The following is a list of luthiers in the U.S. and Canada who are willing to perform repairs and restoration of lutes and related instruments. This page also gives advice about finding a repair person, avoiding accidents, and shipping lutes long distance.
The following luthiers have been recommended to us by various LSA members as competent to work on lutes and responsive to customers’ time requirements. However, the LSA does not offer any guarantee, and accepts no liability, arising from the listing of any luthier on this page. Potential customers must determine for themselves whether a given luthier is capable of performing, in a timely fashion, the particular repair that the customer wishes to have done. (Many luthiers have serious backlogs of repair orders, especially in winter time.) Consulting with the luthier (preferably with photos) prior to sending a lute for repair, is essential. Some types of repairs may be out of an individual luthier’s realm of experience, and all reserve the right to refuse any repair request for any reason.
LSA MEMBERTravis Carey, Vancouver, Canada.
Experienced lute builder, will give advice to lute owners and repairers about repairs and restorations. Writes about lute construction and repair on blog “The Lute’s Progress.” (Click “lute repair” on list of topics on right hand side of page.)
LSA MEMBERDaryl Carlson, Plymouth, Minnesota.
(952) 428 9130 (Professional cellist who also builds cellos, viols, and lutes.)
LSA MEMBERDavid Fitzpatrick, Ionia, Michigan.
LSA MEMBERWilliam Good, Inverness, Florida.
Luthier transitioning to full-time lute builder. Currently moving from Boston to Central Florida. More information to come. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
LSA MEMBERAndrew Hartig, Pacifica, California.
Specialist in wire-strung instruments (e.g. citterns etc.). Will repair all manner of instruments, including lutes.
LSA MEMBERAndy Rutherford, Greenbush, New York.
Experienced but semi-retired lute builder. Will only repair lutes he has made. However, he will give advice and guidance to other luthiers about repairs and restorations. Has often served as Lute Doctor at LSA Lute Fests.
LSA MEMBERGrant Tomlinson, Vancouver, B.C. Canada.
Experienced lute builder, will repair primarily instruments that he has made. Would prefer to limit other lute repairs to instruments in Canada to avoid issues crossing the border. Will give guidance to other luthiers concerning repairs. #206-8696
LSA MEMBERWilma Van Berkel, London, Ontario, Canada.
LSA MEMBERMel Wong, San Francisco, California
(415) 971 8649 Experienced lute builder and repairer. Mel will give advice and guidance to anyone brave enough to ask. (He has seen too many bad repairs by people too shy to ask for guidance.)
LSA MEMBERDaniel Yost, Buffalo, New York.
Luthier with 14 years’ experience as a builder of early music instruments. Gladly accepts repairs of lutes.
(315) 395 6414
Martin Biller, Waukegan, Illinois.
David Brown, Baltimore, Maryland.
Repairs all types of Renaissance lutes, theorbos, archlutes, baroque lutes, etc. Also does restoration of old lutes. Will advise a certain amount on repairs. (410) 366-4865 (Consultation by email preferred).
Claude Guibord, Montreal, Canada.
Experienced builder of lutes, vihuelas, and guitars.
Timothy Johnson, Plainfield, Connecticut.
Chris Pantazelos, Lowell, Massachusetts.
The Spanish Guitar Workshop in Groton, Mass.
Builder/dealer/restorer of fretted instruments. Background in early music instruments and violin family instruments in addition to classical and flamenco guitar.
(617) 458 9870
Advice to lute owners who need repair work done on their instruments
Courtesy of Mel Wong
Who should work on your lute?
- The best person to do a repair is obviously an experienced lute maker. It is best to ask the original maker first if they will do the repair. They will have intimate knowledge of the lute’s construction, and will have the best insight as to how to rectify any damage or make adjustments. Even so, some builders are reluctant to do repairs or they may be located so remotely as to be impractical.
