Guitar Specialist - Guitar repair and restoration services - Q & A


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It Is My Intention To Maintain A Question & Answer Section On This Page.

We answer all our Email.

So if you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear them.

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Us At

We will reply to you personally as well as post your answer here!

Please understand that we get an average of about 800 to 1000 email inquiries a week.
It may take some time to get a response to you - I answer each email personally and it can sometimes
take more than a few weeks to get a response.

If you are in urgent need of an answer to a question,
the fastest way to get an answer to your question is to call me at the shop!
(914) 401-9052

Come back often to see the updates!

Onto The Questions & Answers!

Added 9/01/2000

Questions about a Carvin neck crack

Follow-up question about a Carvin neck crack

Alvarez headstock repair question

Mandolin repair question and Alvarez follow-up

Rickenbacker neck set question

Rickenbacker follow-up

Problem with brand new Larrivee parlor guitar

Setting up an Ibanez PM100 with a floating bridge

Added 3/12/2000

Polishing scratches from a new guitar that doesn't have a pickguard

I have an original 1952 Les Paul Gold Top (trapeze) that I would like to get back into playing condition

I would like to know if guitar tuning machines are repairable

Question about tone pots

Properly treating & cleaning maple fingerboards

Added 2/27/2000

Properly treating rosewood fingerboards

Setting up the Hipshot Trem-Setter

How would you repair a headstock barely hanging on?

How does John Abercrombie get his sound?


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Q: I have heard of so many different methods of keeping rosewood fretboards from drying out that I am now totally I have heard of so many different methods of keeping rosewood fretboards from drying out that I am now totally confused.  I've been told "use lemon oil once a year (but for God's sake don't use store bought lemon oil!)", use 3-in-1oil (contrary argument-any petroleum based products will rot the wood), etc.

Could you please let me know how I should properly maintain my rosewood fretboards to prevent any damage to them?  Is this even really necessary here in the wet Pacific Northwest (Seattle area).  Any help would be greatly


Mark Snyder

A: Mark,

Here is your final answer - First of all prior to putting any oil on the fingerboard (rosewood) you should clean it first.  It doesn't make any sense to put oil on a dirty board.  The best material for cleaning the wood is Naphtha.  you can find it in any hardware store.  In fact it has such a high evaporation rate that you could clean the whole guitar with it prior to polishing - don't use it near any open flame and make sure you are it a well ventilated area.

After the fingerboard is clean you can use a little "0000" steel wool to buff up your frets - this makes them much smoother to play on - Make sure you tape off the pickups if we are talking about an electric guitar.  The you can repeat the naphtha if you want to get rid of anything the steel wool leaves behind or works loose.

The you can use any kind of oil to replenish the moisture in the board that the environment (or naphtha) leaches out.  By the way Naphtha will leach moisture out of the wood so you should use the oil after any cleaning with it  The more refined the oil the better - use any oil sparingly - one drop goes for quite a few frets - rub it in hard & wipe away the excess.  Lemon oil found in the supermarket is just fine as long as it's only ingredient is oil.  Don't use furniture polish or anything like that - I have heard of guys using 3-in-1 but I wouldn't recommend it.  We use boiled linseed oil in our shop only because I don't like the smell of lemon oil - smells like my grandmother's house

Hope this helps - If you need anything else feel free to contact me,

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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I ran across your web page while doing a web search for information on the Trem-setter device.  And, since you have so generously offered to answer questions submitted via email, I'd like to pose one for you.  Well, two questions, actually.  One is, what can I do about the tuning problems I am experiencing with my Strat?  The other is, how do you adjust a Trem-setter?

I suspect that a bit more information might be helpful at this point.  So, here goes:

My name is Dave Ford, and I live in the Atlanta area.  Music is my main hobby, but I don't make a living at it.  At this point in time, I don't know any luthiers in Atlanta that I feel comfortable taking my guitar to, so I am hoping to be able to resolve the problem myself.  I am not overly skilled at working on guitars, but I can do basic stuff such as setting the action and intonation.  As long as I'm not risking permanently damaging the instrument, I'm willing to try stuff.

The guitar in question is a '93 Fender Strat Ultra.  It has the American Standard tremolo with Trem-setter, locking tuners, and Fender's roller nut.  The nut is *not* the Wilkinson nut, which came stock on the guitar.  It is the updated roller nut, the one with the pair of bearings in each string
slot.  I had problems with the Wilkinson nut sticking, so I had it replaced (professionally installed with the aid of a kit).

This has been my main electric guitar for a while now, but it went through a period of extreme inactivity for two or three years.  About six months ago, I got involved with a band and started playing electric again on a regular basis.  Some time after that, I noticed that the guitar was not staying in tune consistently.  I mean, I'd tune it, and by the end of the song, it would be out.  Frequently, *all* of the strings would be out, and they would all have drifted in the same direction -- meaning they would all
be a little flat or a little sharp.  This happens on new or old strings -- doesn't seem to matter.  I did notice that playing the guitar hard with my right hand tends to pull the strings sharp.

So that's the first questions, the general one:  How do I resolve this tuning problem?

The fact that the strings were going *sharp* (at least half the time) led me to suspect that the Trem-setter was pulling them that way.  After all, it's the only component of the guitar that I know of which pulls the strings in that direction.  It has never given me problems before, but a couple of years of inactivity may have adversely affected it.  Bear in mind that I already tried dousing it in WD-40 just in case it was binding.  That didn't clear up the problem -- didn't seem to affect it at all, in fact.

