Learn About Repair Tools + Repair Techniques

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Trade Secrets! Issue 124 October 14, 2010
1955 Gibson TV finish: recreating that unique see-thru yellow
Erick Coleman fixes a chip on a 1955 Gibson TV Model, which means figuring out how to recreate that unique see-through yellow finish.
Trade Secrets! Issue 195 July 18, 2013
A kitchen cutting board makes a great binding jig!
Dan Erlewine modifies a plastic cutting board from Walmart to solve a guitar binding problem. He needs four matching pieces of black-white-black binding, and he shows a clever trick for doing this. From the free Trade Secrets newsletter at stewmac.com
Trade Secrets! Issue 95 September 03, 2009
A knife in the back! Popping the back off a 1929 Gibson L-5.
Dan Erlewine's trying to pop the back off a pre-War Gibson, while keeping the binding intact. He hopes to put it back on the guitar just like snapping a lid back onto Tupperware. (Well, maybe not quite that easily...)
Trade Secrets! Issue 159 March 01, 2012
A neat trick for drilling perfectly centered holes in guitar tuners
Dan Erlewine shows how to put a round peg in a square hole, literally. Check out this handy drilling idea, and you'll probably find lots of uses for it in your shop.
Trade Secrets! Issue 165 May 24, 2012
A pain in the necks: Gibson doubleneck with a broken truss rod
Dan Erlewine has a Gibson doubleneck with a broken truss rod -- a problem that sends lots of guitars to the trash can. What will it take to rescue this one? The answer might surprise you: it takes 65 minutes of work.
Trade Secrets! Issue 81 February 19, 2009
A traveling guitar repair kit for duty in Iraq
Erick Coleman helps a serviceman put together a complete carry-all kit for service in Iraq with the Air Force Band.
Trade Secrets! Issue 109 March 18, 2010
Are you supposed to slot Tune-o-matic bridge saddles?
Customers often ask how and why they should put slots in the saddles of their new Tune-o-matic bridge. Erick Coleman provides the answers in this issue of Trade Secrets.
Trade Secrets! Issue 83 March 19, 2009
Bad news: a stripped truss rod nut. Good news: an easy solution.
Erick Coleman's using the Gripper truss rod wrench to solve a problem that's familiar to all of us.
Trade Secrets! Issue 214 April 10, 2014
Banjo setup tips
How do you set the tension on a banjo head? If you're more familiar with guitars than banjos, Dan Erlewine has a few quick tips for you.
Product Instructions I-0200
Brace Gluing Wedge Instructions
Shim open the glue joint under the brace and inject glue where you want it.
Product Instructions A-BRIDGECLAMP
Bridge clamps: practical production tip
Bryan Galloup modifies bridge clamps for increasing speed and clamping precision.
Product Instructions I-5240
Bridge Plate Repair
How to repair most fractured bridge pin holes with the BridgeSaver.
Product Instructions A-CLAMPATTACHMENTS
Clamp Attachments
Dan Erlewine's tips for making soundhole clamps even more useful.
Trade Secrets! Issue 215 April 24, 2014
Clamping a guitar neck really tight (without damage)
Working on a 1938 Gibson lap steel, Dan Erlewine needs to clamp the neck way more tightly than usual. He comes up with a special jig by modifying a Rock-n-Roller neck rest.
Trade Secrets! Issue 91 July 09, 2009
Cleaning up after sloppy fretwork: fixing chips in the fingerboard
Erick Coleman's got a neck to fix, including a broken peghead. One thing leads to another, and it turns out the toughest job is hiding the fretboard chips left by the last repairman to work on this guitar.
Trade Secrets! Issue 45 October 04, 2007
Custom-fit your bridge pins for better sound
Erick Coleman talks about why each guitar he works on gets six custom-fit bridge pins. It's all about hardware coupling, energy transfer, and tone.
Trade Secrets! Issue 184 February 14, 2013
Do-it-yourself banjo bridge lifter
Dave Collins at Herb David Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan shows an easy-to-make tool for swapping banjo bridges.
Trade Secrets! Issue 154 December 22, 2011
Electronics cleanup in a beautiful '58 Gibson: "Little Lefty"
Inside a "miniature Les Paul case," Dan Erlewine finds a beautiful 1958 Gibson in 3/4 size. Cleaning the electronics gets it playing again. PLUS: Dan shows his shop-made "Guitar Testing Gizmo"
Product Instructions I-5390
Erlewine ShopStand Instructions
Installation and anchoring instructions for the Erlewine ShopStand.
