Neck Building + Repair + Setup

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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 170 August 02, 2012
A sign of truss rod trouble, and an easy solution.
Dan Erlewine with a common truss rod problem: an over-adjusted rod that just won't work anymore. Luckily, there's an easy fix!
Product Instructions I-4783
Acoustic Neck Joint Routing Template Instructions
Routing instructions for acoustic neck joints.
Trade Secrets! Issue 49 November 29, 2007
Binding and fretting a Red Diamond mandolin fingerboard
Don MacRostie shows us his methods for fingerboard binding and fretting on a Red Diamond vintage model mandolin.
Trade Secrets! Issue 188 April 11, 2013
Binding repair on a '55 Gretsch Roundup
A truss rod fix leads to a binding repair: Dan Erlewine has to remove the fingerboard from this great old cowboy guitar, and some of the red side dots disappear. He shows two techniques for replacing them.
Product Instructions I-4005
Bolt-On Necks
How to install, adjust, and set up a Bolt-On Neck.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 226 September 25, 2014
Building upbow into the guitar neck
If you turn the truss rod and nothing happens, the trouble could have been built into the neck at the factory. The time to avoid it is when you glue on the fingerboard. Dan Erlewine shows how to fix this problem before it happens.
Trade Secrets! Issue 59 April 17, 2008
Carlos Santana's Strat: repair and setup
Dan Erlewine tells what happened with two guitars sent to him recently by Carlos Santana.
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.
Product Instructions I-3863
ColorTone Fretboard Finishing Oil Instructions
Directions for using ColorTone Fretboard Finishing Oil.
Product Instructions A-COMPOUNDRADIUS
Compound Radius: Explained
An explanation of compound radius fretboards.
Product Instructions A-DECALS
Custom Peghead Decals
Tony Nobles of Precision Guitarworks in Austin, Texas shares his tips on making custom peghead logo decals.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 230 November 20, 2014
Dan Erlewine's do-it-yourself neck shaping jig
A different sort of Erlewine Neck Jig: Dan’s building guitars out of black walnut that he’s saved for forty years. For carving and shaping, he comes up with an easy-to-make jig to hold a neck at just the right working angle. It spins and tilts too!
Trade Secrets! Issue 33 June 07, 2007
Don't be nervous about adjusting that truss rod!
Erick Coleman shows how quick and easy it is to evaluate a neck and adjust the truss rod.
Product Instructions I-1120
Fender Neck Joint Routing Template Instructions
How to rout a neck joint pocket using the Neck Joint Routing Template for Fender.
Trade Secrets! Issue 198 August 29, 2013
Final-shaping a neck with files and scrapers
Neck shaping a neck is all about feel. Chelsea Clark learned from Dan Erlewine, and by honing her skills on abandoned "project guitars" found on Craigslist and eBay. Chelsea gives a good intro to shaping a great-playing neck.
Trade Secrets! Issue 132 February 03, 2011
Fine tuning a bolt-on replacement neck
Erick Coleman pulls his old Strat out of mothballs and gives it a new neck. He shows what's needed to get a replacement neck ready to play.
Trade Secrets! Issue 197 August 15, 2013
Fix a broken nut with baking soda?
"Can a broken nut can be fixed with baking soda and super glue?" Lou, a singer here in Athens, Ohio, brought this question to Dan Erlewine (along with the broken nut on his Yamaha guitar). As it turns out, the answer is yes and no...
Trade Secrets! Issue 167 June 21, 2012
Fixing a 1965 Gibson Firebird with holes in its head!
Dan Erlewine fills holes in the peghead of a 1965 Gibson Firebird.
Trade Secrets! Issue 114 May 27, 2010
Fixing a badly worn neck: super glue as both fill and finish
Somebody's wrung this guitar's neck with years of string bending -- the wood is gone from the edge of the fingerboard. The customer doesn't want a new neck, so Dan Erlewine improvises a great solution.
Trade Secrets! Issue 13 January 18, 2007
Fixing fret ends that stick out in dry weather
This week, Erick Coleman answers a wintertime question: What to do about fret ends that stick out of the sides of the neck?