I seem to remember messing around with the Trem-setter a couple of years ago when I did a setup on this guitar.  I knew what it was supposed to do (I have Dan Erlewine's book), but I didn't have instructions on how to adjust it (still don't -- all Erlewine says it to follow the installation instructions, which is no help for those of us who bought guitars that came with them stock).  I think it's likely that I didn't adjust it properly, but the guitar never exhibited these symptoms before (quite the contrary -- it has been Old Reliable).   Even so, I'd like to know how to adjust it properly for its own sake, and also because I'm hoping it will fix this problem.  So that's my second question.  You guys say you can adjust this sucker... can you tell me how to do it?

Thanks in advance for your willingness to help.  I look forward to hearing
from you.

-- Dave

A: Hey Dave,

You are probably right that the tremsetter is at the root of your problem. Setting up the tremsetter is a little tricky - but I can talk you through it if you want.  First let me know if you plan on doing it yourself or not.  It is not hard but it can be time consuming.  One little secret about the tremsetter that I found is that it is easier to set up as if you are doing a fresh install that trying to just turn thumbscrews and hope for the best.  I can fax you the install instructions if you wish so you will have a good idea of how the thing is supposed to work - plus you can save it for the next time - the one thing to remember with the tremsetter is that once it is set up properly you should never loosen the set screw on the shaft of the tremsetter - once that is unscrewed, you have to start all over. let me know if you have a fax number - if not maybe I can scan it and send a JPEG or something.  Let me know what works best for you.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

Here Are The Instructions:

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Q: Hello, I have a Gibson 335 and the headstock split from the first fret diagonally towards the front tuning pegs.  The Hello, I have a Gibson 335 and the headstock split from the first fret diagonally towards the front tuning pegs.  The first time this happened the gap was about 1/16 inch wide and about one inch long.  This was repaired about five years ago and has since split again.   The repairmen used an airplane epoxy and they said they had to split the gap even more to insert the epoxy.  Does this method of repair sound right to you?  How would you repair a headstock barely hanging on?  Thanks for your help and time.


A: Hi Thomas
Sounds like you have a fairly stubborn repair there.  It is possible to repair the guitar properly, However since the headstock was broken, repaired, and broken again, it does make it a bit more difficult.  I probably would not have used airplane epoxy - or any epoxy to begin with - The best glue for the job would probably been Aliphatic Resin.  Since this would be a re-repair I might be inclined to do what's called "Spline" the joint or use splines across the break - to strengthen the area where the crack is.  I don't know if the original shop would have had to split the gap even more to repair it - It is hard to say - maybe they thought they had to in order to get the epoxy all the way in there - Since I am not a fan of
epoxy - I probably wouldn't have gone that route.  Most glues have a high enough viscosity to make their way through the needle of a syringe so that would have been my approach.

In any event make sure you have the right repair guy look at your guitar - a re-repair is harder and more critical to do right that a first time break - so take your time to search for the right shop to do it and do it right.

If you would like to have us do the repair feel free to call me to discuss the job.   We accept repairs shipped to us from all over the country if you are not within driving distance from us.

Click here for more on headstock repairs

I hope this has been some help - If you need anything else feel free to contact me.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Hello! my name is Claudio Riggio, I'm an Italian composer-guitarist and I would like to know the whole
instrumentation of John Abercrombie.Please, could you help me someway? I have a custom guitar, acoustic without hole, with an highlander piezo and custom humbucking. My sound is close to Abercrombie's voice, I need to set the gain of my tube preamp( Brunetti  )at the maximum level, so I can play very softly, but I have a problem: to reduce the noises ( plectrum and left hand)...Please, could you give me some advice?

Thank you in advance,
Yours faithfully
Claudio Riggio

A: Claudio,

As far as John's sound is concerned, he does have a very unique sound that is surprisingly consistent no matter what guitar he is playing. He has more guitars than you could count (a figure of speech of course).  But he seems to get a similar sound on whatever he plays. his main guitars these days are as follows.

A Brian Moore electric with 2 humbuckers and piezo elements in the bridge. It incorporates a 4-pole 5 way switch that enables some interesting pickup combinations.  Some really involved electronics as you can imagine.

A Roger Sadowsky, Strat style guitar.
His trusty Ibanez Solid body.
He uses a Gibson Chet Atkins Acoustic occasionally as well. Although he probably uses the Brian Moore to get a quasi-acoustic sound just as much as the Chet Atkins.

He also records occasionally with a Gibson ES175, or one of two Archtops that Rick McCurdy made for him.

That's just to name a few

So as you can see it is not necessarily the guitar that gets his sound.

As far as amps are concerned - his basement full of them. He has a pretty involved setup (it looks like NASA down there.  Although, In recent years, he has opted to use "house amps" whether in the studio or on the road. So the amp can't have much to do with it. In my opinion, he gets his sound from his playing style and technique. He has a very unique style, and unbelievable technique.  He does not use a pick and hasn't for quite a few years. He only uses his thumb and sometimes employs his fingers.  But mostly his thumb.  He has an extremely light touch, which allows him to have an extremely low action.  We developed a procedure of tapering his fret height to accommodate his playing style and allow for the low action (I'm talking about 1.5 64ths of an inch in string height)

So as you can see I think it has as much to do with your playing style and technique as is does with your gear.

