Trade Secrets!

A traveling guitar repair kit for duty in Iraq

Issue 81 February 19, 2009

Staff Sergeant Denny Pack How we packed for Iraq:
a military lutherie kit.

Staff Sergeant Denny Pack has been deployed to Iraq as a guitarist in the Air Force Band. What tools should he put in this bag for maintaining guitars in a desert war zone?

Erick Coleman, February 19, 2009
Erick Coleman
Denny Pack is an amazing guitar player. And he attended one of the repair seminars my shopmate Gene and I held at our shop, United Lutherie. Denny’s on his way to becoming a talented repairman. He’s also on his way to Iraq — with the USAF Band. He asked me what tools to pack, since he’ll be his own repair tech.

What’s the ultimate tool kit for somebody thousands of miles from the nearest repair shop? Playing as many as 3 shows a day, his guitars will be subjected to some of the most dirty, dusty, extreme conditions imaginable.

Took kit bag
And can it all fit in his shoulder bag?
A kit like this would be useful to lots of folks working on the road. It’s a solid starting point for someone setting up a new shop, too.

Denny and I filled the bag with a pretty complete list. Let’s see what’s in it…
The desert conditions will be extremely tough on electronic parts, so a can of contact cleaner is a must. It’s the first thing I grab when a control pot in a guitar or amp is acting up.
Electronic repair parts
We included some spare output jacks, switches, a good selection of pots, and as an extra precaution, a pair of both our standard Golden Age humbuckers and single-coils (in case Denny experiences a total electronic failure in the field).

He also packed our basic wiring package, a soldering gun and 60/40 solder.
Switchcraft Output Jack
Switchcraft Output Jack
Guitar repair tools
General Tools
I guess the heading “General Tools” sounds like the name of a Commanding Officer. I could change it to Major Tools, but that’s no better. Well, you know what I mean: wrenches and stuff needed for setup and repairs.
Truss Rod Wrench Set
Truss Rod Wrench Set
Guitar Tech Screwdriver Kit
Our screwdriver set fits the screws found on most every guitar out there, so it’s perfect for small adjustments. After adding the ESP spanner and truss rod wrenches, there’s plenty of room left in the bag. A couple of string winders will be handy in case one gets misplaced.
Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set
Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set
Basic Setup Kit
Denny chose the Setup Kit, the Fretting Kit, and Nutmaking Kit to cover any potential issues that may be going on with the fretboard and nut, in addition to some spare nut blanks and fretwire in the event that replacement is necessary.

The Luthier’s File Set and needle files round out a full complement of files. Don’t forget the file cleaning brush!
Basic Setup Kit
Basic Setup Kit
ESP Multi Spanner ESP Multi Spanner

One of these little steel wrenches belongs in your toolbox, and one in your guitar case. It tightens thumbwheels and hex nuts, and it’s so thin it’ll slide under a control knob.

ESP Multi Spanner
Guitar repair glues
Expecting the desert conditions to wreak havoc on the acoustic guitars, we added a brace jack and repair magnets as well as soundhole clamps and cauls so Denny can repair loose braces, loose bridges and cracks. A few spare saddle blanks were also included.

A humidifier will be crucial for an acoustic guitar living in such a dry environment.
Planet Waves Acoustic Guitar Humidifier
Planet Waves Humidifier
Denny took Titebond as his primary go-to glue, but he’s also packing #10 and #20 superglues along with pipettes and whip tips in case he needs a quicker cure time. He took some double-stick and binding tapes, too.
This kit won't fit!
It’s a good thing we’re close to the end of our list — there’s no more room in this bag!

There’s always room for sandpaper
The sandpaper sampler goes in, and micro chisels for minor work like cleaning nut slots. Glue brushes and drop-fill picks for glue application will fit too. And abrasive cord for cleaning nut and saddle slots.

Screws for mounting pickups and pickguards: they’ll fit in there. Add some truss rod nuts and the bag’s ready to bust a gut!
Sandpaper / Finishing Paper Sampler
Finishing Paper Sampler
Wait! Don’t forget the Preservation Polish. Ah well, it wouldn’t fit in the bag...

By the time you read this, Denny has shipped out. Thanks for your service Denny, and stay in touch. We want to hear that you’re home safe soon!
Denny Pack playing guitarErick Coleman signature
Preservation Polish
Preservation Polish

Don't miss an issue!

Get Trade Secrets delivered to your inbox. Only from StewMac.