do not have correctly levelled and crowned frets, and this can be one of the most obvious differences between high end instruments which cost thousands and their sub £500 counterparts. Unless you intend to buy instruments which will hold their value indefinitely it makes a lot more sense to buy a sub £500 instrument and have the neck brought up to its full potential by levelling and crowning the frets. Some of the best instruments I have worked on come under this category and my customers are invariably amazed at the difference this makes to how their instruments feel and perform after having a comprehensive setup including fret levelling. Even heavily played instruments should not need to be re-levelled any more often than 2-3 years.

Refrets – from £160

Budestrings instrument repairs
Replacing worn frets

In cases where the frets are more heavily worn it becomes necessary to completely replace them. I have also done this for customers who have not liked their existing frets and wanted to have a different size of fret fitted. There is quite a bit of variation in the cost of doing this as necks can be bound (with or without fret nibs) or unbound, lacquered or unlacquered, wood or composite and there are a variety of choices of fret material which can come with their own challenges. This is a surefire way of making a worn out instrument feel brand new, and the frets should last most musicians up to ten years.

A refret can also be used to straighten a bowed neck if no truss rod is fitted, by replacing the existing frets with ones which have a thicker tang.

It is possible to replace individual frets although this is often not advisable as it can stop the fretboard from feeling consistent.

Neck resets and belly repairs – from £160 and £80 respectively

BudeStrings instrument repairs
Neck removed ready for reset

Sometimes instruments lose the integrity of their geometry over time to a point which cannot be addressed even with a full setup. This is a much more common problem for hollow bodied acoustic instruments than the solid bodied electric variety.

While it is a relatively simple task to reshim a bolt-on neck this is quite another matter for glued necks, where the neck joint has to be unglued and recut to correct the neck angle. This tends not to be advisable or economical for entry level instruments, not just because of the cost involved but because the construction of the heel joint may not be able to guarantee a lasting repair.

An entirely different consideration are instruments without truss rods and those with spanish heels, commonly seen in classical guitars and instruments of the Mandolin family. Spanish heel instruments do not have a neck joint which can be unglued so if the neck angle is incorrect this can only be remedied by removing the fretboard and planing the neck before replacing the fret board. The process for straightening bowed necks without a fretboard is very similar although in this scenario the neck is planed to remove a curvature, not to change the fretboard angle. It is very common to have a combination of an incorrect neck angle and bowed neck. These are quite involved repairs and tend to start around the £160 mark. They often need to be accompanied by a full refret, effectively doubling the cost to around £300.

Budestrings instrument repairs
Mandolin with spanish heel

A common problem of certain brands and styles of acoustic guitar – and this is by no means restricted to cheap instruments – is what is referred to as bellying. Over time string tension rotates the entire bridge causing the top between the bridge and sound hole to drop while the top behind the bridge rises. The result is high action which cannot be addressed by shaving down the saddle. The repair is carried out by removing the bridge and using a process of heating and clamping to bring the guitar’s top back to its correct shape before regluing the bridge and carrying out a full setup and prices start around £80.

Budestrings instrument repairs
Acoustic guitar with severe belly

I often see the cause of bellying incorrectly diagnosed as drying out of the timbers – while there is little doubt that extremes of humidity such as desert or tropical climates can play havoc with any acoustic instrument this is unlikely to be a factor in temperate climates where humidity tends to stay around the 50-60% mark. If you live somewhere like the UK forcibly humidifying or drying an instrument can cause damage.

Electrical works

These are many and varied and much harder to put under a blanket price. they range from resoldering jack sockets from £20, servicing and cleaning the electrics to address crackly or intermittent pots and switches from £40 to full rewires which can start from £60 but run to considerably more depending on the complexity of the job. Most component replacements such as replacement pots and switches or pickup swaps come out around £40-£60.

BudeStrings instrument repairs
Harmony H75 rewire

The quality of the electrics in an instrument is another distinguishing factor of entry level and high end instruments. Quite apart from the quality of the pickups which can be less of a factor than you might expect there can be a lot of hissing and buzzing from incorrectly shielded and earthed components. I have successfully corrected this on many instruments at costs starting from £80 by shielding the cavities and replacing all ‘hot’ wires with shield braided cable where possible or enclosing wiring runs in metal braid sleeving. A well worth while upgrade to any badly behaved entry level instrument.

Budestrings instrument repairs
P bass electronics

Electrical repairs also extend to repairing leads, amps and electronic keyboards.

Budestrings instrument repairs
Servicing an electronic keyboard
Budestrings instrument repairs
Servicing a guitar amp

Structural repairs

These can range from snapped headstocks and necks to failed braces and splits.

By a long way the commonest of these are broken headstocks which can be repaired in a variety of manners, dictated by the nature of the break, the neck design, and the value of the instrument. Cheap instruments can be simply reglued without worrying about cosmetic considerations from around £60. More complex breaks and certain styles of instruments are best repaired by fitting a backstrap and headstock veneer to reinforce the break. I routinely use steam formed honduran mahogany for these repairs in order to achieve maximum strength and such repairs tend to start around £140. any refinishing after the repair has to be priced separately and will tend to add at least £60 to the cost.

BudeStrings instrument repairs
Severe headstock break
Budestrings instrument repairs
Mahogany backstrap repair

Splits in instrument bodies and tops can often be realigned with clamps and reinforced by gluing cleats across the line of the break, and depressions can usually be pulled out and made good. Any such repairs need to be priced individually.

Budetsrings instrument repairs
severely split guitar body
Budestrings instrument repairs
repairing a split body
Budestrings instrument repairs
successfully repaired

General repairs

The above are by no means an exhaustive list and I have often carried out full restorations using a combination of the above techniques. The prices quoted above are for labour only and do not include parts and strings. Most customers choose to supply strings when the leave an instrument with me.

Budestrings instrument repairs
Vintage guitar restoration

My pricing is intended to not make the repair of entry level instruments prohibitive and most repairs can be turned around in a few days.

My clients include the local music scene as well as professional performing and recording artists and studio musicians within a radius of around 100 miles, and feedback for my work has invariably been positive. I am accustomed to working for professional musicians and understand the level of work and deadlines they require. To that end I also offer technical support services for touring musicians and recording studios.

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