I hope this helps.  If you have any other questions please get back to me.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Doug,

Can I ask you a question about polishing small fingernail scratches from a new guitar which doesn't have a pickgaurd?  I went to my favorite guitar store the other day and I played a Taylor Koa grand concert guitar for a while, when I hung it back up on the wall I could see small scratches from my fingernails in the finish. This is a $3,000+ Guitar. It's been really bothering me that It may effect the salability or value of the guitar. Any advice...Cut my wrists...No, wait!?

Thanks Gregg

A: Gregg

The Only answer that I could give would be to compound the finish as you would the finish on a car.  Meguiar's make a very good brand of compounds called "Mirror Glaze".  Start with their fine cut cleaner #2, then move to the swirl remover #9, and finish up with the show car glaze #7.  That should do the trick.

Good Luck

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Aloha,

I have an original 1952 Les Paul Gold Top (trapeze) that I would like to get back into playing condition. I would like to have an ABR type bridge and a stop tail piece installed as well. I was informed that a neck reset may be necessary to get the action set up right. I am aware (and have been told by several repair shops locally and appraisers) that by installing a stop tail/ABR bridge assembly, that the resale value of the instrument would be significantly compromised. However, being that this guitar once belonged to my late father, and has been passed on to me, the issue of it being "sold" is not even a consideration. With that being said, I would like to begin dialog as to what action might be taken in order to realize my goal.  And, if events transpire requiring the instrument being shipped to you, what steps need to be taken to insure safe passage. This project has been contemplated for several years now, and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

Thank you very much,
Ken Lara

A: Ken,

As you probably already have heard, doing such a conversion would seriously affect the instrument's value.  So careful consideration should be made before making such a conversion since it is not reversible without serious cosmetic consequences. I understand that you do not plan to sell this instrument, but I would be shirking my responsibility to the guitar community at large if I did not at least mention it.

The conversion you are interested in would certainly increase the sustain of the instrument.  make sure you have the right shop do the job - a poorly done conversion could be a disaster.  As far as a neck reset having to be done to accomplish this - that may or may not be true - It would be impossible to tell without inspecting the instrument.  We have done several such conversions on both solid body and archtop guitars (hollow body guitars are much harder as you can imagine)  If you would like to discuss the repair further or have any other questions please feel free to contact me - by e-mail or phone.  The telephone # is listed on the web site.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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I would like to know if guitar tuning machines are repairable, or do they have to be replaced when a problem arises. I have a Cordoba 75r classical which developed a binding 4th string tuning machine. After disassembling it, I found the only thing I believe to be wrong with it are two nylon spacers, that were deformed. One is located at the key end of the shaft before the spacer and the other on the other side of the spacer, closest to the worm gear. After moving things around it worked pretty good but doesn't hold as well. Do you know  if  there are any replace kits available for such a repair or do you think replacing the whole section is the only solution?

Mario Toscano

A: Mario,

The answer to your question is two fold - yes they are repairable and no there is no kit. Actually there is a kit for tuning repair - but it is fairly expensive and has hundreds if not thousands of parts in it.  we have one in the shop but I would have no idea as to what parts to send you - not without seeing the machine.  the problem is that tuning machines are not standardized in any way, shape or form when it comes to the components that they are made up of.  in terms of tolerances for size and dimensions of parts - they run the gambit.  We keep several drawers full of spare and broken tuners for precisely this reason so when it comes time to repair tuners we go digging - it is kind of like a treasure hunt.  most times it's successful.

If you have a second guitar to play I would not object to having you send me the machine and I'll go digging for you to see if I have the parts you need  - unfortunately that would be the only way we could do it (if you are within driving distance you are certainly welcome to come to the shop of course).

Let me know if I can be any further help.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Hey guys,

I have a 1971 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (2 mini-humbuckers), and I replaced the volume and tone pots recently.  My question is, what difference in sound (tone) can I expect from using say a 500k pot as opposed to a 250k, etc.  Right now I have a 300k linear taper pot for the neck pickup volume  and I think a 500k audio taper for the bridge pickup.  I like the response of the linear pot more than the audio taper, but is 300k alright to use with the mini-humbuckers.  This pot (the 300k) is a Gibson part, the others are generic.  Of course I want as much signal and the least amount of noise as possible. Thanks...........


A: Rhonea,

Great question - the subject of guitar electronics can often be a confusing labyrinth for a lot of guitar players.

The answer to your question is that a 250k potentiometer will generally give you a slightly warmer tone that a 500k pot because it attenuates more of the higher frequencies to ground that a 500k pot will.  In other words is allows more high frequencies to pass to ground because of the pots rating.  You can actually effect the rating of a pot by installing what's called a treble bleed circuit to the volume pot - and change the pot to say a 500k to a 300k.  this has an interesting effect on the tone of a guitar - some player swear by it and others hate it.  Joe beck's signature models all come with this bleed circuit installed (it is basically a capacitor & resistor wired between the in & out lugs on the pot) Joe has me remove it on every guitar the manufacturer sends him to use. (he obviously doesn't like the sound it produces - the effect is that when you roll of the volume a bit the bleed circuit retains the highs   from the signal and allows them to pass to output rather than attenuate to ground witch a potentiometer seems to want to do naturally.  Joe like to warm up his tone by rolling back his volume knob just a bit - which the bleed circuit doesn't allow.

