Trade Secrets!

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Issue 266 July 14, 2016
The Ceramic Guitar
A really unusual guitar just came in to Dan Erlewine’s shop. Something Dan’s never seen before: a kiln-fired, ceramic guitar. Erick Coleman helps Dan do some sleuthing on this oddball, and they uncover the surprising story.

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Issue 265 June 30, 2016
How to make a custom wood pickguard
Dan Erlewine made a black walnut guitar for Jerry Garcia in 1970. Recently a Grateful Dead fan asked Dan to make a replica of that guitar. In this Trade Secret, Dan shows how he made the pickguard out of laminated wood veneers.

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Issue 264 June 16, 2016
A bass you play with your foot?
Visiting Blue Eagle Music Shop, Dan Erlewine comes across an unusual instrument from the 1970s: a foot bass. While he’s in the shop, Dan checks in to see what’s happening with Blue Eagle’s young setup tech, Raj.

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Issue 263 June 02, 2016
No sound from your guitar? Let's talk about short circuits...
All wired up, but no sound! It can happen to anybody: you do some wiring or change your electronics, then find you’ve got no sound coming out of the amp. In this Trade Secret video, Matt Brooker helps you troubleshoot.

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Issue 262 May 19, 2016
Problem: a WaRpEd guitar top!
High action turned out to be a symptom of trouble for this guitar. The owner felt the strings were a little high. Taking a closer look, Dan Erlewine finds that the bridge is just about to pop off! A hump had formed under the bridge, and Dan comes up with an interesting solution.

Thanks to our friend Dakota Dave Hull for his music in this video.

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Issue 261 May 05, 2016
Upgrading guitar tuners: what you need to know
Will you need to drill holes in your guitar if you put new tuners on it? How do you figure out which tuners are an easy fit, and which require more work? What about keeping the old tuners for resale value? We get questions, and Erick Coleman has answers.

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Issue 260 April 21, 2016
Refretting the Mike Bloomfield Tele
Dan Erlewine just moved into a new shop! In this video he finishes work on the Mike Bloomfield Telecaster, a guitar with a lot of history. We’ve been following this guitar for several videos; now Dan wraps it up with an assist from Erick Coleman.

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Issue 259 April 07, 2016
Fixing fretboard chips on the Mike Bloomfield Tele
The rosewood fretboard on this 1963 Telecaster has some nasty chips from old fret jobs. Dan Erlewine uses three methods to fix fretboard chips, including some serious surgery for the worst cases: grafting in new rosewood!

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Issue 258 March 24, 2016
Fixing fret buzz: seating a popped-up fret
Matt Brooker has a neck with some buzzing frets. He traces the problem to some poorly seated frets and shows two ways to clamp them down. Matt shows why seating the frets is the first thing to do before taking a file to your fretboard.

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Issue 257 March 10, 2016
Yuck! Cleaning fret slot gunk from the Mike Bloomfield Tele
There was a load of glue and grunge under these frets. With scrapers, wipers and heat from an alcohol lamp, it’s amazing how much gunk Dan Erlewine extracted from Mike Bloomfield’s old fretboard!

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Issue 256 February 25, 2016
Removing the frets on the Mike Bloomfield Tele
The Mike Bloomfield Tele is back in Dan’s shop. It's in for a refret, and that means working very carefully on this historic guitar. As Dan pulls all the frets, does he manage to avoid chipping the old rosewood fingerboard?
Issue 255 January 28, 2016
Upgrading control pots: choosing the right pots and knobs
Lots of low-cost guitars play great, even though the manufacturers cut costs on hardware and electronics. Swapping out your control pots is an easy mod with big results. Erick Coleman shows you how to avoid trouble…

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Issue 254 December 03, 2015
Tips and tricks for gluing loose braces
Two braces popped loose inside this Epiphone acoustic. Dan makes some do-it-yourself glue scrapers and shares a ton of ideas. With his brace gluing wedge and see-thru plastic guitar, Dan turns this fix into a guitar repair class!

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Issue 253 November 19, 2015
Easy binding repair on a Martin D-35
This fretboard binding caught on somebody’s sweater. The missing piece was never found, and the guitar is in Dan Erlewine’s shop for repair. This kind of quick fix is familiar to guitar shops everywhere!

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Issue 252 November 05, 2015
Grain runout made this guitar bridge pop off!
BANG! While this guitar was being played, the bridge popped off with a sound like a gunshot. Before Dan Erlewine glues it back on, he explains the likely cause of this trouble: grain runout in the guitar’s cedar top.

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Issue 251 October 22, 2015
How to finish an acoustic guitar bridge
A small finishing job like this is easy. After the bridge popped off this classical guitar, Dan Erlewine replaced it with a new one. In this short video, he shows how simple it was to put a finish on the new bridge before gluing it on.

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Issue 250 October 08, 2015
How to shape frets with a 3-corner file
There’s a knack to using a StewMac 3-Corner Fret Dressing File, and Erick Coleman shows you what that’s about. He demonstrates the rolling motion that creates a nice rounded fret with an accurate “land” down the center.

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Issue 249 September 24, 2015
Joe Bonamassa sound check: backstage tips
Dan Erlewine visits backstage with the great blues guitarist, Joe Bonamassa and his highly experienced tech, Mike Hickey. Joe talks guitars with Dan, and Mike shares two guitar setup tips.

