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DIY Guitar Repair and Setups

by Gene Reinert


There is a good reason why professional players have guitar techs.  It takes just as much practice to be a guitar tech, repairman, or luthier, as it does to be a professional level musician.  On the flip side I believe that it is good for the player to learn how to do certain tasks.  One of which is restringing.  For some reason I see a lot of people completely messing up the restring process; or they are uncomfortable doing it.  I'd like to share how I string a guitar.  This method was taught to me by the folks I learned how to build guitars from.  It's a quick way to replace all of the strings at once.  You can obviously apply this to a single string change also.


Items needed:

Diagonal Cutters or End Nippers (any cutter will do)

String Winder (saves time and helps pull bridge pins)






The first thing you do is go to your local guitar store and pickup strings (preferably Guru Guitars:).   You can buy any gauge string you like (we have  a large selection).  Keep in mind that changing the brand, gauge, or type of string you are using will change the guitar setup.  So if you know the strings that the guitar was setup with, use those or you might need another setup! 




When you have your guitar on a workbench  (kitchen table will do) either support the neck with something or let it hang off the end  so the headstock doesn't hit the table.  I also have a nice soft clean surface prepared for the guitar so it doesn't scratch.







Next loosen all the strings until they are completely loose.  Unwind the strings from the tuning pegs.  For acoustic guitars this is the time to pull the bridge pins.  Remove the strings and discard.  When you are restringing an electric you can cut the strings close the bridge so the mangled ends don't get caught in the bridge or tail piece holes.  I do this to every guitar I restring so there is no chance of the strings scratching the finish.






At this point I clean and oil the fretboard, but I don't recommend you do this unless you are comfortable.  Most wood oils are very dangerous to use if you are unfamiliar with how to dispose of the rags.  They must be disposed of in a metal container filled with water.  They will spontaneously combust if not dealt with properly.  I personally know a woodworking shop that burnt to the ground in Las Vegas because a negligent employee didn't dispose of a rag at the end of his shift.  It's not a joke.  Bring your guitar to us and we'll clean it for you.  That way you don't have to worry about it.  If you are hell bent on cleaning and oiling there are certain products made specifically for guitar fret boards that don't have the above qualities.




Taking the strings off isn't so bad, is it?  Putting them on is a little trickier but still very doable.   For electric and acoustic guitars I insert all of the strings through the bridge first.  Pull them all tight to make sure they are seated correctly. 







Take the low E string and pull it tight with your neck hand and measure three fingers past the post; cut the string.   I repeat this process for all of the strings but after the low E, A and D strings I use four finger lengths.






I go back to the bass side and work my way across installing the strings as follows.  Insert the string through the tuner hole allowing 1/8" to 3/16" or so to protrude through.  Next, bend the string where it meets the post and wrap it once around the post above the protruding part of the string, all the while keeping tension on the string so it doesn't slack the winding or pop off the tuner.  I use my index finger for this.  Next, start winding the string; this time keeping the string below the first wind and protruding part.  Each successive wind will be below the previous until it is tight enough to let go.  I repeat this process for all strings.







Some things to keep in mind:


On most guitars, the strings are to be wound towards the inside of the headstock.


For Classical guitars or Floyd Rose guitars bring them to us.  They are a little trickier.


Do not short cut and put  steel strings on classical guitars.  It will destroy the guitar. 











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