Live from Dan's Shop! May 22, 2020

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Did you miss the live Q&A with Dan? Don't worry, we've got the replay! Listen in as Dan answers all your questions about everything guitars and talks about finishing, fret files, and how to set up your first shop. Hear Dan's stories about meeting Albert King and how he made the iconic V for the blues legend.

Video Transcription

Dan Erlewine: I'm a little bit late. Hey everyone, just made it. You're awesome. I'll be right with you. Okay. Thanks for being here. I wish you were really here. It would be awesome, but this will have to do. Okay, here we are. What we're going to do is the questions will be handed to me and I'll answer as many as I can. I see that there are more than I could imagine. And on any given question, you can probably... See I find, down here, I don't see myself looking at the camera. It looks like I'm looking down there.

Susan: No, you're good, you're good.

Dan Erlewine: Okay. If you have any follow-up questions to a question, we might be able to handle that, but we're not sure, because we've never done this, but don't be afraid to ask something by hitting that iChat button. Susan will moderate. She will be wearing a mask. She's quite a far way back and she's going to hand her questions in with a fishing pole, so she doesn't have to get too close. I'm ready for the first one.

Susan: All right, Dan.

Do I need primer under an opaque aerosol finish?

Dan Erlewine: Okay, this is a finishing question from Carlos on our YouTube community page. Do I need primer under an opaque aerosol finish? Do I have to use primer or can I just spray the color over the sealer? You answered your own question. Yeah, sealer is a primer for wood. For lacquer. I think of primer as rusty red or gray like we used to prime our motorbikes with or cars when we're kids, Bondo. I think of if you were painting metal, you might be using a primer.

But on wood, I would just fill it with sealer or clear lacquer. It just takes longer. I'm the kind of guy that likes to use clear lacquer more than sealer. Then, you spray the top coat after you sanded that smooth and you have a really flat surface and you put enough color on so that you have what you want and stop. Then you put clear on top of that. It's hard to buff a color coat. You'd have to put a lot on to keep from buffing through. Does that answer it? Hope so. Here she comes.

Susan: I think that answers it all right.

Dan Erlewine: It's pretty good. Oh, this is going to be...

Susan: Going fishing.

Dan Erlewine: Oh, everybody's fishing.

Susan: Going fishing.

What are the bare essential fret crowning tools you recommend?

Dan Erlewine: And I'm going fishing too. All right. This is from YouTube from the name In a Minute. That's his YouTube name, and it's about neck and frets. I know this one. What are the bare essential fret crowning tools you recommend? I did know this was coming and I have some right here. We're talking just from the start and you don't need all of these, but the first and most important in my book would be a six to seven inch three cornered file. Every hardware store has them. It's called a three square file. It's a triangle shape.

See it? Can you see those ground edges that I put on the belt sander, and rolled it, and ground them smooth, tapering as I went. Then I took a wet stone and stoned it, so that it's really smooth. If you're on a fret and you're dressing a fret, you're holding it like that. It's this side that's going to file. Then you flip that side and you don't want to scratch the board. We do have these at StewMac that are already ground.

The next most favorite file is also a triangle file. This is called a cant saw file. It's bigger and flatter. See them? I learned about the cant saw file from a couple of good luthier buddies, Michael Stevens in Alpine, Texas and the great Frank Ford Those guys turn me onto that file. If you have those, that's all you need to dress frets to get started. Later on down the road, there's rounding files. These are diamond rounding files. I don't know if you could see the diamonds in there, but there's no teeth. These files shaped like this also have teeth. A tooth file. That acts more of a scraper. These are good.

These are some old ones really that I probably had for over 20, 25 years way back when we first started making them. It had my name on it in ink. Then there's sandpaper and steel wool, that's sort of a no-brainer. We like 0000 steel wool, the finest you can get. Liberon makes a good steel wool, it doesn't have oil in it. If you light steel wool on fire, you try to do it outdoors, it's got a lot of oil in it. Liberon would burn clean, just thin pieces of metal and tape. Got to have some sort of masking tape and I'm going to leave that up to you because there's so many tapes out there. Some tapes are a lot stickier than others.

Susan: What's the steel wool for?

Dan Erlewine: Steel wool is to polish that final thing. If you leveled your frets, now you dress them with your files, and I'm assuming that you will probably would be taped off. Around my shop, I want everyone to tape off the fretboard while they dress. It can be done without taping if you're really good, why take the chance?