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Issue 248 August 27, 2015
Setting the string spacing at the bridge
The string spacing on this old Gibson is uneven. Dan Erlewine shows how he made the E-to-E string spacing wider, then located the other four strings with proportional spacing, not equal spacing.

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Issue 247 July 30, 2015
Regluing a Rickenbacker fretboard
Did you know you can tap the truss rods right out of a Rickenbacker neck? Erick Coleman shows how, and he removes the fingerboard from a troubled RIC guitar neck using a household iron!

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Issue 246 July 02, 2015
Using a flash coat for guitar finish touchups
Dan Erlewine learned this trick at Gibson’s factory back in the 60s: Three jars, three mixes of lacquer and thinner always ready for “flash coat” touch-up spraying. This finish repair hides a batch of punctures in a Gibson archtop.

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Issue 245 June 18, 2015
How to install a bolt-on neck
When a local music venue burned down, this Strat was in the blaze. The neck burned like a candle, but Erick Coleman has salvaged the body. This is a good opportunity to show how to install a Fender style neck.

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Issue 244 June 04, 2015
Glossy finish using foam polishing pads
After an unsuccessful finish repair, this guitar’s owner sent it to Dan Erlewine to fix the damage. Using a neat trick he learned from Erick Coleman, Dan builds the finish fast with films of dried lacquer. Then he polishes it with a hand drill and foam pads.

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Issue 243 May 21, 2015
YIKES! Using a reamer in an electric drill
This little parlor guitar was found in a trash can and Dan Erlewine is doing a quick fix on the bridge. The pin holes were entirely chewed up. Dan’s drilling them out with a peg hole reamer then plugging them with peg-shaped plugs of hardwood.

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Issue 242 May 07, 2015
Inspecting a historic guitar
Dan Erlewine first saw this Tele back in the 1960s, before Mike Bloomfield recorded with it on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited album. That was also before Bloomfield and Dylan were booed for going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. And before Bloomfield recorded the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album with this guitar. There’s a lot of history in this Telecaster!

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Issue 241 April 23, 2015
How to install six-in-line tuners
Six tuners lined up perfectly straight, and no chips in the finish.
The last step in building this beautiful electric guitar is installing the tuners.
Brazilian luthier Rod Gomes visited Dan Erlewine's shop to show how he does it.

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Issue 240 April 09, 2015
How to install classical guitar strings
Learn the right way to install nylon strings so they don’t stretch for a month before you can start playing.
Brazilian luthier Rodrigo Gomes visits Dan Erlewine’s shop and sets up a classical guitar for Dan to start learning to play bossa nova.

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Issue 239 March 26, 2015
Refurbishing a 1964 Ampeg guitar amp
Over fifty years, this amp’s seen a lot of gigs and garages. Dan Erlewine’s fixing it up for a friend who wants to play it again. While the amp’s out for repair, Dan patches the torn up blue diamond tolex.

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Issue 238 March 12, 2015
Custom walnut bindings for an 1800s German guitar
You’ve got to see this German guitar from the 1830s! Dan removed the back to repair it, and now he needs to duplicate the wood binding that’s nearly 200 years old. He shows how he started from a plank of walnut to create custom-sized wood binding strips.

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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.

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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.

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Issue 235 January 29, 2015
Sticky guitar tuners: redrilling the peg holes
These classical tuners aren’t turning freely — they’re sticking. The holes for the tuner barrels were never drilled quite right, so Dan Erlewine re-drills them, using our Tuning Machine Drill Jig for Slotted Pegheads.

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Issue 234 January 15, 2015
My friend Carl's bridge gluing tips
From Dan Erlewine: “My friend Sui Keung Ho aka Carl, was visiting from Hong Kong, and spent a couple days in my shop. I was making this Trade Secret about gluing a bridge, and Carl chipped in with an additional tip. Thanks, Carl!”

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Issue 233 January 01, 2015
Two tips for filing string slots at the nut
High action and a badly shaped nut: That’s the situation with the nut on this old May Bell guitar. Dan Erlewine lowers the nut slots while also “back filing” the nut so the strings angle down properly to the tuners.

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Issue 232 December 18, 2014
Fixing fret buzz: spot leveling and re-crowning
Dan Erlewine found a 1935 May Bell and fell in love with her. She has some fret buzz due to worn frets that are flat and wide. Dan shows how a little leveling and filing got her playing again.
Issue 231 December 04, 2014
Custom-fit styrofoam clamping caul
How to clamp a guitar bridge without crushing the braces inside: Dan Erlewine uses a chunk of insulation from the home improvement center. In this short video, Dan shares a trick for custom-shaping the foam to fit any guitar.

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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!
Issue 229 November 06, 2014
Swapping pickup covers on a rare lefty Lucille
Making new pickups look old: Brand new pickups looked too shiny in this guitar that had seen a lot of gigs. So Dan Erlewine opened the old pickup and put its cover on the new one. This meant cutting the solder joint and resoldering.

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Issue 228 October 23, 2014
Fixing a Tune-O-Matic that won't tune
This bridge is in the wrong spot, so the guitar can’t play in tune. Rather than drill new holes in a vintage guitar body, Dan Erlewine comes up with a clever solution.

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Issue 227 October 09, 2014
Neat trick for peghead binding (tiger inlay)
Dan Erlewine’s building a guitar for a tattoo artist. It’s solid black walnut, with a fancy peghead inlay: a tiger image drawn by the customer.

In this Trade Secret, Dan tells about that inlay and shares a neat trick for exactly sizing the binding that goes around the peghead.