Product Instructions I-4462
Finding saddle location with the Saddlematic
How to find saddle placement location with the Saddlematic.
Trade Secrets! Issue 70 September 18, 2008
Fixing a 1937 Martin bridge. The first step is fixing a sandwich!
Dan Erlewine's got an unusual bridge problem and an unusual repair.
Trade Secrets! Issue 146 August 18, 2011
Fixing a potbelly with the Belly Reducer
Dan Erlewine's got a Martin with a potbelly: string tension has pulled the top into a hump on this 1928 0-18. To make things tougher, the guitar top's encased in a thick layer of epoxy finish! It's an interesting puzzle...
Trade Secrets! Issue 57 March 20, 2008
Fixing an acoustic pickup fast—it has to be onstage in an hour!
Dan Erlewine does some emergency surgery on an undersaddle transducer in time for it to make it on stage with Emmylou Harris.
Trade Secrets! Issue 5 November 23, 2006
Give your buffer a haircut, and store it on the wall
This week's issue is about instrument finishing: a good tip about setting up new buffing wheels, and an idea to save space in your workshop.
Product Instructions I-4737
Guitar Neck Removal
The Neck Removal Jig applies gradual, controlled pressure for safely steaming the neck out of a dovetail joint.
Trade Secrets! Issue 92 July 23, 2009
Guitar repair money talk: estimate hours, not dollars
While Dan Erlewine gives a relic finish to new tuners on a 1945 Gibson J-45, he talks about making money with a guitar repair business.
Product Instructions I-1813
Guitar Repair Vise Installation Instructions
Set up directions for the Guitar Repair vise.
Trade Secrets! Issue 206 December 19, 2013
Helpful repair magnet gizmo, and 1970s Earthwood Bass!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! These repair magnets snapped together with a CLACK!, drawing blood from Dan Erlewine's finger just as he was about to show his gizmo for avoiding pinched fingers and separating stacked magnets! Also, Dan explains a radical bracing change on an original Earthwood acoustic bass guitar.
Trade Secrets! Issue 161 March 29, 2012
Hiding an "evil smile" peghead break with the Razor Blade Trick
After gluing a broken peghead, Dan Erlewine still a finish repair to do. In this Trade Secret, he shows you how to save time by using amber super glue and his favorite razor blade trick.
Trade Secrets! Issue 216 May 08, 2014
Homemade bushing puller to protect the peghead
Dan Erlewine needs to pull the tuner grommets/bushings from the peghead of this old Gibson. The lacquer is already damaged, and pulling the bushings can yank finish off too. Dan rigs a jig that holds the finish down while the bushing comes up.
Trade Secrets! Issue 119 August 05, 2010
How Boogie Fever led to a Neck Transplant
Erick Coleman's buddy wanted a guitar just like the one he saw on Soul Train in the 1970s. Curing his Boogie Fever required a neck transplant, but Fender's Micro-Tilt neck adjustment makes that tricky. Here's how to do it.
Trade Secrets! Issue 21 March 15, 2007
How to choose a fret-crowning file
Erick Coleman answers an important tech-support question: What's the best fret-crowning file?
Trade Secrets! Issue 213 March 27, 2014
How to clean and lube dirty old guitar tuners
Dirty tuners filled with dried gunk: Dan Erlewine's working on a guitar that's been sitting untouched for over fifty years. The tuners are too stiff to use, but he gets them going again by using heat, naphtha and an injection of lubricant. He makes a nifty little tuner-holder jig, too.
Trade Secrets! Issue 142 June 23, 2011
How to fix this guitar if my elbow's stuck in the soundhole?
Dan Erlewine needs to fix the inside of a classical guitar, but can't fit his arm through the soundhole. Thinking outside the box, he finds the solution to this puzzle!
Trade Secrets! Issue 99 October 29, 2009
How to see inside a guitar body if you don't have X-Ray Specs
Dan Erlewine says he has the last working pair of X-Ray Specs on Earth, and he won't share them. At least he has some alternatives for the rest of us.
Product Instructions I-3416
How to sharpen a scraper
How to burnish and sharpen a scraper.