Susan: What about Scotch bright pads instead of steel wool?

Dan Erlewine: Scotch bright pads are fine. I use those too. It's different strokes for different folks. Do I have any in the drawer or don't I? 

Susan: I got a big one. I got a real-

Dan Erlewine: I didn't know you liked the fish so much.

Susan: It's just a really big one and heavy.

How do you set bridge saddles with a compound radius neck?

Dan Erlewine: Holy cow. Good size. Okay next in frets, compound radius. That's a good one. How do you set bridge saddles with the compound radius neck? This is from Tom Werta on our YouTube community page. Incidentally, I have a note here that four other people asked about the compound radius. It was Tom Werta, Armando Diaz, Gian, Dan Sanarayana, and Andrew Bakers. This will answer your questions too if I get it right. There's a couple questions here. The first one, how do you set the saddles? The compound radius starts at a tight radius at the nut and it gradually flattens as it goes down.

Where a regular fingerboard, like a Gibson, Fender, Guild is a cylinder board. That's just the same radius all the way down. The compound radius makes it less buzzy as you go up the neck because the strings are flattening out. The fret board's flattening. Say on a Fender scale, 25 and a half would probably be 14 or 16 inches or even more the radius. Between those two, it has to change and then it keeps going to the bridge. I would say if you had about a 16 or a 17-inch radius at the back glass front on the neck, you'd probably be doing a 20-inch radius at the bridge, which is easy if you can adjust the saddle.

Because I would set it to a 20, get the action you want, see how your bends are, and then experiment. To do that, you're going to need a tool, something to measure the radius. We use Understring Radius Gauges. If you see StewMac stuff, you'll know what they look like. You can slide under the strings. It's going to be flatter at the bridge. With the Gibson style Tune-o-Matic bridge, you'd have to file a new radius into the bridge saddles and that takes a good hand. Another question was how are they made? Well any fretboard radius that I've turned into a compounder, I've done by hand, but they can be made on a shaper.

They're swing sanders. I think Grizzly used to sell one that can swing it on a different arc and it gets a deeper cut down there. StewMac's got one. I'm just going to draw a quick picture. It's my quickest way of explaining that. You get a straight edge, I've had that since 1969, the year I got married, it's a Craftsman. It's really old now, but it was expensive then and it was as fine as a Brown & Sharpe.

Susan: Then can you use a fat marker?

Dan Erlewine: Let's say there's the fretboard. If you had a regular fingerboard, the strings would all go straight down the line. Not the strings, but they would be straight. Now, if you get a compound, those lines are going to be tapered. They're kind of following the line of the strings. They are following the strings. It's going to look more like that.

You would've to take your hand plan and flatten this board down and shave along those lines, creating facets going across the board, and then you'd sand them smooth. Unless you have a tool that can do this. You can turn any fret board into a compound radius, but you've got to take into account how thick it is and what you might run into by doing that. I wouldn't suggest it. I think that answers that. I see a canoe coming along the river out there.

Susan: Another fish in the pond on this rainy day.

Dan Erlewine: There's some big fish in here, honey. I'll get in trouble. Which clamps to buy first?

Susan: Who's it from?

What types of clamps are essential for guitar repair?

Dan Erlewine: This is from Gareth Travis on Facebook. What set or sets of clamps would you see as essential for acoustic and electric repairs and which one should I buy first? That's good. I have thought about this and I even wrote myself a little note. I would have these four clamps and there's so many kinds of great clamps, but if you're not doing carpentry and big stuff where you don't need long pipe clamps, one inch pipe clamps, three quarters, giant things, you're thinking guitars, start with Cam Clamps.

Cam Clamps

A Cam Clamp is the wooden clamp with a lever that tightens it down. You should have two small and two large.

Soundhole Clamps

Next, I would have Soundhole Clamps. Those go through the sound hole and clamp bridges on. They clamp brace repairs. It's going to sound like a lot, but that's what you wish you had to get really going. It's not what you're going to have in 10 years by any means. Soundhole clamps, I would have four or five inches, four seven inches, two nine inches, and one 11, just because that'll reach as far back as you have to get in an acoustic guitar and let you do a repair that you couldn't do without it. Sometimes, you're going to want more.You'll wish you had two of them.

