Live from Dan's Shop! May 29, 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 hear how his band opened for Cream, worked with Jerry Garcia, and more fun stories from his long career.

Video Transcription

Dan Erlewine: We on?

Susan Hilbert: We are on, Dan.

Dan Erlewine: Let me know.

Susan Hilbert: We're on.

Dan Erlewine: Right now? Hi guitar lovers. Thanks for tuning in and for last week. I hope you're all safe and healthy at home and I'm glad to be back. This has become the highlight of my life. More fun than Lutherie, No, I'm just kidding. It's not, but I love it. We have a bunch of questions again.

Nice treats for everybody and a little bit of show-and-tell. I love show-and-tell, because they didn't have that a lot when I grew up in Catholic schools. But my kids, both my daughters loved show-and-tell, so it's my chance too. Of course, we have Susan Hilbert back there, our Director and our camerawoman.

Susan Hilbert: Howdy, everyone.

Dan Erlewine: That's Susan right there, and welcome, and let's get the show on the road. Do we have any questions today, Susan?

Susan Hilbert: Well today, Dan, we're using something called The Magic Mailbox.

Dan Erlewine: The what?

Susan Hilbert: The Magic Mailbox.

Dan Erlewine: The Magic Mailbox.

Susan Hilbert: This Magic Mailbox takes digital questions-

Dan Erlewine: You crack me up.

Susan Hilbert: ... online, puts them into paper format just for you

Dan Erlewine: Awesome.

Susan Hilbert: Yep. Put the flag up.

What are the best closed gear locking tuners for my guitar?

Dan Erlewine: I'm not sure what platform it came in from, but he's got a question saying, "Dan, I wondered what you guys recommend as the best for me at putting closed gear locking tuners, three on a side, on an electric Gretsch double jet cutaway with a Bigsby? It's the cheaper Chinese Gretsch, but still sounds awesome. I want really good, strong, reliable tuners to upgrade from current, original tuners. Mine is the sapphire blue color. Andre."

Well, I did look up that model on the internet. I didn't see any sapphire, but they've got some killer colors. I thought about that and I picked out a set of tuners that just might be what you want. These are new to me. I just happened to be going... on tuners and saw these. These are Kluson Revolution Tuning Machines, the ultimate upgrade. They're a 19-to-1 gear ratio. These are gold-plated. I think yours is gold-plated, right?

I want to measure the hole spacing where the screws go in. I can tell you what these are. I'll get my measuring device here, it's the ol' caliper. If you look on the website, if you're buying tuners, scroll down and we have drawings of all the hole spacing, what size hole is required. These are right about 15/16" of an inch hole spacing. The peg of the hole's got to be 25.

I happen to grab the ones here that aren't locking, but they look much the same, but have a locking controller on the back. 19-to-1 is a fine ratio. That's kind of a new ratio to me also. I'm all about how fine a tuner can tune, as you know from last week. Hope that helps. Magic Mailbox? It's coming. Well we have a little technical difficulty here. We're new to this. It's on its way.

Susan Hilbert: Okay. Here we come. Here we come.

How long should you let an instrument kit acclimate before building it?

Dan Erlewine: Magic Mailbox. Ah, I think I like this. There's no fishing around with these. "How long should I let a kit acclimate in my house before I start to build it?" From Roy R on YouTube? "I live in Florida and my guitar kit is due today. How long should I wait to open it?" I'm waiting three days. If a customer brings me a guitar, explain to them that I have to meet them outdoors. I can't invite him into the shop.

I'm wearing gloves and a mask and most of them are wearing masks also, I found out, and I just let it sit. I'll set it in the back of my shop for two or three days before I open it and handle it. Even then, I may wipe it down. But usually everyone that's brought me something has said, "I just wiped everything down." That's really a nice thing to do. I bet you can't wait to get at it. I would be.

Susan Hilbert: Mailbox keeps on coming. There's so many letters.

Dan Erlewine: I like The Magic Mailbox. It's got StewMac colors. Oh this is a big one.

Susan Hilbert: It's a big one.

How do I repair this damaged binding?

Dan Erlewine: Oh it's a photo. From Contrast Collective on Instagram. "Dan, how do I repair this damaged binding? I dropped the guitar while transporting it to the spray booth. How best to fix and clean it up before putting nitro on it?" Whoa. I want to show this to everybody. It looks to me, I don't know what style of guitar this is, it looks like maybe it's a Tele-style, but I can see. Look at this.

Man, it must have really dropped on cement or something, because there's little chips of dirt into that plastic. It almost looks burned. I'd like to hear more about this and maybe when you fix this, you'd send us a picture of it. I think what I would do is first I would take a skirt or a smooth file and a chisel and I'd go over the top and knock off anything that's proud of the surface, so I can really see how bad the binding is.

Then, I would do probably one of two things. I might take a Dremel tool and route along this edge and remove binding, all that what looks like burned, all the crush stuff. Then, I'd have two joints to piece and a new piece of binding. Sometimes I'll do that with the square butt joint, sometimes I'll make a scarf joint. I'd glue it on with Bind-All, because it's a solvent-based glue and it would melt the ends together when you push the piece in.

Another thing you can do is take the same binding that you have here... little chunks and pieces, so it melts quickly and you'll get a paste that's like frosting. Then I would tape off the sides there a bit and tape off along the top with some Low Tack Tape and I'd smear it in there like it was frosting and let it dry for 24 hours or even longer, because it'll solidify and look just like the binding. Then, you can scrape it and file it flush.

