250.878.1156 gnorris@telus.net


Gary Norris - SepiatoneIt’s quite understandable that musicians, in our case stringed instrument players, would have serious questions concerning their tools-of-the-trade. After all, we’re artists. And as such we have desire to be original, inspired, & concerned about our craft. To that degree, we may have questions & concerns about how we can create, fix, and find the best tools for the job. Below are a number of questions and answers that I have received over the years. I hope they prove helpful to you; but if not, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your own inquiries. I’d love to help you out.


Gary Norris - SepiatoneBelow are a number of questions and answers that I have received over the years. I hope they prove helpful to you; but if not, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your own inquiries. I’d love to help you out.

How much does it cost for a set up?

A full pro set up includes: fret work; tightening and adjustment of tuners; custom bone nut; clean, polish and oil fret board; in the case of acoustics the fitting of bridge pins with ramping of the bridge for correcting break angle and re-carving the saddle or making of a custom bone saddle with intonation compensation; light cleaning; installation of new strings and truss rod adjustment; in the case of electrics the adjustment of bridge height or tremolo tension; saddle adjustment for height, radius and intonation; review of existing string bearing points on saddles and possible adjustment. Basically, the guitar gets a full work over and balancing for playability, tuning ease and stability, voicing and sustain. This kind of set up is normally $150. plus tax, however, since instruments vary in style and set up needs (some need extensive repair or adjustment) this amount may vary accordingly. In some cases the cost may be less if budgets are tight and the work is minimized.

How long does it take to set up a guitar?

Usually a set up can be done in 1-3 days, but often players don’t mind a week for completion. In emergency cases (with scheduled gigs, etc.) the same day or next day turn around is a possibility.

If I drop off my guitar on my way through Kelowna, can I pick it up on my way back in two days?

I try to be as accommodating as possible regarding individual needs and can usually schedule work to be done which suits those needs.

My bridge is coming off, so how much will it cost to fix it?

This kind of repair cost can vary considerably. It is best that the guitar is examined to determine the method of repair. Bridges can be re-glued in place, removed and re-surfaced then re-glued, replaced entirely with a stock or custom bridge, and the cost ranges between $30.-$250. However, a discussion will take place regarding the cause or causes for the bridge problem.

How much is a re-fret?

Generally, re-fretting is of two categories, one where the fret board has no binding and one where there is binding on the sides. Bound boards require the frets to be tang-shortened to specific lengths so that the crown runs over the binding. This is more time consuming, as well as the cleaning and re-working of the fret slot being more tedious. So, with bound boards a re-fret ranges from $400-$450., and unbound board re-fret would range from $300-$350. An advantage to the re-fret process is that when the frets are removed, then the board is dressed to remove wear and make the radius true again, since fret boards tend to flatten somewhat with age and seasoning. Re-fretting not only creates a like-new feel to the action but results in a significant tone improvement. Often a re-fret job can be an option to what is known as a “neck reset”, to allow the alignment of body to neck and neck to bridge to be improved. A full set up of the instrument is included in the re-fret cost.

Is it worth fixing this guitar?

It is a good idea to make an appointment for a free quote and discussion about the work required for an instrument. I try to give advice and information about instruments when quoting so that the owner expands their own knowledge about woods and playability.

My guitar was playing fine, but now it seems to have fret buzzing - why is that and can this be fixed?

This is often a winter question, since the guitar was playing fine, but when the sound board loses moisture content due to low humidity conditions it falls (rather than splitting down the middle), thus causing the action to be too low. Acoustic guitars are designed with a crown or slight dome in the sound board so they can flex rather than split apart. The extreme case of a sound board shrinking is the “implosion” or concave collapse which can warp not only the braces but also the neck. The solution is to hydrate the guitar and ensure the frets have good alignment, together with any saddle and/or truss rod adjustment necessary. A full set up is recommended together with a follow up after a period of proper hydration. Many people think that summer is the low humidity season – and indeed it can be dry in summer, but in winter the available moisture is often frozen and not available in the air. Further, humidity levels and how they affect an acoustic guitar do vary with climate and location, not to mention how guitars are stored when not being played.

My guitar goes out of tune all the time. This is the second guitar I’ve had that does this, so why is that and can this be fixed?

There are two main reasons why your guitar “goes out of tune”: 1) Plastic and factory molded nuts have not normally been adjusted in any way by the manufacturer, and consequently, the slots are not custom-gauged for the strings being used. This tends to make the string bind in the slot and can result in a condition that is difficult to stabilize the pitch when tuning, then when played can just jump out of pitch. The answer is to file the slots with nut files (which are gauged for each string) and polish the slot for smooth tuning. Better still, a custom hand made bone nut (when made correctly) will have it’s slots gauged for your strings and with just enough clearance for smooth tuning and pitch stability. 2) Good intonation of the guitar is established by having the string’s bearing point on the saddle in the correct position regarding distance from the nut. Two main factors which govern that position (other than scale length) are the height above the fret board and the core diameter of the string. If the saddle position is not correct then you can tune to pitch on the open string, but be off pitch when fretting a note.

These two main reasons for a guitar to “go out of tune” can be fixed, and that work is a part of the pro set up done at Norris Guitars – a custom bone nut (or slot filing on the existing nut), and setting of the saddles for intonation (electric), or adjustment of the acoustic saddle (in both position and shape).

I have big hands and I need more room between the strings for my fingers. Can you make a new nut with better spacing for my fret board?

Yes, a new hand made bone nut is the best solution for this issue, especially when the nut is well made. Nut making is a bit of an art in itself, and most factory nuts are not custom fitted to maximize the fret board’s width regarding string spacing. Although guitars vary in nut width, a suitable spacing of the strings (not too close to the edge of frets) can be established so that the distance between the string sides is equal. Further, a well made bone nut has it’s string slots shaped specifically to flow towards the tuner post, with a width and slot shape that allows for smooth pitch change and pitch stability once the string is tuned (each string slot is gauged according to the string width). Another feature of a well made nut is that the top of the nut is carved so that the string slots are no higher than (in the vicinity of) the gauge of the string. Technically, the slot height need not be any more than one-half the string diameter. Further, slots should be polished in their interior after the filing is complete, to have smooth pitch changes. In general, most retailers and lutherie shops charge $50-$60 for a well made bone nut, although this cost can be higher for more expensive materials (i.e., fossilized ivory if available, or mother of pearl (for high end banjos).

I have a violin bow that needs re-hairing. Do you do re-hairing?

Yes, I use Siberian stallion white-cream hanks for violins and cellos. Upright bass bows are usually done with the black stallion hair (seems to give more growl). Re-hairing is usually a $60. job, however, sometimes there are repairs or part replacements for some bows which need to be taken into account. Some cheaper bows are only worth re-hairing if they are sentimental or have particularly good tone, though the left/right alignment must be considered, as well as the tension potential.