The taper of  the potentiometer indicates the rate at which the resistance changes when the shaft is rotated.  The audio taper changes resistance at a faster rate at the extreme counterclockwise (softer) end of rotation than it does at the extreme clockwise end of rotation (louder) end.  The linear taper changes the rate of resistance at the same rate throughout the range (or sweep) of the rotation - which is probably why you like them better. Another type of potentiometer is a reverse audio taper - which changes resistance opposite that of the audio taper faster at the loud end of the sweep than the soft end.

The most common type of pot is the audio taper - however, in the final analysis it really doesn't matter which type you use - It depends on your preference - If you are the kind of player who uses plays with the volume or tone at all different levels and is adjusting things often throughout the course of a tune the linear taper might better suit tour needs.  I would advise you - whatever you decide to use in your guitar - to keep all of the pots in your guitar, not only the same value of resistance, but the same taper   - it will give you the most consistent results.

Hope this helps - If you have any other questions - feel free to let me know

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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I have a '76 Fender Telecaster with a maple neck that looks like it hasn't been cleaned in quite some time ( due to my neglect and the former owners ).   I'm finally taking the time to get it into decent playing condition and I want to give the frets and fret board a good cleaning I've read other posts regarding rosewood fingerboards any suggestions for a maple  fingerboard?  I assume for the frets "0000" steel wool and tape off the pickups as you suggested for a rosewood.


A: Hey Dave -

It is always a good idea to keep the finger board clean on a guitar - it will be more pleasurable to play and your strings will more than likely last longer.  As far as cleaning a finished maple board is concerned - here's the scoop - to loosen dirt Naphtha (from a hardware store) will do a great job - (work in a well ventilated area and wear gloves) It's high evaporation rate will allow you to aggressively clean the board with out risking the lacquer. Then tape up the board between the frets - use the lightest tack tape you can find & be careful when removing the tape so you don't chip the lacquer  - or you can get a product Stew Mac sells called fretboard guards - it is a small piece of steel that has a slot cut out to fit the fret through - so you don't have to tape up the board. (a nice little trinket to have if you do this often) Then follow up with another naphtha bath to catch anything the steel wool leaves behind - On finished maple fingerboard you should never use any kind of oils to treat that board like you would on a bare wood board (rosewood or ebony) - if you want to bring back the high gloss that was there before you used the naphtha you can use a little guitar polish and buff the board to a shine with a felt or cotton polishing cloth - otherwise you can just buff with the cloth to achieve a somewhat duller sheen.

Hope this helps

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Doug,

I just found out about your website off a newsgroup, and I checked it out it looks great! I have a couple of quick questions.


During a recent show my guitar was damaged, involving some stage antics and a wet floor, let's just say that a wireless system is something to be careful with.

Anyway, the break splintered it's way up the neck to the headstock and is very similar to the one that you show on your headstock repairs section, the second repair example I believe. The headstock was still attached but badly cracked. I sent the guitar to the company I ordered it from, Carvin, they have told me that they did glue it and were holding it over a period of a few days to see if the repair would hold with the guitar strung up.

My question is if this repair does hold for now, how long will the glue hold in the future? Carvin said that it was not a guaranteed repair. If I'm not satisfied with the repair is this something that you could possibly guarantee. Could you re-repair it to make it guaranteed? I'm sorry this probably doesn't help much unless you could actually see the guitar, but any advice you could give would be appreciated, because this was a new guitar and I enjoyed it very much.

Thank you,

Darcy Collins

A: Hi Darcy -

Sorry to hear about your problem - having a new guitar break in such a dramatic way can be very disappointing. I am surprised that Carvin would not guarantee the repair - By the way which Model are we dealing with - is it a set neck or a bolt on? In answer to your question - the glue joint - theoretically should be stronger than the wood that is surrounding it - do you know what kind of glue they are using? - always a good question for a luthier doing a job for you by the way. I am encouraged when people ask a lot of questions regarding a repair - it shows that they are interested in not only the results - but the process. Back to the Carvin - Like I said - I am surprised that Carvin would not guarantee the repair - sometimes this is a nice way out of the responsibility of follow-up for the manufacturer doing the repair - Did they at least offer you the option of a new neck that could be guaranteed ?

As far as our shop is concerned - We maintain that every structural repair we do is guaranteed for life - within the reasonable parameters of the repair - if we fix a headstock crack and you drop it on the floor again - then it is not guaranteed - or if you have us reset the neck on a vintage Martin - It is guaranteed - however - that guitar may need another neck set in about 20 to 25 years, about the average life span of a neck set on those guitars. I have rarely seen a neck crack repair that could not be guaranteed - the may be just trying to cover their "you know what".

If you are not satisfied with the result - most likely it could be "re-repaired" or attended to is some way - but understand it is always harder to re-repair something than it is to just repair it right the first time - This is not to say that Carvin won't to a great job. They more than likely will. By the way - you are right - It is hard to say without seeing the instrument - But in my shop - I wont fix it if I can't guarantee it.

If you need more help or have any questions when you get the guitar back - Please e-mail me - I would like to help.

