Sign in to follow this  
Herman West

charging for stringing up?

Recommended Posts

I brought my recently acquired violin in to the luthier who built it thirty years ago, so he could put matching tailpiece, chinrest and pegs on it.

Since the instrument needed fresh strings, too, I brought a new set and asked the luthier to put those on, rather than the old set. If you’re putting in new pegs and tailpiece, you’re going to deal with stringing up anyhow.

So I was a little surprised to see an 30 bucks item on the luthier’s estimate for stringing up. It’s a small amount on a bill that will amount to a thousand bucks, but I’m just not that thrilled about being regarded as a walking talking ATM.

I’m not going to make a fuss about this, but I do would like to know how luthiers in this group feel about this. Maybe it’s perfectly normal and you'd do the same.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I had my first job in Munich at the end of the 70's, I worked upstairs in the workshop. Whenever I came down to the shop to bring or fetch anything, or because some customer wished to speak English, I could observe up to 4 people behind the counter, and up to a dozen customers in the shop all buying strings (Pirastro Oliv or Eudoxa mostly). The boss used to grumble that he had been reduced from a violin restorer to a String tinker, but the bottom line at the end of the month probably provided him with some consolation.

 

Fast forward to today, where hardly anyone drops in to buy strings. Recently Frau D came in and said, she had “bought a new set of strings on internet, and could I put them on for her, because I always do it so nicely”, which I did. By the time she had explained all the ills of the word to me and left, having prominently placed leaflets in my shop advertising her violin lessons, she had occupied ¾ of an hour of my time.

 

I didn't charge anything, but if your luthier does, I certainly get his point. You didn't say if he charged anything for a written estimate, which is also work, and can waste no end of time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would support Jacob on this, you have to look at it from a luthier's point of view, the extra 'free' time they spend on anything to do with instruments, could be spent on actually earning money. 

Lesson of the day: if you aren't happy about being charge for something that appears trivial to you, simply just learn to do it yourself. There's lots of videos around that do tell you how to string a violin properly :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure whether this luthier charges $30 just to put on a set of string, but I've heard of charging for taking down a setup and putting it back up.  The basic idea is trying to avoid bundling a charge for taking down the setup.  For example, if you factor in the time to take down the setup in the standard charge for a new tailpiece it will cost more, but if you also charge more for a new soundpost or bridge because of the time to take down the setup and put it back, then the cost compounds.  If the luthier has factored that time separately it doesn't necessarily mean you're getting nailed with an extra $30 it may mean that you're not paying extra for the pegs and tailpiece because he's factored the time differently.

I'd be curious to know if people are doing their billing that way.  I've debated it, but thought customers might get miffed at seeing it on their bill and not understanding it.  The OP supports my concern.  Thanks for bringing it up.
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I misread the post and thought it said bought strings, not brought.  In that case I do charge something to put on a set, but not $30.  Doesn't change the previous post, though, because if you're taking down a full setup it doesn't matter if you're putting on the same set or a new set.

 

Now that string markups are so low, since most shops and online outlets are using them as a loss leader to get people in the door regularly, there's no profit in selling strings.  I have been debating having a nominal fee ($10 or so) for installing a new set of strings, but charging more (maybe $15-$20?) if you didn't buy the strings in my shop.  The idea is that the markup really doesn't pay for my time to string up an instrument, and the $10 offsets that.  If you didn't buy them at my shop, then you'll pay the minimum service charge that goes with any repair, which is closer to the actual bench time taken up.  Inevitably if I am going to string up a violin I'm going to give it a basic inspection before doing anything.  Unlikely that it'll be less than 20 minutes between the inspection and stringing it up.

If I'm doing a tonal adjustment or recommending a different set of strings I'll usually give a customer 2 weeks to try them out (if they're a set that I regularly stock) and if they're not happy with them I'll take them back in trade towards a different set.  I can always use those strings on a shop fiddle, so it's no loss on my end and makes it easier for a customer to make a leap in to a more expensive string if you take the risk out.  Nobody has returned a set yet, but it certainly makes it easier for them to decide.  Certainly not something that you'll get from an online retailer.
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a customer, I have no issue with paying for a service, although it's super nice (and good marketing) when the vendor tosses something in for 'free', be it an item or his/her time.

But if I was the vendor:

  • In Herman's case, given the work that was done, I'd probably string it up for free with the strings Herman brought along.  I'd have to string it up with the old strings regardless...so really, there was no added time or effort.
  • In Jacob's case, I'd probably add a larger fee (maybe $20-30, mostly to discourage being taken advantage of).  I don't think it's fair to buy the strings on-line, and then ask someone else to install them for free.  If Frau D is a violinist she can string up her own violin.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  Hopefully she's at least a repeat customer for other items/issues.
  • If someone buys the strings in my shop, and asks me to put them on...I would also be fine paying a very small fee.  $10 wouldn't offend me.  Much more than that would.  Why?  Because at that price point I'm further ahead if I do it myself.

Now a question:  What happens if the vendor breaks a string while installing a new set?  What if Jacob broke the E string while installing the on-line set?  Who is supposed to pay for the replacement string?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Rue said:

 

  • In Herman's case, given the work that was done, I'd probably string it up for free with the strings Herman brought along.  I'd have to string it up with the old strings regardless...so really, there was no added time or effort.

I think the prudent approach here, is to write a repair estimate that projects how many hours work the whole project will take (are billable), rather than itemising individual chores. After all, one need not provoke arguments about what is payable or what is not (doping pegs, glueing something, searching for a rattle &&&)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Herman's case the stringing should be part of the charge for changing the accessories.  If we wanted to get sticky about it we could say it is a little harder to put on a new set of strings, since we may have to take them out of a wrapper and unwind them; and they will stretch more, so we'll have to retune them a few more times.

If the $30 was just included in a written breakdown of all the work required to fulfill the owner's requests, I don't see anything out of line, provided the strings were installed so that the pegs ended up in good positions and don't slip.

Note that even professionals often put their strings on without adjusting them; so the pegs end up in positions which make tuning awkward.  It's a bit of a process because the strings stretch.  To avoid this we might have to adjust the strings more than once.

How often do we see players contorting themselves while tuning because the peg handles are at a bad angle?  Often!  :)

I know that this consideration was taken very seriously by at least one big shop back in the '70s.  I can't remember exactly what the owner said, but part of it was he thought it was bad form to hand someone a fine violin to try out if it had poorly installed strings. And that players soon began to realize and appreciate the care the shop took.  These days shops need all the edge they can get.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you brought that up: Exactly what is the trick to getting the pegs lined up properly when putting on new strings?  Maybe it's just trial and error...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, Rue said:

 

Now a question:  What happens if the vendor breaks a string while installing a new set?  What if Jacob broke the E string while installing the on-line set?  Who is supposed to pay for the replacement string?

For me if a client comes in for work that requires the set up to be taken down and keeping their current strings on and one breaks in re string then I charge them for a new string. If I'm putting on new strings that I've sold them then if one breaks while setting up then I pay. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have an old repair rate survey from 1990, and I just looked it up to see about a set-up charge or re-string charge, which I would consider to be two different things.  The survey made no mention of a charge for string changes, but there was an entry setup charges.  I don't know how they addressed it if some portion of the respondents of the survey didn't charge for this.

Setup Charge Low $5 Average $18 High $45

Low shop rate was $25 Average was $47 and high was $100

Based on the Low, Average, and High shop rates at the time these represent somewhere between 10-30 minutes of work billed

In change in CPI from 1990 to today that average charge would be $33 and the average shop rate would be $86, so Herman's luthier's charge is just below average by that metric.


 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not charge installation fees on strings which are bought from my shop. I put them on, lube the nut and the bridge, put peg dope on the pegs, if needed. Strings bought elsewhere incur a modest fee. If my time isn't worth anything, why are you here?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If a customer buys the strings from me (I have a 20% markup from the price I paid for the strings), I don't charge for installing the strings.  If I put back the old strings after a repair (usually at the request of the customer), I don't charge for that either.  And if the instrument is owned by the school district, I don't charge for stringing, whether the original strings or new strings.  But theoretically, I charge for stringing up --- it's just that the correct occasion has never come up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took a cello shell (no parts) whatsoever to a shop and asked them to ream out the endpin hole to fit a rather large clunky endpin I had, I was trying to avoid buying a bass reamer. They returned the cello five minutes later and charged me $125. I protested the price, and all they would say is that the book states that the cost for installing a new cello endpin is $125. Of course this is figured based on a set up cello, taking down the strings and bridge, risking the soundpost falling and having to be put it back up, restringing and tuning. I could have bought two reamers for what I paid for the repair. Haven't gone back and bad mouth them every chance I get. Charging by time would have made more sense.

As to the original poster, taking down a setup for any reason involves taking off the strings and putting them back on. Charging extra for this is not appropriate. It is slightly easier to install new strings in most cases than dealing with a tangle of strings with the curled up ends.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the responses, allowing me to look at this from the other end! 

Like I said, I'm not going to make a fuss about these stringing-up charges, even though I agree with BrokenBow that new strings are actually easier than the old strings which the luthier would have put back in without charge. Most likely I'll be too happy to be reunited with the instrument, and from now on I'll know what kind of guy the luthier is.

The issue is not that I can't or don't like to do that particular job myself; I actually enjoy that kind of thing. However in this case it seemed only natural to ask the luthier to do this as he was setting up his violin with the appropriate accessories.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most luthiers I know wouldn't charge for this. With all of the on line options I think many guys have given up on selling strings as part of their business model. With that said when I go in with some work I usually ask for a new set of Dominants, its something they usually have, and its really not much more.

On the flip side of this was a luthier back in PA that was notorious for changing strings on everything that came into the shop, even if it was to adjust a chinrest, his price was quite high.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Will L said:

In Herman's case the stringing should be part of the charge for changing the accessories.  If we wanted to get sticky about it we could say it is a little harder to put on a new set of strings, since we may have to take them out of a wrapper and unwind them; and they will stretch more, so we'll have to retune them a few more times.

If the $30 was just included in a written breakdown of all the work required to fulfill the owner's requests, I don't see anything out of line, provided the strings were installed so that the pegs ended up in good positions and don't slip.

Note that even professionals often put their strings on without adjusting them; so the pegs end up in positions which make tuning awkward.  It's a bit of a process because the strings stretch.  To avoid this we might have to adjust the strings more than once.

How often do we see players contorting themselves while tuning because the peg handles are at a bad angle?  Often!  :)

I know that this consideration was taken very seriously by at least one big shop back in the '70s.  I can't remember exactly what the owner said, but part of it was he thought it was bad form to hand someone a fine violin to try out if it had poorly installed strings. And that players soon began to realize and appreciate the care the shop took.  These days shops need all the edge they can get.  

My emphasis above.  This is an important point.  Restringing requires more than just putting the string through the hole in the tailpiece and on the peg and tightening.  More than once I've put a new set of strings on my instrument and ended up with one or two pegs in an awkward position so that it is almost impossible to tune with the violin under my chin. Fixing this by loosening the string and adjusting how much is pulled through the hole in the peg before winding is not difficult but it may need repetition, and therefore time, to get it right.   Another awkward situation can arise if the peg end is wound too tightly up to the wall of the pegbox, effectively locking the string into position and making it difficult to tune.  Though these problems are easily avoided, they are not mentioned in the videos on installing a string I've seen on line.  Moral: Restringing is something that needs care and might take time to be done right. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you purchase strings from me, I don't charge. If you bring in your own strings, I do charge. I have a shop, and that means rent, insurance and all of the other things that go along with maintaining a store front.

When I change strings, I: look over the instrument and check for loose edges, ect. Lubricate the pegs if they need it, lubricate the nut and bridge grooves, and mention anything else that I see that might need doing. 

As a side question/note: Should I not charge when a customer who tried to change their own strings had the post fall and they ask me to stand it back up? Or if they change their own strings and come in with the complaint that the instrument no longer sounds "right" and ask me to check the placement of things?

 

p.s. I've had to deal with an attorney recently. If you talk 5 minutes on the phone with them, you get a bill.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're doing setup or repair that requires removing the strings anyway, then charging seperately to put strings back on is bogus. And especially so if the work is costing a considerable sum ($1,000?) to begin with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, duane88 said:

If you purchase strings from me, I don't charge. If you bring in your own strings, I do charge. I have a shop, and that means rent, insurance and all of the other things that go along with maintaining a store front.

When I change strings, I: look over the instrument and check for loose edges, ect. Lubricate the pegs if they need it, lubricate the nut and bridge grooves, and mention anything else that I see that might need doing. 

As a side question/note: Should I not charge when a customer who tried to change their own strings had the post fall and they ask me to stand it back up? Or if they change their own strings and come in with the complaint that the instrument no longer sounds "right" and ask me to check the placement of things?

 

p.s. I've had to deal with an attorney recently. If you talk 5 minutes on the phone with them, you get a bill.

Look at it this way, duane 88:  Luthiers mostly enjoy what they do, so don't need to charge the customer for every minute.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, bkwood said:

If you're doing setup or repair that requires removing the strings anyway, then charging seperately to put strings back on is bogus. And especially so if the work is costing a considerable sum ($1,000?) to begin with.

I feel the same way. But I'm not going to make a fuss over 30 EU.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, bkwood said:

If you're doing setup or repair that requires removing the strings anyway, then charging seperately to put strings back on is bogus. And especially so if the work is costing a considerable sum ($1,000?) to begin with.

There is nothing bogus about charging for time spent working on somebodys violin. Far more, it just shows that one is foolish to give a written estimate broken down into time spent on each small hand movement one might make, to subsequently be criticaly reviewed by someone with little clue of repairing violins.

 

In a way, it reminds me of being told off by Hr. Machold senior, for cutting my fingernails in company time. I pointed out that they presumably grew in company time too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Alma said:

Glad you brought that up: Exactly what is the trick to getting the pegs lined up properly when putting on new strings?  Maybe it's just trial and error...

Yes, exactly, it is trial and error and being aware.  If we are familiar with our brand of strings it is easier.  What I try to estimate is how much the string will stretch, then on the first tuning up to pitch I leave the handle forward of the perfect spot so hopefully the string will stop stretching about the same time the handle arrives at a good spot.

And I think strings continue to stretch forever, but not so much that we always have to readjust later.  

The other thing is to always have the string wound on the shaft so that it is pulling the peg inward.  If the winding is too central or going the wrong way then the peg will tend to work its way out.

Another reason for taking the time and care to deal with this is that the less we monkey with strings the better it is for the string.  So I don't think it's good to have strings slip completely or have to lower them after they are fully stretched.

I see Gowan has similar thoughts and experiences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.