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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.

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Issue 225 September 11, 2014
How to stop breaking router bits
A customer asked me how to avoid breaking tiny router bits. I answer this question from time to time on the phone, and it makes a good Trade Secrets topic. I talked to Dan Erlewine and Dan made us this video. Check it out!
—Matt Brooker, StewMac Tech Support

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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.

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Issue 223 August 14, 2014
Why do you have so many guitars?!
Dakota Dave Hull is a pro touring guitarist, a veteran of years on the road. Lugging a half dozen heavy guitar cases, he stopped by Dan Erlewine’s shop and answered some questions, starting with “Why so many?!"

Whether he's performing at the renowned Caffe Lena or at a house concert in the Midwest, Dave carries a lot of guitars. We’re pleased that all of these guitars have Waverly tuners, available exclusively from Stewart-MacDonald!
Issue 222 July 31, 2014
Homemade dust collector
Dan Erlewine's homemade dust collection system: Dan used to go outdoors to trim binding, because without dust collection the job got really messy. That’s all changed now: Dan's homemade dust collection system is a simple plastic storage bucket turned into a downdraft routing table!
Issue 221 July 17, 2014
Fixing fret buzz: raising the saddles
A P-Bass with fret buzz: Dan Erlewine fixes his brother’s bass, and answers the question, “To get rid of this fret buzz, should I adjust the saddles or the truss rod?”
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.

