Instruments We Repair
We repair most stringed and fretted instruments. This includes acoustic and electric guitars, violins, mandolins, banjos, harps, ukuleles….
We’ll need to see your instrument before we can give you a real estimate. The most common inquiry we get involves set-ups for fretted instruments. They typically range from roughly $50 to $90, plus the cost of the strings. The higher end of the cost is for instruments that need a fair amount of fret-dressing. Our set-ups are not “one size fits all.” We’ll look at your instrument and tell you what we see. We’re sensitive to musicians with basic instruments or who are on limited budgets. We can discuss set-ups that can address most playability issues but also help to minimize the cost. Here’s a description on what’s involved in a guitar set-up.
Most set-ups are done in a week, plus or minus a couple of days, depending on the current backlog. Instruments needing more involved work will depend on staff availability and the backlog of other repairs. Many repair jobs involve multiple steps that can’t be done all at once (such as gluing, or touching up a finish). This means that we are often working on several instruments almost simultaneously. Smaller jobs are fit in between steps in a more major repair. We try to give you a good idea of how quickly we can do your instrument, and we try to accommodate your needs to have your instrument repaired on a timeline.
We’re open six days a week, and can usually evaluate your instrument when you come in. Once we see your instrument we’ll be able to explain in detail what your instrument needs, and then give you an estimate of repair cost and timeline.
Not all of our customers live near us. We regularly receive instruments that have been shipped to us for repair. If you live at a distance and have an instrument that needs more than routine work, or an older instrument that needs restoration, we can still likely help. Be sure to contact us before automatically sending an instrument.
TYPES OF REPAIRS
We specialize in repairs involving structural and playability issues, which means everything from set-ups to neck resets.
Typical work includes set-ups. Sooner or later, instruments need some standard adjustments so that they play easily, accurately and sound great. Set-ups go beyond truss rod adjustment, which is only one part of the equation. Nuts and saddle adjustment/replacement, fret-dressing and intonation issues are all common set-up tasks.
More extensive guitar repairs include bridge resets and replacements, neck resets, cracks repaired, braces reglued, refretting, and headstock crack repairs. We also replace missing wood, replace missing braces, and replace bridge plates.
We install pickups, most often Fishman products, which we carry in stock.
Banjo repairs include replacing heads, including calfskin heads, and spikes installed.
Violin work frequently involves bridge and soundpost replacement, pegs refitted or replaced, peg bushings, glued seams, crack repairs, and occasionally more complex repairs. Here’s a rundown on what’s typically involved in setting up violins.
And if you call to discuss having your instrument entirely refinished, we’re pretty likely to talk you out of it.
Repairing instruments keeps life interesting here. We never know what exactly is going to come through the door, and each case is a little different. For example, here’s a project we did for the University of Wisconsin Russian Folk Music Ensemble. Their contrabass balalaika was becoming very difficult to play. (They’re not all that easy to play on a good day….) Repairing this instrument involved planing and refretting the fingerboard.
We have a strong affinity for older instruments. Repairing them can involve a fair amount of problem-solving. Vintage instruments and contemporary instruments can differ significantly in how they were built. Understanding these differences, as well as considering how best to repair instruments that have been damaged in a wide variety of ways, is rewarding work.
Our primary repair considerations are playability, sound and structural integrity. A couple of our guiding restoration principles: First, the more original you can keep an instrument, the better. Second, the less you have to do to make it that way, the better it is.
OUR REPAIR PHILOSOPHY AND EXPERIENCE
Spruce Tree Music is first and foremost a repair shop. It is not a sideline activity for our business, but rather the core of our existence. The work benches aren’t tucked away in some separate department. Instead, in 1980, we began with a couple of work benches, and a shop grew up around them.
Our extensive repair experience leads us to view instruments from the inside out. You won’t find us using flowery language to describe instruments here. We tend to talk about the structure of the instruments we offer, how they’re built, how they work, and what’s required to maintain them.
Instrument repair has been Wil Bremer’s profession for over 45 years. He concentrates on violin and viola repairs, guitar neck resets and instrument restoration. Wil has taught instrument repair through the University of Wisconsin National Stringed Instrument Repair Clinics. He is sought out for his detailed knowledge of vintage instruments. Doug Craemer-Meihsner has been repairing instruments here since 1994. Doug is known for his electric guitar set-ups as well as structural repairs. Other staff members handle a wide range of repairs.
Here’s the sort of information we give you when you come into our shop, both when purchasing a new instrument as well as caring for your venerable, treasured instrument.