- The next best person is a repair person in a violin shop. Try your local violin shop and ask if they can address your issues. A violin centered repairperson is preferred because they share methods with lute makers, in using the same techniques to close cracks, adjust pegs, and they know how to deal with traditional hide glue joints to get inside a lute.
- The next alternative is an experienced guitar repair person who specializes in vintage acoustic guitars. These repair experts emphasize restoration and repair without altering the intention of the original build. Often they will use traditional glues and will try to use original finish materials.
Note: if your lute is seriously damaged, save all the pieces!
Shipping lutes: basic considerations
If you are far from a reputable builder or repair person consider this:
- You need to ship your instrument and it will be expensive. You will need to pay shipping to and return shipping. Here are some recent (as of early 2022) shipping costs from Michigan to various destinations in the U.S.: $75 to Cleveland, $90 to Pennsylvania, $110 to Miami, $125 to Colorado, $130 to Los Angeles. Shipping from coast to coast and back costs $400.
- Try and find someone close to minimize shipping costs. Longer distance also means a higher risk of damage from multiple transfers.
- The major carriers are for the most part equivalent in timeliness. Endpoint delivery quality will vary from locale to locale. Some carriers have local contractors do endpoint deliveries, some will be more conscientious than others.
- To avoid lazy drops ( at the wrong location, left in the open for theft , being tossed over a fence etc.) always require a signature for the drop off.
In the process of this consideration, ask yourself is my instrument worth it to insure and ship?
- If you have an inexpensive lute consider the fact that the cost of shipping, insurance, plus the cost of repairs may exceed the value of instrument. Nonetheless, a beloved old lute may be worth it, when compared with the price of a new lute.
- Insurance is approximately 1% of the declared value, so if your instrument cost you $5,000 you pay $50 insurance. But: that’s for one way shipping, so you will pay 2% for round- trip shipping.
Following a few basic principles will help prevent accidents and mishaps that result in the need for repair:
Plenty of things can go wrong with a lute that are not the owner’s fault, but also plenty that can be avoided. For the all the things that go wrong, having instrument insurance is a must, since repairs can be very expensive.
- Maintain indoor humidity in winter time. This will avoid cracks, bridges coming off, the top lifting up, peg boxes and braces coming loose, etc.
- Never leave a lute in direct sunlight, or in a car, or near a heat source, whether in or out of its case. Intense cold can also cause damage.
- The best practice is to put a lute back in its case with the lid down and at least one latch closed when you are not playing it. Try to avoid putting a lute down on a chair seat, on the floor, or especially leaning against a wall or furniture.
- Avoid “multi-tasking” with a lute in hand (adjusting a music stand, looking for mislaid music, etc.). Moving about with lute in hand runs the risk of the lute colliding with doors, furniture or other objects.
- When in a crowded rehearsal room, or on stage with other musicians, think defensively. The odds are that somebody will be walking by carrying a music stand or a chair aimed right at your lute, so be alert and ready to turn your lute out of the way.
- Be especially careful going up steps (e.g., leading to a stage) and when lighting is poor. If possible keep the lute case close to where you are sitting.
- If a church pew, for example, is designated as a safe place to leave instruments out of their cases, don’t believe it. Someone will sit down without looking.
Instructions for packing a lute for shipping
Courtesy of James Louder
If you decide to ship your lute for repair, here are the instructions used by the LSA rental program:
- Procure a sturdy, clean cardboard box big enough to hold the lute in its case with about 3.8 cm (1½ in.) of clearance all around. UPS charges by the size of the box, so try not to use a bigger box than necessary. For a typical Renaissance lute, a box 36x20x18 in (92x50x45 cm) should be adequate. Cut the box down to an appropriate size, if you have to, and reinforce the cut lines with plastic shipping tape or duct tape.
Obtain enough packing material to pack the lute as described below; also, a roll of 2 in. (5 cm) clear plastic shipper’s tape, a bold, black marker, and a disposable box-cutter.
Before beginning to pack the lute, photograph it from the front, the back, and in profile; also details of the pegbox, the neck-to-body joint, and the butt. These photos will be an invaluable record if, in spite of your best efforts, the lute is damaged in shipment, and you have to file a claim.
Slack off the lute’s strings so there is no more tension. Make sure any accessories (humidifier, spare strings, etc.) are in the compartment of the case for such things. If they are just lying loose in the case, please bag them and tape the bag to the bottom or side of the pegbox well. The same applies to the loose pieces of a broken lute.
Pack the case inside with small-cell (5/16” thick) bubble-wrap, tightly wadded paper, or other clean material so that the lute is completely immobilized within. Pay particular attention to the pegbox and its well. If the lute has an end-button for a strap, carefully pad the butt of the lute on either side of the button, so that the padding, not the button, will take the force of any impact. If there is any play between the lute and the lid, lay a sheet or two of bubble-wrap on top of the lute to take up the slack—but no more. The lid should still close easily, without forcing.
Before you close the case, document your packing job with a few more photos.
- Before the lute goes into the box, wrap the case with large-cell (1/2” thick) bubble-wrap: once in a spiral around the case; then lengthwise front, back, and sides; then around the other way once more–taping it up as you go. Place the lute in the box and secure it with cardboard or Styrofoam wedges taped in strategic places; and/or fill all empty space with bubble-wrap, wadded paper, or styrofoam. As before, your goal is to make sure the lute cannot move.
- Print out the destination information and place this sheet inside the top of the box. Seal the box with tape, making sure to strengthen all corners and seams. With the black marker, draw arrows and write “UP” in bold letters, indicating the pegbox end of the package. Also write “MUSICAL INSTRUMENT: FRAGILE”. Do this on at least two opposite sides of the package. Finally, snap a couple more photos of your finished packing job.
NOTE: Achlutes and theorbos require special attention because of their delicate neck extensions. One cannot insist too strongly upon the importance of bracing and supporting the neck within the case. Once you have done the inside packing, you may wish to have the instrument professionally crated.
Shipping a lute
The LSA rental program has found that using UPS ground is slower but safer, with fewer transfers to different carriers, than speedier methods like FedEx. Nonetheless, some luthiers use FedEx to ship lutes without encountering problems. Here’s how to do it with UPS:
- On the UPS website go to Create a Shipment. This step-by-step process is easy to follow. First fill in the addresses. In the second step, describing the package, you may enter your best guess of its weight. The size of the box is what counts. Measure it carefully and round up to the nearest inch. Enter the full value for insurance. Under Signature Options, check Signature required.
- Schedule a pickup. UPS drivers follow social distancing protocols, so during Covid pandemic this is the safest way to proceed. However, if it is more convenient, you may choose to drop off the package at a UPS Customer Center i.e., a UPS depot staffed by UPS personnel.
IMPORTANT: Do not drop off the package at a UPS Store or retail Access Point. These franchises are not suitable for this shipment. For the shipping insurance to be valid, you must hand it off to UPS personnel: a driver or a clerk at a Customer Center. Customer Center addresses may be found online.
- Select the Shipping Service you want. UPS Ground (Standard) is the least expensive option. It is, of course, the slowest too. However, speed is rarely important. With ground service the package will remain with UPS and so be spared the chaos rough handling for which airports are notorious. On the next page, to the question, “What are you shipping?” enter “Musical instrument: Lute in case.” Be sure to check the box, Deliver only to receiver’s address.
- Select your method of payment and enter the necessary information. You will be given a chance to review all your shipping information before the shipment is finalized.
- UPS will link you to PDFs of the prepaid Shipping Label and Shipping Receipt. Print out the label and attach it to the package under a layer of clear tape. Print out two copies of the UPS Shipping Receipt: one for the UPS driver, the other for your own records.
NOTE: Updates of information from LSA members concerning their experiences with repairs and repairers are always welcome. Please contact Michael Stover at this email address: lutesocietydc.@gmail.com