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There is damaging guitars and there is damaging guitars.
For the likes of Jimi Hendrix or Pete Townshend, smashing up a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul was just part of the show. If anyone salvaged these poor instruments after they had been consumed by fire or decapitated in the name of art, they are probably now priceless exhibition pieces. For those needing to take a little more care of their guitar, heavy use will inevitably exact its toll. That means a lot of business for Jack Ellis, who has been repairing, upgrading and setting up electric, bass and acoustic guitars in Manchester for 10 years.
Initially this was at home, but since 2012 Jack’s Instrument Services has been based in premises in Cheetham Hill, Greater Manchester. Jack employs three other full-time staff and has built the workshop from scratch. Jack has been a Rapid customer for many years, and a quick look at the pictures of his workshop it is easy to see why – with benches well stocked with soldering stations, component cabinets, service aids and reels of solder wire. These are the tools of this particular trade.
“We do everything really”, says Jack. “Repairing fretboards, woodwork, switches, restoration and resprays, neck resets, bespoke scratchplates, headstocks – and not just guitars either. We will work on other stringed instruments too – ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, cellos, pretty much anything that can be plucked, strummed, slapped or picked.”
Jack doesn't just do repairs.
“A particular favourite area of the job is coming up with new inventive customised electronics for electric guitars – these offer new functions and new sound to the guitar! These include things like pickup upgrades, potting pickups (to reduce feedback), effects pedals, custom wiring, shielding, bridge and tremelo upgrades.”
It is here that Jack finds our product range so useful, as he sources a significant amount of his switches, knobs, potentiometers, components, connectors, cable, service aids, enclosures and general consumables from Rapid.
“We post out custom wiring looms all over the world as well as guitar effects pedals. Rapid has many of the vital parts we need for these very products but also the day to day running of the repair shop also needs a steady flow of Servisol Super 10 and many other tools Rapid sell. When we're in need of something Rapid is the first place we look.”
Pickup upgrade for Les Paul guitar
Manchester, city of the Smiths, Oasis, the Stone Roses and the Haçienda, must be quite an interesting place to have a guitar shop. While Jack serves a lot of session musicians, students, hobby players and local bands, he counts members of indie royalty Blossoms and Doves amongst his clients, and works closely with local studios and music shops. It’s a successful business and has brought some nice perks along the way. Jack has built quite a reputation in his field and has been writing the ‘Fix Your Guitar’ column in Total Guitar magazine for a couple of years.
Were you taking guitars apart as a child and putting them back together?
“Kind of. I’ve been repairing guitars since I started playing them when I was young.” Much of what he knows is self-taught, but he also learnt the trade by working alongside well-respected luthiers such as Colin Keefe and Bob Dayfield at shops like Sheehan’s Music Services.
It was during Jack’s student days at the University of Salford that he realised that his talents could turn into a career. Jack began setting up other students’ guitars, and started his own business from a home workshop in 2009. “I crammed that workshop full of specialist tools, weird rare guitar parts and more parts until I couldn’t fit any more in,” says Jack. “Once I found my premises in Cheetham Hill I adapted it entirely, spending nearly a month furnishing it, but it was definitely worth it. We have two workbenches, a specialist spray room, coarse work area for woodworking, guitar racks and timber store.”
“I take great pride in my work”, says Jack, and it is obviously an enjoyable, exciting and rewarding way to make a living. “Over the years there always seems to be something fresh, a unique sound, some wacky hardware or a different design in a guitar that keeps me interested. My job is coming up with solutions and if there isn't the part for sale, hey, let's make it instead!”
Custom-made effects pedal