Frequently asked questions:
What kind of instruments do you work on?
We work on stringed instruments of all eras. This includes acoustic guitars, classical guitars, electric guitars, acoustic basses, mandolins, banjolins, banjos, electric basses, upright basses, autoharps, zithers, sitars, baglamas, ouds, and more. If you are curious if we work on the instrument you own, feel free to call us and we can discuss. There is nothing too odd or curious, and we love working on instruments from all over the world.
How long is your turnaround?
How long is your turnaround?
Our turnaround is dependent on the work to be performed and how many instruments we currently have in our shop. We aim to turnaround most basic maintenance repairs within 7-10 days, including basic setups of acoustic and electric guitars. Complex repairs and finish work are completed in the time provided, and this can be anywhere between two weeks to a month, or longer. You will be informed of any delays or wait time increase that is unexpected, and will never be left in the dark about what is going on with your instrument.
What are your prices?
We are happy to give you a verbal estimate range over the phone or through email, and can give a more accurate estimate if photographs are attached to an email. The most accurate estimate can be given in person during regular business hours, and all consultations are free of charge. Final labor estimates, particularly for complex repairs, can only be given in person once the instrument is examined. Minimum labor is $80. If you are shipping from outside of Los Angeles, rates can be discussed over the phone/via email.
will a guitar setup fix my problems?
In a word -- Probably.
Each instrument has a different set of needs and requirements to be given a clean bill of health, and not all guitars are fabricated in the factory using the same methods, tools, or human ingenuity. As well, some instruments require less abrasive approaches, utilizing tools and materials and experience that requires more time and patience. There are many reasons why one type of crack may require less time and materials to repair, and another that looks similar acts completely differently, and requires a different approach.
As one of my teachers told me, 'Fixing a guitar isn't replacing a carburetor', and this is true on many levels. While there are many parts of a guitar, particularly an electric guitar, that can easily be modified or swapped out, most of the intrinsic structure of a guitar varies from instrument to instrument, and the problems that afflict them are as varied as those that can be found in a house, or the human body. Instruments can go through a lifetime of experiences, sometimes before you have even acquired it -- these conditions can be extreme heat, exposure to sunlight, frigid air, very low or very high humidity, or simply just being very old. All of these factors add into the diagnosis of what is going on with your instrument when it is brought in for repair.
This is the long way of saying that while regular maintenance of your guitar, in the form of a 'setup', can and typically will fix many of the problems you are facing, often there are more factors as to why your guitar isn't playing the way you want it to. Things like fret buzz, warped necks, saddles that are too low to be lowered further, are all signs of deeper issues with the instrument. I always make an effort to demonstrate how I diagnose these issues with an instrument, and never attempt to repair an instrument without a customer not only approving of the repair, but understanding what is being fixed in the repair, and why.
What is the difference between Repair, Restoration, and Conservation?
Repair of an instrument, whether it is a Pre-War Martin or a $50 yard sale find, entails the regular maintenance of an instrument and the repair of non-functioning elements. As guitars and instruments are made from organic materials subject to change, age, and settling, they require this regular maintenance, just as your car might require regular oil-changes, tire rotations, new tires, and an occasional wax layer to protect the paint.
Examples of Repair on an acoustic guitar would be replacing the strings and conditioning the fretboard, setting the action by means of truss-rod and saddle adjustments, bone nut and saddle fabrication, and fret dressing or replacement. Resetting bridges and necks would also fall under 'regular maintenance and repair' for instruments, as would humidity cracks and incidental damage.
Examples of repair to an electric guitar would also include examining the wiring of instruments, replacement of common components (capacitors, potentiometers, variable selectors), re-wire services, and pickup removal/replacement.
All instruments require repair work to be performed on them after they are created, as all instruments are organic objects made of organic or man-made materials such as wood or even fiberglass. Environmental conditions, such as humidity and temperature, as well as time and age, play significant roles in the condition of an instrument throughout its lifespan. Every instrument will require some form of maintenance and repair through its lifespan, most typically in the form of 'setups', akin to changing the oil in your car. A guitar setup includes: removing the old strings, cleaning and hydrating the fretboard, cleaning and polishing the frets, cleaning the top, sides, and back of the instrument (unless otherwise requested), adjusting the nut slot height as needed, adjusting the truss rod tension as needed, adjusting the saddle or saddle piece height(s) as needed, and cleaning electronics if applicable.
Patt's Guitar Repair and Instrument Conservation will appraise the work needed to be performed on your instrument free of charge, and will never charge a bench fee to appraise the condition of your instrument.
Restoration of an instrument is a service performed where an instrument that is 'beyond repair' is restored back to playable and working condition. When an instrument is run over by a car, dropped on the ground, and damage has affected the intrinsic value or playability of the instrument, restoration work can be performed. Restoration work does not include permanently altering the provenance of an instrument for aesthetic or personal reasons -- For example, changing the finish of a guitar from its natural state to a neon pink.
Examples of restoration work performed to an acoustic guitar may include headstock repair, neck resets, wood fabrication and resetting of broken fragments of wood on a caved in top, hydration of an instrument, reducing the belly in the lower bout of a guitar, re-adhesion or replacement of guitar inlay, re-adhesion or replacement of guitar binding. Restoration work would also include any and all finish work performed, to a variety of instruments. We do not perform refinishing of entire guitar tops, but will perform 'drop repairs' and other specific finish work as needed and discussed. We would be happy to make a recommendation for shops that do perform larger-scale finish projects.
Patt's Guitar Repair and Instrument Conservation provides many professional restoration services, for wood instruments and objects. Inquire by email or phone to learn more.
Conservation work performed on instruments differs entirely from repair or restoration work. Whereas restoration work is often permanent, or at least only partially reversible, conservation by definition must be performed with tested, reversible materials and techniques. This is so that the work performed can be 100% reversed, and the object can be displayed or viewed by another Conservator in its original state. Conservation work performed is intended to stabilize and preserve instruments in their current state -- for example, a missing flake of finish would be stabalized so that further flaking becomes more difficult, rather than replacing the flake to achieve a more perfect aesthetic appearance. In essence, it is keeping the instrument as closely preserved to its natural state as possible, rather than altering its original state to look brand new or more aesthetically pleasing.
Another example of conservation would be the conservation/preservation of aged and vintage cellulose pickguard, binding, and bridge material, as opposed to refabrication of a similar but newer plastic material, which is the often pursued industry standard.
Instrument conservation is a rare trade skill applied to instruments that are both valuable and often unique, such as 17th and 18th century baroque-era instruments, or heritage-example Turkish Ouds and Saz's from Iraq. Instruments that require conservation are often displayed rather than played, being objects in a private or museum collection. We have performed conservation work on early 1900's Gibson and Martin Instruments and specialize in conservation of celluloid pick guards and early plastic materials.
Patt's Guitar Repair and Instrument Conservation carries fine-art insurance and membership to the American Institute of Conservation, following all standards required by the AIC for work performed on site. Recommendations for art shipping and handling companies can be provided on request, and photographs can be emailed for a rough estimate of costs for treatment. We perform conservation work on instruments as well as wooden objects. Inquire via email or phone for more information.