Definitely let me know how it came out when you get it back - I would really like to hear how this one works out for you.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Doug,

I'm sure you don't remember but I wrote you a while ago because my Carvin guitar had a broken neck at the headstock very similar to the ALV2 picture section of the repair section. Anyway I had it repaired by Carvin and they did an excellent job but I was wondering, I currently use 9 gauge strings before I broke it I used 10's, I was wondering if this type of repair would be able to hold with the string tension of 10 gauge strings because I'd like to use them if I could. I'm not sure what type of adhesive they used I know that would help but if you could give me some idea that would be great.

Darcy Collins

A: I do remember when you wrote a while ago. My guess would be that increasing the string gauge to a set of 10's should be no problem (I don't know if you already have). On an electric guitar nickel would string set, the tension would increase only by about 18 lbs. of pull over all. I can't see why a properly repaired neck couldn't hole that kind of tension easily.

Suffice it to say that if it doesn't - It wasn't repaired - but I wouldn't worry about it. In our shop we string up a guitar that has had a neck break with 13's and let it sit for a few days just to insure that it can hold that kind of tension.

Let me know how it works out.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Hello!

I don't know how often you check this e-mail account, but I visited your web site today and have a repair question for you. A
friend of mine dropped her Alvarez acoustic the other day, leaving a crack in the back of the neck approximately 1" from the nut. I'll try to diagram it here:

\ Headstock /
 |                     |
 |        x x        |
 |      x     x      |
 |     X      X     |
 |   X          X   |
 | X              X |

As you see, the crack is somewhat crescent shaped, and although it is not severe (it seems to go just a little deeper than the finish; some wood is involved) and although there is no gap to the crack, I fear that more structural damage may occur. How much of a disaster is this? Would you contact me and tell me how much a repair like this typically goes for (i.e., is this just a superglue job or is there drilling required)? Is a repairman of your talents (nice stuff on the site, by the way) capable of doing something like this? Let me know ASAP. If you can get me a reply by today, I would appreciate it, but I understand how busy you must be. Thanks much for your help.



A: Joshua,

To answer your first inquiry - we check this e-mail account every day.

Judging by the diagram - I'd say that you have a fairly common crack there - at least common when a guitar is dropped on the floor. If you suspect that the crack is not superficial and it is in fact in the wood and not just the finish checking, I would immediately loosen the strings on the guitar - if you haven't already. 

It needs to be repaired. A crack running along the grain like that is very deceiving - the neck has a certain amount of strength - and since the crack is not very deep - most of the strength is probably still there. If you don't have this taken care of right away - chances are that the pull of the strings on the neck will continue to pull the crack apart over time - the
longer you wait - the worse it will get. As far as how to repair it at this time - that much would be hard to say without actually seeing the instrument. To venture a guess based on other repairs I have seen like this one - there are a couple of ways - depending on the nature of the crack - if the crack is not that deep - glue needs to be worked into it ad clamped up.
After it is dry some minor finish repair could make it good as new. 

If the crack is too tight for glue to be worked in - the crack may have to be spread open to facilitate the gluing. Another possibility is to drill two very small hole into the crack - just large enough for a syringe to fit in and force glue in the crack that way - after filling the holes and some finish touch up - it should be barely noticeable. 

In any circumstance - I probably would not elect to use cyanoacrylate (super glue) on this one - it would be way to messy to clean up when the neck is clamped and probably damage the finish even further. 

The answer to you question about whether we are capable of doing this - is yes - we do these kind of repairs all the time. As far as the cost - it could be as low as $65 depending on how much finish work there is, the procedure that needs to be used, how invisible you want the repair to look - etc. - you get the idea.

If you want to contact me about the repair - feel free to contact me at the telephone number listed on the web site - by the way - where are you located - it is always nice to know

Don't forget to sign up for our mailing list at the site - you will be notified of all updates and events.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Doug,

Thanks so much for the extraordinarily quick reply. I think it clocked in at just over an hour from writing it until I had it on my
desk. That means a lot to me: I appreciate a business that cares enough to handle their customers (or even potential customers) that way.

I don't yet know what will happen with the guitar. I will pass your warnings along to my friend who owns it, along with the price information (again, thanks for the options you presented and the price information-- most helpful).

One other query for you: do you ever handle mandolin repairs? I was given an ancient-looking mandolin by a friend's grandfather. It's pretty beat up--- not a collector's item or anything, but just recently the neck started to warp. It was once playable, but now I can't seem to get any notes out of it; it is fretting out and buzzy, etc. The instrument doesn't appear to have a truss rod, but is there any way that its neck can be fixed? Let me know what you think.

I am located in the Chicago area; if either repair sounds feasible, I would be willing to ship the instrument(s) to you. Thanks
again for all of your help.

Very sincerely,


A: Hi Josh,

The answer to your question about mandolin repairs is a qualified yes. We do a great deal of mandolins - however - a small caution - In order to determine whether or not the mandolin is worth repairing - it would help to know what you have there. In other words, if you have one of those old bowl back Italian style mandolins - chances are it would cost more to ship it here than it is worth in terms of inherent value - and maybe even not worth fixing. Even if it is in good structural condition, it is very likely that it would need a re-fret to get the neck back to where it should be so it is playable. Those bowl backs are pretty common and not worth very much If it is and instrument of any considerable value than it may very well be worth it to get it in playing condition. Let me know what you have got there and we can discuss it further. You can always call (the telephone number is listed at the web site) if it is too much to describe it via e-mail.

