About

Since 1975, Blackbird String Arts has created, repaired, restored  stringed instruments. Although we specialize in lutes, theorboes, and vihuelas, we also work on classical , steel string and electric guitars as well. We use the finest and most interesting materials available to make your instruments.  Our period instruments are  based on historical models and building practices. Blackbird String Arts is based in San Francisco and owned by Mel Wong. ( caveat : I didn’t write the above , can you tell?)

Rather than boring you with the usual rhetoric about handmade instruments and the wonders of  the  art of lutherie  and the exquiste  balance of tone and all that other nonsense that you might read in everone else’s webpages , just let me say I’ve been doing this for a while. I think I know what I’m doing.

How much do I cost? I really don’t have a price list , because my projects tend to be one  ofers.  More often than not my clients have asked for things that were unique in one way or another so there really isn’t a standardized product. If you happened onto my website hoping to comparison shop on the basis of price alone let me tell you that’s a pretty absurd notion. Just because instrument makers such as myself can charge an exorbitant fee doesn’t mean that you’ll get the best instrument on the planet.  We tend to think : it costs a lot so it must be better. True to a certain extant.  But is a $60000 Mercedes really that much better than a  Toyota?  Here’s the deal if you’re hung up about parsing the dollars:    I like to do pricing the Max Krimmel  method. To be honest there are some projects that I’d rather do and some that I’d rather not . If I sense you have a good karma and your project is interesting ,the stars are aligned in your favor.   So be nice when you call !

Testimonials:

We’ve worked on instruments for a wide array of clients including such notables as Enrique Corria  from the David Grisman Band to  Shirley Temple Black!  Some of my clients swear by my work and some swear at me.  A few quotes:

Mel Wong could make a salad bowl sing like a Tieffenbrucker.  David T.

Actually, you still have to supply the singing, but a salad bowl would be an improvement over some of the things we’ve made Mel put soundboards on. I think my next lute from him may begin with a trip down to Crate and Barrel. — Daniel W.

I have played one of this builder’s lutes. They are an excellent value for the money. I was quite surprised by the excellent tone it produced, considering it didn’t cost the price of a used car. — Vlad

Our shop supervisor:

Our shop supervisor