Erik Welo runs his one-man guitar repair shop in idyllic surroundings just outside the city of Drammen in Norway. I went out to have some work done on two of my guitars, and at the same I thought it would be a good chance to write a post on Erik, as I’ve always thought he did great work. Erik was very generous with his time (and even fixed lunch – yay!), so I took notes and pictures and thought I’d share it with you.
After graduating from Musikkinstrumentakademiet in 2004, he started his own shop – Gulden Guitars – in 2007 after having worked for the music store chain called 4Sound. With time, word got around and he’s been repairing instruments for a veritable who’s who of Norwegian artists. Among the more well-known are Eivind Aarset (Bjørn Eidsvåg), Øystein Greni (Big Bang), Jonas Fjeld, Stian Carstensen (Farmer’s Market) and Marit Larsen. His also an authorised service technician for Taylor Guitars.
What Do People Ask For?
Erik does a whole lot of different things, but the things that are most common are things like changing saddles, gluing bridges on acoustic guitars, miscellaneous adjustment- and setup jobs, repairing cracked flat-tops and changing parts that are worn out.
Erik’s is at the time of writing the only shop in Norway that can offer its customers PLEK – an advanced combination of software and hardware that scans the frets with minute precision for the ultimate in fret dressing and adjustment. This ensures the optimal adjustment for each guitar or bass, and the process is repeatable. Here’s what Erik has to say about it:
“As a tool, the plek is great. All the information that used to only be in my head, now shows up on the screen in numbers and graphs. Fret height before and after fretdress, relief, trussrod adjustments and so on. This gives me an incredible insight into the state of the guitar neck that simply wasn’t possible before.
The fact that it measures so precisely (down to a thousandth of a millimetre) and that I’m able to do the virtual fretdress before actually touching the frets is fantastic. I now see exactly what the frets will look like when it’s done. It also does an outstanding job when levelling necks with compound radii.
The Plek scans and sees the neck as one unit, which is why the playability is so good after the process. It never does a poor job, It’s repeatable and all in all a great tool to have in the shop.”
Erik has his own pickup winding machine, and plans on rolling his own in the foreseeable future. For now, it’s mostly repairs. The odd rewind is also possible, so if you’re sitting on an original Gibson P.A.F. or a DeArmond that’s in need of repair or rewinding, get in touch. Obviously, this kind of work can be time consuming, so it’s not cost-effective to have Erik fixing the pickups in your
rubbish reasonably priced Korean strat copy.
Here’s One I Made Earlier
In addition to all kinds of repairs, setup and PLEK, Erik has also started making his own acoustic guitars. These are hand made in the truest sense of the word, and Erik’s experience with a wide range og instruments – in addition to his passion for the craft itself – clearly shows in these excellent instruments. For the time being, production is limited to three types acoustic steel-string guitars: dreadnought, OM and parlour, but this may change in the future. It bears mentioning that in addition to all the experience and know-how that Erik brings to the table, he also has a lot of nice woods available to him, so if you’re in the market for a hand-made instrument with premium woods and gorgeous tones – look no further.
It’s a Wrap
Erik tells me that the most important thing in his line of work is good communication: “I prefer it when people come out to the shop instead of dropping off their guitars at a music store in Oslo – although that is an option. I think it’s nice to talk to the owner of the guitar directly. There is a smaller chance of misunderstandings that way, and we can go through it while we’re both able to play and demonstrate what needs fixing. It’s also nice just to meet the customers directly, have a cup of coffee and just talk about guitars and music.”
My day at Gulden Guitars had come to an end, and I left my Martin D-15 and my Fender Stratocaster in Erik’s care. The Martin needed a refret and I’d ordered a new set of pots and five-way switch for the strat, as they’ve become quite noisy. I picked them up about a week later, and they both sounded great. The Martin was PLEK’ed, and now plays like butter.
Just to be clear – I have no affiliation with Gulden Guitars other than being Erik’s satisfied customer for the better part of eight years, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.