Steve Earle Guitar repair: Further Mid Tour Crisis

Russ changes the strings on Steve’s Martin M-21 after ever gig. Also Russ uses a semi-liquid lubricant across the nut slots to stop the strings sticking in their slot and to ease tuning. All this may have caused the temporary repair to fail. After another phone call from Russ, it was decided that on the tour’s return to London, the next day, a new nut should be made and fitted.

Russ made his way over to the workshop in South East London on Wednesday morning and work was started on Steve’s guitar. On closer inspection I noticed that the top E string was very close to the edge of the fingerboard. This will cause the string to slip off the edge when played in certain positions.  On quizzing Russ about this he mentioned that Steve had had this problem. So it was decided to change the string spacing on the new nut to alleviate this. The recommended distance for the nut slot on the top E is 3mm. Steve’s was less than 2mm.

After about an hour the work was completed and the guitar strung up and tested. Russ was on a tight schedule as he had to get back to the Barbican Centre to prepare for the evening’s sell out gig.

As a special favour to me and for helping Russ out of a tight spot, I was given two complimentary tickets for the performance at the Barbican that evening, complete with back stage passes to met Steve after the gig.

I invited my good friend Cormac Heron along, who’s a great admirer of Steve Earle’s music.

Cormac took this video footage and also wrote an excellent review of the evening. Many thanks to Cormac for his input.

Guitar tech Russ Garett talks through Steve’s onstage equipment

Read about the temporary fix here

Steve Earle Guitar repair : Mid tour crisis

On Wednesday I had a long distance phone call from Sweden. It was Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech. Steve Earle is currently on a European tour


One of the two guitars that is being used on the tour had developed a nasty buzz on the G string, could I help? On arriving in the UK could I make time available to make the necessary repair to Steve’s Martin M-21? The tour was scheduled to leave Sweden after the Malmo gig in the early hours and arrive in London Thursday evening. A performance is scheduled at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon on Sat 31st Oct.

So with an appointment organised and directions from the crew’s hotel in Knightsbridge, Russ headed off to the workshop in South East London on Friday afternoon.

Once on the workbench I was soon able to ascertain that the nut slot had been cut slightly too low resulting in the G string buzzing when the string was played in the open position.

Steve Earle’s Signature Martin M-21

Steve Earle’s signature Martin guitar was designed by Steve Earle and Matt Umanov, a New York  based guitar specialist

This type of string buzz can be easily remedied. There are two options available, to make a complete new nut or repair the defective nut slot. On closer inspection it was decided to make a repair to the nut.

Rebuilding nut slots can be achieved very successfully using bone dust (or baking powder) and superglue. The idea is to build up the faulty nut slot layer by layer until there was enough height to re-cut the slot anew.

Rebuilding the nut slot

This was done and the guitar was strung up and the rebuilt nut slot cut to match the other nut slots.

Whilst Russ waited for the repair to be finished he lucidly chatted about life on the road. He told me that he was a freelance guitar/sound technician and tours with many artists in the US and Worldwide

He mentioned that the Steve Earle tour has only a basic crew. Russ, an outhouse sound engineer plus one other selling Steve Earle merchandise.

Russ’s responsibility on this tour is to re-string the two Martin guitars after each gig and keep them set up to performance standard. Also he is responsible for the stage set up of  microphones, stands and monitors. Russ has to be on hand during each performance in case of any onstage eventualities. He also takes his turn in driving the tour bus.

Russ tells me that he enjoys the travel aspect of touring and enjoys exploring new places. His work as a stage tech has taken him to many cities in the US, Europe and the Far East.

As a well earned break from this tour, Russ has an evening off (Fri) and is going to see Jack White of the White Stripes fame. His new band The Dead Weather is performing at HMV Forum London.

Meet Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech. He mentions “When on tour the main thing is to get your laundry in”

Click for what happened next


I make and repair guitars and other stringed instruments. I am based in London.

“Great! It’s good. It’s really good. Plays like a Martin guitar now. Thank you very much!”

~ Steve Earle

“Brilliant, thank you it sounds great

~ Chris Difford

“The guitars arrived at lunchtime thanks all safe & sound, and thrilled with the Guild!!!

Thank you so much… Tom ”

~ Tom Robinson

“The guitar plays amazin hard to believe its the same one! Thanks so much”

~ Seasick Steve

~ More  testimonials


Welcome to my website, a window on my workshop, a thriving industry of guitar repairs and customer commissions.

On this site you will be able to get advice and handy tips on guitar repairs and maintenance. You will be able to find out about me and my background in Musical Instrument Technology (M.I.T.)

You can also meet me and take a virtual tour (updating, back soon) of the workshop described by visiting guitarists as an Aladdin’s Cave of guitar player’s delights.

On this site you will also be able to view a variety of commissioned Acoustic, Electric and Bass guitars as well as a variety of Mandolins and Mandolas.

Guitar Repair

For help, advice, information and handy tips visit my Tech Tips pages. Simply navigate from the left hand side of the page.

Member of the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology


Member of the National Association of Musical Instrument Repairers


Thank you for your visit

Your visit to this site is valued and much appreciated so please feel free to leave feedback or comment where appropriate. I will do my best to respond as soon as is practical.

The site is perpetually upgraded and developed with useful information to benefit the guitarist. Visit my blog pages for interesting repair case studies, or better still click on the RSS button for automatic updates.