Let me know what model of Alvarez your friend has - so I can give you an idea of the instrument's value compared to repair cost - maybe that will help her makeup her mind.

If I can be of any more help - let me know.

make sure you sign up for our mailing list - you won't miss a thing that
way - access the mailing list sign up at our site -

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: I saw on your site that you don't recommend neck resets. However, I have a RIC 4001 that the neck had been broken off by a previous owner, and glued back on relatively well. But now the break is coming apart, and is no longer attached to the body wings.

Here is some more detail about the break:

The break is at the heel of the neck, just above the body, and is parallel to the back of the bass. It left a 'shelf' of wood about 1/4" wide and about 1 1/2" to 2" long. It was glued back together pretty well, as the crack is barely visible. The problem lies in that the neck separated from the body wings about an inch on both sides, and due to the routing for the neck pickup there is a lot of flex in the joint. Somebody then drilled holes at an angle from the neck wood into the body wings and used screws to tighten it up (this is all in the neck PU cavity, and well hidden with the pick guard on).

I drilled out the screw holes and glued in dowels to strengthen the join. While the neck was more stable, it still had some flex to it and strung to pitch the neck crack began to separate. 

My options so far are to try to separate the neck along the original break, clean it up, and then reglue it to the body and remaining neck wood. Or I could try to remove the body wings, inject glue into the cracks and clamp them shut, then reglue the whole bass back together. The problem with this is damage to the finish and damage to the gluing surfaces of the wings and neck (splinters, splits, etc.). 

Do you have any suggestions on how to approach this problem?

Dan Neyman

A: Hello Dan,

I would not consider trying to separate the wings of the body - I think you are opening a whole new can of worms there. The best approach (this is obviously without seeing the guitar) would be to remove the neck along the originally break and re-repair it. Unless the original repair was done with epoxy - any other glue should be able to be softened with a little bit of steam (we use a Mr. Coffee Cappuccino make with a hose and needle attached to the steam attachment. This should help soften almost any glue joint to help you separate it. From there it should be a straight forward repair.

By the way - I am not against doing neck resets. I should probably clear that up on the web site. I was merely stating that it is a procedure that to many shops jump to doing to often when it is not necessary. There is a shop near us that would recommend a neck reset even if you brought them a guitar where the only complaint was it was missing a tuning peg. We do neck resets in our shop all the time (we have about six of them in the shop right now). I was merely musing on the point that I think it is a job that you do ONLY when absolutely necessary. I hope that clears it up - and as I said it is something that I should make a little clearer on the web site.

Let me know how the job works out for you. If you have the gear to do it - you can always send me pictures of the task at hand - maybe that way I could be a little more help. If you want I can send you pictures of our steam setup.

Let me know how things go with the job.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Thanks for the reply. I agree that removing the wings would be a nasty job, and I was trying to avoid it if I could. My original plan was to remove the neck along the original break, but I wanted to get some professional opinions on which way was the best to restore this bass to playable condition. 

I've built a steamer out of an old pressure cooker and and a ball inflator needle. I think I'm set to go, and I'll email you and let you know how it works.

Thanks again for the advice

Dan Neyman

. . . .  Well, I steamed off the neck today. It only took about 5 minutes to completely remove it, and another 10 minutes to clean off the excess glue. The neck separated from the rest of the body as slick as can be, leaving a great surface to reglue. Thanks for the advice on the steamer. It sure saved me a major headache trying to take the whole bass apart!

Dan Neyman

A: Dan,

Great ! - you did the textbook version of pulling a neck off of the guitar. Good Luck with the rest of the job. Let me know how it works out. If you need any help along the way - don't hesitate to contact me - by email or phone.

Incidentally - I don't know how far along you are (so it might be a moot point), but once you get the neck steamed off make sure you let it sit for a few days before you attempt gluing. This will ensure that the moisture leaches from the joint - you would be surprised how much the joint will swell - even only after two minutes of steam.

Keep me posted - I am interested in your progress.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q:  I recently bought a brand new Larrivee Parlor Guitar. If you are not familiar with the instrument, it is a smaller scale guitar joined at the 12th fret and > tuned normally. It played beautifully in the store (in a humidity controlled room), but when I got it home I noticed a very persistent and annoying buzz coming from the low E string. Everywhere else it's perfect, but on the first five frets of the E (it disappears at the sixth), it rattles like an African thumb piano, making open E and G chords out unmistakable. I took it to a local repair guy, who looked it over, tapped it, and told me that everything on it was perfect- the frets were all lined up right, the neck was set right, the action was already fairly high. The only thing he thought would possibly cure the buzz was raising the saddle. He told me to try cutting some strips of an old credit card, and putting them under the saddle, which I did. It took a thickness of three layers of credit card to raise the action high enough to kill the buzz. However, while the buzz is gone, the guitar is much more difficult to play on the lower strings (I only raised the bass end of the saddle, so the high strings are still low.)

While I realize that this method for raising the saddle is not the best, tonally, it seems to have proven the point that raising the action will take care of the buzz. My question is: can this guitar be both playable and buzz free? If not, I
still have two weeks to get my money back from the guitar megastore I got it from, but I will be very disappointed.


