General Payment Policy

My preferred method is payment is via bank transfer. For medium-scale jobs, I generally issue a full invoice once the instrument is ready to pick up (please leave an email address if possible.)

When I embark upon any customer job it comes with a certain trust that the customer won’t decide to back out and change their mind. I also assume that they will have the necessary funds to pay for the product at the time it is delivered to them and they receive an invoice. Please make sure you have the funds available before booking in a job with me – it makes life less stressful for both of us.

Payment upon receipt of that invoice is fine, as is payment upon collection (cash or online bank transfer are the easiest. I can generally also take card payments but they carry a small surcharge.) If you would like to pay after you’ve collected, please do so in a timely fashion (the average payment time for my customers is around 3 days.)

(In some rare occasions I may offer to arrange an installment plan for larger jobs and purchases, but this relies on my own financial flexibility. I’m not currently partnered with any financing schemes.)

There may be some cases where I will ask for an initial down payment. There could be many reasons for this: if it’s a job that will keep me from other work for several weeks or months then I need to manage my own cash flow. If I need to invest in a lot of tools and materials before commencing the job then a down-payment makes sure I’m able to do that.

Assessing a Job

When I am assessing a customer’s instrument for a specific job I will always try and think of the worst case scenario in order to prepare them. E.g. “your fingerboard is very thin already. I can try and re-shoot it but there may not be enough material left on there to get a good result, in which case a new fingerboard would be necessary. re-shoot would cost X, new fingerboard would cost Y. be prepared to pay Y in the event the re-shoot isn’t possible”

However, there may be unforseen issues once a job commences. I like to keep in touch with a customer to confirm they’re happy for me to carry out the additional work. Sometimes this is optional but recommended, such as fitting a new soundpost if it becomes obvious that the old one is a bad fit once I can look inside the instrument. Other times it’s a practical necessity if I’m going to do any further work, such as removing the top of an instrument only to find there is a woodworm infestation which needs to be immediately dealt with.

Adjustments and Alterations

I always aim to get the job done right the first time, but many procedures necessitate a “settle-in” period whilst the wood adjusts to a different set of tensions. If an instrument needs time to settle before final adjustments might need to be made then I’ll make the customer aware of this – obviously if the customer is completely satisfied once it settles and doesn’t need any followup then that’s also brilliant.

In the odd case, especially with old instruments with repairs on top of other repairs and wood which has sat a certain way for decades and is now being forced to do something else, there may be some further movement after a restoration has been completed which would necessitate a few more tweaks. If you feel like your instrument has changed noticeably from when you collected it and you are in any doubt then it’s best to just arrange a quick visit in case a joint has failed etc.

I know there are tasks which are (or seem) easy for a player to do themselves, however if you have adjusted aspects of the setup after collection (e.g. moving the bridge) then this may alter the way that I have calibrated the setup to work together. I cannot assume liability for this in the event the setup no longer functions as intended, although I’m certainly happy to offer advice or book in followup work to get things adjusted. But in general if you do have specific requirements (e.g. an unusual / non-obvious string length) then it’s best to mention that when you bring the instrument for work so that I can make sure it’s going to be compatible with other aspects of my setup.

Termination of Commissions

Although one’s life circumstances can change unexpectedly, and a hand made musical instrument may suddenly seem like less of a justifiable expense, I can’t change my mind about the material and hours that I’ve put into it, so I can’t offer a refund of money paid so far in the event that you need to cancel a job.

That being said, there may be cases where I would be able to finish the instrument in my own time, offer it for sale publicly and then offer a partial refund when (and if) that sale goes through. But if I decide to do this would depend a lot on the specifics – e.g. in the case of a highly bespoke instrument which had only been half finished at the time the commission we terminated, I might decide it’s too much of a gamble to put several more weeks unpaid work into something which would not necessarily be very marketable.

On the other hand for a standard model of violin or cello which had been fully paid for “in the white” (66%), it would probably be worth my while to varnish it in my own time and then list it for sale. But this choice remains at my discretion. (If a customer had paid in full for the instrument in the state it was in at time of cancellation, I would generally offer them the option to take it away unfinished assuming that all my incidental costs had been covered e.g. any strings or fittings I might have purchased specifically for that instrument.)

Dissatisfied with Commission?

Obviously there are both advantages and disadvantages to having an instrument built to order without the chance to hear it until it is completed. When I build an instrument, I’m considering what the player has asked for and how the wood will settle and I expect to revisit the setup at least a few times in co-operation with the player to get (and keep) it optimized.

The process of adjusting and calibrating the setup across a wide variety of instruments has taught me that the sound and feel is a balance between the wood, the construction process and the setup and I would like to think I can generally achieve something very close to the player’s ideal sound and feel within reason.

However, even with the best communication during the process of design and construction, there is always the possibility that at the end of the line, the finished instrument might not be exactly what a customer had imagined.

I will generally try and discuss the eventuality before work even commences just to make sure we both know where the other stands. I don’t like to force someone to buy an instrument which isn’t what they want, but I also can’t risk being left out of pocket.

I can potentially offer various choices, heavily dependent on the type and overall value of the instrument:

  • Customer pays me full balance and puts the instrument up for sale independently or through another retailer. This is very straightforward for me and I would fully participate in promoting the sale through my own channels because apart from anything else I’ve just spent several months making this instrument for it to be played, not sit in a shop!
  • Customer pays me the full value and I put the instrument up for sale directly and then refund the customer when and if it sells. This is slightly more work for me so I reserve the right to take a small admin fee for the sale.
  • I refund the customer partially (e.g. 50%) and I put the instrument up for sale for a price we choose depending whether a quick sale is wanted. Upon sale, the customer receives the full balance minus my admin charges. I cannot always offer this option so please discuss before commissioning.
  • In some cases I may be in a position to “buy” the instrument from the customer (i.e. offer a full refund). This would probably make sense only if I needed to replenish my own stock of finished instruments.