Luthier recommendation for MA/CT region or beyond

Hi Frank, et. al.

This is my first time posting at  Have been a grateful student of your extraordinary collection of tutorials for several years.  As a teenager in the early 70's I was interested in lutherie, but there was only a single book I could ever find in the library - a thin volume by Hideo Kamimoto.  How lucky we are today to have a plethora of sources of information, much of it free by way of Frank's hard work!


I am hoping to get a recommendation for a luthier to do some neck work on my beloved Kay Speed Demon K571 (link to info on identical model here: ).


The fretboard on mine has a significant bump starting where the neck meets the body, rendering the frets above the 9th useless re: buzzing.  The frets are also quite worn, so am looking to get a full re-fret and have the fretboard straightened (i.e. heated, reglued, planed - whatever is the best recommendation on diagnosis) at the same time.  I realize this is a big job for a less-than-super-valuable instrument, but I love it's sound and it has great sentimental value, having inherited it from a dear friend.


I would like to find a top-notch, senior luthier who has seen this before, ideally with knowledge/affinity for old Kay's.  Happy to find someone non-local who can take repairs by mail, or someone in my local region - anywhere between Boston and New Haven, CT.



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If you can get up to Northampton MA, Harry Becker at Becker and Cumpiano is my recommendation. I studied repair work with Harry and he is an absolute world-class luthier and gentleman. His shop partner William Cumpiano is no slouch either.

In the Boston Area your should go to either Peter Stokes (Broken Neck Guitar Repair/617.262.0220) or Mark Herbert (Guitarworks/617.731.3995).


Either can do anything necessary for you.

Hi Chip,

    I have a shop at 1904 Massachusetts Ave. in Porter Square Cambridge, MA and regularly do work on Speed Demons, Rockets, Stratotones, etc.  The problem you're describing is common among instruments of this type and vintage.  I'd be happy to take a look at your guitar and give you an estimate.  


Bob "Yukon" Stubblebine

Thanks folks - look like some good options.  Northampton is nearby so I'll check in on Harry Becker first.



You need a refret.  A standard, bread-and-butter job for any good repair tech, and by no means excessive for the guitar even if it did not hold sentimental value.  A refret includes leveling the board.


A luthier is a builder of stringed instruments, although the word is getting to be so widely abused the meaning is becoming lost.  You need a good repair tech; it does not matter if he or she is a builder.  There are lots of them, but if you can't find someone you trust and want someone with a major reputation, try Steve Kovacic near Troy NY.

Hmmm, "repair tech" - it's a bit derogatory isn't it?  Not sure it's a valid distinction - I would think someone truly expert in repair - say, someone like Frank Ford - could have both a broader and deeper knowledge of stringed instrument design and construction than someone who only builds. But I do see how "builder" would only apply to folks like you who create new instruments.

Not derogatory or demeaning at all;    "technician" is often used inappropriately as, by definition, it describes a person who has undergone training and is skilled at a particular technical process.   I build stringed instruments so I am a luthier but when I tour in support of bands, and given my formal training,  I am a Guitar Tech....when I repair stuff I am working as a guitar tech or repair tech.  Happy to call myself that.

The dilution of the description  "technician" comes from people using that description when they are not entitled to do so.

Right on the money Russell! I too am a repair tech, and have no problems with that. I've never built a guitar (although I've done repairs where it would probably have been quicker to build a new one :-) )

Going slightly OT for a moment, one problem here in Germany is the lack of a proper term for repair tech, and that in the country where they have a word for everything :-) The word for Luthier here is Gitarrenmacher , which translates literally as guitar maker, which of course I'm not, having never built a guitar in my life, but everybody describes me as one, for the want of a better term here.

On my web site and on my business cards, it says that I repair guitars and all kinds of string instruments, without making any claims about guitar building, but nevertheless, everybody says "Herr Myers, der Gitarrenmacher"

I've stopped trying to explain the difference, and incidentally, Howard is on the money too: Any repair man worth his salt should be able to do a fret job, it's one of the "bread and butter" jobs that come in every day, like making new nuts, crack repairs, neck resets etc etc

Yep, proper choice of words.  We've got a college around here that used to be called "California College of Arts and Crafts."  A few years back the school dropped "Crafts" to increase prestige and remove any derogatory implications.  Ummm... really, craft is so important to art, and quite frankly, the craft that the students produced from the craft side of the school was as much art as the art students art.


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