Page 3

Warning:  There are some generally accepted techniques archived here.  If you have a question, ask a luthier or repairer before you execute a repair or technique you are uncomfortable with!

Repair Main, Page 1, Page 2 , Page 4


How much would it cost to fix a small lacquer chip in an Epiphone Les Paul? It hasn't affected the wood, is on the side of the guitar, and it's a little smaller than a dime in size.


If it's a recently made guitar, there's a good chance that the finish is urethane rather than lacquer. Touching up urethane with urethane isn't really practical, so a touchup using lacquer as the touchup material is probably the way to go.

As for cost....the better the job, the more it'll cost you. But if it's on the side of the guitar I can assume that there is only one color to deal with, not like trying to touch up a sunburst finish. That means that the repair is relatively easy. Whoever repairs it will probably charge straight bench time, at X dollars per hour. I'd estimate that it's a one hour repair, but one hour separated into a few smaller blocks because the paint has to dry before it can be leveled out and polished.

Between 30 and 75 dollars, depending on the local repairman's pricing.


Anyone have any alternatives to the neck heater that LMI offers for $225?


Use a clothes iron to heat the neck evenly (use it as though you were trying to remove wrinkles from the frets), followed by strategic clamping and subsequent cooling overnight with clamps in place. Be sure to loosen the truss rod nut completely first, and rehearse your clamping sequence before you apply heat. The fulcrum is what matters here, and it usually takes minimal clamping pressure to achieve the desired neck bow or arch. When you heat the neck, you'll know you've arrived when you can feel very distinct warmth all the way through the neck. No need to use the hottest setting, and don't use steam. Also be sure to protect the top (face) of the guitar from any heat spillover, a precaution you should also take with the LMI neck heater. An alternative is a paint-removal heat gun, but they get really hot really fast and heat spillover can be difficult to monitor.


When I make a neck, should it be dead straight before doing the frets or putting tension on the truss rod? Or should it have a slight up-bow?

How should a good neck relief look? Should it be even along the whole neck, or should it bend more on the outer part/inner part?


I put a hair of tension on the neck before sanding it true. Make sure it is straight on the whole board -- not just the center. I often will put three or four pieces of masking tape over the 7th fret and just sand from the 12th up to put a little fall-off for the upper frets. (Thanks Frank Ford)

Frank Ford, repair guru at Gryphon Instruments in San Francisco, did demonstrations at a couple lutherie conventions where he gave an unbound guitar a complete fret job in about an hour and a half. First he loosened the truss rod and pulled the frets. Then he leveled the fingerboard with an old #5 plane bottom as his block and progressive grits of sandpaper. Once the board was level he wrapped several piece of masking tape over the fifth fret and tore his sandpaper in half. The sandpaper stayed to the front of the plane and the bottom of the plane without the sandpaper registered against the tape so the plane had a very slightly steeper angle. This removed a very small amount of material from the higher frets as far down as the 12th. I do this operation almost in the dark with a gooseneck lamp behind the guitar so I can check board with a straightedge. You are only taking enough material off to see a sliver of light at the 21st.

Remember that a moving string creates a parabola like a jump rope (although it also wiggles along the length). If you have relief at about the 7th fret the string is dangerously close to hitting the upper frets. By creating a little fall-away at the highest frets you remove them as contact points at the lowest arc of the strings. It does make the action higher at those frets which is It does make the action higher at those frets which is your trade-off. You see this more with acoustic guitars than electrics.

Lately I've tried to apply a wood binding to an electric guitar. I don't own an electrically heated bending tool and the approach using a steel tubing heated by a torch seemed somewhat dangerous to me.  Any recommendations?


I used my 100W soldering iron. I connected it to a standard lamp dimmer to regulate temperature and it works absolutely fine. The small diameter of the iron makes bending small curves easy.


I've got a standard humbucking on a Korean guitar. The pickups are awesome - very well balanced and great tone. I want to keep them and don't want to go to the added expense of buying a Duncan or a DiMarzio.

I believe there is a way to re-wire these into a 4 conductor layout isn't there?


There are four outputs from a standard humbucker; two from each coil. These two represent the beginning and the end of the wire wrapped around the bobbin. Normally the outside (end) of the coil has the series link, i.e. the connection between the two coils.

In the scenario you listed, you can cut (please be careful) the red wire that connects the two coils, and unsolder the wire from the baseplate (metal frame). By doing this you'll have two wires from each coil -- wire these to a four conductor wire. Tip: Note, on paper, which wire from which coil is soldered to each wire in the four-conductor lead!