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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.
Issue 218 June 05, 2014
Chopping the ends off bridge pins
If you're not careful, installing new strings can create a problem that throws you out of tune or damages your bridge pin holes. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars shows us an easy fix.
Issue 217 May 22, 2014
Coloring epoxy for guitar inlays
A little bit of glue hides imperfections... Dan Erlewine personalizes a fretboard with the customer's name in pearl: "Hoss." There are small gaps around the inlays, and dan shows how to make those gaps disappear. Dan also shows a neat magnet trick for cutting thin slices off the end of a fretboard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Issue 212 March 13, 2014
Coloring new binding to match the old stuff
We've watched Dan Erlewine repair this 1930s Kay over the previous 3 Trade Secrets. It's time to finish it up. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars ages Dan's patch of new plastic binding so it blends in with the old binding around it. About the guitar in this video: This 1930s Kay Deluxe is a fixer-upper that Dan Erlewine repaired in order to sell. Now that it's in great shape again, maybe Dan'll keep it!
Issue 211 February 27, 2014
Making custom guitar bindings when stock sizes don't fit
Replacing a section of this binding from the 1930s requires thicknesses that are no longer available. Dan Erlewine has to custom-size some new wood bindings on his drill press. It's not hard to do: watch the new pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
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!
Issue 209 January 30, 2014
Making a glue scraper/saw
Dan Erlewine went to the Columbus Guitar Show to sell some fixer-uppers. Nobody bought this beautiful 1930s Kay Deluxe; its neck joint problem must have seemed like too much work. The guitar came back home and volunteered for this Trade Secret about making a tiny saw for cleaning old glue joints!
Issue 208 January 16, 2014
Lindy Fralin on how to set pickup height
Lindy Fralin, of Lindy Fralin Pickups, shows how he sets pickup heights. Lindy shows it's not about measuring, it's about listening. Recorded at last summer's Northwoods Seminar in Michigan.
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.
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.
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.
Issue 204 November 21, 2013
Visiting Frank Ford, the King of Shop Tips!
Frank Ford is the man behind, 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!
Issue 203 November 07, 2013
Sharpening scrapers for guitar work: two simple jigs
Link Van Cleave is a sharp guy! He taught tool sharpening at the 2013 Northwoods Seminar. That was a class on professional techniques, but Link also gave us this foolproof Trade Secret for making your favorite scraper super-sharp.
Issue 202 October 24, 2013
Mamie Minch on guitar oxidation: instant aging
Chemicals that add or remove years: Mamie Minch shows how she fades away old brown oxidation ù or adds it, to make a new patch of spruce match the surrounding wood.
Issue 201 October 10, 2013
Michi Matsuda's gunpowder scorched guitar
West/East concept guitar: Michihiro Matsuda taught guitar design at Galloup Guitars' Northwoods Guitar Seminar in August. We were lucky enough to get this video as Bryan Galloup interviewed Michi about his unique gunpowder scorching.
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.
Issue 199 September 12, 2013
1966 Telecaster pickup torn down and rewound
Erick Coleman has a 50-year-old pickup that's nearly dead: It's making a little bit of sound, but not much. Erick opens it up to find the trouble, and we get a good view of the guts of this vintage Fender pickup before he rewinds it.
Issue 198 August 29, 2013
Final-shaping a neck with files and scrapers
Shaping a neck is all about feel. Chelsea Clark learned from Dan Erlewine, and honed her skills on abandoned "project guitars" found on Craigslist and eBay. Chelsea shares some great tips on shaping the neck and preparing it for a finish.
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...
Issue 196 August 01, 2013
How to notch the saddles on your Les Paul
Erick Coleman uses a hammer and X-Acto knife before filing. On this video he also talks with Dan Erlewine about how a 1954 Les Paul went from Bondo Mess to Relic Goldtop, with multiple luthiers contributing to its restoration.
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
Issue 194 July 04, 2013
Dick Boak of Martin Guitars talks about pre-war tenors
Dick Boak of the Martin Guitar Company visiting Dan Erlewine's guitar repair shop. The conversation is about pre-war Martin tenor guitars, and Dick really knows this subject. From the free Trade Secrets newsletter at
Issue 193 June 20, 2013
Hot tip: A new way to use your guitar repair vise
Compact, low-profile guitar repair setup: Dan Erlewine removes the mounting base and bolts his StewMac Guitar Repair vise to the end of his bench, for a new low-angle working style. Also: a quick tour of Dan's customized workbench.
Issue 192 June 06, 2013
How to fit a Les Paul pickup ring to the curved top
Don't ruin your pickup rings by skipping this step! Dan Erlewine nibbles, files, scrapes and sands to create a curve that matches the top of his Les Paul.
Issue 191 May 23, 2013
The King of Dieselbilly Talks Tele!
Titan of the Tele: Bill Kirchen explains why he flips his control plate backwards, and shows how he got the famous sounds he recorded on Hot Rod Lincoln.
Issue 190 May 09, 2013
How to let your ears find the best tone cap for your guitar
Ever wonder whether a different capacitor would affect your tone? It's between you and your own ears, nobody else can tell you what you hear. Erick Coleman's got a simple way to prove to yourself which cap is the choice for you.
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.
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.
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
Issue 186 March 14, 2013
How to get a good clean solder joint!
The three basics to keep in mind if you want your work to be as good or better than the guitar's original wiring. -- Erick Coleman
Issue 185 February 28, 2013
Is this bridge saddle in the right place?
The free Fret Position Calculator at 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
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.
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.
Issue 182 January 17, 2013
Good tone from 0-10: easy clip-on mod
Trade Secrets On The Road: Dan Erlewine visits the repair shop at Herb David Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He brings back this great, simple tone tip from repairman Brian Delaney.
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.
Issue 180 December 20, 2012
The simplest custom build ever?
Erick Coleman builds a custom guitar that's even simpler than Bo Diddley's rectangular axe. It's a great example to show the basics of building an electric guitar.
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.
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!"
Issue 177 November 08, 2012
A shrinking pickguard cracks the guitar top!
In Dan Erlewine's shop: This Martin D-35 has a cracked top due to the pull of a shrinking plastic pickguard. Dan fixes the problem and shows how to keep this happening from happening again.
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.
Issue 175 October 11, 2012
Fixing (and breaking!) a 1957 Gibson P-90 pickup
After 55 years, the original owner sells a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior because the pickup's dead. Erick Coleman tells the story of bringing that pickup back to life.
Issue 174 September 27, 2012
Fixing a small chip in your guitar's finish
This issue of Trade Secrets is a video: Dan Erlewine demos three of his favorite finish repair tips: 1. Super glue drop fills. 2. Frank Ford's razor blade trick. 3. Strip-sanding with fingertip pressure.
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.
Issue 172 August 30, 2012
A curious fact: why the 1970s Musicmaster Bass had such a thin sound
Erick Coleman opens up a 1973 Fender Musicmaster Bass and is surprised by what he finds!
Issue 171 August 16, 2012
Fixing a loose bridge on a yard sale special
Dan Erlewine fixes a 1980s Harmony guitar with a bridge that's falling off. To see how fast he can do this repair, Dan decided to play Beat The Clock!
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!
Issue 169 July 19, 2012
Crack repair on a Gibson ES-350T ("Byrdland Lite?")
Semi-hollowbody crack repair: Dan Erlewine compares Gibson's ES-350T to their more famous Byrdland. Includes 1955 catalog descriptions of these two great Gibsons.
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.
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.
Issue 166 June 07, 2012
Upgrading an inexpensive semi-hollowbody with P-90 sound
Erick Coleman installs P-90 soapbar pickups into the dogear pickup frames on an Epiphone Casino. It's an easy upgrade that makes a big difference.
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.
Issue 164 May 10, 2012
Does this bone nut fit my guitar?
Erick Coleman answers a question that's come up a lot lately: how to find the right size replacement nut. He introduces a new Sizing Sheet that makes measuring easy for anybody.
Issue 163 April 26, 2012
Ideas for your shop: arranging your bench and vise
Where to put the workbench in your shop? And where to put the vise on that bench? Dan Erlewine's helps a friend with those questions in his new garage workshop.
Issue 162 April 12, 2012
"I wired this guitar, but it didn't work. Can you fix it?"
Is it a good idea when a repair shop recommends that a customer try some do-it-yourself wiring? Erick Coleman's customer rewired a Les Paul, but ran into trouble. Now Erick's re-rewiring...
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.
Issue 160 March 15, 2012
Wiring a humbucker to get two sounds
Erick Coleman shows how he modified a Parsons Street Humbucker, turning it into a switchable single-coil/humbucker combination.
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.
Issue 158 February 16, 2012
Bridge collapse! Carving an archtop guitar bridge in a hurry!
Erick Coleman got a text message on his cell: his customer's archtop bridge broke the night before a recording session. Can he replace it overnight? Here's how he carved a new one in a jiffy!
Issue 157 February 02, 2012
Dan Erlewine's low-tech "spray booth" for a small shop
Dan Erlewine shows how he sprays finish touchups in a small shop with no spray booth.
Issue 156 January 19, 2012
Fixing Bill Kirchen's "Hot Rod Lincoln" Telecaster
Dan Erlewine's doing some Telecaster body work for Bill Kirchen. Bill's famous Tele riff drove Commander Cody's "Hot Rod Lincoln" into the Top Ten back in 1972
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.
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"
Issue 153 December 08, 2011
Coil-cuts: how to hop up your humbuckers
Erick Coleman shows tricks you can do with those four colored wires coming from your humbucker pickups.
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.
Issue 151 November 10, 2011
How to strip a modern poly guitar finish
Erick Coleman's got a Fender bass with a purple metallic finish. He wants to spray an 1960s-style sunburst, but first he's got to get that hard plastic coating off of there...
Issue 150 October 13, 2011
Fixing dirty, scratchy control pots on a Supro lap steel
Dan Erlewine's fixing nasty-sounding control pots on a great-looking Supro lap steel from 1960.
Issue 149 September 29, 2011
My guitar's too vintage for club gigs, so I created a backup
Erick Coleman's 1967 Melody Maker is getting too old and pricey for knockaround club gigs. With some simple mods to an affordable new Gibson, he's made himself a good backup guitar.
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...)
Issue 147 September 01, 2011
Tune-o-matic swap: going from Nashville to Kalamazoo
Taking a Les Paul from Nashville to Kalamazoo by way of the Tune-o-matic Bridge: Erick Coleman swaps the factory Nashville bridge for a 1950s-style ABR-1 Tune-o-matic.
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...
Issue 145 August 04, 2011
How to install a Strat tremolo and get it right
Erick Coleman has a quick tip that will save you a lot of trouble.
Issue 144 July 21, 2011
Replacing a shrunken pickguard
Dan Erlewine shrinking pickguard martin D-35 adhesive micro-mesh
Issue 143 July 07, 2011
Rugged and road-ready: replacing skimpy parts
Erick Coleman finds that a 1970s Hondo is really well built, but the parts weren't road-ready. A couple of fixes, and this guitar's ready to tour the world!
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!
Issue 141 June 09, 2011
Christine's inexpensive guitar needs a bridge repair: fix it or pitch it?
Should you put $100 worth of repairs into a guitar you can replace for $200? Erick Coleman tells why his answer is yes. And he hands over the repair tools to Christine, who works in StewMac's office.
Issue 140 May 26, 2011
Installing side dots with the help of plywood scraps
Dan Erlewine shows the easy way to install side dots in guitar neck binding. And he has some tips for using plywood scraps around your shop, too!
Issue 139 May 12, 2011
Dan Erlewine's Facebook fretless bass
Dan Erlewine's been posting photos on Facebook, creating this photo story on how to convert a fretted bass to fretless. It's a Trade Secrets story and it's on Facebook too!
Issue 138 April 28, 2011
Unusual transplant: 12-string guitar tuners save a mandolin
Erick Coleman can't find tuners to fit a Martin mandolin -- so he modifies 12-string tuners to do the job!
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.
Issue 136 March 31, 2011
Moneytalk: an easy repair -- until it blew up in my hands!
Dan Erlewine started a simple, quick repair, but one unlucky hammer tap created a whole new problem to solve!
Issue 135 March 17, 2011
Mixing active and passive pickups in a jazz guitar
Dan Erlewine wants to install two very different pickups in a jazz guitar. When there's no place to fit active system's battery he comes up with a simple, flexible solution.
Issue 134 March 03, 2011
Build this bypass pedal to turn your stompboxes OFF!
Erick Coleman's got a simple wiring project that most guitarists need: a true bypass stomp switch to take your effects pedals in/out of your signal chain.
Issue 133 February 17, 2011
Moneytalk: Quickly installing an acoustic pickup
In our Money Talk series about operating a repair business, Dan Erlewine tallies up the time and expenses of a profitable pickup installation job.
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.
Issue 131 January 20, 2011
How to bind a fretboard, Gibson-style
Erick Coleman's restoring a 1950s Les Paul, and returning the bound fretboard to its original condition. With small files and elbow grease, he shows how to create the fret-end "binding nibs" for that distinctive Gibson look.
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.
Issue 129 December 23, 2010
Make custom labels for your guitars!
Dan Erlewine's making a forgery of an old Gibson label, using his brother as an accomplice (he's got a good excuse). While he's at it, he shows how you can make new custom labels for your own guitars.
Issue 128 December 09, 2010
How (and why) to use templates to rout control cavities
If you sometimes think of making a custom electric guitar, Erick Coleman has tips to make one part of the process a lot easier. Here's how to rout the neck pocket and control cavities so they look as good as a factory build.
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.
Issue 126 November 11, 2010
An emergency pickup transplant for Skeletonwitch
Erick Coleman gets an urgent call on a Friday night: the Heavy Metal band Skeletonwitch needs some custom pickup work in time to head to Ozzfest in 24 hours!
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.
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.
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?
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!
Issue 121 September 02, 2010
Preparing a guitar for a professional recording date
Erick Coleman gives The Business to Rontrose Heathman's Les Paul to get it ready for a recording date with L.A. legends, The Hangmen.
Issue 120 August 19, 2010
Recreating a lost part from from 1917
Dan Erlewine is missing one last part needed on a 1917 archtop Gibson. It's a long gone, irreplaceable pickguard support that he recreates from found material in his shop. A useful tip for fabricating modern plastic parts, too!
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.
Issue 118 July 22, 2010
Using a utility knife blade as a saddle shaper
Dan Erlewine shares a tip for putting a rounded shape on bone saddles: use the notch in one of those utility knife blades in your toolbox!
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.
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.
Issue 115 June 10, 2010
Using fret polishing wheels on a flex shaft
Todd Sams shares his method for getting a mirror finish on newly-installed frets
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.
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.
Issue 112 April 29, 2010
Simple guitar wiring: DIY mods to expand your guitar's tone
Erick Coleman shares some tips for modifying your guitar wiring: easy mods that give you a new tonal range.
Issue 111 April 15, 2010
Two 1917 Gibson L-1 archtop guitars: each with too-high action
Dan Erlewine got a blast from the past in his shop recently, and before the dust settled he got another one! He's working on two Gibson L-1 archtops from 1917, and they both have the same trouble: too-tall bridges and too-high action.
Issue 110 April 01, 2010
How to French polish for a fast finish without spraying
Dan Erlewine finishes up a last-minute present for his granddaughter: a tiny-size Gibson J-45. With her birthday just around the corner, he needs a good finish and he needs it fast!
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.
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.
Issue 107 February 18, 2010
How to know a bridge will play in tune before gluing it on
Dan Erlewine finds an old bridge to fit a 1950s Gibson, but will the saddle slot be in the right place? He measures and calculates, but still wants to prove it's in tune before gluing. Here's how he did that.
Issue 106 February 04, 2010
Simple inlay repair on a Les Paul Triumph bass
This bass from the early '70s is in great shape except for a gaptoothed peghead inlay. Erick Coleman shows how to quickly replace a missing inlay, including coloring the new work to match the old.
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.
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.
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
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.
Issue 101 November 26, 2009
Final-shaping a D-18 or D-28 style guitar neck
Guitar maker Todd Sams directs the production of our StewMac guitar necks, and he uses the necks in his own custom Sams guitars. Todd shows how to spend twenty minutes final-shaping a neck to get it to look and feel exactly right.
Issue 100 November 12, 2009
It's a crime to cut pickup leads this short!
Erick Coleman has been rooting around in the parts drawers at Dan Erlewine's shop, and he's found a 1960s Gibson patent-sticker humbucker. It would be valuable if somebody hadn't cut off the pickup lead. Erick shows how to fix that.
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.
Issue 98 October 15, 2009
3 tips for cutting finely detailed custom inlays
Dan Erlewine's cutting a curvy script letter "L" out of pearl. It's a spidery-thin shape, so he uses some tricks to cut it cleanly without breaking. He also talks about his favorite headgear...
Issue 97 October 01, 2009
How to clean a guitar that REALLY needs it!
Rock's a dirty business, but somebody's got to do it: Dan Erlewine cleans up a Les Paul that hasn't had a bath in four years -- and 650 gigs!
Issue 96 September 17, 2009
Custom-shaping a replacement pickguard for a 1990s Gibson
Erick Coleman's got a busted-up pickguard, and off-the-shelf replacements don't fit. He shows how to make and use a custom-shape template for a new guard.
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...)
Issue 94 August 20, 2009
Fishing a volume control out of a semi-hollowbody for soldering.
Erick Coleman's got a guitar with one dead pickup and a volume control that spins around when you turn the knob. That's trouble. And it's inside a semi-hollowbody guitar -- that's double trouble!
Issue 93 August 06, 2009
Tune-O-Matic setup: is the trouble with the bridge or the neck angle?
Dan helps the local music store with a customer complaint about a Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge setup. Who's to blame here?
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.
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.
Issue 90 June 25, 2009
Vintage retainer wire: searching Nashville for one little guitar part!
Dan and Leon Rhodes need a retainer spring for a vintage Gibson bridge. Visiting repair shops in Nashville, they find out how to make their own.
Issue 89 June 11, 2009
Day of the Zombie: curing an undead Telecaster pickup