Trade Secrets! Issue 41 August 09, 2007
How to use a Fret Hammer
A fret hammer was one of the first lutherie tools Erick Coleman ever bought, and it's still an essential in his shop. In this issue of Trade Secrets, he shows how to use it.
Product Instructions A-MAGNETS
How To Use Guitar Repair Magnets
These powerful Guitar Repair Magnets can serve a number of different functions in the shop.
Trade Secrets! Issue 123 September 30, 2010
How would you reach inside a guitar to do this gluing?
Dan Erlewine's got a puzzle on his hands: this guitar's center strip fell out along with the braces. These parts are meant to be glued BEFORE the guitar is assembled. How do you reach inside to do this on a completed guitar?
Product Instructions A-INSTANTADHESIVES
Inside Story on Instant Adhesives
Dan Erlewine explains the ins and outs of working with instant adhesives and "super" glues.
Trade Secrets! Issue 185 February 28, 2013
Is this bridge saddle in the right place?
The free Fret Position Calculator at stewmac.com does the math, but can I trust its numbers for placing a Martin bridge? I tested the computer against my "stone age" method. — Dan Erlewine
Product Instructions I-3694
JLD Bridge Doctor Instructions
How to install the JLD Bridge Doctor in an acoustic guitar.
Trade Secrets! Issue 130 January 06, 2011
Keep that body in shape! Go-bar/neck jig gluing rig.
Dan Erlewine has to leave a guitar body with the back off for months. How to keep the sides from going out of shape during this time? Believe it or not, the answer is blue foam insulation from the home improvement store.
Trade Secrets! Issue 152 November 23, 2011
Loose brace in a Martin D-35: how to fix the rattle
Dan Erlewine has a Martin D-35 with a loose brace inside, and it rattles. He shows how to make your own brace-fixing gizmos for a clean repair.
Trade Secrets! Issue 103 December 24, 2009
Make a "stunt double" guitar body for benchtop work
Erick Coleman shows how he made a surrogate body for neck and fret work, following the free plans online at stewmac.com.
Trade Secrets! Issue 48 November 15, 2007
Making a Les Paul clone look more vintage
Erick Coleman's finished tweaking a budget-priced Les Paul copy. It plays great, but one last thing's needed: making it look more like Jimmy Page's 1970s original.
Trade Secrets! Issue 207 January 02, 2014
Making a sharp-edged razor file for binding channels
Bad news: the binding on this old Gibson is crumbling to bits.
Worse news:that binding is the only thing holding the body together!
Dan Erlewine's plan is to replace the binding bit-by-bit, so the top doesn't fall off.

By grinding a new edge on a razor file, he creates a tool for cutting crisp square binding channels without a router.
Trade Secrets! Issue 205 December 05, 2013
Michael Greenfield shows how to sand guitar bodies
Michael Greenfield of Greenfield Guitars explains clearly why it's critical to have properly shaped and sanded guitar bodies before you rout them for binding. Michael shared this great Trade Secret with us during the 2013 Northwoods Seminar last August.
Trade Secrets! Issue 16 February 08, 2007
New ways to use the Guitar Repair Vise
In this issue of Trade Secrets, Dan makes his Guitar Repair Vise sit up and roll over. Who knew cast iron could be so flexible?
Trade Secrets! Issue 187 March 28, 2013
No-cost tools for shaping Martin guitar bridges
Two do-it-yourself tools that I've been using for years to shape the bridges on Martins: I show you how to make one in a jiffy, and there's a free downloadable plan for the other one! -- Dan Erlewine
Trade Secrets! Issue 168 July 05, 2012
None of your beeswax? Potting pickups with paraffin.
Erick Coleman answers a frequently-asked question: how (and why) to wax-pot a pickup.
Trade Secrets! Issue 32 May 31, 2007
One dead string driving me crazy! (Transducer trouble...)
I thought I'd fixed this acoustic saddle pickup, but the customer sent it back because the problem wasn't solved (STRIKE ONE)! I took another swing at it... (STRIKE TWO)! I almost struck out! -Dan Erlewine
Trade Secrets! Issue 75 November 27, 2008
Patch a hole in a guitar: the BridgeSaver is also a HolePlugger
Erick Coleman finds a new use for StewMac's BridgeSaver: quickly repairing a hole in the side of a guitar.
Product Instructions A-QUICKCAUL
Quick Cauls
Thomas Humphrey explains how to make classical guitar bridge clamping cauls with styrofoam.
Trade Secrets! Issue 183 January 31, 2013
Rare black Dan Armstrong bass: fretboard repair
Dan Erlewine's working on a black lucite Dan Armstrong bass -- one of only eight that Ampeg ever made. The fretboard has a nasty crunch. Step-by-step, Dan details how he does this tricky fix.
Trade Secrets! Issue 148 September 15, 2011
Regluing the bass bar inside a standup bass
How does Dan Erlewine manage a repair inside a big string bass, without opening up the body? (We suspect he does it with mirrors...)
Trade Secrets! Issue 68 August 21, 2008
Removing the glued-in saddle on a 1937 Martin D-28 Herringbone
Someone shaved down the saddle on this great old Martin until there's barely a nub showing above the bridge. It needs to be removed, but it's glued in and so low you can't grab it. Dan Erlewine shows how to solve this problem.
Trade Secrets! Issue 181 January 03, 2013
Repairing a broken-off tuner screw
In this Trade Secrets video, Dan Erlewine extracts and replaces a broken screw in a Fender peghead.
Trade Secrets! Issue 189 April 25, 2013
Rotten old vintage plastic: fabricating replacement parts from pickguard materia
After nearly 60 years, old celluloid parts start to crumble. The pickup risers on a '55 Gretsch are rotting away, and Dan Erlewine builds new replacements from a sheet of tortoiseshell pickguard plastic.
Trade Secrets! Issue 125 October 28, 2010
Rubber bands as clamps: super-useful, and cheap!
Erick Coleman has a simple tip that saved a lot of time at the recent Purdue Guitar Workshop: rubber binding bands make great clamps! They're for lots of things -- check out the examples in this issue.
Trade Secrets! Issue 200 September 26, 2013
Scraping for sharp looking binding: here's how it's done!
The king of Gibson relic finishes: Tom Murphy is well known as Gibson's go-to guy for relic finishes: perfectly worn and age-cracked. Tom's business, Guitar Preservation, makes this a specialty. In this week's Trade Secret he shows us how to make and use a scraper for cleaning binding after spraying a sunburst.
Trade Secrets! Issue 50 December 13, 2007
Scraping, not sanding, to prepare wood for finishing
Dan Erlewine shows why he uses scraper blades instead of sandpaper for the final smoothing before the finish goes on a guitar.
Trade Secrets! Issue 108 March 04, 2010
Sharpen your chisels so they cut like razors
Dan Erlewine shows how to sharpen, hone and strop an edge onto any chisel, creating a super-sharp cutter.
Trade Secrets! Issue 78 January 08, 2009
ShopStand: solving the space problem in a cluttered shop
Dan Erlewine faces facts: too many tools and not enough workspace. He clears the decks and sets up a whole new floorplan using two ShopStands.
Product Instructions A-SPECIALSANDPAPERS
Special sandpapers for luthiers
Our tech experts show how different specialty sandpapers and abrasives can be used in lutherie.
Product Instructions I-5180
Stewart-MacDonald Super Glues
An explanation of the characteristics and applications of different instant adhesives.
Product Instructions I-6270
StewMac Crack Repair Tool Instructions
Repair cracks in tops and sides of an acoustic guitar.
Product Instructions I-0631
StewMac Ultimate Scraper Instructions
Scraping and sharpening instructions.
Trade Secrets! Issue 0 October 12, 2006
Super glue drop-fill: quick fix for finish chips
This week's subject is one that comes up a lot: how to quickly repair chips in an instrument finish.
Trade Secrets! Issue 179 December 06, 2012
Table saw shooting board for fret slots and flexible cauls
A make-it-yourself solution for fast accurate 90 degree cuts on your table saw. Also a cool tip on making bendy, flexible cauls that follow the shapes on a guitar.
Trade Secrets! Issue 137 April 14, 2011
The damage caused by storing a guitar in a hot car or attic
Erick Coleman fixes a slipped neck joint on a beautiful Gibson ES-125, showing what can happen to glue joints that get too hot.
Product Instructions I-1380
Thompson Belly Reducer Instructions
The Thompson Belly Reducer is a simple tool designed to get rid of the bellying without making permanent alterations to the original guitar top.
Product Instructions I-5680
Truss Rod Rescue Kit Instructions
When the truss rod nut no longer adjusts due to damaged threads, or because it is already as tight as it can go, this tool fixes the problem.