You can now wire in a phase switch or a coil tap using the four conductor wiring. Plenty of diagrams at and

Safety Warning: Pickups are delicate, and can be rendered permanently unusable by a slip of a knife or wayward soldering iron. If this pickup is dear to you, take it to a reputable repairperson for the "operation".


How do I tell which is the beginning and end of the wire on a bobbin?


Well, you can hook up a decent meter to the two wires and then plop a screwdriver (or something else metal) onto the pole pieces. You should see the meter kick UP (positive). If it kicks DOWN (negative) then flip the meter leads.

When you have it kicking up, the lead attached to the meter + is the start. This lets you get both coils the same way, which is what really matters.


The Allen key hole on a Fender restoration project of mine is stripped. Any ideas of how to repair this? I don't want to replace the neck.


Ok, If I remember correctly....that should have the bi-directional rod in it and the only thing that you see on the face of the peg head is the rosewood plug with the hole in it that they put in through which you access the truss rod nut. I spoke to Fender a while back when I had a neck on the bench that had the same problem and their response was:

1) Heat up the rosewood plug and remove it and 2) loosen the nut and remove it. The rosewood plug is what the nut pushes against when rotated in the 'wrong' direction and creates relief. So, the nut will not pass through the plug, the plug has to be removed.

The reality of the situation was that the rosewood plug had to be removed by brute force, as no amount of heating the thing up was going to break the glue loose that was holding it (the wood shrinkage around it also probably conspired to hold it as well). I believe that I ended up Dremmeling the thing out. Now, the stinker of the thing was that the nut itself is such a snug fit in the hole that it resides in that it too was about impossible to pull out.

Even after getting out as much of the residue of the plug and glue from the hole, it still didn't want to come out of there. I believe that what I did was to remove the string nut, Dremmeled out a bit of the nut slot down to the truss rod and then drove and persuaded the nut out of the channel that it rode in.

Fender will sell you a new nut and plug.  The plug had to be glued in with hide glue because nothing else that I found would hold up to the pressure that the nut exerted on the plug without making the plug move other than hide or poly, which is not an option.


How do you shape the back of a guitar neck. I'm talking about a normal bolt-on neck. I've read a few methods of doing this but I would like to know if you have any ideas to make the job easier and more accurate.


Tip 1:  Take two neck blanks, spot-glue them together face to face. Turn them on a lathe, split apart. Finish the heel and peghead joints by flowing out with a spokeshave, rasp, or whatever tool you feel comfortable with. Two necks in the time it takes for one; can't beat it for speed if you don't object to a half-round neck section. Contoured scrapers will further speed sanding. If you're starting out coarser than 220 grit, you're wasting time and making work for yourself.

Tip 2: I do the profile and rough 'faceting' on my bandsaw. Cut the heel and peghead transitions with the sander and I use one of those deals that looks like bound hacksaw blades to do the shaft. It makes amazingly quick work of it and, unlike a sander, it's hard to do too much to quick and it keeps all the lines straight, no dips. After that it's a scraper and sandpaper.

Tip 3:  Do a search for a a 1.5 inch radius (3 inch circle) roundover bit on the Internet. It's great for roughing out necks.

Tip 4: 6x48 belt sander with a fresh 120 grit belt. It takes MINUTES to rough out a complete neck. Then I go to a die grinder with a smooth cutting high speed steel cutter with a round nose cylindrical profile. It's a godsend for working deep into the heel of a set neck, and for other purposes. I finish out with a random orbit sander and some moderately aggressive files, but I no longer use rasps.

Tip 5:  I recently found a great solution for shaping necks -- it's called the Microplane. The idea is that it mounts in a hacksaw frame and acts like a plane instead of a file. What this means is that you get a very controlled cut and the shavings are "heavier than air" meaning they don't float around like sawdust for you to inhale. I thought this was just hype until I tried one and they really work great. There are a couple varieties: the hacksaw blade type, a rotary rasp, and a handheld sort of file arrangement. I work with mostly Mahogany and they work great. The hacksaw version is $10 so you can't go too wrong


I would appreciate any methods that makes inspection for surface scratches more foolproof prior to applying finish. I'm betting someone has discovered an effective way to uncover those pesky little scratches that you just can't see (or I miss) when the wood is still in the white. I'm tired of discovering them only after the first coat of lacquer is applied.


Usually hitting it with a little alcohol will show scratches. You have to be careful that you don't cause woods to bleed, though. I count on using a couple coats of shellac to highlight not only scratches but also rough spots on end grain and will sand back with 220 or 320 to smooth it out.  Mineral spirits works well with unfinished wood, but be sure it is completely dry prior to spraying!


I have a Jagmaster. I don't like the tremelo -- 2 point floating. I prefer vintage, and intend to replace it.

I need to take the posts out, so I can plug with dowel pieces for re-drill for vintage type whammy. Any suggestions?


To get the posts out I made my own extractor from a set (a bolt with thread all the way up) a nut, a washer, a socket from a socket set and a piece of cork cut from a cork tile.

Make sure the thread on the nut and bolt is the same as the stud you're extracting, place the cork on the body (to keep the socket from marking the wood) and the socket on top, then a washer on top of that. Screw the nut to the top of the bolt, then screw the bolt into the stud through the socket. Once the bolt is all the way in wind the nut down the bolt until it sits on the washer, then holding the bolt still with one spanner use another to continue winding the nut until the stud is extracted. If you already have a socket set lying around then this tool can be made up for almost nothing.


I'm making a SG style guitar, and am about to glue the neck to the body.

Should I glue the fingerboard to the neck, before I glue the whole ting to the body, or should I glue the neck to the body, and then glue the fingerboard? The neck has a "tongue" that fits in a pocket in the body, just like the Les Paul joint.

The reason I'd like to glue the fingerboard last, is that I can then make sure that the transition from neck to body is smooth and plane, so the fingerboard will have contact with both the neck and body when I glue it. How should I do it?


You can do it either way. I make mostly classical guitars where the neck goes on when you assemble the box so you have to put the fingerboard on last. You can check the alignment and make minute changes on the spot. Most people put the fingerboard on the neck first for steel strings and electrics. The advantage is that is is much easier to completely shape the neck.

To do it right for a one-off you need to be sure the neck (without fingerboard) is a good fit in the pocket and in line with the center. I mark the center on the body in a couple places and at the nut then stretch a piece of button thread to check it. Once the neck is firmly in place I lay the fingerboard on and check it against the centerline and to make sure it is flat on the body. From there I clamp it to the neck, drill 1/16" holes through the fingerboard into the neck at the 2nd and 16th frets (two each 1/2" from the center line) and remove the parts for assembly. I have a piece of 8/4 scrap I use for my clamping caul with holes drilled to match the ones in the fingerboard. I forget the size but there is a brad that almost perfectly matches a 1/16" drill and I use those to pin the board and neck when it is glued on. Leave plenty of brad sticking out to pull out later. Use a piece of waxed paper between the board and caul or else glue will find a way to stick them together.

Once glued you can shape, inlay and radius the board before attaching it to the neck. You can also put the frets in. The danger there is that sometimes if the neck pocket isn't perfect you will distort the board a little when clamping it on. If you wait to fret you can touch-up sand the board after assembly to make sure it's level and radiused right.


I recently had the factory issue Samick humbuckers in my 335 style guitar replaced with Kent Armstrong designed P-90s (WPU900C and WPU900CR). I later realized that the pots had not been changed and were still factory 500k pots. (They're kind of small - a little over a half inch in diameter, but work quite smoothly). The sound was much clearer but without the oomph of the Gibson P90 I have in another guitar, unless the volume and tone are turned to full and the sound breaks up. Should I change the pots to another value? 250k? If so should I change the volume AND tone pots?

Also I wouldn't mind a simpler configuration - say three knobs, two volume and one tone, or even one volume one tone control seeing as how it's such a bugger to put back all the pots in a 335 copy. Any suggestions?


The 500 K are perfect for P90, and is what Gibson use on its guitars.

250k pots always bleed some signal to ground. It just isn't enough resistance to completely get through the circuit. They are most common in Fenders because the high frequencies of those single coils are mellowed a little by always having some leakage through the tone cap. A 500k pot will pass most of the signal but a big resistor like that will also remove some highs through inductance when not cranked. You might consider wiring a .001 cap between the input and output legs of your volume pot(s) to replace the highs you lose at low volumes. This allows those frequencies to pass without going through the pot.


Back to Top

Builder's Gallery Repair Techniques Our Original Music Guitar Forum
The "Saga Sagas" Links

Play Guitar

Opinion Page
  Guitar Collection

Listen on Reverbnation

Interesting Guitars

Contact GUITARATTACK GuitarAttack Store KGS Store   HOME