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 219 June 19, 2014
Flat-sanding a guitar fingerboard
Dan Erlewine has a quick tip for sanding anything truly flat. He demonstrates with a guitar neck and fingerboard that he's prepping for glue-up.
Trade Secrets! Issue 46 October 18, 2007
For ebony streaks, use black fingerboard stain
Erick Coleman shows why black fingerboard stain is a standard item in any guitarmaker's shop, including the big name builders.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 224 August 28, 2014
Gluing a broken peghead
Dan Erlewine's got a nasty broken peghead on a yard sale guitar.
He shows how to fix it, and shares his thinking on which glue to use and how he does a glue test. This is actually a double break needing two repairs at once.
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 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 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.
Product Instructions A-FAMOUSSETUPS
How the stars set up their guitars
An excerpt from Dan Erlewine's "How To Make You Electric Guitar Play Great", including celebrity setups from Jeff Beck to Jim Weider.
Trade Secrets! Issue 178 November 22, 2012
How to fit a preshaped nut on a guitar
Tips for fitting a shaped and slotted nut. Dan Erlewine tries a preshaped nut in his own Fender Strat: it's so easy "it's almost like cheating!"
Trade Secrets! Issue 31 May 24, 2007
How to install a Fender style (bolt-on) neck
Erick Coleman shows the steps involved in replacing a Fender-style neck, with tips for tuner installation, truss rod adjustment, and correctly positioning the neck.
Trade Secrets! Issue 63 June 12, 2008
How to make a string nut for the first time
Why you might need a new nut: Cracked nut. Poor string spacing. Hollow plastic nut sapping tone. Nut slots are too low, causing fret buzz on open strings. If you're nervous about replacing the string nut you've got company, and this week Erick Coleman shows that making a nut is no big deal.
Trade Secrets! Issue 116 June 24, 2010
How to match color on vintage binding repairs
Working on an aged Les Paul, Erick Coleman has to sand part of the yellowed binding. The sanded spots are a glaring white mismatch. Erick makes turns the repair invisible with a little ColorTone spray and stain.
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.
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
Product Instructions I-0670-M
Metric String Action Gauge
How to determine string action with the Metric String Action Gauge.
Product Instructions I-5200
Neck Construction Tips and Techniques
An overview of neck construction tips and techniques.
Product Instructions I-2004
Neck Relief Gauge Instructions
The Neck Relief Gauge is a quick and easy way to measure a guitar's neck relief/curvature when adjusting the truss rod.
Product Instructions I-4026
Peghead shaping
How to copy or design your own headstock shape with a blank peghead guitar neck.
Trade Secrets! Issue 113 May 13, 2010
Quick fix for a loose bolt-on neck
Dan Erlewine's got a wobbly neck, but not for long: here's a fast way to tighten the screwholes in a bolt-on neck.
Product Instructions A-RADIUSBLOCKBASICS
Radius Block Basics
An explanation of the different uses of a radiused sanding block.
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 102 December 10, 2009
Relic finish: faking age cracks on a 1956 Strat
Dan Erlewine shows how he makes a new finish repair on a 1956 Strat look as old as the original finish all around it.
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.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 236 February 12, 2015
Short video: Making a guitar neck more comfortable to play
Making a beginner-friendly fingerboard: Dan Erlewine’s sister-in-law is learning to play, and her guitar has rough, sharp fret ends. The fingerboard edge is also too sharp, but Dan quickly makes this guitar more beginner-friendly.
Product Instructions I-0486
StewMac Safe-T-Planer Instructions
Setup and operation for instrument makers.
Trade Secrets! Issue 9 December 21, 2006
Straightening the neck on a 1914 Gibson mandolin
This week, Dan Erlewine and Erick Coleman revive a beautiful old Gibson F2 mandolin that's become warped after nearly 100 hot summers stored in the attic.
Trade Secrets! Issue 66 July 24, 2008
Strengthening a square-tube Martin truss rod
Dan Erlewine's doing a neck reset on a Martin that has a square-tube truss rod. While he has the neck off, he shows how to improve the truss rod before regluing the neck.
Product Instructions I-0670
String Action Gauge
How to determine string action with the String Action Gauge.
Trade Secrets! Issue 43 September 06, 2007
Super glue your frets for better tone!
Erick Coleman shows why so many guitars need their frets fastened. Add a touch of water-thin superglue to lock down your already-installed frets, and get better tone, too!
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-5253
Top Deflection Gauge Instructions
How to use the Top Deflection Gauge for neck resetting and saddle routing, banjo head tensioning, and assessing and adjusting neck relief.
Product Instructions I-1811
Using Feeler Gauges to Control Nut Slot Depth
How to use feeler gauges to control nut slot depth.
Product Instructions I-5763
Using Neck Set Sandpaper
Match the neck heel contour to an acoustic guitar body.
Trade Secrets! Issue 176 October 25, 2012
Video: Plugging stripped holes in bolt-on guitar necks
Dan Erlewine shows what he does when a bolt-on neck's mounting bolts aren't holding tight anymore.

Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 237 February 26, 2015
Video: Tips for installing fretboard side dots
Typically classical necks don’t have side dots, but Dan Erlewine’s adding them to this guitar. He shows the fast easy method, and explains why he’s using a different technique this time. Dan also shares some neat do-it-yourself jigs.
Trade Secrets! Issue 67 August 07, 2008
What's the problem with swapping Fender and Gibson bridges?
Erick Coleman answers a Frequently Asked Question from StewMac customers: "What if I want a Gibson bridge on my Fender?" (Or vice versa.)
Trade Secrets! Issue 122 September 16, 2010
When dry air makes fret ends stick out, here's the fix
Years of hot dry storage caused the fret ends stick out on the sides of this banjo neck. Mark Hyatt found that it's easy to file them back into line!
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.