You still may have some bare wood along that edge. See where the wood is scraped off, or I don't know how that happened, that might take some touch up with an artist brush and some ColorTone stains, something like that. If you have an airbrush, I'd probably tape it off and airbrush that and just increase that sunburst a little bit. Yeah, I would love to see this when you're done. Definitely. I hear something rolling towards me. I don't know how she comes up with this stuff.

Making a guitar for Jerry Garcia

From Christopher Hall on YouTube. "Hello, Dan. I'd love to hear your story about making a guitar for Jerry Garcia." Well, that's easy. It's probably a long one, but they can make it short. In 1967, our band, the Prime Movers, in Ann Arbor, we had a blues band. We opened up for Jerry Garcia and The Dead at West Park in the band shell. That was the greatest thing, because Jerry was such a friendly guy.

All the guys were. We just hung out for the afternoon afterwards and talked. When Jerry found out that I had a guitar repair and building shop, he was curious right away and wanted to come over. Of course, I was thrilled. He came to my house and saw the stuff that I was doing there. One of them was, I had an old D-18 Martin, 1939. It was a basket case when I got it. It didn't have a neck. That was the first time I ever made an acoustic guitar neck.

I made a neck of mahogany for it. It was a killer guitar by the way. I don't have it anymore. I put an ebony fingerboard on it, not rosewood. I inlaid it with numbers. Number one, three, five, seven, nine, 12. They were, with a jeweler saw, cut out of ivory. They were big and he really liked that. I was making a walnut Stratocaster at the time for a friend of mine in Ann Arbor, Jeff Jones. He still has it.

Jerry liked that idea, but he wanted one made out of that same walnut, with a brass nut. That was the first brass nut I ever made. He didn't want a Tremolo on it, he wanted a Tune-O-Matic bridge on it. That was something else I'd never done. He said he'll be in touch. That was it for a while. At the end of that summer, summer of '67, our band was invited to San Francisco, by Michael Bloomfield, who was out there just starting The Electric Flag.

He would get us jobs if we came out. We packed up the van and drove to California and stayed for a month. He did get us gigs and we lived on the floor of the heliport in Marin County in Sausalito. That was where the helicopters came in. They were giant hangers for helicopters. One of the hangers you had Quicksilver Messenger was practicing, one was the Flag. There was a sloop in the river that came in where Larry Coryell lived on a sloop, a sailboat.

We slept on the floor. Then in the morning, the Flag would come in at about 11:00 to practice, and we'd get the boot, and we'd have to go around town all day, and do stuff. One morning, Mike came in and woke us up and said, "You guys are playing at the Fillmore tonight and you're opening for Creed." We go, "Oh no we're not. It was too scary." But we did. He said, "You have to because the band can't make it."

One of the members was ill, I think it was Barry Goldberg, somebody couldn't do it. We did it, we crossed the bridge into San Francisco, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Probably got there about 3:00 to set up, we came in the side of the autotorium. Bill Graham was there. We're lugging our equipment in. He stood at the top of the steps going up to the stage and he goes, "You don't need amps, we have amps."

He pointed and there were a stack of Marshals that would've been Eric Clapton's and a stack of twin reverbs that would've been Bloomfield's. He goes, "You can use this." My older brother said, "Out of the way, MF'er, if we don't use our amps, we're not playing." So we did, we lugged. Michael had a Concert amp for his harp. I had a Deluxe. Our bass player, Eileen Silverman. We had one of the first girl bass players I'd ever known of. She was playing through an Ampeg B-18, so it was a small combo.

When the curtains opened, they said from Detroit, Michigan, The Prime Movers Blues Band. The curtains opened and up on the ceiling was the huge fish net that covered the whole ceiling full of hundreds of balloons and they pull a string. There's all these hippies out there, stoned out of their minds and these balloons are falling down. It was just so nerve wracking. We had to start out. I was a little out of tune, the key of F. That's a hard key to play in any way.

I know we were doing the Junior Wells song, You Got To Help Me. It probably goes back to Sunny Boy, really. That was pretty cool. While I was there, that same week, I met Jerry again. He was playing down on the beach somewhere, Muir Beach, I think it was called. He said, "I haven't forgotten about that Strat." Well, it was about two or three years until he finally called me in 1970 and said, "I'd like to get that Strat now."

'71, it would've been '71. I finally made it for him and my wife and I and our young daughter, Meredith, who was one year old, went out to California with her parents into the Napa Valley, in St. Helena. Up in the mountains. Her uncle Alex owned a grape ranch up there. Jerry drove up to get the guitar in a Porsche, up the mountain side. It was awesome. He gets out and there's a picture I have, maybe I can get it for one of these events that we're doing here.

There's a movie, he hands me the money and I go, "No nine." That's a lot of money back then. Then, I never saw Jerry again until I moved on to Athens, Ohio and StewMac and went and interviewed his tech, Dave Parrish, up in Columbus, when the Dead played there. That was a ball. That's the story. Right now, I'm making some replicas of that with my old friend and partner Brian Gallop. We'll see where that goes. We're in the midst of it right now.

Susan Hilbert: Cool story, Dan. Everyone's saying, "Cool story."

Dan Erlewine: It's just a story.

Susan Hilbert: Hey, I just wanted to jump on here real quick. Say hi. I'm all masked up. Just wanted to say we're having some not so great internet going on right now. We're having some ups and downs, so we apologize for that, but we're going to try to make it as smooth as possible and hang with us.

Dan Erlewine: Don't go away.

Susan Hilbert: Don't go away. Let's do the next question.

Dan Erlewine: Bring that old mailbox up here.

Susan Hilbert: Oh, I have a feeling this is a good one.

Natural oil finish or Danish teak oil?

Dan Erlewine: From Sid Othul on YouTube. Well he says, "Dan, since I found your channel, I've had a huge itch of making a bass of mine own, since I love making stuff." Well I hope you do, I hope you do make it. "My question is if a pure natural oil finish and then wax would be adequate or would I need to use something like a Danish teak oil and then wax. Also, if I want to hand paint any designs on the body, would the oil destroy them or should I just paint it afterwards and then apply the wax?"

Whew, that's sort of out of my jurisdiction. I'm a lacquer guy. I contacted a good friend of mine and Susan has his answer back there on the bench. That's Jeff Jewitt of Homestead Finishing in Cleveland, Ohio. Jeff is a master cabinetmaker, a great guitar builder and also runs Homestead Finishing where he makes the ColorTone finishes for StewMac and lots of other products. He sent me a good answer and we're trying to rustle it up over here.

Susan Hilbert: Oh, brother.

Dan Erlewine: That's okay.

Susan Hilbert: Sorry about that, folks.

Dan Erlewine: That's okay. We're new to this game. But it's a good answer, because I want to be an expert. When I'm no expert, I know experts. That's pretty important in your life as a builder or repairman. Don't do things that you don't find someone that does, and don't be ashamed that you don't know.

Susan Hilbert: Jeff Jewitt. Okay, I'm going to...

Dan Erlewine: I may have to go back and find this.

Susan Hilbert: Sorry, folks.

Dan Erlewine: We may come back to this then.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah, had you written it down or typed it out

Dan Erlewine: It was typed right with this one. Let's take another one.

Susan Hilbert: Okay, I'll find it.

Dan Erlewine: I can turn my iPhone on and get it off that, while we're doing something else.

Susan Hilbert: How about I'll find it while we do another question. We'll come right back to it.

Dan Erlewine: That's good. Sorry about this.

Susan Hilbert: We have so many, but I promise, we're going to come back to that one.

Dan Erlewine: But this is a good one and he deserves an answer. If you get my iPhone, I can turn that on and read it off the email.

Susan Hilbert: You got it.

Best way to make a carved top?

Dan Erlewine: This is under building. How to carve a top, from Cone on YouTube. "What's the best way to do a carved top, if you don't have a duplicator machine?" I carved about three Les Paul tops in the early 70's. One was out of the Albert King... the other two were maple. I think... the tools I used back then, I still use them. I got these in 1969 from Woodcraft Supply, the original one in Massachusetts.

These are spokeshaves, these are spoon bottom spokeshaves. There's two different curved bottom ones here. In maple, that's a lot of work. Your hands are going to get hot, maybe even blistered. The way I did it was I took the Les Paul top of maple and I drew radial lines all around it in pencil and said around the drill press. It had already been cut to shape, had the cutaway and it was smooth. I drilled holes at different depths.

I would go very shallow at first, get a little deeper, a little deeper towards the edge. It took quite a while and there were hundreds of holes, but that got rid of a lot of wood for one thing and it gave me a stopping point with my planes. Now funny you should ask that, because I'm just about to build my first archtop guitar. I'm pretty excited about it. Hold on. I've never done it.

What I'm going to do is first I'm going to go through this archtop guitar book by Robert Benedetto, who's an old friend and one of the master archtop builders in the world. I just got the book, look at this. I just got spruce for the top and wood for the back and sides. I'm using a different set of planes for this. Since I had those spokeshaves so long ago, I graduated to, on bigger jobs, using an IBEX 90 millimeter plane, round bottom. I've had that a long time.

But for this build, I have my first ever made by Robert Benedetto himself, his wood bodied planes. They're absolutely beautiful. That's a flat one and here's a curved one, they're just fresh out of the box. Look at that beauty. I've seen these in the catalog and on the website, but I didn't really have a reason to need it until now, because I'm going to follow his book. When I looked at the book, I found it on page 25.

Here's where he is carving. It's got beautiful photos in it. On page 25. He's drilling holes in it. See it? I felt pretty good about that, because that's what I thought of myself in 1969 or '70, that gives you a place to stop. I don't know if you're thinking of carving on an archtop guitar or a Les Paul, but I would certainly think about picking up this book to learn everything about carving that Bob knows. I think he has these on DVDs and videos too.

This is the second volume, but it's my first and it won't be long until I get a chance to see how that thing's going to work for this little guy. Well, it's going to be some work. I think I'm going to have to learn how to set the blade on this one.

Susan Hilbert: That thing is beautiful.

Dan Erlewine: It's beautiful.

Susan Hilbert: It's like a work of art.

Dan Erlewine: I've got some learning to do here. That's what I'm going to do, carve an archtop and...

Susan Hilbert: Could you use it to skin a potato? Or a carrot?

Dan Erlewine: Or you can skin potatoes. I'd use the flatter one for that. That's a good idea. Yeah, but I wouldn't want this to get on potatoes.

Susan Hilbert: No.

Dan Erlewine: It's lovely. I think he hand makes these.

Susan Hilbert: I mean, he must.

Dan Erlewine: That's hard to believe. I thought he'd be busy building guitars, but I know how much fun it is to make stuff. Well, mailbox.

Susan Hilbert: Dan, Jeff Jewitt is actually in the audience right now and I found the answer that-

Dan Erlewine: Hi Jeff, sorry we lost your answer, because it's so good.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah. I apologize to Jeff, but here we go. We're all set on track. Should we remind people of the question or is it all good?

Natural oil finish or Danish teak oil continued

Dan Erlewine: This is, once again, I'll go back to it in case someone new is here. He wants to build a bass and he's going to build his first base, Sid Othul on YouTube. "Since I found your channel, I've had a huge itch of making a bass of my own, since I love making stuff. My question is if a pure natural oil finish and then wax would be adequate for a finish or would I need to use something like a Danish teak oil and then wax?"

Also, if I want to hand paint any designs on the body, would the oil destroy them or should I paint it and afterwards apply the wax?" Well, I said, "I hope you do build it." To answer your question, my finishing expertise is in the lacquer field, but I know an expert, as I said, that's Jeff Jewitt of Homestead Finishing. He's a master furniture and guitar maker who has written many books on finishing and videos. Here's what Jeff says. Thank you, Jeff.

You have several parts to your question, so I'm dividing it up a bit. A pure, "pure oil" like linseed or Tom oil is a nice natural finish for wood and provides a safe, non-toxic, which is important often, application and the finish afterwards. Waxing helps to give it some gloss and a little bit of extra protection. However, it's not very durable if you play the instrument a lot and will require cleaning and re-oiling and waxing every so often if you want it to look nice.

But the good news is you don't have to strip the old finish off, just remove the wax, steal wool the old finish and apply, so you can up keep it over the years. You can step up protective qualities and gloss a bit by using Danish oil, or even better, a product called True Oil. I've played around with that. A lot of electric guitarists love the feel of necks that have this product applied. Typically, this product doesn't need waxing. That's the True Oil. You should apply several coats though. 

You should apply several coats and more on certain woods. With regards to painting, artist acrylic paints can be applied over any finish as long as it's fully cured in sanded lightly with 320 grit sandpaper. If the guitar is going to be played, I would apply a clear finish over the paint to protect it. I wouldn't use oil though. I would brush or wipe on several coats of a water-based finish, like ColorTone. If you're going to paint it, then hang it up on a wall to look at it, you don't need to apply the clear finish. Thanks, from Jeff Jewitt, Homestead Finishing. He's a buddy.

Susan Hilbert: Thanks, Jeff. Magic Mailbox, coming in fast.

What questions should you ask when trying to find the right luthier?

Dan Erlewine: It's getting a little peppy. General question here is from Q Stick 333. "Hi, Dan. What are a few questions that you should ask when trying to find the right tech or luthier?" Well, I wouldn't mind if someone came into my shop and politely said, "Do you mind if I see some of your work? I'm interested in getting a nut made and maybe some frets dressed or new frets. Do you have anything that I can look at? Do you have any finished instruments saying that you'd build?"

That would be a good way to judge. Of course, you want to get a feel for the person themselves. If it was me, I'd say, "Is there any chance I could have a little tour and workshop and see what it's like and how you do it?" You could learn a lot just by going into the shop and looking around. If you walked into my shop and looked around, you might head the other way, at least today, because it's pretty messy. Don't be afraid to ask a good reputable luthier some questions. They should be glad to tell you.

Susan Hilbert: Nice. Are you the only one in Athens or are there several?

Dan Erlewine: Me?

Susan Hilbert: Yeah.

Dan Erlewine: Several repair shops?

Susan Hilbert: No. Yeah, luthiers, in general.

Dan Erlewine: No, we have luthier all over Athens.

Susan Hilbert: Really.

Dan Erlewine: Gosh, it's the home of Stewart MacDonald. We have, oh, at least nine or 10 luthiers in this town. Repairers, builders. I could rattle off names forever. I've worked with most of them at StewMac. Todd Sims, Elliot John Conley, Eric Coleman, Tom MacRostie, and et cetera, et cetera.

Susan Hilbert: In any big town, you'll find dozens of them.

Dan Erlewine: In a big town, I bet you would find at least three or more. If you were in LA, gosh, I have no idea. In small towns, you may not find anyone. Some people drive here for an hour and a half to get here, from down south, Kentucky, because there's nothing around there. A lot of my business is actually people coming and checking me out. There's been hundreds of them.

Does a resonator guitar body have braces?

From Peter Rollick on the YouTube community page, "Does a resonator guitar body have braces? Hi, I would like to build a resonator guitar someday and I just wondered, does it have any braces except the brace under the fretboard? Thanks a lot." Well I'm assuming that you mean a wooden resonated guitar, like an old Duolian or something like that. Probably not. You're not making a metal body, like a National. I do have, I'll be right back. I have a guitar I can show you that might help.

This guitar has been here a while. It was a big problem coming in and sometimes they don't get a chance to finish one in a hurry. If this fellow's watching, he'll know I've got it back out and working on it. This is a National steel, which has a cone in it, a resonator cone, and a sound well, but no braces. This is much the same as a wood bodied Dobro National. The wood body has a wooden ring for the cone.

The wood body has a stick in the neck and they come right out. One reason this one came in is because someone worked on it and went to reset the neck and they cut a lot of wood away from right in here. I've replaced it, I haven't finished over it, and the stick was broken. This stick is what holds it to the butt end. I re-glued the stick and then I shored it up with some maple epoxy on the sides of it to give it strength.