Ibex Bridge Clamps

Ibex Bridge Clamps. I would say one to start and that'd be, for my use, that would be the center clamp and a bridge glue, probably with an over the bridge caul. It's just a strong, powerful clamp. But you could get by just having one and that's how I started. I started buying two of this kind of clamp at the hardware store, two of these, each time I needed a clamp, I'd go out and buy one. I didn't have a lot of money back then, nor do I now.

Swivel Handle Clamps

Swivel Handle Clamps, of course. Now these are fairly expensive. That's the big F clamp. They started as Jorgensen's many years ago. They're called Jorgensen clamps. They're flat bar clamps with sliding jaws. The ones that we sell at StewMac, and I'm not here to sell you, I'm just telling you this, they have a swivel handle. You can get in a tight situation and flip the handling. That six clamps on a peghead when you can flip the handle. Two to start and six...

Spool Clamps

That doesn't talk about Spool Clamps. You'll buy spool clamps when you have the first side crack that you don't know how to clamp together and it's a delicate job.

Are stainless steel frets better?

Susan: Dan, a few folks from the chat room are asking about stainless steel frets and wondering if they are better.

Dan Erlewine: Stainless steel frets isn't a subject that I would get online and talk about, because I haven't used them very much. Some of the guys in my shop do. I have friends that do. It isn't something that I'm asked for, because most of the jobs that I do are pretty old guitars and sort of a vintage thing. But they're harder to use, it's harder on your tools, they're harder to bend, harder to file and it makes for more work. But you should definitely try it and find it for yourself.

Susan: All right, going fishing.

Dan Erlewine: Oh, boy. She's-

Susan: I mean, it's kind of out of control.

Dan Erlewine: Bring that thing in here. This is Susan. Say hi, Susan.

Susan: Hi folks.

Dan Erlewine: See here, she's back there on the camera.

Susan: Here we go.

Dan Erlewine: Yeah, she's helpful.

Susan: We've got to stay six feet though.

Dan Erlewine: I know it. We are. I've got my mask off.

Susan: I've been in quarantine.

How do you drill holes for a bolt on neck in a solid G body guitar?

Dan Erlewine: From Christopher Hall on YouTube. Hi, Dan. What is the best way to accurately drill holes for a bolt on neck in a solid G body guitar? Mine tend to be off just a little bit and I want to get them as accurate as possible. What is the best method? Thank you for your time. Well, you're welcome. I did prep for this one just a little bit and it's pretty simple and it's not the best method. It's a method.

It's the way I do it, but it isn't necessarily the only way I would do it. I got this kit body here. These holes are nominally about three sixteenths of an inch. What I did was go to the hobby store and get a piece of three sixteenths, hobby tubing, a piece of brass, take a little razor saw and cut the length off. I chamfered the ends, end of them, just each edge is a little bit beveled. You can hardly see it. Then, it's easy. You can shove that down the hole. This number, I think that's a number 18, number 28 drill bit, that fits snuggly into that.

That's the drill bit that I want to use for my screw. I used to use a number 30, but just a little smaller. I used this one yesterday on this aluminum stratty thing back here. I made a neck for it and just mounted them. You can do that with the hand drill. If you're good at holding it square, but this will keep you square. That's pretty simple, isn't it? Old Indian trick. Okay.

Susan: Take a sip of water, Dan. This is a lot of questions. We're getting so many from the feed, it's kind of hard for me to keep up them

Dan Erlewine: Just a little soda.

Susan: Is that water?

Dan Erlewine: No, that's soda pop.

Susan: I don't know what that water run off of.

Dan Erlewine: Here's one. Could you take this body back.

Susan: Yep, mm-hmm.

Do you have any physical problems from your many years of guitar work?

Dan Erlewine: You can go ahead and put it back in stock. Just don't tell anybody. That's good. Of course. Do you have physical problems from your years of guitar work, by OnSixMemberOKey, ONPSX member. That's his title on YouTube. What would you change looking back over all your work on guitars based on posture and have you developed any allergies for certain wood species? As far as posture goes, I know that four months ago, I just had two carpal tunnel surgeries and those have wore out. I assume that's from clamping and grabbing, and clamping and grabbing, and grabbing and doing all that and dressing frets.

It was getting so I couldn't sleep at night. It would hurt that bad and I'd get up. If I got out of bed and hung the arms down, then it would feel better. It would get cold and hurt, sometimes numb. I am thanking my wonderful doctor that these are perfect. I can play things on the guitar that I could not play for years. I can play better than I ever did because I went and had that done. I was afraid of it, but you can hardly see it. If you get old and sore, think about it. I think the way you stand at a bench is very important to posture.