Product Instructions I-4557
Tune-o-matic installation and set up tips
Tips for installing and setting up a Tune-o-matic bridge using Tune-o-Medic Bridge and Tailpiece Tools.
Product Instructions I-0460
Tuner Bushing Press Instructions
An overview of how to install and remove tuner bushings with the Tuner Bushing Press.
Trade Secrets! Issue 4 November 16, 2006
Two ways to fix a Telecaster's wobbly input jack
If you play a Telecaster, you've probably experienced a loose input jack. This weeks issue offers two solutions.
Trade Secrets! Issue 117 July 08, 2010
Used guitars: great deals if you do some after-sale fixup
Erick Coleman just went guitar-shopping and picked up a used Gretsch Corvette from 1963. It needs a little fixup/setup. This Trade Secrets is about tweaking your pawn shop prize.
Trade Secrets! Issue 104 January 07, 2010
Using a "swiss cheese knife" to fix the back on a 1923 Gibson
Dan Erlewine's working on great old Gibson L-1 with back problems. The challenge: how to fix this on a budget today, in a way that won't interfere with more thorough repair work in the future.
Trade Secrets! Issue 210 February 13, 2014
Using three different glues: where and why?
Titebond or hide glue? Hot glue or bottled? Dan Erlewine uses three glues for this repair, and each has different properties. He explains why one glue can't cover all the bases. And he's created some pretty interesting cauls for clamping this job together while it dries!
Trade Secrets! Issue 173 September 13, 2012
Video: Gluing a Martin D-35 back brace
This issue of Trade Secrets is a video: Dan Erlewine glues a Martin back brace, using Scissor Jacks along with tools you can make in your own shop. After this video, we developed the Brace Gluing Wedge to simplify this job and reduce the number of tools needed.
Trade Secrets! Issue 204 November 21, 2013
Visiting Frank Ford, the King of Shop Tips!
Frank Ford is the man behind frets.com, one of the richest sources of lutherie tips to be found anywhere. He's a skilled luthier, machinist and inventor. Spend a few minutes in Frank's shop at Gryphon Instruments, and you'll come away smarter!
Trade Secrets! Issue 56 March 06, 2008
Waverly upgrade: replacing the factory tuners on your Martin
Erick Coleman responds to a question in the online lutherie forums: What's involved in replacing Martin factory tuners with a new set of Waverly machines?
Trade Secrets! Issue 62 May 29, 2008
When frets don't fit the slot, resize the fret tang
This week, Dan Erlewine's pumping iron (nickel steel, actually!) He's showing how to bulk up your skinny fretwire and slim down your fat fretwire.
Trade Secrets! Issue 105 January 21, 2010
Which sandpaper to use for instrument work?
Dan Erlewine looks at specialty papers for lutherie, and comes up with a handful of tips for tricky sanding.
Trade Secrets! Issue 220 July 03, 2014
Whip tip tips!
Whip tips are for pinpoint gluing. These are skinny little tube-tips, but sometimes you want them even skinnier. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars squashes, cuts and modifies tips and pipettes to get drops of super glue and accelerator exactly where he wants them.
Trade Secrets! Issue 60 May 01, 2008
Why Dan Erlewine is attracted to repair magnets
Dan's been using repair magnets in his shop for a dozen years, and they're doing tricks all over his shop.
Trade Secrets! Issue 34 June 14, 2007
Why hide glue is best for this cracked neck
A badly broken neck on this Martin D-35 almost goes unnoticed, and the repair leads to an innovative do-it-yourself jig. Dan Erlewine explains how he chose the gluing method for this repair.
Trade Secrets! Issue 155 January 05, 2012
Why use a household iron on a fretboard?
Erick Coleman uses his wife's clothes iron on a guitar: a simple solution to a problem fretboard.
Trade Secrets! Issue 80 February 05, 2009
Workin' in the soundhole with the scissor jack and a mirror
Dan Erlewine's got a repair that needs repairing again. Working inside the guitar body is too tight for comfort, but Dan shows some tools and tips that make it easier.
Trade Secrets! Issue 127 November 25, 2010
You need a bag of clothespins for your workshop!
Dan Erlewine modifies wooden clothespins for a bunch of jobs around the shop -- today it's gluing kerfing into an old Gibson. While he's at it, he plays Santa Claus and offers a make-it-yourself holiday gift idea.