Now if you look under that, there's a thin little area where it slides over the metal, hard to get right there. That slides over the top. On this model there's three holes in the fretboard and they hold screws and later a plug with dots and the stick screws down here. It's all about getting that stick at the right angle, so it can play. This one had very high action. You'd have to play it with the bar, I would think.

I'm resetting the stick, which means I'm removing some wood here so I can tip the neck back. But I only got this far and if you look closely at the holes in the fingerboard, I'm not quite lined up with the metal yet. That's because I have all this extra wood that I put there, that I'm going to carve to fit the body. Those holes line up, because they never got changed. Hope that helps.

Susan Hilbert: I love that thing. It just looks cool.

Dan Erlewine: Yeah, this is going to be great. I've been back working on with the virus going on, because I'm locked up here and I've gotten a few of my customers' guitars out.

They've been very patient and I'm trying to catch up on them, so that...

Susan Hilbert: Want me to take that from you?

Dan Erlewine: Sure. Let's just set her down on the case.

Susan Hilbert: I'd be happy to.

Dan Erlewine: Don't close it on that.

Susan Hilbert: You've got it.

Dan Erlewine: Because it's not fastened on.

Susan Hilbert: Well Dan, are you up for taking a question from the live audience?

Dan Erlewine: Sure.

Should you use a cleat made from the same species of wood?

Susan Hilbert: I think it's a good one. This from Codetta South, has a question about when repairing a cracked acoustic top. How important is it to use a cleat made of the same species of wood? I just repaired my first top and had to use rosewood on spruce, sadly.

Dan Erlewine: You put rosewood into spruce. Now, is that question heard live on the line?

Susan Hilbert: I think they can hear it just fine.

Dan Erlewine: I'd want to know what kind of guitar it was, what model, and how old it was. How did the crack get there? Was it a dryness crack, just in the winter it dried out? I'm surprised if you had to use rosewood in a spruce top. Not knowing what the model is, I would say in a case like that, depends on the time of year that the guitar comes in. A lot of guitars will dry out so much, in heat in the winter that the spruce can crack.

But sometimes if you take that guitar and humidify it, the crack will close right back up again. Then you can get inside and just move it open a little bit and work glue into it. If it stays flush, just leave it. If it doesn't stay flush, I would put a wax paper on top of the crack and a thin acrylic caul and a clamp to keep it level while I glued it. A good way to close a crack is...

If this was the top, you'd take some stretchy masking tape and press it down on one side of the crack onto the finish and pull it over the crack and then put it down and it'll stretch back in and pull the crack together. As far as putting a cleat, by a cleat you mean a small patch of wood inside, underneath the crack to support it and hopefully hold it together from opening up again.

That's a judgment call that you have to make yourself from experience. Many luthiers would say yes, many would say no. I don't think it's necessary to put a cleat on every crack that you fix. It sometimes will split right around it, the next year or even within months. Sometimes it doesn't. If it glues nicely, I would leave it and not cleat it and see what happened. You won't know that until another season goes by, but I have definitely cleated a lot of cracks in a lot of situations.

Susan Hilbert: Do you try to use the same species of wood for the cleat that you do for the-

Dan Erlewine: Oh, you mean that in this case the cleat is what was rosewood?

Susan Hilbert: Right.

Dan Erlewine: Oh, I thought you meant you were putting a piece of wood into the top. No, it probably wouldn't matter. I would use spruce.

Susan Hilbert: You try to keep the same-

Dan Erlewine: It looks prettier. We do have tools at StewMac that are cleating tools and if you check them out, we have some cleats you can already buy that are lovely. Some are made of rosewood, some are made of mahogany, some are made of spruce. I just like to put a very general thin one in there if I'm doing it. The master violin repairers, for hundreds of years, have used cleats. If you look at some of the greatest violin tops, there's cleats all over the place. Crack here, crack there.

Susan Hilbert: We just did a video about cleats.

Dan Erlewine: We did a video about cleats, didn't we? I don't think that's out yet.

Susan Hilbert: I think it's out.

Dan Erlewine: We did. No, that was a, we just did a video on a tool that comes from Joe Glazer's shop.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah.

Dan Erlewine: Scott Holyfield.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah.

Dan Erlewine: Scott Holyfield, the repair man down there, has come up with a clever tool that actually takes a wooden cleat that you're placing inside. You find out where it's going and it's got two little magnets in it. Then you take this... I could actually go get a piece.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah.

Dan Erlewine: I'll be right back.

Susan Hilbert: I'm sure we have one just laying out, because we were working on that just recently.

Dan Erlewine: Finding a little cleat tool might be tough.

Susan Hilbert: Well, we don't need to.

Dan Erlewine: Well, it's laying around, but it's a small plastic tool that takes...

Susan Hilbert: We'll show them next week.

Dan Erlewine: It takes a little cleat made out of wood. They're made on a machine that cuts lots of them out. If you take this magnetic film on the top of the guitar and take the cleat tool with the magnet, when you get inside, you'll see where you are. Check that video out, because it's coming along. To cleat or not to cleat, that is the question.

Susan Hilbert: Hey, did Joan make any snacks for you today?

Dan Erlewine: I haven't seen anything yet.

Susan Hilbert: Getting hungry?

Dan Erlewine: We'll just have to wait and see what comes in the door.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah. Okay. In the meantime, we have another Magic Mailbox. There might be some veggies in there.

How to enlarge the holes on my volume and tone knobs?

Dan Erlewine: Awe. From Benjamin Cody Henry on YouTube. "Love your work, as always." Thank you. "Wanted to know how to enlarge ever so slightly. The holes on my volume and tone knobs on a rear routed body. The tech who did the work didn't drill them large enough and screwed the pots in. Luckily the holes are small so they can be enlarged, but I don't know the best way to do it."

Look up Peghole Reamers. That's a long-tapered reamer and it can enlarge a hole very carefully. In your case, I would start from the top and I would use a Chamfering Tool. It's like a countersink for a drill. Very carefully, just remove a little finish around the circle so that it doesn't tend to want to chip. I wouldn't ream from inside up, because that's going to cause more of a chip. I'd start from the top, I'd countersink that hole. Ream it.

I might use a wooden dowel, and I have, with sandpaper on it. Take a simple wooden dowel, smaller than the hole, put a little slot in it with the razor saw. Stick a piece of paper in it and wrap it around and sand it. Or rack tail file, hardware store items. Still you'd want to work from the top-down, because if you came out, you'll get a chip. We have a countersink at StewMac, called the No-Chip Tuner Hole Countersink. Check that out. It's perfect for what you're talking about. Magic Mailbox.

Susan Hilbert: Here we come. Just picking out a good one.

Dan Erlewine: They're all good. She's picking out good questions.

Susan Hilbert: They are all good. We want to take a moment to thank everyone, maybe for all their questions, because...

OptiVISOR's are peak fashion

Dan Erlewine: Did you hear that? Susan wants to thank everybody and I do too, for sending the questions in, because this is fun for us. This is a different kind of luthierie. "I really need to get an OptiVISOR. It looks like peak fashion." From Drew.

Susan Hilbert: What's the question?

Dan Erlewine: "I really need to get an OptiVISOR, it's peak fashion." Well I don't know about that, but this chair has helped me. If I'd had an OptiVISOR in my 20s, I probably might not have needed glasses in my 40s, from squinting and looking close. My OptiVISOR, I have taken and took two pieces of white box plastic binding, heated it and bent it. Then, I glued it to two lenses.

I have a number four and a number two power on this one and got it screwed together. I never even cut off the screws. This is probably the third or fourth one of these I've made in many years. But this is good, because it's got two different ranges for me. This one's really in close. This one's more about here, which is good working distance, but having just one as cool too, but not as cool as two. Definitely get an OptiVISOR.

Susan Hilbert: I want one.

Dan Erlewine: Leo Fender always wore an OptiVISOR of sorts. That's probably where I got the idea. I saw Leo Fender at the NAMM show, way a long time ago, and he had an OptiVISOR on.

Susan Hilbert: Really?

Dan Erlewine: That's probably what sparked it, really.

Susan Hilbert: You're inspired by fashion. Pass it along. Oh, boy. Here we come.

Where should you place the Tune-O-Matic stop bar tailpiece?

Dan Erlewine: Where to place the Tune-O-Matic stop bar, stop bar tailpiece for a Tune-O-Matic bridge.

Susan Hilbert: Who's that from?

Dan Erlewine: That's from Michael P on YouTube. "I would like to install a stop bar tailpiece on my guitar. It currently has a Tune-O-Matic bridge and a trap piece tailpiece. How far from the Tune-O-Matic bridge should I install the stop bar?" Most stop bar tailpieces, like on a Les Paul 335, are one and a half inches behind the center line of the bridge. Or I measured this out actually, once a couple weeks ago, was a similar question from a guy here in town.

If it has pickups on it, you could measure two and 3/16" from the back edge of the hum bucking pickups around. Or from the front edge of the nut. With a long straight edge, you could go all the way from the nut to where you put the stop bar and that would be 24 and 23/32" to the center of a Tune-O-Matic bridge and 26 and 3/16" to the stop bar, measuring from the front of the nut with a long straight edge. I wouldn't trust a carpenter's type of straight edge. I mean a tape measure.

I think it's not quite accurate enough. Or if I was to do that, what I'd do with the tape measure is I'll reel out 10 feet of what I'm done with, cut it off, cut it off exactly at the one-inch line, get rid of that little catch on the end and use that to measure, because the long straight edges are expensive, but you have to start knowing that you're not at zero. I used to have one right over there. 1.5 inches behind the center of the bridge. Tune-O-Matic. How are we doing out there?

Susan Hilbert: Good. Are you willing to take another one from the live audience?

Dan Erlewine: Sure, absolutely.

What are the main differences between a traditional woodworking shop and a luthier shop?

Susan Hilbert: Cool. This one is from TM Bridge. TM Bridge says, "Hi Dan. I'm a shade tree furniture woodworker. I'd like to start with luthier work. I was wondering what you think are the main differences between a traditional woodworking shop and a luthier shop?"

Dan Erlewine: Depends if the luthier is building guitars or repairing guitars. You can start with a smaller shop if you're repairing, because so many jobs can only be done with hand tools. When you're starting from the ground up, you can start with very few tools and you buy them just for the job at hand. When I first made a nut for a guitar, I used a hacksaw blade and an Exacto saw, I had all those things as a hobbyist, and graduated to actual files.

