View Full Version : Bone Nut & Saddle - How Much?

06-03-2014, 10:42 AM
Hi all,
I recently added a new bone nut and saddle to my Bruko. Although I have little luthiery experience, I do have 15+ years experience working with woods and bone making delicate items, and I think I pulled it off quite well, taking a lot of care over fit and finish, and days over action and intonation. It was a good learning experience, and certainly helped me better understand what I'm doing as a player (well, learner).

My question is: someone on a different forum has seen what I've done done, and asked me to do the same to their Bruko. I've gotten hold of a broken knife, made in the US in 1885 - the blade is snapped and the... pommel(?) at the end of the handle is split, but it has lovely buffalo horn scales which I'm going to cut down and shape for the nut and the saddle. But I haven't a clue how much to charge. I'm in the UK, and local luthiers are thin on the ground, so can't even fathom how to work it out!
I know I have to balance my experience as a maker of things (15 years or more) versus my actual luthiery experience (a week), so... what would you all say?

Any thoughts much appreciated!

06-04-2014, 10:37 AM
The only way to price your work is by the hour plus materials. Otherwise you're only picking numbers out of thin air.

The material is worth something, so put a price on it. If it's only $5 so be it. Then if it takes you 1 hour or 2, charge for that at that. The shop rate for luthier repair work is going to vary wildly from place to place. I would imagine that most will slip in between $50 and $100 per hour.

06-04-2014, 02:54 PM
Back in the day when I relied on repairs, a bone saddle was $30 and a bone nut was $40, materials included. That was a few years ago, but it puts me square in the middle of Allen's estimate. Both could be done in less than an hour, total. I set my rates for what I thought I could do as far as time. As I got faster I made more money, assuming I had other work to fill in the time I saved.

David Newton
06-04-2014, 04:02 PM
Where I am, Texas, I get $60 for the first hour labor & $40 hr. there after. I am probably on the low side of average, but my area cost of living is also.
I make my living doing repairs. Building instruments is the fun part, but no where near the compensation.
A bone nut and saddle for a steel string acoustic, which would have to include a "set-up" is usually $110. A wacky guitar could go higher.

06-05-2014, 12:15 AM
Hi all,
Thanks for your replies, it's really helped. I know it'll take me an afternoon or more to cut and shape the nut and saddle, get the old nut out (which is glued in on three sides), fit and adjust, but a lot of that time is my own pernickityness!

We've settled on 50, which the guy seems happy with, and which will include making and fitting the nut and two saddles (I'm making him a higher 'spare'), setting the action to the height he wants it, a new set of strings fitted and also buying and fitting a tail pin for a strap. I figure I'll have enough bone left over for a number of nuts and saddles out of the scale I've bought too.

It's a tricky balance between feeling you're ripping someone off or ripping yourself off. I've always gone down the cheaper-than-the-other-guy route (and always ended up doing a lot more than I said I would), partly because I enjoy making things, so part of my 'payment' is doing the job itself.

Anyhow, thanks... I still keep looking, but haven't found anyone remotely local who does this sort of work - neither has the guy I'm doing the job for, so he's well pleased!

06-05-2014, 10:35 AM
haven't found anyone remotely local who does this sort of work
In that case, you don't need to be cheaper-than-the-other-guy or do extra work for free.