The multimeter tells Erick Coleman that this pickup is dead, but nobody told the pickup: it's still playing!
Issue 88 May 28, 2009
Making a custom fire stripe pickguard to fit a baby guitar!
Dan Erlewine's in his guitar shop (or is it a toy shop today?) making a custom "fire stripe" pickguard just like the one on his 1939 Gibson J-35. He shows how to make a custom pickguard in any color variation you like.
Issue 87 May 14, 2009
New pickups and new sound, with Golden Age Prewired Pickguards
Erick Coleman responds to a tech call emergency: "This guitar sounds bad, and I'm supposed to record with it tomorrow night!"
Issue 86 April 30, 2009
Putting the new Nut Slotting Gauge to work on a "burn victim" guitar
Dan Erlewine shows a before and after of a 1958 Gibson that's (barely) survived a house fire. It needs a new nut, and he's using the Nut Slotting Gauge to get it right the first time.
Issue 85 April 16, 2009
Whoops! How to hide a scratch in your big brother's guitar
Erick Coleman's neighbor has put a chip in his big brother's guitar. It needs to be repaired invisibly, and fast! Touch-up markers do the trick.
Issue 84 April 02, 2009
Easy, affordable way to make your own custom-fit guitar case
Hardshell cases are sold for a few of the most common guitar sizes, but what if your guitar is a different shape? Todd Sams shows an easy way to make a great custom case.
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.
Issue 82 March 05, 2009
Making custom-colored patching filler baking soda
Dan Erlewine's cooking with baking soda and ColorTone stains -- fixing a hole in his granddaughter's birthday present.
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.
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.
Issue 79 January 22, 2009
This eBay pickup's a bargain, if you do a bobbin transplant
Erick Coleman's used pickup sounds great, but a broken baseplate makes it useless unless this bobbin transplant works.
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.
Issue 77 December 25, 2008
How to rewind a 1959 Strat pickup
Erick Coleman shows how to rewind a vintage singlecoil in a 1959 Strat.
Issue 76 December 11, 2008
Using a foam buffer in a hand drill on Junior Brown Guit-Steels®
When a pedestal buffer can't accommodate the shape of Junior Brown's famous Guit-Steels, Michael Stevens finds that a simple foam buffer does a great job!
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.
Issue 74 November 13, 2008
eBay mandolin: fret work and using JB Weld to rebuild a truss rod nut
Dan Erlewine's customer got a deal on eBay. Whether it was a good or a bad deal depends on how much it takes to make it playable. Dan fixes fret buzz and a warped neck, then rebuilds the truss rod nut using JB Weld repair epoxy.
Issue 73 October 30, 2008
How to choose the right pickup for your acoustic guitar
Erick Coleman clears up the confusion about acoustic pickups: separating them into different types and helping you figure out what's what.
Issue 72 October 16, 2008
Money talk: estimating prices for repair work
Dan Erlewine shows the steps of inspecting a customer's guitar, and gives advice on repair prices for the work required.
Issue 71 October 02, 2008
"Which binding tools should I choose?"
Erick Coleman answers a frequent question from customers: Which tools to use for routing channels for instrument bindings?
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.
Issue 69 September 04, 2008
How to open a humbucker and reverse the polarity
Erick answers a customer question about reversing a humbucker's pickups, and finds that the hardest part is getting the cover off the pickup!
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.
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.)
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.
Issue 65 July 10, 2008
How not to mess up a soldering job
Erick Coleman shows how easy it is to do a pro-quality soldering job.
Issue 64 June 26, 2008
Adding color to hide glue for an invisible repair
Dan Erlewine's got a neat trick for a mandolin repair, and he makes his pitch to get us all to join the hide glue club!
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.
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.
Issue 61 May 15, 2008
Tremolo tips: staying in tune with a twang bar
You don't have to have a locking system to have a tremolo stay in tune. Erick Coleman shows tips for keeping your tremolo tuneful.
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.
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.
Issue 58 April 03, 2008
Save time and money with Dan's pickup wiring tips
Dan Erlewine's upgrading an inexpensive guitar with replacement pickups. The job's got to be done quickly at a low price, so he demonstrates some time-saving tips.
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.
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?
Issue 55 February 21, 2008
Where's the best spot for your strap button?
Dan Erlewine raises a simple question that comes up often in any repair shop. Is there a best spot for your strap button?
Issue 54 February 07, 2008
How to spray a sunburst using aerosol cans
Erick Coleman uses tinted aerosols to recreate a vintage Strat 3-tone 'burst.
Issue 53 January 24, 2008
Setting up a banjo's 5th string: nut, capos and peg
Todd Sams shows how he sets up a banjo 5th string using railroad spikes, a block of wood, and a camless clamp.
Issue 52 January 10, 2008
Single-coil buzzkill: the why and how of electric guitar shielding.
Erick Coleman talks about the causes of buzzes and electrical noise, and how to beat them.
Issue 51 December 27, 2007
Banjo Killer? The scoop on forward X bracing for greater guitar volume.
Todd Sams gives a simple and clear explanation of how to position dreadnought braces for the sound and volume of an early-30s Martin.
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.
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.
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.
Issue 47 November 01, 2007
Polishing papers: flexible, reusable abrasives
Why has Erick Coleman been hiding small scraps of 3M Polishing Papers in his tool chest?
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.
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.
Issue 44 September 20, 2007
Go-bar decks: fast, flexible gluing
This week, Dan Erlewine asks Todd Sams to show how a go-bar deck in his home shop turned two hours of work into twenty minutes!
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!
Issue 42 August 23, 2007
The best nut-making material: Bone for Tone!
Customers ask, "What material makes the best string nut?" Erick Coleman's says it's Bone for Tone.
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.
Issue 40 July 26, 2007
Lacquer drop fill: hiding a scratch on a customer's Les Paul
As Dan Erlewine was packing a customer's Les Paul for shipment, he noticed that somebody in his shop had scratched the top! Time for some fast finish fixing -- here's how he made the scratch go away.
Issue 39 July 19, 2007
Clean up your old electric guitar saddles
Erick Coleman shows why brushing your guitar saddles is as important as brushing your teeth!
Issue 38 July 12, 2007
Lesson in pearl engraving from Doug Unger
Doug Unger restores and reproduces exquisite turn-of-the-century 5-string banjos and early archtop mandolins. Doug shares a lesson in pearl engraving with Trade Secrets readers.
Issue 37 July 05, 2007
Making a pearloid pickguard with a 1950s vibe
Dan Erlewine's got an unusual 1951 guitar: a National with a Gibson body. The old pickguard came off in an earlier Trade Secrets, and now the new one goes on: it's an oddball pearloid guard that's worth checking out!
Issue 36 June 28, 2007
Build your own custom pickups
Erick Coleman needed a pickup like a good old Gibson P-90, but sized to fit a 3-string cigar box guitar! Here's how he built it, and how you can build yourself a custom pickup for any instrument.
Issue 35 June 21, 2007
Plastic nuts are high-speed and low-cost!
Dan Erlewine races the clock to show that plastic nut installations are quick and profitable!
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.
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.
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
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.
Issue 30 May 17, 2007
Which super glue to use: thin, medium or thick?
Dan Erlewine uses photo examples to show when to choose thin, medium or thick super glue for instrument work.
Issue 29 May 10, 2007
Removing a pickguard: easy way and hard way
This week, Dan Erlewine's got two pickguard removals in his shop. The Martin D-18's pickguard has cracked it's top, and Dan shows how a pickguard's supposed to come off. The "Gibsonational" is another story: this pickguard is nothing but trouble!
Issue 28 May 03, 2007
Using the String Spacing Rule for guitars and mandolins
Erick Coleman uses Kevin Ryan's proportional string spacing rule for more jobs than Kevin ever expected: 12-strings, mandolins, bridge saddles... Plus: an explanation of the difference between equal spacing and proportional spacing.
Issue 27 April 26, 2007
Plugging old tuner holes on the back of the peghead
When installing new tuners leaves old screwholes showing on the back of your peghead, here a 1-2-3 step method for making them disappear.
Issue 26 April 19, 2007
The fake through-saddle bridge: stronger than vintage
Dan shows us a Martin D-18 with a nasty looking broken bridge, and explains his technique for making a replacement that looks vintage but is stronger than the original.
Issue 25 April 12, 2007
Better tone with a lighter Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece
This week, Erick Coleman steps into the ring for Round Two in the Battle for Better Tone: his secret weapons area lightweight Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece.
Issue 24 April 05, 2007
Making a perfect bridge with the Sanding Station
Dan Erlewine's getting fancy with his Sanding Station: with his shop-made jig, he's making better bridges than he ever has before.
Issue 23 March 29, 2007
Use a Fret Setter upside down for faster fretwork!
This week, Dan gets an email with a Trade Secret from luthier Jason Ingrodi. Jason's tip makes fret filing faster (this means a lot when you've got dozens of frets to file!)
Issue 22 March 22, 2007
Tricks for installing humbuckers
This week Dan shares two tips for installing humbucking pickups, including a simple jig you can make yourself. Also, he repairs a broken pickup ring that his customer thinks is worth $10,000!
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?
Issue 20 March 08, 2007
Lubricating guitar tuners
This week, we're in Dan's Guitar Garage for a Tune-up Special: how to clean and lube old guitar tuners, and get them working smoothly again.
Issue 19 March 01, 2007
Fitting an archtop bridge, easily and accurately
Did you ever try to fit a bridge to an archtop guitar or mandolin? (Or a violin?) This week Dan Erlewine shows how it's done with sandpaper and a bridge-fitting jig.
Issue 18 February 22, 2007
Upgrading the electronics in a "Less Paul"
Erick Coleman answers tech questions from StewMac customers, and here he answers a popular one: How do I soup-up this low-priced guitar?
Issue 17 February 15, 2007
Making new tuners look vintage
This week, Erick Coleman shows how to add 50 years in 30 minutes: he makes a new set of tuners look like they've been around since the 1950s!
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?
Issue 15 February 01, 2007
Using candle wax to keep a vintage P-90 working
This week in Trade Secrets, Dan runs into pickup trouble and turns to Lindy Fralin for help. The simplest possible solution keeps a P-90 pickup from 1957 from falling apart.
Issue 14 January 25, 2007
Replacing damaged tuner knobs
This week, Dan's got a 1957 Les Paul Junior in his shop. It hasn't been out of the case in 25 years, and the tuners are unusable. Here's how to put new knobs on old tuners.
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?
Issue 12 January 11, 2007
Installing an old-time banjo dowel stick
This week, Don MacRostie invents a new technique for an old technology: he shows how to accurately install a banjo dowel stick. Also, Bart Reiter sends a dowel-stick tip.
Issue 11 January 04, 2007
Mixing red epoxy for cherry-finish repairs
This week, somebody's attempt to fix a 1960 Les Paul is an example of what not to do. Dan Erlewine tries an experiment that saves this smashed-up guitar's finish: he creates cherry-red epoxy.
Issue 10 December 28, 2006
Installing an endpin jack
Ever have trouble installing an endpin jack? Did you chip the guitar's finish, or drill the hole out-of-square? Did you goof up on a customer's guitar? You'll want to read this week's Trade Secret from Dan Erlewine.
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.
Issue 8 December 14, 2006
Make this brad-point bit for installing side dots
In Trade Secrets this week, Dan Erlewine shows a trick for installing side dots that are perfectly positioned: he modifies a hardware-store drill bit to make the job easy.
Issue 7 December 07, 2006
Acoustic guitar pickups: installation problems to avoid
In this week's newsletter, bad sound from a good acoustic guitar pickup: the problem and the solution.
Issue 6 November 30, 2006
Finding the right location for a guitar's saddle slot
This issue shows how to locate and cut the saddle slot for an acoustic bridge.
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.
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.
Issue 3 November 09, 2006
Cut binding strips with an upside down Dremel tool
In this week's issue, Don MacRostie shows Dan Erlewine a neat trick for making custom wood bindings: using an upside-down Dremel tool.
Issue 2 November 02, 2006
Use your drill press as a planer to make custom bindings
In Trade Secrets this week: Did you know you can plane wood on your drill press?
Issue 1 October 26, 2006
Making new bridge pins look old on a vintage Gibson
This week, Dan Erlewine reveals the seven-pin bridge that's hidden by Robert Johnson's hand in that most-famous photo of the King of the Delta Blues.
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.

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