Twitter & Twitpic Updates

I work on very interesting and notable instruments on a daily basis. Follow me on Twitter and receive regular photographs. Sneak a peek at what’s on the workbench. Click the link and join the debate or just receive an update. Twitter

Posted in . Leave a Comment »


“Great! It’s good. It’s really good. Plays like a Martin Guitar now. Graham thank you very much!”
~ Steve Earle

“Graham is awesome; he’s great to work with, a real laidback guy. And flexible, he got me in on a moment’s notice and save the day for me” ~ Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech

Hi Graham …. Just a quick note to say thanks for setting up my new Strat. I’m not a Stratocaster player as you know but i’ve really enjoyed playing the guitar since collecting it from the workshop last week … I am even enjoying the ‘lighter’ gauge strings (11’s) which allow me to bend notes with my little finger (not possible on my tele) … I will certainly be taking it out on the road with David K this november … last night I increased the action ever so slightly to allow me to put more muscle into the bass end … all sounding and feeling great 🙂
Ok graham … see you soon … Harry


Harry Bogdanovs  David Knopfler Band

The most important factor in this area relies on the expertise in your repairer to be a consummate professional when your instrument needs to be brought back to its original prime condition.
Graham has just completed my 1987 Martin HD-28; and I cannot praise highly enough the quality of workmanship and care which has gone into the repair of the guitar. The man has a calm relaxing air about him, which installs confidence in you in his ability, very easy to get along and you know you’re going to be satisfied.


Look at the picture examples of this guitar and you will see what I am trying to convey. It’s very difficult to find someone you can depend on and trust in this field, he is the business.

Colin Searle  Dartford Folk Club 

“Finding a good Luthier is a bit like finding a good Indian Restaurant, you kind of want to keep it to yourself in case it starts getting too busy, so I’m writing this very grudgingly!! Graham’s a great Luthier and guitar tech but he’s a gigging guitarist too so he knows exactly what we want!! He did such a great setup and maintenance job on the first guitar I took to him that I immediately took round 2 more guitars, including a pretty major fingerboard leveling and refret job on my favorite Strat which came out beautifully. I’ve been a professional guitarist for the last 30 years, my guitars get some stick and I need them to play in tune with no rattles, buzzes or bad intonation, especially in the studio.”


~ Simon Eyre London. (Matt Bianco)

“Graham turned a gem of an idea into two working guitars* of a quality that is priceless to me; indeed they are almost heirlooms for the future.”~ Roland Dartnell. (No Quarter)

“Graham, Thanks for all your hard work in bringing my Vintage Gibson J45 back to life (view here.). It looks and plays wonderfully. I never thought it would be possible to repair all those cracks and holes and to build a new bridge in keeping with its age. The soundbox is solid, good for another 40 years, and the action and intonation are both spot on. I also appreciate the time you spent with me explaining the ins and outs of the restoration, finish, choice of wood, fret work etc all of this I found very interesting and informative, and anyone who has been to see you will know how busy you are. Cheers.”



“Hi again Graham. Went round to Glenn’s last night for a jam with the J45, it plays so well and sounds great. Glenn asked me to pass on his compliments on the work done, we both still can’t believe the disappearing act you did on the back breaks”.

~ Arthur Ebbs, London

“Graham, Many thanks for the fine work on the Simon & Patrick Acoustic. A lovely neat job and an old friend back in action.”


~ Giles, Machynlleth, Mid Wales

“At the beginning of 2008 I commissioned Graham to build a guitar of my design, from doodles and a cardboard model. In true Mission Impossible style he accepted the challenge and what I received in April 2009 was a “dream guitar”, a testament to his lutherie skills. I was kept involved in the process from the outset and besides getting a wonderful instrument, I’ve got a new mate! (whether he likes it or not).”


~ Al Eason. D.A.T.A

“My beloved Godin A6 fell face down and the head split at the top of the neck. Graham, the guitar I got back from you has never been as good. Not only do I not see the mark of the repair at the back of the neck because of the beautiful shiny dark shade varnish, but the action on the neck is now lower and the whole guitar feels fantastic and somehow louder and smoother to play. Well done and thanks for turning an accident into a special gift.”


~ Alain. The Yvorras Band

“I took to Graham the first time I met him. I found him interesting, and interested, and spending some time in the surroundings of his workshop left me with no doubt that my guitars were in good hands. I remember thinking that if this guy is as comfortable with guitars as I am with his company, then that’s heaven. Guess what! I’m in heaven.”


~ Paul Betts. (Musician / Actor)

“Graham, Well, this really is a remarkable guitar*; it sounds amazing! I think you said something about how ‘lively’ it is, and now I’ve had a chance to get properly familiar with it, I would say this is one of its most obvious characteristics. It really rings and chimes beautifully, and I can’t find a dead spot on it anywhere. It is wonderfully responsive to play all over the fretboard, more so than any other guitar I can recall. The flexibility of pickup combinations has worked out just as I hoped it would, producing a range of tones wide enough to cover pretty well any circumstances. Above all, the guitar is definitely ‘me’, and as I’m sure you realize, I’m delighted with it…………………..thanks again for everything you’ve done to complete this very personal project for me – an even better outcome than I imagined it would be.”


~ David Lloyd. (Musician / Artist) * View here






“Thanks for the brilliant repair* on my 1972 Gibson SG Deluxe. It now plays better than ever! As a vintage guitar it is elderly – but not as elderly as its owner of course. I’d have no hesitation in giving you an excellent recommendation to any other professional player. Best of luck in all you do and I will definitely be bringing more work your way in the future.”~ Stuart Goldring, Pork Dukes. (Gnidrolog)  



More Recommendations and thank you messages




Posted in . Leave a Comment »