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arglebargle

Cello sound post patch rates

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Hi all,

I'm curious what the current rate for a cello sound-post patch is. Only the patch, not removing the top and retouch.

I haven't done one in a long time, and I may have the need too soon.

FYI, I usually ask between 3k and 5k, depending on the severity.

Thanks!

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I did one about a year ago for $350.  I made a partial plaster cast.  I didn't remove or reglue the top.  It didn't require any retouching.  It was relatively easy because the crack didn't go all the way through.

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2 hours ago, arglebargle said:

Hi all,

I'm curious what the current rate for a cello sound-post patch is. Only the patch, not removing the top and retouch.

I haven't done one in a long time, and I may have the need too soon.

FYI, I usually ask between 3k and 5k, depending on the severity.

Thanks!

3 - 5 thousand dollars to fit a patch in a front?

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41 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I did one about a year ago for $350.  I made a partial plaster cast.  I didn't remove or reglue the top.  It didn't require any retouching.  It was relatively easy because the crack didn't go all the way through.

How do you do a soundpost patch without removing the top?

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2 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

3 - 5 thousand dollars to fit a patch in a front?

Yes. That's why I'm asking. How off base am I? This is a smashed top, not just a hairline crack. I know the basic procedure is the same, but there are sound-post cracks and there are sound-post cracks(!).

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2 hours ago, JohnCockburn said:

How do you do a soundpost patch without removing the top?

Yeah what's up with that. I hope it's not just a veneer/cleat job. 

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2 hours ago, JohnCockburn said:

How do you do a soundpost patch without removing the top?

What I meant was that the maker brought me the top after she had removed it.

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21 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

3 - 5 thousand dollars to fit a patch in a front?

I wouldn't consider that to be out of line, for a spectacular job. If you add up all the time involved in each step of the job, each step being done with the utmost care, there is an awful lot of time invested.

Example: A cello top can probably be removed in 2 minutes, but this is not what one would want to do these days on a valuable historic irreplaceable instrument. Too much carnage.

Should one do lower-quality work on a less expensive instrument? Maybe. I don't have a solid answer to that. Work quality ends up having a lot to do with the establishment of ones reputation, so I'll leave that choice up to each individual.

Edit: I missed that the OP's description was "Only the patch, not removing the top and retouch". Still, it will depend on how messed up the top is.

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20 minutes ago, martin swan said:

my eyes also boggled somewhat ...!

Dont come to SF.

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150$ an hour + materials.+ tax,, and yes we get paid to watch the glue dry which could easily get to 3k or about 20 hours, I may give a verbal estimate if it seems straight forward or I may say I need to get into it more to really asses it before I open my mouth.

I would be concerned about a loose top that has been presented to me in the same way that I would be leary of someone asking me to sand a floor that they , a non pro floor person installed.

"What could go wrong? well in the case of the floor, how do I know you've nailed it off properly? and with the Cello top, how do I know you have not done something that may make it more time consuming to reattach  or something else could be broken

So I would want to see the entire instrument and would give no estimate for the entire job unless I was able to asses the entire thing, but I generally prefer to work for people who do not care about cost and who are fine with the shop rate and who trust that I am not going to charge them for hours not put in. And yes thats the Bay area, which is yes,more expensive than many other places.

If I lived in Texas or Michigan the shop rate I suspect would be lower to be more in line with the local economy.

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

my eyes also boggled somewhat ...!

 

Yeah, I get it.

I have a tendency to under-charge for my work. Compared to other shops in my region my bridges are a steal. However, a sound-post patch is a major undertaking with long-term effects and consequences. The cello in question is a very good instrument, and the damage to the top very severe. So, after your eyes are done boggling, what would you charge? I asked the original question because I want to know, not to raise eyebrows.

And to clarify, a hairline sound-post crack on a Jay Haide cello would not warrant a 3-5k repair in my shop. A s.p. patch is a s.p. patch, until it's on a valuable instrument, no?

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Arglebargle, did you edit your original post, or did I miss the "only the patch, not removing the top and retouch" part?