I would go to the hardware store and get a file. To make my first three quarter rounding file, I would get a hardware store file and grind it's safe edges on the belt sander. As far as the difference between a cabinet shop and a guitar builder shop, it's still all in the small hand tools. We all use the same power tools. Drill press is important. Belt sander is important. To me, a table saw is important. Band saw is important, but joiner is important.

For years, that's all I ever had and I never even had all those. I never had a joiner when I built my first guitars. At the time, back in Ann Arbor, I would go down to Fingerle's Lumber and I could order a blank of mahogany and maple glued up like having a skunk strike down in the neck and they would run it through a planer for me. Eventually, I started getting all those tools myself.

We're going to have a lot of different hand tools in a guitar shop though that a cabinetmaker just wouldn't need. Vice versa, cabinetmakers have all sorts of planes that we don't generally have until we learn about them and find out that many jobs can be done faster with a hand plane or hand tool than it is to go set it up, production-wise. There's finish differences too.

Susan Hilbert: He's saying thanks and he's probably going to be building guitars.

How to attach a through neck body to the body wings for maximum strength?

Dan Erlewine: You'll probably be having a great time if you already have a wood shop set up, man. Most of us started out from the ground up and eventually ended up having wood shops, back in my day. I love tools. I'm still buying tools all the time. Magic Mailbox. From Solix Umbra. "Hey, Dan. Any tips on how to attach a through neck body to the body wings for maximum structural strength?"

Yeah, what I do, especially with Flying Vs, I've made a lot of Flying Vs, you've got two pieces of wood that you've got to join together. It's not a neck through body, but the principle would be the same. Trying to glue up two Flying V shapes, if it's already cut to a V shape, is a little tricky, because they want to move on you. What I do is this, I take the piece of wood, I've got two halves, and I stand it up right on a table saw and I saw a blind saw slot, so it doesn't come out the end.

I set it down on the blade and stop when I get where I want to. I would probably make that about a .25 inch thick. I do it on both halves. Now, each half has a slot in it that's probably going in 3/4 of an inch deep. Then I make a piece of wood that's got rounded edges, because your saw cut leaves a rounded edge as you saw. That's going to be a .25 of an inch thick and it's going to run most of the length of the body.

When I glue it up, I get glue on this side, glue on this side, I'll probably glue that. I slap that in there, stand it on the side, press the other side down, and then I glue it up. That makes me feel like the glue joint's never going to separate. It's not going to fall in half. For a Flying V, it's a tricky shape to glue up. What I do is I have a two by four that has the same angle on it and it's got sandpaper, sandpaper on this surface, so it kind of sticks to that wood.

Then since it's hard to have clamps that large, I cut steps into this and that's gone. Steps into this. That way, I have a clamp that can span that whole width. I don't want to use a giant piece of wood to get a V, because this is good wood on that side. I cut the Vs and glue them together. I guess you would call that a spline. It works and it's a-

Susan Hilbert: Hold that up.

Dan Erlewine: I got a slot on the side of two sides and a piece of wood that's going into it sideways and glued and it holds them together and it keeps the two halves from not being level when it's glued up and it keeps them from sliding back and forth. Thanks for the question. Hope that helped.

Susan Hilbert: You're a good sketcher, Dan. Is that just natural or were you always a good sketcher, since you were a kid?

Dan Erlewine: I was raised in a family with a dad that was a woodworker, businessman by day, but a carpenter, cabinetmaker, woodworker by night and weekends. My mother was a graduate of U of M Art School and did art all her life. I was lucky that all five boys in my family grew up from a very young age with charcoals, and oil paints, and casings, and anything. My dad made three of us easels, our own beautiful easels, one Christmas year back in the 1950s. I grew up as an artist, I guess. I was lucky.

Susan Hilbert: That's awesome.

Dan Erlewine: Plus, I took art class in school and I took wood shop in junior high school. Man, it's hard to find a school that has a wood shop anymore.

Susan Hilbert: I know.

Dan Erlewine: I could have been a wood shop teacher and I probably would've enjoyed that too. I've had two friends in my life that were wood shop teachers and I got to hang around schools as an older man. Back in Big Rapids, before I moved down here, I helped three people build electric guitars from Big Rapids High School and two of them won state prizes.

That was against places like Detroit and Grosse Pointe. We made a Flying V, we made two Les Pauls, not all the same person, and they all excelled. I didn't make it for them. They had a good wood shop teacher, but they would come to my shop in the afternoon and I helped with the layout and show them real guitars.

Susan Hilbert: Well, you've got all the apprentices here. I'd argue that you are already a wood shop teacher.

Dan Erlewine: I guess that's right.

Susan Hilbert: But [inaudible 00:52:26]-

Dan Erlewine: I have a lot of people that have been through my shop that are in business today. I counted them up one time and it was over 20.

Susan Hilbert: That's amazing.

How to get the smell of cigarettes out of a guitar?

Dan Erlewine: Magic Mailbox. It's from Julio Vesquez on YouTube. "Does anyone know how to get the smell of cigarettes out of a guitar? It has a micro finish." If you say out of, I'm thinking that it's an acoustic guitar, right? Otherwise, it would be off of. I've gotten mold out of acoustic guitars and horrible cases. In the case, I would put baking soda in the case, shake it up, set it outside, open it up and leave it in the sun. I would pour baking soda into a guitar and shake that up and then put it in a garbage bag.

