How We Approach Repair
We constantly encounter strange new problems. No problem! Our approach allows us work in the most logical, instrumentally restorative way possible. Much of our work as repair technicians is rooted in problem solving, attention to detail, and planning a course of action guided by an instrument’s underlying issues.
Attacking the root of the problem:
Take a poorly playing saxophone. Anyone with a credit card can buy a set of pads off the internet, get some glue, and whack them into a horn. Some might even call that an overhaul! Maybe the pads will be forgiving (soft) enough to work for a little while but throwing new pads at an instrument rarely fixes the underlying problem.
At Vanguard Orchestral we look for the source of the problem. Are the toneholes level? Is the body bent? Are the keys slack in their posts? Are the key cups perfectly flat? With years of experience and a cache of very specific tools we can pinpoint the cause of an issue and address problems from the foundation up. We will only start installing pads once this foundational work is complete. But then… what type of pad should we use? What is the ideal resonator? The most appropriate type of glue? You get the idea. Our goal, as well as to make instruments work properly, is to prolong the life of soft consumable things like pads.
Repairing without a trace:
Take a trumpet with sticky valves. Many technicians, including us, might attempt to fix the valve by a process called lapping. This involves using a mildly abrasive paste which is applied to the valve and then worked up and down until any stickiness disappears. This process is often done on replacement valves that don’t quite fit or valves which have so much caked-on spit and oil that lapping is the only solution to cut through the grime and get the valves functioning again. The problem is that lapping removes tiny amounts of metal from the inside the valve casing (like sanding does on wood). Not ideal – especially on newer horns.
Before jumping into lapping it’s worth inspecting the horn. Perhaps a small knock on a slide pushed it imperceptibly towards the valve casing and affected the valve’s action. If we can simply reverse the damage, we don’t need to lap. Ultimately, we want our remedial work to leave as small a trace as possible.
Not opting for the ‘budget fix’:
There is such a fine line here. Say a flute player brings in a nice old Pearl and we discover that it hasn’t been serviced in ten years and needs a complete overhaul. This could take several days and may cost in labour, time, and parts $800.00. Our flutist can’t afford that, and so they ask a question that is difficult to answer:
“Can you just do $200.00 worth of work to get it playing?”
Well… kind of maybe but not really… We probably could do a rushed job. But we won’t be able to replace all the pads and fix all the underlying structural issues. In the end our flutist will have a flute that plays better than it did, but there will still be many, many unsolved issues.
We generally won’t agree to this sort of request. Letting an instrument go out of our workshop that we’re not happy goes against the standard we set for ourselves. With us you should expect the very finest – and complete – repair work.
We charge $100 per hour for labour.
Occasionally, people question our rates. Concerns are fair, especially when it costs more to repair an instrument than to buy a junky new one on TradeMe.
However, there are several points to note:
• As much as possible, we try to align our prices with other NZ repair technicians
• Years of experience has made us efficient
• You are paying for the expertise that comes with our experience
• If you have a limited budget, we will try to work within that!
• A poorly made, very cheap instrument bought on TradeMe will almost certainly discourage the player
To all our customers – past, present, and future – thank you for entrusting your instruments to us. Many of you have been around since the beginning, and we thank you especially for your continued support.
It is a wonderful thing to watch musicians grow, and we are lucky to have had relationships with some incredible NZ players during our evolution. It has been, and will continue to be, an absolute pleasure.