I was always taught to pretty much have a bench that's the height over your hands if you stand tall and flatten them out, as opposed to like this. Then, it depends on your height of course. Around this, this is a bench I like, because that way, I can be up and into the sound hole of a guitar with plenty of comfort. If you're up high like this, you can't do it. I would defy anybody that's my size to stand at a tall bench that I'm on a short bench and see if they could keep up with me.

Bench height is very important, and also the chairs. You need different height chairs when you sit. A lot of our work is sitting, you need different heights for the bench. I like the short ones, because I'm the shortest one in the shop. Paul likes the tall ones, but sometimes I want tall. If I'm using a Dremel tool, an inlay, and I want to sit a little taller, I'll get a different chair.

Susan: How tall are you, Dan?

Dan Erlewine: Six foot ten.

Susan: John Henry.

Do you have any wood allergies?

Dan Erlewine: I have shrunken down to about five seven. When I was in the Navy, I was five, eight and a half, so watch out. Then, do I have any wood allergies? I don't think so. I've worn a mask pretty early on. I've always known to stay away from rosewood dust, a lot of the tropical hardwoods particularly. I know people that have allergies to all kinds of wood, but I hope not to find out. You've got a lot of questions there.

What is your favorite break snack?

Also, what is your favorite snack on a break? That's easy. Actually, it's very easy, because I have one. My wife brought this over about 20 minutes ago in case we were getting hungry. She makes this every day. Isn't that beautiful? This is my favorite snack. I love everything in there. The yellow peppers. We'll get that kind of dip, which is more fattening, or else hummus. I love hummus. This one, I'm going to just take a taste and put it away, because you brought it up.

Susan: You're making me hungry.

Dan Erlewine: Okay, I'll send this you're way.

Susan: This is torture.

Dan Erlewine: Actually, I didn't. That's good. Well, I thank my wife Joan. She makes this at least every two days and she makes one for our daughters up the street too. They go to the store and get the veggies. We have not been in a store. I'm going to set this over here and Susan can have some.

Susan: Thank you. I didn't have lunch either.

Dan Erlewine: I'm ready for another one.

Susan: Well, you like veggies, but do you like sardines? Because this is a-

Dan Erlewine: Oh gosh, you got sardines on there?

Susan: ... sardine, I think.

Dan Erlewine: How'd you know I love those sardines?

Susan: Omega-3s.

What is going on with the neck fretboard on your guitar?

Dan Erlewine: Neck and frets. What's up with Dan's neck capos from cassette tape on YouTube. What in the heck is going on with the neck fretboard on that guitar? Is it part flute? How dare you call my guitar a flute. No, it's not part flute. I can show you. It's a little capos. I've got tired of running into a capo and I love to use them. It takes up so much room and my hands are always hitting that. I developed a whole bunch of capos over time and then I came to find out that I liked two capos.

One four string and then another capo to go with it to hold down the outer two strings. Right now, I'm capoed up one whole step. It may not be at pitch, but it's tuned normally. If I wanted to play a C chord shape, or a G chord shape, but I have a low D, because I capoed up. I didn't tune the string down. You get different cords than I've ever had. They're screwed right to the fretboard. Those are threaded inserts. 6/32 Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridge studs with their thumb screws silver soldered to it. I put little decorations on the top. That one fell out. Pretty simple. Rubber on the bottom, that's polyurethane.

It's matched to the radius of this board, which I think is a nine and a half or a 10. You can't screw them down fast because you have to get them in there accurately. But I don't take them off. When I'm using my capos, well I always use them, I'll stay in one area of the neck for two months and just work on things that sound good. That area works, now the strings are closer together. I can do more things with the frets closer. That's how you make them. I make them out of Brazilian and ebony aluminum. Something that won't bend so that you clamp it down to the radius. I have a lot of them around, but that's what's up with them. If you have a guitar that you dare do that to, you won't be sorry.

Susan: While you're back there, what's that shiny silver guitar back there?

Dan Erlewine: What now?

Susan: What's that shiny silver guitar back there?