I've heard of lots of ways of doing it. I think one good one I've never tried, but is to put kitty litter in the guitar, a bunch of it, shake it up, put it in the bag, that'll take it out. Or some of those downy strips that you put in the clothes dryer, that absorbs smell. One person I know says they put coffee, not coffee grounds, but coffee beans, inside of a guitar and just let it sit for a month. They put apple chips in it too. Quartered up an apple, apples and coffee. It would smell better than cigarette smell.

Susan Hilbert: Yeah.

Dan Erlewine: I know that.

Susan Hilbert: I imagine so.

Dan Erlewine: Try baking soda. If you're afraid to dump baking soda in the guitar and it's hard to get off, open the box up and set it in there and put it in a bag. It's just like you put baking soda in the refrigerator to get the funky smell out of the refrigerator. My mom used to always do that, so does my wife.

Susan Hilbert: That probably used to be a huge problem, back when you could smoke inside bars.

Dan Erlewine: Oh, sometimes I've had guitars in that I'd turn them away or I'll put them in the garage and leave the case there. On the outside of a guitar, geez, I don't know, I'd wash it and I would leave it out of the case. I wouldn't keep it in the case. If you can set something in the sunlight, it doesn't hurt it. That'll help a lot, but it's a hard battle.

Susan Hilbert: Well, we only have enough time for a couple more, so we'll take just a couple more.

Using a vacuum bag with a radius board instead of go bars?

Dan Erlewine: Vacuum instead of go bars from an arco-luthierist. "I've been toying with the idea of using a vacuum bag with a radius board in lieu of go bars. Do you have any thoughts?" Sounds good to me. I've never tried it. Why wouldn't it work? There's a great cabinetmaker outside of town here in Athens. Tom Bennett, he's the master and he uses vacuum bags. He'll use a giant vacuum bag and glue up his own doors, door panels with exotic woods on the outside and he puts that in the vacuum bag, puts the pump on, and it sucks it right down.

It's amazing. I think vacuum bags are awesome. When I was in London in 1999, my wife and I went to a trade show there and we went up to the Birmingham trade show. I visited John Smith and that was from the Gordon Smith Guitar Company in Manchester. He had a vacuum. I have photos of this. If we ever get this going where I could show photos, I'd love it. He would put a laminate top on his solid body Les Paul style guitars into a, it was a big inner tube, like an airplane truck, giant inner tube.

He had a hose that ran outside through the door to a truck that was running. He used the manifold on the truck as a vacuum. I saw him do it and it would suck it down and it worked. I toured a lot of shops in England in 1999. We drove to about 17 different shops and man, if you could ever do that, what a wonderful country. Everything's done by hand over there.

Not everything, but that same John Smith had a dust collector you'd never figure out. He had a transom that opened over the window going outside and there was a stand, like a hat rack. He had this cloth wind sack from an airport, the wind sack that you see which way the wind's going and a fan blowing into that. That was his dust collector.

Susan Hilbert: Wild.

Dan Erlewine: That was wild.

Susan Hilbert: One more?

Dan Erlewine: Sure. I've got as much time as anybody has.

Susan Hilbert: Speaking from across the pond.

Is there a way to improve intonation on my 1970 Ampeg Dan Armstrong?

Dan Erlewine: Oh, here's something from across the pond. How cool. From Patrick O'Sullivan on YouTube. "I'm a big fan of the channel from across the pond in Ireland. The channel meaning, not the English Channel, the TV channel. My question is an original 1970 Ampeg Dan Armstrong, I find it hard to accurately intonate the guitar as it has a wooden saddle with a fret for a bridge. I know Danelectro uses something similar. Is there a way to improve the intonation on these?"

I had the Danelectro U2 '56, a U2 pickup. I probably should never have sold it, but I sold it to my dear friend Elliot John Conley that worked here for years. He has it in safekeeping. I know the problem. You have this rosewood bridge piece and it has a guitar fret in it and the strings come up over that. That's your saddles. Take a fret wire, you get a good tall one, and cut the bottom of the tang off and smooth this flat.

Then you'll have a long, flat bottom piece of fret. I would cut that into six pieces. Individually, take those little pieces and set them under your guitar strings. Tune them to pitch. Slide these around. This is how I came up with the tool that I like at StewMac. It's called The Intonator. It's got a bracket that holds adjustable pieces that slide under the strings.

Then you can slide these to-and-fro and find out exactly where it's in tune to your ear. Then, mark that location. Then, you could glue these down. You could take real fret wire and cut little slots and tap them in. You could take a piece of bone and cut it to that shape, so that you'd have it as a little staggered piece, like a compensated saddle. That's what I'd do. The simple thing would be just to glue those pieces down with some superglue.

Susan Hilbert: Cool. Dan, we are out of time.

Dan Erlewine: We're out of time.

Susan Hilbert: There are a few people who are asking about the Les Paul trade with Mike Bloomfield, but-

Dan Erlewine: We can do that next time.

Susan Hilbert: We'll do it next time.

Dan Erlewine: I traded Mike Bloomfield my '59 burst for his Goldtop 1967, the summer I went to San Francisco. He gave me $100 extra and I would've done anything he asked. He was a hero.

Susan Hilbert: We'll have to say our goodbyes.

Dan Erlewine: I'd like to say goodbye, everyone. Thanks for being here. Thanks for helping me mess up my shop. I hope this happens next week.

Susan Hilbert: Thanks, y'all.

Dan Erlewine: Love ya.

Susan Hilbert: Take care everyone.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder