If your guitar develops, for example, a fault in the electrics, or needs a complete set-up, or falls over and has the traditional headstock break, then it needs repairing. If you have the skills needed to repair it yourself, this isn't usually much of a problem. If you don't, you need the services of a luthier - preferably a highly-trained professional, but if needs must then an amateur working from home.

Whichever you use, how can you tell if the work is of good quality? Here are a few ideas to spot whether the repair is worth the money you've paid.

With regard to a headstock break, the answer is simple. The break should be set straight, with no deviation to either side, and the fret board should remain flat and level. The repair should also have left a smooth surface so as not to feel rough under the hand during playing, and if possible the break should have been refinished to blend in with the rest of the neck. In some cases, the latter may not be possible but in all events the repair should be smooth to the touch so as not to impair playability.

Faulty electronics can be harder to judge: as long as the guitar works, then the repair is good, right? Well, not necessarily. If you can, access the electronics either underneath the scratchplate (e.g. a Fender Stratocaster) or in the control cavity (e.g. a Gibson SG). The repaired wiring loom should look neat and not like a plate of spaghetti - unless you have requested an incredibly-complicated wiring setup such as the famous 'Jimmy Page' scheme. More importantly, the soldered joints should look bright and clean. Dull solder can be the sign that the solder was not applied properly. If the joints are not right, there is a possibility that at some time in the future, and doubtless during a high-octane solo, a joint will fail.

Whereas the repairs outlined above can be judged relatively easily, when it comes to a guitar setup, things are not as straightforward. Strangely, it may be possible to judge the luthier's competence before they have even touched your guitar. There is a great disparity amongst guitar players concerning how a guitar should be set up. Some players, especially players who want to play extremely fast, want the strings as close as possible to the fretboard to aid in their need for speed. However such low action (the distance between the frets and the strings when not being played) can affect the tone and volume of the guitar. Consequently, other players want the strings further away, especially if soloing isn't a priority. If the luthier does not ask questions about how YOU want the guitar to be set, they will set the guitar to their own preference and so you may be disappointed at the end product. Whatever the case, the guitar should be in tune and intonated accurately.

But for all of the above, there is one major factor that will tell you whether the repair was worth the money. Your guitar should play and sound exactly as you want it to. If it doesn't, then something has gone badly wrong.