Stringed Instrument, Repair, Set-up, & Construction

Darren Forbes

Regina, Saskatchean

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You have arrived at the Official Website of Forbes Guitars. I am an independant Guitar Makerliving in Regina, Saskatchewan. I build and repair instruments in my home workshop.

However, since moving to Regina I have lost most of my space for working on guitars. This limits the type of repairs I can do. I have found that trying to do more complex work under these conditions compromises the quality of work. Therefore, I have stopped doing fret work, major cracks, neck resets, or refinishing) My motivation to learn to build guitars came from a life-long interest in playing music.

I have always been driven by the challenge and need to create. I learned the craft from Master Luthier David Freeman. He is an excellent teacher and mentor and I have returned to his shop to learn more as his knowledge is vast. It is with David that I also completed my full Buzz Feiten Tuning System training. I am a certified retrofitter and installer for all stringed instruments, both Acoustic and Electric.

I spend my guitar time between repairs and set-ups and building custom guitars. I have collected tonewood for quite a few years and have amassed a collection of some interesting master grade wood. I only buy legal wood from reputable suppliers. The soundboard wood I prefer to build with is Lutz Spruce since it has been tested to have equal and exceeding characteristics to the sought-after Adirondack Spruce. I do not use sub-grade or standard grade wood in my builds. If someone wants that type of wood in their guitar they can find it in any manufactured guitar. Building a custom guitar allows a builder to really capture another level of tone and sound so using superior grade materials only enhances this potential.

I see myself as a guitar builder who builds for the love of music and, as David Freeman said, to chase sound.

Includes Neck/Truss Rod adjustment, action adjustment at nut and/or saddle, minor fret work (levelling and/or crowning), tighten tuner screws and nuts, lubricate tuning machines (where applicable), general clean up, restring.  Customer supplies preferred strings or shop supplied at customer’s expense.

Cost: $85 + strings

Many of the "repairs" I get really fall under this category. Often I am adjusting action, elliminating some "buzz", reseating a fret or two, levelling a fret, or adjusting the truss rod for better neck relief.

For example: I had a customer come in and wanted the action lowered on her guitar. The action was very high from the factory (the Saddle was high out of the saddle slot). It took me about an hour to calculate the adjustment, remove the strings, etch the saddle, grind it down and restring. I reused the saddle so all the intonation points and profile were maintained and kept the strings. The guitar then played much easier on the customer's hands. It turned out that the 12th and 13th fret on the bass side were not fully seated on the slot (hence it buzzed fretting at the 12th on the 6th string). The slot itself was not cut deep enough at the factory so the fret could not seat to the fingerboard. This would require more work to be "perfect" but lowering the action in this case only cost the customer $30 for an hour of my time.

This cost will vary depending on the material used (though I use bone as a rule).   A new nut may be required in a basic setup.  This cost is in addition to the basic setup cost.  Materials include the choice of plastic (basic nut replacement cost), Tusq (synthetic bone) + $10, or real bone + $15. This process invloves shaping the nut to fit the radius of the fingerboard, the height of the frets, and the guage of string used. Proper brake angle from the nut to the tuners is set to ensure maximum tone at the nut.

Cost: $60 +

The same rules apply as the “New Nut”.  The new saddle is shaped to fit snuggly into the saddle slot and profiled to the fingerboard radius and proper action at the 12th fret. A new saddle should be accompanied by a setup of the guitar’s intonation.  Setting the intonation allows for better pitch up the scale of the neck and proper break angle to the bridge pins. This helps maximize the tone of the guitar. Intonation adds an additional $30 to the basic cost. I use a Peterson Autostrobe to accurately determine the intonation point on the saddle. It is a necessary tool when doing Buzz feiten retrofits but a handy tool for any intonation setting.

Cost: $60 + $30 (if intonated)

BUZZ Feiten Tuning System Retrofit

The Buzz Feiten Tuning System solves tuning and intonation problems with 2 simple steps:

1. Shelf Nut
The exclusive Buzz Feiten Tuning System (BFTS) Shelf Nut moves the strings closer to the first fret according to the Patented Formula. This eliminates sharp notes at the first three frets.

2. Intonation
Your guitar's bridge is adjusted according to the Patented Pitch Offsets, creating balanced intonation over the entire fingerboard - every fret - every string.  Your Bridge Is Adjusted to BFTS Pitch Offsets.  This involves the filling of your current saddle slot and a rerouting of the slot to accommodate the BFTS saddle on an acoustic guitar.

Cost: $380 (acoustic), $160 (electric)

My main focus is the construction of Steel String acoustic guitars.  This includes both 6 and 12 string guitars. 

Models available include:

  • OM (Orchestra Model/Auditorium Style)
  • Dreadnaught (Western)
  • Dreadnaught (Sloped shoulder)
  • Medium Jumbo
  • Jumbo (Sloped shoulder)
  • Parlor
  • 3/4 size

All guitars use solid woods in their construction.  Pricing ranges from $1800 and up depending on design and materials used. I have a range of top tonewoods and back and side tonewoods. Most tops available are Lutz Sitka Spruce because it is stiffer than standard Sitka Spruce. I do have traditional Sitka Spruce, Bearclaw Spruce, Chocolate Cedar, and Vanilla Cedar. Other top woods available by request and/or availablility. 

A basic guitar ($1800) of any style includes the following: All solid wood plates (front and back). Buzz Feiten Intonation. Lacquer finish. Forbes Guitar headstock inlay, Signature on the back of the headstock, Gotoh tuners, bone nut and saddle, D'addario strings, basic rossette, and basic hardshell case.



Any basic guitar can be upgraded to include the following options:

  • Cut away + $250
  • Electronics + $250
  • Bound Fretboard + $100
  • Back strip + $100
  • Bound headstock + $100
  • BearClaw Spruce + $60
  • Master Grade Lutz Spruce + $250
  • Hormigo Back and sides + 250
  • Upgraded Rosette + $150
  • Custom inlay + $30/hour plus materials
  • 12 string + $200
  • Upgraded Case varies

So a guitar with top options would likely cost around $3000. This is an incredible deal considering top model manufactured guitars start in at this range. However, they do not have the range of master grade materials nor attention to specific tone that can be achived under the scrutiny of an individual Luthier. Those manufactured guitars can sound great....mine sound amazing.

I offer acoustic pickup systems in all my guitars. B-Band products are my first choice. I also use Shadow Pickups.. Fishman products are available but at an extra cost.

Contact me to view available guitars or to discuss your custom build.