A: Hi DRS97, (let me know what your name is next time)

I am familiar with the guitar - and I am also curious - If it played great in the store and them you got it home and things went south from there - something must have changed. By the way is it especially humid where you live?

It seems to me that the first thing to check is that the neck didn't develop a "Back Bow". If the guitar was in a humidity controlled environment and then left that environment - it is extremely possible that a back bow has developed - especially in the circumstances you have described. You need to have the guitar checked out by a competent luthier. 

One thing I don't understand is what you wrote:

who looked it over, tapped it, and told me that everything on it was perfect- the frets were all lined up right, the neck was set right, the action was already fairly high.

this person who looked over you guitar - did he:

- use a straight edge on the neck to insure that the neck set, fret level and relief were all within spec?
- measure the action (with a ruler) to determine that it wasn't too low?
- check the instrument out inside with a light and mirror to see if everything inside was healthy?

I still don't know what the "tapping" was in aid of.

Oh, and by the way - if the action on a guitar has to be set so high that it is extremely uncomfortable to play just to avoid what you described as - "a very persistent and annoying buzz coming from the low E string ....but on the first five frets of the E it rattles like an African thumb piano, making open E and G chords out unlistenable" - Guess what - It's not "Perfect" 

I am completely against the idea of taking a guitar (and a very nice one I might add - not to mention "not cheap" by any means) and stuffing credit card strips under the saddle - they don't belong there - if indeed you needed the action raised - a new saddle is in order - and I don't think you needed a new saddle. The thickness of three credit card strips equals about .090 of an inch (that's 90 thousandths - I just measured several credit cards to check) This will raise your action by 3/32nds at the saddle and about 3/64ths at the 12th fret - completely unnecessary on a guitar that this guy described as having an "action was already fairly high" - not to mention that I don't like the whole practice of shimming saddles. It does nothing for the tonality of a guitar and in this case was probably the wrong thing to do.

as far as your comment that "raising the action will take care of the buzz" - you are right - but raising the action on a guitar to make it uncomfortable to play is unacceptable. You bought a guitar - presumably new and with a warranty - it should play like it did in the store. Tell them to make it perfect or take it back - you can also contact Larrivee and ask them for a reputable warranty shop near you and have them check it out - or take it to a good luthier and have him/her take a look.

The answer to your final question:

- can this guitar be both playable and buzz free?

Yes - any guitar can be made to play like a dream and be buzz free. No if's, and's or butt's. If these people can't make that happen find someone competent enough who can - don't settle for anything less - not one of our clients has ever had to.

I apologize if the tone of my response was a bit "huffy". I get hundreds of emails like this and sometimes it gets to me. I tend to go on a bit when that happens - I apologize.

get back to me and tell me what happens - I am very interested in your progress. Good luck and keep me posted.

P.S. - a little test that I like is as follows - If a "guitar tech" try's to determine if a neck is in good shape by doing one of the following things - it is a sure sign that they don't know what they are looking at.

1. holding the guitar under the headstock facing up and lifting the guitar off the table, while closing one eye and glancing down the fingerboard to check if the neck is straight or not - I have even seen some people do this to presumably check to see if the neck is set properly. Doing this tells you nothing.

2. holding the guitar at eye looking down the neck from the butt end of the guitar over the bridge to glance down the neck to check the same as above. Also the sign of someone who is trying to look the part but sees nothing.

I am planning to put pics of this on the web site as a warning to all.

Once again my apologies for being a bit "huffy"

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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Q: Doug,

Hello, my name is Dennis and I have a question concerning a guitar that I own. I have the Ibanez PM100 hollow-body jazz guitar. The bridge on the guitar is a free-floating bridge. I was going to ask Ibanez this question but they have no contact phone numbers or email which I thought was kind of odd, the closest I got was a contact with Chesbro, I found it kind of odd that Ibanez has no contact phone numbers; but that's beside the point.

Anyway, here's what's happening, when I change the strings on my guitar because the bridge isn't fixed onto the guitar I can slide it forward or back and basically put it anywhere on the body that I want. I want to get the best possible intonation and sound that is possible and I'm wondering what the logic behind the free-floating bridge is. I was told by one guitar shop that I should measure the distance from the 12th fret to the nut and basically go the same distance for the bridge. I recently changed strings and I experimented with sliding it a little bit back to see if it made anything sound different. I need to reset the intonation but I'm still trying to figure out the optimal place for the bridge.

I'm also want to start making my own truss rod adjustments and are there any articles or advice that you might have for making these types of adjustments. I've heard that sometimes it's good to give a little relief from the frets and add a little more convex curve (more distance from the frets to the strings). Is the setting more of a fixed setting or is it something that varies from one playing style to another. I'm playing a lot of jazz and I want no buzzes with the strings, I want the most solid, clean sound I can get overall on the fretboard. Will giving more relief, making it more convex allow the strings less opportunity to buzz. I recently raised my > action and that seemed to make the biggest difference with the string buzzes.

Finally, one more question. If you are familiar with the PM100, I'm trying to locate a truss rod wrench. The guy at a shop told me he was able to use a Gibson short arm hex key. Ibanez doesn't list the measurement of this bolt, do you happen to know the specific measurement of the hex key for the PM100.

Can I order this from somewhere online?

Thanks for your time, I hope these weren't too many questions. I'm just trying to make my guitar sound the best that I can.


