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Posts Tagged ‘guitar maintenance’

Cleaning Your Guitar

If you spend much time on forums, you’ll see threads occasionally popping up about cleaning and maintaining your guitar. Based on the threads, it seems that there are some folks who are absolutely obsessive about cleaning and oiling their fretboards, like every couple of weeks. But having spoken to my guitar tech and a couple of luthiers about this very subject, they all seem to be in agreement that people tend to clean and oil their guitars way too much.

My guitar tech put it this way: “Think about it. Your guitar is like a nice piece of furniture. In fact, the wood used for making a guitar – especially the fretboard – is almost always a higher quality than used in furniture. But even if you have a furniture piece that’s made of high-quality wood, how often do you clean and polish it? Generally, you just wipe it down with a soft cloth to remove the lint and fingerprints and what-not. The same applies to a guitar. Wiping it down regularly with a soft cloth will prevent gunk building up. Oh, and please remove pick and skin dust from your playing area.” He directed the last statement specifically at me because I’m notorious for not cleaning that area. 🙂

I got that lecture a decade ago. And since then, I followed his advice on some simple things to do to clean and maintain my guitars.

  1. First off, if you don’t see any gunk buildup, don’t be tempted to do a cleaning. Most likely the guitar’s clean, but it’s always a good idea to wipe it down with a soft cloth.
  2. If you do see some gunk buildup, before you do anything, see if you can scrape it off with some soft plastic, like a credit card. Chances are that it’s just on the surface. Then finish that off with wiping it down with a soft cloth (seeing the pattern here? Have a soft cloth always handy).
  3. There are times where even a scrape won’t do the job. But for cleaning, DON’T USE OIL! For your fretboard, use a 50-50 mixture ratio of water to white distilled vinegar (a little stronger if you have a fairly nasty buildup). Dip a cloth into the mixture – you don’t want to pour it on – and work the cloth into the gunky area. If you have a particularly pesky area, use a super-fine steel wool with the mixture. Once you’re done cleaning, thoroughly dry the wood, then use oil. Personally, I use linseed oil, though many people say to use lemon oil. Martin guitars recommends against using lemon oil because the acids in the oil can break down the fretboard wire. Hmm… In any case, use it sparingly, applying a small bit on a cloth, then wiping and working it into the wood. And by the way, you should only need to do this once or twice a year – at most.
  4. As for the body, regularly wiping it down with a soft cloth should suffice most of the time. But if you have to clean it, use a highly diluted soap and water and use circular motions to clean. There are also various cleaners compatible with nitro or poly finishes. These can be picked up at either a guitar store or even a hardware store (but you’ll have to do your research on the types of finishes they can be used on).

These are really simple things to do. And you shouldn’t have to do more than wiping your guitar down very often.

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Schaller Strap Locks

The title kind of sounds like a spam ad, doesn’t it? But it’s totally serious!

We’ve all heard of or even personally experienced guitars straps coming off their strap buttons, potentially causing serious harm to them. I’ve played for years without mishap without using strap locks. I’ve had some close calls, but no catastrophic accidents. My buddy Phil warned me awhile back that I was just asking for trouble by not having them on my guitars. I just said, “Yeah, I know I should do it, but hey, I’ve been lucky so far…”

Well, my luck almost ran out because I almost had a terrible mishap the other day. If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve just gotten my new Prestige Heritage Elite. I was in my studio jamming, and at the end of the song I was jamming to, I did a harmless thing: I reached over to my amp to turn it down; at which point, my body must’ve been at the right angle, and the strap came off the bottom strap button. My guitar quickly swung toward my amp, aimed straight at the grille cloth! Luckily for me, I was able to catch the guitar and press it against my leg to prevent it from doing any serious damage to either itself or the amp!

Soon after, I put the guitar down, turned off my amp, walked back into the house, told my wife I was going down to the local music store, got in my car and got a set of strap locks. I will NEVER be without strap locks again! Once I got them, it literally took five minutes to install them, and I thought that this would be good forum to share my experience, and to share how I installed them.

Installing the Strap Locks

I got Schaller strap locks because I could also use the locks on my Strat that came stock with Schaller butttons (Fender owns Schaller), so it was a no brainer to decide. So here’s how I did it:

  1. First, remove the original buttons with a screwdriver.
  2. When they come out, you’ll probably notice that the screws are a bit thicker with wider threads than the Schallers. This is not a problem.
  3. To be safe, as opposed to using pure wood filler (I used Plastic Wood because it dries evenly), I happened to have really thin dowel material that I could use as a shim in addition the wood filler. I placed the dowel in the screw hole, and marked where it would be flush with the surface of the guitar, then simply cut that length.
  4. Once the dowel was cut, I put some Plastic Wood into the screw hole, and with a toothpick, spread it up and down the hole. Take your time with this, and be as neat as possible. Then I wiped off the excess from the hole, then inserted my dowel. This made some Plastic Wood ooze a bit, so I cleaned that up as well.
  5. Then with my little power drill, I screwed in the new Schaller button.
  6. Repeat steps 3 – 5 for the next hole.
  7. Let it dry for a couple of days.
  8. Install the locks on your strap. That’s it!

That process took literally ten minutes! My strap ain’t coming off any time soon!

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