An aluminum bodied Strat

Dan Erlewine: This I just got. This is cool. I got a pickgaurd too. This is an aluminum bodied Strat that would've been made for the Harley-Davidson run in the 90s. '94 I think, it was a big anniversary and Fender made the Harley-Davidson Strat. Well this never got engraved and it came by and I'm going to do some fun things with it. I made it in Maple Neck. It's not done. I just mounted it two days ago and I've already made this neck to be a traditional s=Strat with six in-line tuners. Then I changed my mind because I have these tuners from Frank Ford at and Bill Ricardo's buddy.

They make these and it's their design. They're like old banjo tuners or the old planetary tuners that were used on Martin OMs. But there's a new kind of gear that's never been used in guitars that I know of. It's called a Cycloidal gear. It's really cool. It's the best tuning peg I've ever had. I just couldn't fit them all into the peg yet. I went like that, traced it out, figured it, and it worked. I haven't got strings on it yet. If you're interested in tuning the very finest sound, check out Cycloidal tuners. Look up Cycloidal gears.

Advice for novices looking to get into guitar building and repair

Susan: There's a text here from Portugal. He's saying, "Dan, thanks a lot for making this possible. Could you advise novices for going the right road on guitar working and repair?" Advice for beginners wanting to get into this.

Dan Erlewine: I'm assuming that you're a guitar player and want to make your guitar play better. You probably want to mess with it, I always did. I couldn't help but take the guitar apart, sometimes to clean every little piece of dust, and then eventually just to see what makes it tick. I've wrecked some things back then doing it too. Once, I tried to get a P90 pickup out of a guitar, old P90 50s and it was in a Les Paul type guitar. It was so stuck, had bare and everything, glued it in. I finally pried off the cover and with it came with all this copper wire.

Then I realized how much wire's in a pickup. I was doing something I shouldn't have. When I first started out, I wouldn't have dared to try to pull that thing off. I've learned my lessons, which are don't do too much too fast, don't go beyond what you really know you can do. Don't experiment on good, valuable guitars. It's not fair to do that. I would imagine a lot of guys from my era look back on some things that they did when they were young and didn't know and say, "Oh my God, did I do that?" Start low. Don't be afraid to adjust your neck, don't be afraid to adjust your pickups, but study up on it. Don't go right to a truss rod and see what it does. Know what it does, then go to it.

I always lubricate a truss rod nut when I take it off. I like to get it off, blow it out, get a wire brush in there, and put a little lubrication on the threads, and on the face of the nut where it turns against, and it works better. Don't be afraid to adjust your bridge until it plays horrible. That's what I did. I just finally just took everything, took it apart, then I had to put it back together, and kept on going. With the truss rod, study up how to do that. My good advice to a lot of people would be I hardly ever take a truss rod and tighten the neck to get it straightened out.

Maybe it's up bowed and I want it to go back. I'd be less afraid to loosen a truss rod. But what I always do is loosen the truss rod and clamp the neck with little standoffs on the fingerboard and a stiff board across the top and a collar and clamp the neck, clamp the neck straight, even into a little back bow, and then I tighten it. You're not going... It's just nice and loose and it gets to the point where you're actually beyond what it had been, but it's still got plenty to go.

Eight times out of 10, you'll find out that when you tune it back up to pitch, actually, I can do it not at pitch, that neck will be in a back bow, and you'll have to loosen the truss around the neck to let it go straight, and that's a hell of a good feeling. Start learning to do little touch ups on not expensive guitars early in your career. Start very early learning about colors, lacquers, shellacs, Naphtha, alcohol. Two kinds of alcohol. There's Behhkol, which is just methanol. It's got poison in it.

Then there's grain alcohol and that you could drink, you shouldn't, but I mean it wouldn't kill you. If you drank methanol, you would. Learn about all the superglues. Everything revolves around materials. There's sanding materials, knives, chisels, saws, glues, and solvents. There's a big field of solvents and if you don't know about them, you're going to go do something you wish you hadn't later when you see somebody better than you go, "Oh no, just use this," and you're surprised.

Is it good to start with a kit?

Susan: Some folks are wondering if it's good to start with a kit. Is that helpful?

Dan Erlewine: Kits? Yes, absolutely. If they would've had kits when I was a kid, God, I would've been all over it. There was nothing like that. I am from the generation that you actually had to go make it if you wanted a good guitar or if you just were curious. But I would start with... If you're really nervous about building and worried, start with a Ukulele Kit. It's pretty easy to put together. You'll learn about glues and you'll learn about basic simple joints, you'll learn about finishing, you'll need some tools.