A:  Hi Dennis,

It doesn't surprise me that the manufacturer is not easy to get in touch with - most of the big makers are not interested in dealing with day to day questions concerning their guitars - they would probably prefer that you deal with the store you bought it from - that is why they establish a dealer network - so they don't have to care for each customer directly. Whether you agree with it or not that is how most companies operate - and in a sense you can't blame them - they would have to hire tremendous staffs just to deal with everyday questions. However, I do think that they could do a better job educating there dealers.

Lets see if I can get through your questions:

Among others - The reason your bridge is not fixed is because the type of tailpiece you have is designed to put downward pressure on the bridge and vibrate the top. This type of bridge/tailpiece setup is called a trapeze style tailpiece and a floating bridge. The bridge is moveable allowing you to adjust the intonation and bridge placement very easily. You were informed correctly - at least as a starting point - the bridge should be roughly twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. This will get you in the ballpark. However there is need for what is called string length compensation. In other words - setting your intonation.

As far as Intonations is concerned - This is how I would proceed I normally string the guitar (during a restring) with just the outer two strings then place the bridge where I think it should go - twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. Having just the two outer strings on the guitar will make to bridge easier to move about. Once the bridge is in place - string up the rest of the guitar - and tune it to pitch. I set the intonation on the guitar as the very last thing I do - I want to make sure that the action is where I want it and the relief in the neck is correct prior to adjusting the intonation - if I don't then I will very likely have to go back and make some adjustments. With everything else as it should be you want to make sure that the pitch at the 12th fret is exactly to same as the 12th fret harmonic. You can also use the open string as a reference. I do both - just to make sure. If the fretted note at the 12th fret is sharper than the open string (or 12th fret harmonic for that matter), then the bridge (or the individual saddles in your case) needs to be moved away from the nut - in effect lengthening the string. Conversely, If the pitch at the 12th fret is flatter than the open string (or 12th fret harmonic for that matter) then the bridge (or the individual saddles in your
case) needs to be moved closer to the nut - in effect shortening the string. Do this gradually in increments until you get each sting in tune. In your case, you have a Tunamatic bridge on that guitar - this allows you to adjust each string individually with relative ease. In the case of a completely wooden bridge one would have to re-shape the top of the bridge to set the string length compensation. I would recommend that most people have a qualified luthier handle that job.

An electronic tuner is a great help when doing what I described above since you can "see" the pitch on the readout of the tuner instead of relying on your ears.

As far as setting the relief on your neck is concerned - there is no real "set" rule for how much relief is too little or too much. In my opinion the best way to measure relief is with a 24" straight edge lying on the neck
between the D and G strings. I hold it in place (with the guitar in playing position) and measure the distance from the top of the 7th fret to bottom of the straight edge. (by the way - don't use a yard stick from the local
hardware store - there is nothing straight about them). I use feeler gauges to measure the distance in thousandths of an inch. here's how it works if a .015 gauge fits in the gap between the fret and straight edge and a .017 doesn't then you can figure that the relief is 16 thousandths of and inch. If you need less relief (less gap) than you tighten the truss rod. If you need more - loosen it. - A quick tip here - always loosen the rod first if it hasn't been adjusted in a while - sometimes they stick a bit - and it might take a nudge to move it freely - loosening it first will insure that you don't tighten it to much and run the risk of ruining the thread or worse - snapping the rod. It is also always a good idea to make sure the truss rod nut is well lubricated - gear oil is what we use. you would be surprised how much easier a well lubricated truss nut works.

As far as how much relief you should have - that is a little less predictable - yes it does depend on the player. When we do John Abercrombie's guitar - he plays with such a low action, a light touch and doesn't use a pick so his relief is set to no more that .004". However, John Scofield's guitars need a bit more relief since he plays with a much more aggressive attack. So we set his relief to about .011 or .012. That seems to be where he likes them. I set all of Joe beck's guitars to .010. So you can see that there is room for compromise - all of the above also presumes that you have well maintained, level and well crowned frets. If
your frets are worn or not level you may need to make the specs a bit more forgiving. I would guess that all things being equal that your relief should be about .010 to .012. try that and adjust as you see fit for you playing style.

Here are a few measurements I would shoot for when setting up your PM100. And the order I would adjust them in.

Relief - .010" to .012.

String height at the 12th fret (measure this with a small ruler divided into 64ths of an inch. While pressing the string down at the first fret measure the distance from the top of the 12th fret to the bottom of the string.

High E - 3/64ths"
Low E - 4/64ths"

On an archtop guitar you turn the thumb wheels up or down to affect this - the middle strings should graduate evenly from the low to high string measurements. On your guitar you only have to worry about the outer two - the middle strings should take care of themselves.

Set the intonation as discussed above.

Go back and double check all your measurements - your guitar should play very comfortably.

All of the tools I mentioned above are available from Stewart MacDonald's Guitar Shop Supply. You can find them on the links page of our site. There is a tremendous amount of money one can spend on tool, toys and gadgets for guitar tinkerers out there. You can also find the truss rod wrench you are looking for there as well. Call them and ask for the catalog - Lots of neat tips in there as well.

Good luck and let me know how it works out - I would be interested in your progress. If there is anything else you have questions about - let me know - it might take a couple of days - but I do answer all emails.

Musically Yours,

Doug Proper

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