Anyway, I don't think one can set a standard price for a soundpost patch. Too many variables, such as:  Has the crack been repaired before? If so, was it a good job or a horrible job? Has the instrument already had a through-patch? Will arching correction be needed? And many more....

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1 hour ago, Mark Norfleet said:

A photograph of the “very severe damage” would get you more informed responses.

I'll see if I can get permission to post pictures.

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5 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I wouldn't consider that to be out of line, for a spectacular job. If you add up all the time involved in each step of the job, each step being done with the utmost care, there is an awful lot of time invested.

Example: A cello top can probably be removed in 2 minutes, but this is not what one would want to do these days on a valuable historic irreplaceable instrument. Too much carnage.

Should one do lower-quality work on a less expensive instrument? Maybe. I don't have a solid answer to that. Work quality ends up having a lot to do with the establishment of ones reputation, so I'll leave that choice up to each individual.

 

4 hours ago, arglebargle said:

Yeah, I get it.

I have a tendency to under-charge for my work. Compared to other shops in my region my bridges are a steal. However, a sound-post patch is a major undertaking with long-term effects and consequences. The cello in question is a very good instrument, and the damage to the top very severe. So, after your eyes are done boggling, what would you charge? I asked the original question because I want to know, not to raise eyebrows.

And to clarify, a hairline sound-post crack on a Jay Haide cello would not warrant a 3-5k repair in my shop. A s.p. patch is a s.p. patch, until it's on a valuable instrument, no?

My impression was that the job was to fit a patch, no more.  3 - 5k seemed a lot to me. I can see of course, that work on a very good  instrument might be charged at a premium. 

But, no matter the cello, if a patch is needed, it's planned, the wood  chosen, and fitted, in exactly the same way,  taking the same level of time and care. So it's  not glued in until it fits, that's that. And nice varnish is often a hell of a lot easier to retouch than cheap stuff to boot.

I have a machine that I built for making patches. I simply make a cast of the patch bed, and copy it in spruce. As the cast is made under clamping  pressure, the patch fits very well. The final fitting is done with a knife as usual. Fitting a patch is not an artistic pursuit for me - it's a mechanical operation, and the machine  is  better than I am until the finishing stage.

There was a man from Germany offering a patch fitting service at the VSA a few years ago. His results were spectacular, with unbelievable detail.  I think he needed a cast and a piece of wood of your choice.  I think his charges were less than $100/ square inch, but I can't  remember  exactly. 

Edited by Conor Russell
Early morning grumpiness

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6 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Arglebargle, did you edit your original post, or did I miss the "only the patch, not removing the top and retouch" part?

 

That was in the original post ...

 

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Our shop rate is $100/hour (probably a bit low for our market, but the shop mainly exists to do in-house work to prepare instruments for sale) and I can't imagine taking 50 hours to do a soundpost patch. I don't have my time chart handy, but these are the things I would count in the estimate with times as I remember them, as you have asked for it:

-glue crack, 1 hour
-make plaster cast including corners (for alignment) 5? hours
-fit patch and glue, 5 hours
-cut down patch, 1 hour

12 hours, total, $1200 for that part of the work, for our shop. Maybe I underestimated by a couple of hours.

If the top were a real jigsaw puzzle, that would be separate, but you didn't say anything about that. Pressing out anything in the way of distortions would be additional, of course, as would studs for an extended crack (and time for gluing that extended crack), but those weren't in your description, either. You didn't want to count fill/retouch, top off and on, so I didn't.

We don't charge more for Strads, less for Roths. In principle, every instrument that comes through the shop gets the best level of work, and the same level of attention. If we were going to do this, which I believe is a bad policy, we would lay that out to the customers, especially those slated for second-rate work. In theory, people come to our shop because they know what they will get, based on our reputation. I wish I had a list of reliably second-rate local shops who charged second-rate prices, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

If you are going to charge $5,000 for that work, I would be interested in how you see the time breakdown for the work to justify that, and your shop rate. I really hope you aren't just pulling numbers out of your ass based on your stress level! Think about that for a minute---that means that people who work at the fringes of their skill, constantly on the edge of messing up and fearful, not sure in their skills, should get paid more!