Then graduate to an Electric Guitar Kit. That's easier than an Acoustic Guitar Kit, but harder than a uke. I'd build all the different kits, if you can afford it, when you're young and just starting. Then you'll get a whole lot of stuff out of the way and not learn it the hard way.

How do you remove the wood covering the truss rod?

Something's coming in. Slow swimmer. How to remove the wood covering the truss rod, from PK2 Studios on YouTube. This is under necks and frets, "Hi Dan, I'm working on an SJ that needs this truss rod replaced. I've removed the fretboard but I'm not sure how to remove the piece of wood covering the rod itself. Any tricks to avoid damaging the neck?" I did think that one over.

First, we all hope that the neck wasn't damaged getting the board off. This is easy. I think I can just demonstrate it pretty quickly. I take that SG and I'd use the old Double-stick Tape, you know that stuff, and I'd double stick two boards to it. Here's this bit. This is a three sixteenths bit with a ball bearing on it.

Susan: A little bit higher, thank you.

Dan Erlewine: That's small. That is very dainty. That three sixteenths bearing's going to ride right down this slot that I created. Then you can route this out and stay right on the center of it because that's actually a little smaller piece of wood. That's filler stripped to three sixteenths. Before I did that, I'd have gone over to the drill press or I could do it with the hand drill. I'd clamp this down and drill square right down through this with a smaller bit just to get some of that wood out of the way. Take you 10 or 12 minutes.

You just start drilling little holes. You're going to feel yourself hit the truss rod, quicker up here, because it's coming up. It'll be a while until you hit it there, but it doesn't matter because you're going to take it out anyway. Right? Then after you've removed a lot of the chaff in between, the Dremel tool will have an easy time just slowly plowing through it. When you start hitting that rod, that's when you would stop. But by then you're going to see the thin little side walls of the glue layer, because you probably won't hit it.

You're going to have mahogany. Mahogany [Dan is drawing an illustration on paper]. This is all maple in here, but you're going to have a little bit of that left if you're dead on center. Just a little bit on that. This will all be gone, but that little bit will be Maple. The touch of a sharp chisel right up here, usually can chip that piece right out. This neck is a destroyed 50s Les Paul neck that we were going to fix and gave up, decided to make a new neck instead.

You can chip that glue line and those pieces will flake right out. Then, you can get the rod. That's what I do. I did this in about 15 minutes just to get ready for the show. That's a StewMac neck rest, tapered block of plywood. I don't remember why I did that, but there was a reason. That help? I wish I could hear everybody.

Susan: Yeah, it's hard.

Dan Erlewine: Boo. Who said that?

Susan: I'll try to give you as much feedback as I can.

Dan Erlewine: Okay.

Susan: Sorry I haven't been talking a lot, there've been so many questions out here, but I got a little, it's small, but it's good.

Dan Erlewine: I love this girl. Oh, but she doesn't know how to fish.

Susan: Come on.

Do you have any Albert King walnut left?

Dan Erlewine: [inaudible 00:39:53], do you have any Albert King walnut left. From Robert Walker on Facebook. Dan, any walnut left from Albert King's project so many years ago? I do. Not much.

Susan: Actually. Also, a lot of people are asking about the flying V in the background, what that's all about, so maybe-

Dan Erlewine: That has to do with that question. After I made Albert King's guitar in 1971, '72, I never used that wood very much until I was down here in Athens, Ohio a long time. Because I made my first replica for somebody in about 2005, 2006, something like that. I'd hauled the wood around. My cousin Mark, who's got business in Austin, Texas. He and I were partners. When he went to Austin with a whole bunch of people from Ann Arbor, we divided up that walnut tree, which had been stickered inside for 100 years in a barn.

It was just special stuff. Then, I made about maybe eight or nine V's in the last 15 years or whatever it's been. A couple years ago, my very good friend Bryan Galloup, who worked with me in my old job back in Big Rapids, Michigan, took over the guitar hospital I left and made it into this world famous building school and luthier training center, he goes, "Dan, why don't you and I partner up on this thing and make some of these V's." It's been a couple years and we're doing that now it's, we'll see what happens. But there's one here, this is an odd one. This man has waited for a year and a half, maybe not that long. He wanted a left-handed replica of Lucy, but he wanted to play it as a rightie.

