Jump to content

What Do Other Pros Charge For Inlay Work?

Recommended Posts

So I recently had an inlay job that I think I undercharged for. It was my first time doing a full inlay retrofit so I wanted to be conservative in case I was a bit sloppy. It turned out great. The customer was happy, I was pretty happy (though it could have been 2% better if I paid closer attention on a couple cuts). It was an Ovation with basic dots. He wanted a set of pre-cut abalam blocks installed from the 1st all the way up to the 17th. I did have to recut one of them for a more consistent look (wider in one dimension but not thinner in the other like it should have been) so there was small bit of unexpected work. Being my first time I gave myself plenty of time, telling the customer four weeks. I had other things to finish up before I could start, in all the job took two.

The process was enjoyable once I figured out how to approach it. I use a parot vise attached to a beam that extends out the edge of my bench. The jaw pads are pine so I planed those flat and clamped the neck in the vise. The jaws acted as a base for the dremel. I traced and scored all the blocks and got to cutting. There was plenty of hand work invloved even though they were simple block shapes. I died the glue and set each one in being careful not to get too much sqeeze out while making sure any gaps were filled. With each one set and dried I started filing and sanding them smooth. This was the bulk of the work. With the frets still on you have to file and sand across the fretboard grain, clean everything up going with the grain (a slow process only having an inch or under between each fret wire), and this being a black dyed rosewood board I had to dye everything I worked.

Anyway, all said and done I charged $150 which works out to be $18.75 per inlay. Even though they were pre cut I think it was worth at least $25 per if not $30. What would you guys charge? (some pics of the finished job for reference)






Link to comment
Share on other sites

Block inlays $300 including patching the 12th fret position dots so they aren't shown. Real abalone, custom cut, matching the grain of each piece.

Refret $480 (set neck and binding)

I'd probably also add a bit more for being an Ovation. I hate working on those things. I wouldn't do it without a refret. I'd be allowing a full day, but should only take about 5-6 hours max.

But, pricing is all based on reputation, costs, ability, etc. I'd be quoting 4-8 weeks so I could fit it in when Im in the 'inlay zone'. I only really like doing this sort of work on my terms. I believe I have more skills than a plumber, electrician, etc, AND have to have more unique tools (plus a workspace, not just a shitty old van), so why not charge their rates? Does it matter if a join in a pipe looks messy? Or a wire is cut a bit too long? Nope. Does an inlay and fretwork need to be perfect? Yes.

If you spend any time reading the mimf.com forum, everyone complains about luthery being a business where we only make enough to 'just survive'. Rubbish. Do good work, earn a killer reputation, and you should be able to set whatever prices you can... and have more work lining up than you can handle. Same as ANY other industry/career really. :)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like to believe I have no competition. In reality, for repairwork, I have lots. But, Ive gone from repairing 20-35 guitars a week, down to around 8, because I want to pick and choose my work. If you dont really WANT the work, you dont need to worry about who else does want it... Out of those 8 guitars a week, roughly 5-6 would be repeat, loyal customers, Ive worked with before. They know my standards, know my way of working, and want the job perfect first time, every time. Very soon I'm only going to do repair work for customers Ive worked with previously, eg: no new clients.

As for guitar making, I think most people order an instrument based on previous work Ive done, rather than price. "You choose a builder, not a price". I can't remember the last time I got asked to compete against someone else to win a job. And if I was, I'd politely decline to participate. I'll offer a discount or upgrade to a lot of people (nearly every guitar gets upgraded somehow during the build), but I'd never give one if I was asked for it. That's just cheating yourself, and setting a standard. When I have done that, it's come back and bit me on the arse... the client then asks EVERY TIME and almost expects they can barter for your services. Hell, my order books have been totally closed for all but 5 months out of the last 18, because I can easily sell more than I can build. That takes a LOT of strain off worrying if you are pricing too high for something or not (and I think my prices for guitars, are under priced).

Im sure certain people take that as arrogance. Declining to take on discounted work, or work that doesn't really inspire you, isn't arrogance. It's about job satisfaction for me.

There are guys in my area (population 2 million people) that charge considerably more than me for refret work, or setups. But a lot more charge a lot less. Once again, it comes down to reputation, and quality of previous work. I honestly decline more work, than I lose due to pricing being too high.

But, like I said, repeat quality work, reputation and a previous body of work (and customers who value you, referring you on to others), sets pricing (plus overheads, workload, speed/ability, demand, etc).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I definately agree with your philsophy of work and pricing. It's hard to gauge these things on your own sometimes but ultimately your working to provide for yourself so you need to charge accordingly.The fact that people view this as a dream job/hobby can unnecessarily cloud my judgement sometimes. It is a great way to spend your day no doubt.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A dream job is still a job though! But, I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather do.

If you listen to most luthiers, who mostly subscribe to the 'you'll live a life of mediocre wages', you'll never get anywhere. I recently spent some time with a business mentor (who has worked with Richard Branson, amongst others), who thinks my current pricing is under half what it should be. THAT would be nice :)

Link to comment
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.

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.

  • Create New...