The way I learned to do jobs at Bein and Fushi was that it was assumed that a job would be executed perfectly, and that a skilled workman would be able to accomplish standard tasks in standard amounts of time, which could be predicted in his own work estimate. Estimates were made by the people doing the work, not by someone working the front, and they were a commitment to the customer. Easy jobs were a win for the worker who took the gain, but when he messed up and couldn't do what others could in the time they could do it, he, not the customer, took the loss. People who couldn't do that, whose skills and standards weren't up to the rest of the shop's already-proven abilities, were cycled out. Times were not onerous, and in the overall they included time for bathroom breaks, tool sharpening, etc. Certain jobs had open-ended times ("retouch" can mean one dot with a brush, or days--I once sat behind someone who spent a whole week drawing grain lines on a top), but an accurate estimate was still expected in advance for the customer. As far as I know that's the way most repair shops, car mechanics for instance, work: out of a book of expectations.

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Just not enough information to make a reasonable judgement, I'm afraid... not all sp cracks are created equal (you said "damage to the top very severe"... what does that mean? I believe Mark asked this question as well.), but 3-5K just for the gluing and patching (of a relatively straightforward break) is definitely higher than the basic charge on my price chart.

It wouldn't matter what the instrument was. If it warrants the work, it needs to be done correctly.  

 

 

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16 hours ago, deans said:

Dont come to SF.

 A colleague‘s stepson was looking at an engineering job in San Francisco that would’ve paid him almost $250,000 a year, and he’s making about 100 right now in North Texas. But when he researched the respective cost of living in the various places he found that the raise would only work out to about 20 grand. So he decided to stay here. 

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17 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

 A colleague‘s stepson was looking at an engineering job in San Francisco that would’ve paid him almost $250,000 a year, and he’s making about 100 right now in North Texas. But when he researched the respective cost of living in the various places he found that the raise would only work out to about 20 grand. So he decided to stay here. 

Yeah, thats about right. For a lot of youngsters thats OK, you can survive and have a good time for a few years. But unless you have other resources you aint buying a home and you probably arent getting SPCs fixed.

It'll all crash soon. 

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I like Michael Darnton's approach to this.  I base everything on time, but I use what the time "should" be by an experienced person.  We really should get away from talking a out $ on repairs here.  Reason being the hourly rate varies too much when we are spread all over the world.  Hours makes a lot more sense in playing with repair numbers between colleagues.  Every thing I do on my price list is  based on time .  My price list is all "ala Carte" as many things are combined in different tasks (top removal).  I have Cello spc (basic!, no thru patch) as 10 hours, I pretty much mimic Michael's breakdown except the cast, which I put in for 3 hours.  I'm now second guessing that as it takes me 2 hours for a full violin cast.  Hmmmmm. Jerry P. just gave number on the frog tongue graft, but it really would be helpful for all of use in comparison to know the hours associated with our prices on jobs we talk about.  I frequently have these discussions with my guitar and band inst. repair staff when they ask me what they should charge.  The conversation usually goes like this: How long will(did) it take you?  Do you think that was a reasonable amount of time for it to take?  Alter that time number the the second question and multiply by shop hourly rate.  I just keep the conversations answered like that so it drills into them to think in that manner.  Reasonable time X hourly rate.   

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On 3/7/2020 at 10:12 AM, PhilipKT said:

 A colleague‘s stepson was looking at an engineering job in San Francisco that would’ve paid him almost $250,000 a year, and he’s making about 100 right now in North Texas. But when he researched the respective cost of living in the various places he found that the raise would only work out to about 20 grand. So he decided to stay here. 

good choice

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17 hours ago, Jeff White said:

I base everything on time...

I think most of us do... the rate sheet I have is meant to be used as a reference (basic labor cost of the operation sans any complications).  Problem is, especially with old instruments, there are often complications (especially if re-doing a previous repair).

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