You'll notice, I can play this. For a number of years, when I was making these, I wend to ivoroid binding, because it's easier to bend. This is back to wood, which is what Albert's looked like. I'm pretty pleased with this. Beautiful thing. I don't have much, I'll bet I have enough of that walnut to make three guitars, maybe as much as four, because we've already made guitars out of it. Bryan counted it and he said one Strat and three V's was all that he thinks can be got out of what we got.

What do you remember about your time with Albert King?

Susan: What do you remember about your time with Albert King?

Dan Erlewine: Just that it was a little intimidating to be this young kid, little white kid, frizzy, hippie hair, and adoring the guy, and try and ask him questions. But we got along, he came to my house.

Susan: What did he come to your house for?

Dan Erlewine: At the Blues Festival in 1970. He was there and threw up in the bus and played and he was just killer. I already knew about him. I had been listening to his records and I asked him if he would want to come to my guitar shop and I bet he's probably never actually been to a guitar shop. Those guys, the old blues guys there, or any musicians don't know about guitar shops. They buy a guitar at the music store.

He came over. The truth is I said, "Mr. King, I have a beautiful, very old black walnut that's the same color as your skin, and together, you would look beautiful." He came over and we got along and I took that V that he had and drew it up, saved those drawings all the years. Then, I used them when I made these, about 15 years ago, whatever, with some good help from my dear friend Michael Stevens, who makes the greatest V's replicas, I think, around. Gibson style. He doesn't anymore, but he used to.

Susan: You want to take a water break?

Dan Erlewine: No, I'm good.

Susan: A sip of water?

Dan Erlewine: What time do we have there?

Susan: We're going to be on for 15 more minutes.

Dan Erlewine: Are people still talking over the side thing?

Susan: Yeah, we've got two viewers.

Dan Erlewine: Two people?

Susan: Two people total. No, I'm just kidding. There's plenty more than that.

Dan Erlewine: You can tell how many viewers are there?

Susan: Oh-

Dan Erlewine: Don't tell me.

Susan: Okay. All right. I've got another fish. Whoop.

Dan Erlewine: After that snack, I'm powerful hungry.

Susan: Whoop.

How would you shape a custom shaped guitar?

Dan Erlewine: How to cut a solid body shape under building. Do you use a template? This comes from Tommy Vega on YouTube. What do you prefer to shape a solid body, router and template or sanding to the line? How would you shape a custom shaped guitar? Build a template first or send it to the line? Well those are sort of the same question really. Before I had gotten deep into building guitars, I was band sawing to a pencil line and scraping and filing and sanding the entire contour. Using block sanders, blocks of wood and Porter-Cable Rockwell 330 orbital sander.

The black ball looks like a bowling ball. The good ones are about a four and a half inch pad. That was before I'd ever considered taking the time to actually make a template first and using routers. I was afraid of routers. They're dangerous. I use them, I have a shaper that I use, but it still makes me... When I first came to StewMac and I had to work on some big tools, we still have some of those tools because that's how good they are. A big shaper is kind of scary. We've never had an accident though. But template's the way to go, now I've got templates.

Now, you can buy templates. Making a good template takes a long time, probably takes longer than cutting the body out with it. I'd say template. But you should be able to sand and shape to a pencil line. On a good band saw blade and the right wood, you should be able to band saw so close to that pencil line that you start to take chances and see how well you do it. That's how you learn. You can scrape it, and sand it, and file it. I even radius with a file. If I was making a round over on a Tele or a Strat, it was tooth files and blocks of wood, eventually routers.

I was always afraid to tear out, chip out with the router. Once you learn how to really use it and understand the wood better then... But when I first started, I had some horrible... God. I was using a series drill press. Wonderful machine, 1969. It had double step pulleys and you could get up to 8,500 RPMs on it. StewMac has one just like it and Brian Gallop has one. He bought it when I moved to StewMac. I was going to drill a hole in a blank of Maple for a truss rod. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing, to be honest.

I mean, I can't drill a 18-inch hole through a block of maple, but I have seen someone that can do it. But he had gone over there and turned the thing up to a high speed and I didn't know it. I had this drill bit I had welded to a three sixteenths piece of drill rod. It turned on and went at right angles, just like that. It turned on at 8,000 RPMs. It was on the other side of my head. It was going away from me and it broke as soon as it hit the column, because the weld broke, and I was out of the way, but God, you got to be careful. I don't know where I'm going with that, but it's a good lesson.

