Should I Avoid Guitar Repair Shops?
I’m not going to say you can save money by performing your own guitar repair because there’s a list of tools just below that add up to a decent amount – $885, to be exact. Not to mention the time you’ll spend tinkering and learning how your guitar works might be time you’d prefer to use for playing – it all depends what kind of person you are.
I believe that $885 worth of tools for a lifetime of being able to do your own work (most of it, you’d still need a bit more for neck breaks and such) is worth the money. Especially if you’re the entrepreneurial type and are thinking of making a business out of your new guitar repair knowledge. It can easily pay for itself and turn to profit.
For lots of people, going to a luthier or a guitar repair shop is just more convenient – but for me, being a guitarist is about much more than playing. Being able to adjust and fix my guitar, and to understand my instrument on a technical level is just as important to me as being able to play 32nd note arpeggios over three octaves.
If you feel the same way, or are simply interested in achieving the perfect action without having to travel miles back and forth to a trusted luthier, then I’ve compiled a helpful list of tools and resources below for you to get started.
90% of your guitar’s issues are going to be with the neck and electronics, so that’s what we’re concerned with covering here. And before we even start, buying or making a neck caul to support the guitar while you’re working is necessary. A pillow will also suffice in the meantime, but it won’t provide the stability or an unobstructed work area that a neck caul can.
Setting Your Action / Neck Issues
Learning how to set your guitar’s action is important simply because of the frequency at which it will go out again. Wood is a hygroscopic material that expands and contracts depending on the climate – if you live somewhere that experiences all four seasons, this is especially pertinent for you.
Learning how to perform a proper setup is also going to segue into diagnosing twisted necks, rising fretboards, high frets, truss-rod issues, and really everything neck-related – and all of it starts the same way a setup does; sighting the neck. Here’s the tools you’ll need for a good setup and most repairs concerning the neck:
Neck / Truss-rod Action
Fretboard / Frets
Guitar Electronics Repair Tools
If you’ve never experienced any electrical issues with your guitar, then you’ve probably just started playing yesterday…which is fine, but it’s going to help you out tremendously to know how to diagnose these issues.
Ground humming, output popping, crackling potentiometers, and complete silence are just a few of the problems you’re bound to encounter. Luckily, they don’t require too much to fix apart from a bit of knowledge and a willingness to get your hands dirty.
A guitar’s electrical circuit, passive or active, will NOT cause any bodily harm if you mess up, so don’t worry. An amplifier, however, will kill you…and are much more complex anyway.
There’s an added bonus that comes with learning how to repair your guitar’s electronics – you’ll also be able to install new pickups and perform modifications to your circuit (alternate wiring schemes, treble bleeds and capacitors, pot upgrades, etc).
The Best Guitar Repair Guide
I can’t make a ton of suggestions in this department because I trained in a lutherie school in Atlanta, but I do own one book that has been very helpful. Dan Erlewine writes the standard for lutherie – his books are extremely comprehensive. If there weren’t any websites around like Electric Herald, I think I’d be happy to rely on him for any information I need to repair my guitars.
While I was going through my lutherie training, we built and modified a few of our tools – the neck caul, fret file, nut files, tang snips, and probably some other things I’m forgetting about. We also used a lot of ingenuity in the building process to avoid having to buy expensive specialized tools for every little task (Steward Fucking Mac).
I’m saying this because there’s no need to do things the most expensive way possible, there’s often a more practical way of getting the same results for a lot of tasks in lutherie.