Susan: Couple things-

Dan Erlewine: I was doing more than I knew how to do. That's what it was.

Susan: First-

Dan Erlewine: Read books... Sorry.

Susan: No, I'm sorry.

Dan Erlewine: Everybody, I would say-

Susan: You go.

Dan Erlewine: ... start learning the essentials of basic machine work too. You've got to learn how to make your own truss rods and when you get a chance, get a little lathe, mix things on it. I have a small lathe that's only this big and I made tons of stuff on that for guitar repair. That one in particular stands up and becomes a little miniature milling machine. When I got into learning to mill things, instead of only using the drill press as a drill press, I went through all the milling devices.

They clamped to the table, it was controlled. You can mill thousands of an inch off. You should be able to tap, cut threads. Not on a lathe, but just hand taps. Stuff like that. Metal working, basic metal working as it pertains to making guitar parts and fixing your own tools.

Is it ok to use WD-40 on pots?

Susan: We only got time for a couple quick ones. Someone from the chat room is talking about WD-40, asking if it's okay for pots. He says, or she, "I used it on my tele a year ago and haven't seen any negatives so far." WD-40 on pots?

Dan Erlewine: WD-40, do they hear you saying that?

Susan: Yeah.

Dan Erlewine: People want to know can you use WD-40 on pots, I don't know that. I wouldn't, but I've never tried because they've always had the other cleaners, contact cleaners. Geez, I might go try it. Somebody out there must know, right?

Susan: I'm going to cast this one. Oh boy.

Dan Erlewine: Okay, here we go.

Susan: Oh, hold on.

Dan Erlewine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do we have time for one?

Susan: Yeah. This is probably going to be our last one.

How do you set Floyd Rose bridge saddles for a compund radius neck?

Dan Erlewine: How to set Floyd Rose bridge saddles for a compound radius neck. Didn't we already talk about that.

Susan: Did We?

Dan Erlewine: Maybe we didn't.

Susan: I can ask-

Dan Erlewine: On a Strat style guitar, you can adjust your saddles until you get the right... We did talk about it. If you start at here with the 10-inch radius, by the time you get down to the bridge, it could be 18 or 20 or 16. With adjustable saddles, you can experiment with that, but you have to have those Understring Radius Gauges. Do you know what those are? You don't have to have, you should have. Just a little thing like that, you hold the handle, and you can slide it under the strings, and measure the radius on top. That sits up between the middle of the D and G strings. That's how you adjust your saddles, watching the radius. That's how. I'm getting a hook.

Susan: All right, I think we have just time for one more, if we make it quick. Is that alright with you?

Dan Erlewine: It's fine with me. If Susan says, "We make it quick," we got time for one more. I'm really glad to do this with everybody. I hope it's going good.

Susan: Folks are hoping we do it again.

Do I need to create a fall away on the last few?

Dan Erlewine: Necks and frets, fret buzz when bending on a Fender. Do I need to create a fall away on the last few? From Josh Jenkinson on our YouTube community page. It came from two people, from Josh and Carl [inaudible 00:53:03]. What can cause fret buzz choking on high E string of blah, blah, blah. Bend on? It's pretty well known that if you're playing an old seven and a quarter inch radius Fender, and your actions low in your bending, that as you go into B string area and the G string, you're going across a curve, and it's going to hit it.

You are on a tight cylinder. As you're bending up, you're no longer flat. That's why they come up with a compound radius to spread that out. That's simply the reason. You're going uphill, so on a new fret job, you can carefully, subtly change that into a bit of a compound, but you can't do it as much as it would be if it was made into wood. When you build the neck, that's when you should create the surface. So raise the strings. You have to keep raising them until it doesn't bother you. Then, make a choice.

Susan: I think it's about time to start saying our goodbyes.

Dan Erlewine: Goodbye, everybody. Come back next week and you write in those questions.

Susan: Folks are saying thanks a lot, Dan. I think people really appreciate it. You got a lot of fans out there.

Dan Erlewine: I'm glad to have you here. Let us know if you want me to keep doing this. It's all on the YouTube channel. That's that girl down there.

Susan: Hey, that was supposed to be hidden.

Dan Erlewine: Well, I can see your hair.

Susan: Okay, signing off. Bye, everyone.

Dan Erlewine: Bye.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder