Trade Secrets!

Issue 347 June 11, 2020
How to Fix a Guitar Crack Caused by Humidity Damage

In this video, Dan demonstrates how to fix a crack in a boutique acoustic guitar caused by intense sun and humidity damage — including a nifty trick for perfectly locating a cleat to hold the crack closed.

Issue 346 May 14, 2020
DIY: The Right Way To Fix Your Guitar’s Lacquer Finish!

Ian Davlin, master repair tech from Lark Street Music shows the right way to fix a guitar finish blemish on this R9 Gibson Les Paul. In this video, he shows the common finish mistakes most beginners make, and a series of simple techniques to make this repair nearly invisible.

Issue 345 April 23, 2020
How to Make a Guitar Nut from a Blank

Dan Erlewine and Elyse show you step-by-step how to make the perfect custom guitar nut from a blank. Elyse decided to make a guitar nut out of bone because it’s light, durable and easy to work with. Elyse walks you through every detail you need to know to make your own perfect guitar nut from a blank. From removing the old nut, cleaning the nut slot, cutting and sanding, identifying and marking string spacing, proper slotting techniques, polishing the nut to get a jewel-like finish and finally installing the nut.

Issue 344 February 20, 2020
How to Fix a Noisy Jack in a Telecaster

A 1994 Fender Telecaster came into our shop recently that plays great, but whenever a player plugs it in there is some popping and cracking noise and sometimes there is no signal at all. The retainer clip that the cup and jack are mounted to has come loose. In this video, Blake demonstrates how to easily install a new retainer clip in a telecaster using the StewMac Tele Jack Installation Tool.

Issue 343 February 06, 2020
How to patch a hole in your acoustic guitar

Special guest Ian Davlin from Lark Street Music in Teaneck, NJ, shows us how to patch a hole in an acoustic guitar body. Ian uses an epoxy putty that he mixes with ColorTone pigments and dyes, then paints on top of it to make a beautiful disguise. Ian shares some great pro tips for sanding as well.

Issue 342 January 23, 2020
Big Muff Pi tone bypass – quick mod gets the midrange back

Blake shows you how to easily mod a Big Muff Pi tone stack to get the missing midrange sound back. With this pedal mod, you can simply flip a switch to get that great midrange sound, then just switch it off when you want that regular big scoop sound that the Big Muff is famous for. Great pedal mod that anyone can do to take their Big Muff Pi to the next level.

Issue 341 January 09, 2020
Fret Buzz can be caused by the bridge!

Sometimes fret buzz is caused by the bridge, not the frets. When a bridge collapses, the middle strings get lower so they start buzzing on the frets. Dan Erlewine and Blake repair a guitar that had a tailpiece cranked down to the body, and the center of the original Tune-O-Matic bridge was sunken. Learn how to replace a Tune-O-Matic bridge, properly slot the saddles, set the radius at the saddles, then tune and intonate.

Issue 340 October 17, 2019
How to get two more sounds out of your Fender Telecaster

Turn your Fender Telecaster into a workhorse that covers pretty much every sound you would need at a gig where you have to play lots of different kinds of music. Learn how to get two more sounds out of your Telecaster. A nice fat humbucker sound by using both pickups in series, and the bright, nasal out-of-phase humbucker like you’d hear from James Burton or Brian May.

Issue 339 October 03, 2019
How to check and replace your guitar strap button – best method

If your strap button’s loose, your favorite guitar could hit the floor! Avoid expensive repairs and replace your strap buttons using a permanent solution that the pros use. Learn how to quickly replace your loose strap buttons so they stay tight and secure for a long time. Also includes tips on how to properly install strap locks.

Issue 338 September 19, 2019
Understanding guitar truss rod adjustment

With the right tools and this guide, you’ll be able to adjust your truss rod with confidence to achieve that perfect playability and sound. Here’s what you need to know in order to properly adjust your guitar’s truss rod. Learn how the truss rod works, different truss rod types and configurations, common issues, measuring neck straightness, and adjusting the neck straightness using the truss rod.

Issue 337 September 05, 2019
How to make sharp fret ends smooth and comfortable

Low humidity can cause fret sprout. This is when sharp fret ends stick out past your fingerboard and make it uncomfortable to play. This video shows you the tools and techniques for dressing sharp fret ends to make your guitar comfortable to play again. With only a fret end dressing file and some Micro-Mesh pads, you can quickly and easily fix your sharp fret ends.

Issue 336 August 22, 2019
How to fix a raised fretboard inlay

Learn how to quickly and easily fix a raised fretboard inlay with only a little wax paper, some Super Glue and a standard guitar capo. Includes pro tips on how to best approach this issue, and how to select the perfect super glue that will provide a strong, long lasting bond that will last for many years.

Issue 335 August 08, 2019
How to shape a custom guitar peghead

Make a signature peghead! Learn how to make a custom guitar peghead that can give your guitar a unique vibe. Using a pattern, a jigsaw and a router, see how easy it is to make a peghead template and rout a custom peghead shape into your guitar’s headstock, just like the professionals.

Issue 334 July 25, 2019
How to properly pack a guitar for shipping

Learn how to pack and ship a guitar like the guitar repair shop professionals. Avoid shipping and handling damage by properly preparing your guitar and securely packing and shipping it with StewMac’s acoustic and electric Guitar Shipping Systems. Ship guitars securely with or without a case. Take the pain out of shipping guitars with this simple, convenient and secure system.

Issue 333 July 11, 2019
No-fail method for making custom guitar soundhole rosettes

Brock Poling shows Dan Erlewine his method for ensuring that his custom rosewood acoustic guitar rosette inlay fits perfectly in the soundboard channel. Brock makes circular cuts using a Dremel and StewMac’s Soundhole and Rosette Routing Jig on twin workboards to ensure identical cuts and a precision fit.

Issue 331 May 16, 2019
How to measure your guitar’s action

Looking to dial in your setup? Blake demonstrates the four key measurements necessary to get your guitar’s action perfect.

Issue 330 May 02, 2019
How to set up your pedal board signal chain

Which effects pedal comes first, which comes next, and next on down the chain? Why? Paul gives some good advice on setting the order of pedals on your board.

Issue 329 April 18, 2019
Tips for spraying guitars with aerosol cans

You can do a lot with ColorTone premixed guitar finishes in aerosol cans! Dan Erlewine shares the secret to good guitar finishing using spray cans.

Issue 327 March 21, 2019
How to choose the perfect fret crowning file

With so many fret crowning files on the market how do you choose? Which one is the “best”? It depends on a lot of factors, how skilled are you at doing fret work, what’s your budget, is this a hobby or are you doing repair work for money? In this Trade Secret Erick demonstrates each of the major types of files and shares tips that’ll help you decide which file is right for you.

Issue 326 March 07, 2019
Easy Stratocaster mod: How to replace the nut on your guitar

One of the best upgrades you can make to your import guitar is replacing the factory installed plastic nut with bone or another high quality alternative. This week Dan and Paul illustrate a fast, easy way to replace a nut in a Fender Squier Bullet Stratocaster. The job is fast, requires almost no tools, and anyone can do it.

Issue 322 January 10, 2019
Is this ’62 Strat genuine and all original?

This is a genuine 1962 Strat, but how much of it is original? It’s been refinished, and a refin has a big impact on the value of a vintage guitar. What else about this Strat has been changed? Erick Coleman shows how he figured this out.

Issue 321 December 27, 2018
Shimming a vintage bone nut by adding more bone

This 1956 Telecaster was just refretted. That calls for a new taller nut, but Dan Erlewine just didn’t have the heart to throw out it’s beautifully aged original nut. So he came up with a clever solution!

Issue 320 December 13, 2018
Guitar bench fret holder: easy DIY gift

Dan Erlewine’s making a Christmas present: Modifying a neck rest to hold cut frets for fret jobs. This handy benchtop helper is easy and quick to make.

Issue 319 December 02, 2018
How to use glue for guitar frets

Should you use glue when seating frets in a fingerboard? Which glue for which job? Erick Coleman gives clear answers.

Issue 318 November 15, 2018
Todd Rundgren’s “Foamy”: should I refret it?

Todd Rundgren’s guitar “Foamy” is in Erick Coleman’s shop for a… refret? That’s the question. Erick considers whether the best solution is new frets or removing the wear from the ones in place.

Issue 317 November 01, 2018
Fixing a guitar dent by steaming it out

Small dents happen all the time, and often they can be undone with a soldering iron and a damp rag. Dan Erlewine shows how it’s done.

Issue 316 October 17, 2018
Working with warped wood: flattening and joining

Warping happens! Dan Erlewine has two bookmatched pieces that he needs to join into one. Even though they’re warped, Dan shows how he joins them with a good flush glue joint.

Issue 315 October 03, 2018
Getting Rich Robinson’s guitar ready to tour

Rich Robinson’s on tour with The Magpie Salute. A founding member of the Black Crowes, Rich asked StewMac’s Erick Coleman to get his Gibson in top playing shape. Erick’s broken the process into eight steps…

Issue 314 September 20, 2018
Mamie Minch’s Uke-building Camp for young girls!

In July 2018, Mamie Minch of Brooklyn Lutherie hosted a week-long ukulele-building camp for young girls in New York City. This “super shop class” gave these youngsters the tools and guidance to build and play their first instrument!

Issue 313 September 06, 2018
Rich Robinson’s ES-335: making new tuners look old

Rich Robinson of The Magpie Salute and founding member of The Black Crowes asked Erick Coleman to install tuners that match this Gibson’s original factory machines. Erick shows how he made the new tuners look as old as the guitar.

Issue 311 August 09, 2018
How to fix sticky bass tuners

The elephant-ear tuners on this ’72 P-Bass are barely turning at all. Instead of installing new tuners, Dan Erlewine shows how to get the original tuners working again.

Issue 310 July 26, 2018
How to stain a Fender maple fretboard

This 1972 P-Bass neck came into Dan Erlewine’s shop with a nasty curve that wouldn’t adjust out. Dan had to remove wood to make it straight, so now he’s refinishing the surface to match the rest of the neck.

Issue 308 June 28, 2018
Conquering an UNDEAD Strat pickup!

This pickup is a zombie. Even though it has died, it’s still making sound. Erick Coleman identifies the problem, and we watch him ever-so-carefully tear the pickup down and rewind it.

Issue 307 June 14, 2018
Trace a guitar to build yourself a duplicate

Steve is an apprentice in Dan Erlewine’s shop, and he’s planning to build himself a copy of Dan’s 1930s Kalamazoo K-11. Here’s his simple and accurate way to create a body template.

Issue 305 May 17, 2018
Spraying a peghead logo using a vinyl frisket

Somebody stripped the peghead of this 1957 Gibson J-50 to bare wood. Restoring it means replicating the original logo. Dan Erlewine’s got a neat tip for spraying a factory-quality logo.

Issue 304 May 03, 2018
Routing for guitar binding: fixing a mistake!

OUCH! Luthier Brock Poling was routing for binding on this custom guitar when the router grabbed it and threw it against the wall! Suddenly this build became a repair, and he talks with Dan Erlewine about how to fix it.

Issue 303 April 19, 2018
Fixing a warped guitar top

Someone made a really odd attempt at repairing braces inside this Gibson 12-string. That didn’t keep the top from twisting into a wave shape. Dan Erlewine shows a simple fix.

Issue 302 April 05, 2018
Dan Erlewine’s 2-minute bridge gluing challenge!

Working fast! Dan Erlewine’s using hot hide glue to attach this bridge. It means working fast while the glue’s hot. Susan, our videographer, gives Dan a two-minute challenge: BEAT THE CLOCK!

Issue 301 March 22, 2018
What’s wrong with this Fender truss rod?

Truss rod breaks almost always happen at the adjusting nut. Not this time. Dan Erlewine has a Fender neck in which the entire truss rod rotates along with the nut. It seems to have come apart in a really unusual way.

Issue 300 March 08, 2018
What’s so great about hide glue?

What’s so great about hide glue? Dan Erlewine loves the stuff, and shows us why. It has to do with the hardness, and the ability to heat-and-release a glue joint, and there’s more. Dan tells it better — check it out!

Issue 299 February 23, 2018
How can a table saw cut a curved truss rod channel?

How can a table saw cut a curve? Dan Erlewine has a neat tip and a jig you can make in your shop. The result is a precisely curved truss rod channel just like the one in an original Gibson neck.

Issue 298 January 24, 2018
Cleaning guitar parts with electrolysis

Brazilian luthier Rod Gomes shows Dan Erlewine a neat trick: using low-voltage electricity to clean age-old grunge from a Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge. A couple hours in Rod’s electric soup, and the bridge is clean!

Issue 297 January 11, 2018
Frank Ford’s drill press tricks!

The Gryphon Strings repair crew always has great tips. Today we have some “Why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?” drill press tricks from the master repairman himself, Frank Ford!

Issue 295 November 02, 2017
How to open a humbucker with a hammer

Here’s a quick tip from Brian Michael at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto. He’s got a fast and sure way to open this Golden Age Humbucker, without a soldering iron!

Issue 294 October 19, 2017
Tuning problems fixed + a guitar lesson!

This vintage Southern Jumbo wouldn’t stay in tune, so Spencer Bohren brought it to Dan Erlewine’s shop. The solution is a new set of Waverly Tuners, and Dan shows Spencer how to install them himself — including a simple way to plug old screw holes. Spencer returns the favor by giving us a guitar lesson.

Issue 293 September 06, 2017
Guitar repair using kitchen chemicals

Trade Secrets visits RetroFret Vintage Instruments in New York to talk guitars — and groceries. Steve Uhrik, RetroFret’s owner, shares tips for using chemicals you’ll find in your kitchen cabinet!

Issue 292 August 24, 2017
More inside info on Willie Nelson’s Trigger guitar

Willie Nelson told Mark Erlewine: “As long as this guitar’s working, I’m working.” In this video, Mark shares insider details you could only learn from the guy who keeps Trigger ready to go On The Road Again.

Issue 291 August 10, 2017
Repairing Willie Nelson’s Trigger guitar

Willie Nelson’s guitar, “Trigger,” is in for repairs at Erlewine Guitars in Austin, Texas. Mark Erlewine shares a closeup look at the famous hole in the top. Mark’s been Trigger’s caretaker for ages, and he gives us the inside scoop on Trigger’s history.

Issue 289 July 13, 2017
“What was the first work you ever did on a guitar?”

Dan visited the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans get-together in Pennsylvania. It’s fun to hear these startup stories about paper clips, gum wrappers and exploding guitars!

Issue 288 June 29, 2017
Guitar repair tips from Ian Davlin, Lark Street Music

Ian Davlin shows Dan Erlewine an amazing peghead replacement on an oddball 1897 Adams guitar. Ian also shows how he files fret ends for playing comfort, and a neat trick for stringing up your guitar.

Issue 287 June 15, 2017
How to clean a spray gun

Unclogging a spray gun and keeping it clean: these are the tips Dan Erlewine teaches to the young luthiers who work in his guitar repair shop.

Issue 286 June 01, 2017
How to install a skin banjo head

How to install a skin banjo head: Dan Erlewine shows his friend Lauren how to remove and replace a natural skin head on this old banjo-uke, or banjolele.

Issue 285 May 04, 2017
5 Shop Tips From Santa Cruz Guitars

Richard Hoover, founder of Santa Cruz Guitar Company, gave us a tour and we captured tips from the skilled luthiers that make up the Santa Cruz team. Watching them hand-building exceptional guitars was inspirational!

Issue 281 March 09, 2017
Dan Erlewine’s tips for shaping a guitar neck

Joe Etgen is building a guitar for the first time, working down in his basement. Working alone on StewMac’s Triple-O kit, he’s got the body and the neck in good shape. We asked Joe to take the guitar to Dan Erlewine’s shop for a look-over. Dan shares some tips you’ll want to know when you build a guitar sometime.

Issue 279 February 09, 2017
Dan Erlewine at the NAMM Show 2017

This week we walk the NAMM Show with Dan Erlewine! Dan went to the huge Music Industry trade show in Anaheim and came back with his iPhone full of fun video!

Issue 278 January 26, 2017
Evan Gluck: pro guitar repairs in a very small shop

New York Guitar Repair is a one-man shop, operated by Evan Gluck. Evan serves a steady stream of customers, working out of his apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. Check out his super-efficient setup!

Issue 277 January 12, 2017
Fixing a cracked guitar tailblock with the Scissor Jack

A hard knock on a strap button will crack an acoustic guitar’s tailblock. Alex Whitman at TR Crandall Guitars in New York City shows a clever way to close that crack for gluing! Dan Erlewine collected this Trade Secret at their repair shop.

Issue 276 December 29, 2016
How Maegen Wells installs pickguard binding

StewMac visits guitar maker Maegen Wells of Forestville, California. Maegen’s specialty is building archtop acoustic guitars. Using a 1940s Gibson as an example, she shows how to create a beautifully bound tortoiseshell pickguard with black/white/black purflings.

Issue 275 December 15, 2016
Break it to fix it? Replacing a D-45 pearl inlay

The pearl was in the way! Working on this fine, pearly Martin D-45, Dan Erlewine needed to spot-sand the fretboard. He shows why sanding the pearl inlay at the same time just didn’t work. That inlay had to be destroyed and replaced.

Issue 274 November 03, 2016
Patching a hole in a 1953 Telecaster

This is an original 1953 Telecaster that someone routed holes in. Looks like it was modified to hold a Bigsby vibrato. Dan Erlewine replaces the missing wood with a darned good match so this guitar can go back on the vintage market.

Issue 273 October 20, 2016
Fixing a warped neck with carbon fiber

This early-50s Harmony StratoTone has no truss rod, and the neck is warped. Dan Erlewine repairs it by installing carbon fiber neck rods. The week after this repair was done, another copper-colored StratoTone came in with the same problem!

Issue 272 October 06, 2016
Waterslide decal to repair a guitar finish!

Chelsea Clark shows Dan Erlewine a clever trick: turning our aerosol guitar finish into a waterslide decal. This makes a great spot repair on this 25-year-old StewMac Dreadnought.

Issue 271 September 22, 2016
Acoustic guitar saddle: how to cut the slot

Dan Erlewine’s working on a World War II era Gibson flattop. He explains that during wartime, some experienced factory guitar makers were replaced by temps. Maybe that’s why this guitar’s saddle was in the wrong place. Here’s how he fixed it.

Issue 270 September 08, 2016
Where to cut the saddle slot on this guitar bridge?

Time to install a saddle in this bridge. Where exactly to put it? Salvaging this original Gibson bridge required filling the saddle slot. You can’t assume the original factory placement was correct. Dan Erlewine shows how he located this saddle.

Issue 269 August 25, 2016
Filing tuners to make them fit

The tuners on this Kay Speed Demon are nearly 50 years old, and they’re worn out. The old tuners are 6-in-line, but not Fender spacing. Matt Brooker shows how he’s modifying the replacement tuners to fit the guitar.

Issue 268 August 09, 2016
Gluing a 1940s Gibson Bridge

The bridge on this old Gibson has an unusually low, flat profile. Dan Erlewine shows how he modified a bridge clamping caul for gluing the bridge to the guitar top.

Issue 267 July 28, 2016
Shaping a nut to fit a Fender radiused slot

Most Fender nuts have a curve on the bottom, so shaping them for a perfect fit is tricky. It can be the toughest part of making a new nut. Erick Coleman shows you some troubles to avoid, and a neat trick for good results.

Issue 266 July 14, 2016
The Ceramic Guitar

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

Issue 265 June 30, 2016
How to make a custom wood pickguard

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

Issue 264 June 16, 2016
A bass you play with your foot?

Visiting Blue Eagle Music Shop, Dan Erlewine comes across an unusual instrument from the 1970s: a foot bass. While he’s in the shop, Dan checks in to see what’s happening with Blue Eagle’s young setup tech, Raj.

Issue 263 June 02, 2016
No sound from your guitar? Let’s talk about short circuits…

All wired up, but no sound! It can happen to anybody: you do some wiring or change your electronics, then find you’ve got no sound coming out of the amp. In this Trade Secret video, Matt Brooker helps you troubleshoot.

Issue 262 May 19, 2016
Problem: a WaRpEd guitar top!

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

Issue 261 May 05, 2016
Upgrading guitar tuners: what you need to know

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

Issue 260 April 21, 2016
Refretting the Mike Bloomfield Tele

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

Issue 259 April 07, 2016
Fixing fretboard chips on the Mike Bloomfield Tele

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

Issue 258 March 24, 2016
Fixing fret buzz: seating a popped-up fret

Matt Brooker has a neck with some buzzing frets. He traces the problem to some poorly seated frets and shows two ways to clamp them down. Matt shows why seating the frets is the first thing to do before taking a file to your fretboard.

Issue 256 February 25, 2016
Removing the frets on the Mike Bloomfield Tele

The Mike Bloomfield Tele is back in Dan’s shop. It’s in for a refret, and that means working very carefully on this historic guitar. As Dan pulls all the frets, does he manage to avoid chipping the old rosewood fingerboard?

Issue 255 January 28, 2016
Upgrading control pots: choosing the right pots and knobs

Lots of low-cost guitars play great, even though the manufacturers cut costs on hardware and electronics. Swapping out your control pots is an easy mod with big results. Erick Coleman shows you how to avoid trouble…

Issue 254 December 03, 2015
Tips and tricks for gluing loose braces

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

Issue 253 November 19, 2015
Easy binding repair on a Martin D-35

This fretboard binding caught on somebody’s sweater. The missing piece was never found, and the guitar is in Dan Erlewine’s shop for repair. This kind of quick fix is familiar to guitar shops everywhere!

Issue 252 November 05, 2015
Grain runout made this guitar bridge pop off!

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

Issue 251 October 22, 2015
How to finish an acoustic guitar bridge

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

Issue 250 October 08, 2015
How to shape frets with a 3-corner file

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

Issue 249 September 24, 2015
Joe Bonamassa sound check: backstage tips

Dan Erlewine visits backstage with the great blues guitarist, Joe Bonamassa and his highly experienced tech, Mike Hickey. Joe talks guitars with Dan, and Mike shares two guitar setup tips.

Issue 248 August 27, 2015
Setting the string spacing at the bridge

The string spacing on this old Gibson is uneven. Dan Erlewine shows how he made the E-to-E string spacing wider, then located the other four strings with proportional spacing, not equal spacing.

Issue 247 July 30, 2015
Regluing a Rickenbacker fretboard

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

Issue 246 July 02, 2015
Using a flash coat for guitar finish touchups

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

Issue 245 June 18, 2015
How to install a bolt-on neck

When a local music venue burned down, this Strat was in the blaze. The neck burned like a candle, but Erick Coleman has salvaged the body. This is a good opportunity to show how to install a Fender style neck.

Issue 244 June 04, 2015
Glossy finish using foam polishing pads

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

Issue 243 May 21, 2015
YIKES! Using a reamer in an electric drill

This little parlor guitar was found in a trash can and Dan Erlewine is doing a quick fix on the bridge. The pin holes were entirely chewed up. Dan’s drilling them out with a peg hole reamer then plugging them with peg-shaped plugs of hardwood.

Issue 242 May 07, 2015
Inspecting a historic guitar

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

Issue 241 April 23, 2015
How to install six-in-line tuners

Six tuners lined up perfectly straight, and no chips in the finish.
The last step in building this beautiful electric guitar is installing the tuners.
Brazilian luthier Rod Gomes visited Dan Erlewine’s shop to show how he does it.

Issue 240 April 09, 2015
How to install classical guitar strings

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

Issue 239 March 26, 2015
Refurbishing a 1964 Ampeg guitar amp

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

Issue 238 March 12, 2015
Custom walnut bindings for an 1800s German guitar

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

Issue 237 February 26, 2015
Video: Tips for installing fretboard side dots

Typically classical necks don’t have side dots, but Dan Erlewine’s adding them to this guitar. He shows the fast easy method, and explains why he’s using a different technique this time. Dan also shares some neat do-it-yourself jigs.

Issue 236 February 12, 2015
Short video: Making a guitar neck more comfortable to play

Making a beginner-friendly fingerboard: Dan Erlewine’s sister-in-law is learning to play, and her guitar has rough, sharp fret ends. The fingerboard edge is also too sharp, but Dan quickly makes this guitar more beginner-friendly.

Issue 235 January 29, 2015
Sticky guitar tuners: redrilling the peg holes

These classical tuners aren’t turning freely — they’re sticking. The holes for the tuner barrels were never drilled quite right, so Dan Erlewine re-drills them, using our Tuning Machine Drill Jig for Slotted Pegheads.

Issue 234 January 15, 2015
My friend Carl’s bridge gluing tips

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

Issue 233 January 01, 2015
Two tips for filing string slots at the nut

High action and a badly shaped nut: That’s the situation with the nut on this old May Bell guitar. Dan Erlewine lowers the nut slots while also “back filing” the nut so the strings angle down properly to the tuners.

Issue 232 December 18, 2014
Fixing fret buzz: spot leveling and re-crowning

Dan Erlewine found a 1935 May Bell and fell in love with her. She has some fret buzz due to worn frets that are flat and wide. Dan shows how a little leveling and filing got her playing again.

Issue 231 December 04, 2014
Custom-fit styrofoam clamping caul

How to clamp a guitar bridge without crushing the braces inside: Dan Erlewine uses a chunk of insulation from the home improvement center. In this short video, Dan shares a trick for custom-shaping the foam to fit any guitar.

Issue 230 November 20, 2014
Dan Erlewine’s do-it-yourself neck shaping jig

A different sort of Erlewine Neck Jig: Dan’s building guitars out of black walnut that he’s saved for forty years. For carving and shaping, he comes up with an easy-to-make jig to hold a neck at just the right working angle. It spins and tilts too!

Issue 229 November 06, 2014
Swapping pickup covers on a rare lefty Lucille

Making new pickups look old: Brand new pickups looked too shiny in this guitar that had seen a lot of gigs. So Dan Erlewine opened the old pickup and put its cover on the new one. This meant cutting the solder joint and resoldering.

Issue 228 October 23, 2014
Fixing a Tune-O-Matic that won’t tune

This bridge is in the wrong spot, so the guitar can’t play in tune. Rather than drill new holes in a vintage guitar body, Dan Erlewine comes up with a clever solution.

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

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

Issue 226 September 25, 2014
Building upbow into the guitar neck

If you turn the truss rod and nothing happens, the trouble could have been built into the neck at the factory. The time to avoid it is when you glue on the fingerboard. Dan Erlewine shows how to fix this problem before it happens.

Issue 225 September 11, 2014
How to stop breaking router bits

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

Issue 224 August 28, 2014
Gluing a broken peghead

Dan Erlewine’s got a nasty broken peghead on a yard sale guitar.
He shows how to fix it, and shares his thinking on which glue to use and how he does a glue test. This is actually a double break needing two repairs at once.

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

Whether he’s performing at the renowned Caffe Lena or at a house concert in the Midwest, Dave carries a lot of guitars. We’re pleased that all of these guitars have Waverly tuners, available exclusively from Stewart-MacDonald!

Issue 222 July 31, 2014
Homemade dust collector

Dan Erlewine’s homemade dust collection system: Dan used to go outdoors to trim binding, because without dust collection the job got really messy. That’s all changed now: Dan’s homemade dust collection system is a simple plastic storage bucket turned into a downdraft routing table!

Issue 221 July 17, 2014
Fixing fret buzz: raising the saddles

A P-Bass with fret buzz: Dan Erlewine fixes his brother’s bass, and answers the question, “To get rid of this fret buzz, should I adjust the saddles or the truss rod?”

Issue 220 July 03, 2014
Whip tip tips!

Whip tips are for pinpoint gluing. These are skinny little tube-tips, but sometimes you want them even skinnier. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars squashes, cuts and modifies tips and pipettes to get drops of super glue and accelerator exactly where he wants them.

Issue 219 June 19, 2014
Flat-sanding a guitar fingerboard

Dan Erlewine has a quick tip for sanding anything truly flat. He demonstrates with a guitar neck and fingerboard that he’s prepping for glue-up.

Issue 218 June 05, 2014
Chopping the ends off bridge pins

If you’re not careful, installing new strings can create a problem that throws you out of tune or damages your bridge pin holes. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars shows us an easy fix.

Issue 217 May 22, 2014
Coloring epoxy for guitar inlays

A little bit of glue hides imperfections… Dan Erlewine personalizes a fretboard with the customer’s name in pearl: “Hoss.” There are small gaps around the inlays, and dan shows how to make those gaps disappear. Dan also shows a neat magnet trick for cutting thin slices off the end of a fretboard.

Issue 216 May 08, 2014
Homemade bushing puller to protect the peghead

Dan Erlewine needs to pull the tuner grommets/bushings from the peghead of this old Gibson. The lacquer is already damaged, and pulling the bushings can yank finish off too. Dan rigs a jig that holds the finish down while the bushing comes up.

Issue 214 April 10, 2014
Banjo setup tips

How do you set the tension on a banjo head? If you’re more familiar with guitars than banjos, Dan Erlewine has a few quick tips for you.

Issue 213 March 27, 2014
How to clean and lube dirty old guitar tuners

Dirty tuners filled with dried gunk: Dan Erlewine’s working on a guitar that’s been sitting untouched for over fifty years. The tuners are too stiff to use, but he gets them going again by using heat, naphtha and an injection of lubricant. He makes a nifty little tuner-holder jig, too.

Issue 212 March 13, 2014
Coloring new binding to match the old stuff

We’ve watched Dan Erlewine repair this 1930s Kay over the previous 3 Trade Secrets. It’s time to finish it up. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars ages Dan’s patch of new plastic binding so it blends in with the old binding around it. About the guitar in this video: This 1930s Kay Deluxe is a fixer-upper that Dan Erlewine repaired in order to sell. Now that it’s in great shape again, maybe Dan’ll keep it!

Issue 211 February 27, 2014
Making custom guitar bindings when stock sizes don’t fit

Replacing a section of this binding from the 1930s requires thicknesses that are no longer available. Dan Erlewine has to custom-size some new wood bindings on his drill press. It’s not hard to do: watch the new pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Issue 210 February 13, 2014
Using three different glues: where and why?

Titebond or hide glue? Hot glue or bottled? Dan Erlewine uses three glues for this repair, and each has different properties. He explains why one glue can’t cover all the bases. And he’s created some pretty interesting cauls for clamping this job together while it dries!

Issue 209 January 30, 2014
Making a glue scraper/saw

Dan Erlewine went to the Columbus Guitar Show to sell some fixer-uppers. Nobody bought this beautiful 1930s Kay Deluxe; its neck joint problem must have seemed like too much work. The guitar came back home and volunteered for this Trade Secret about making a tiny saw for cleaning old glue joints!

Issue 208 January 16, 2014
Lindy Fralin on how to set pickup height

Lindy Fralin, of Lindy Fralin Pickups, shows how he sets pickup heights. Lindy shows it’s not about measuring, it’s about listening. Recorded at last summer’s Northwoods Seminar in Michigan.

Issue 207 January 02, 2014
Making a sharp-edged razor file for binding channels Bad news: the binding on this old Gibson is crumbling to bits.
Worse news:that binding is the only thing holding the body together!
Dan Erlewine’s plan is to replace the binding bit-by-bit, so the top doesn’t fall off.

By grinding a new edge on a razor file, he creates a tool for cutting crisp square binding channels without a router.

Issue 206 December 19, 2013
Helpful repair magnet gizmo, and 1970s Earthwood Bass!

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! These repair magnets snapped together with a CLACK!, drawing blood from Dan Erlewine’s finger just as he was about to show his gizmo for avoiding pinched fingers and separating stacked magnets! Also, Dan explains a radical bracing change on an original Earthwood acoustic bass guitar.

Issue 205 December 05, 2013
Michael Greenfield shows how to sand guitar bodies

Michael Greenfield of Greenfield Guitars explains clearly why it’s critical to have properly shaped and sanded guitar bodies before you rout them for binding. Michael shared this great Trade Secret with us during the 2013 Northwoods Seminar last August.

Issue 204 November 21, 2013
Visiting Frank Ford, the King of Shop Tips!

Frank Ford is the man behind, one of the richest sources of lutherie tips to be found anywhere. He’s a skilled luthier, machinist and inventor. Spend a few minutes in Frank’s shop at Gryphon Instruments, and you’ll come away smarter!

Issue 203 November 07, 2013
Sharpening scrapers for guitar work: two simple jigs

Link Van Cleave is a sharp guy! He taught tool sharpening at the 2013 Northwoods Seminar. That was a class on professional techniques, but Link also gave us this foolproof Trade Secret for making your favorite scraper super-sharp.

Issue 202 October 24, 2013
Mamie Minch on guitar oxidation: instant aging

Chemicals that add or remove years: Mamie Minch shows how she fades away old brown oxidation ù or adds it, to make a new patch of spruce match the surrounding wood.

Issue 201 October 10, 2013
Michi Matsuda’s gunpowder scorched guitar

West/East concept guitar: Michihiro Matsuda taught guitar design at Galloup Guitars’ Northwoods Guitar Seminar in August. We were lucky enough to get this video as Bryan Galloup interviewed Michi about his unique gunpowder scorching.

Issue 200 September 26, 2013
Scraping for sharp looking binding: here’s how it’s done!

The king of Gibson relic finishes: Tom Murphy is well known as Gibson’s go-to guy for relic finishes: perfectly worn and age-cracked. Tom’s business, Guitar Preservation, makes this a specialty. In this week’s Trade Secret he shows us how to make and use a scraper for cleaning binding after spraying a sunburst.

Issue 199 September 12, 2013
1966 Telecaster pickup torn down and rewound

Erick Coleman has a 50-year-old pickup that’s nearly dead: It’s making a little bit of sound, but not much. Erick opens it up to find the trouble, and we get a good view of the guts of this vintage Fender pickup before he rewinds it.

Issue 198 August 29, 2013
Final-shaping a neck with files and scrapers

Shaping a neck is all about feel. Chelsea Clark learned from Dan Erlewine, and honed her skills on abandoned “project guitars” found on Craigslist and eBay. Chelsea shares some great tips on shaping the neck and preparing it for a finish.

Issue 197 August 15, 2013
Fix a broken nut with baking soda?

“Can a broken nut can be fixed with baking soda and super glue?” Lou, a singer here in Athens, Ohio, brought this question to Dan Erlewine (along with the broken nut on his Yamaha guitar). As it turns out, the answer is yes and no…

Issue 196 August 01, 2013
How to notch the saddles on your Les Paul

Erick Coleman uses a hammer and X-Acto knife before filing. On this video he also talks with Dan Erlewine about how a 1954 Les Paul went from Bondo Mess to Relic Goldtop, with multiple luthiers contributing to its restoration.

Issue 195 July 18, 2013
A kitchen cutting board makes a great binding jig!

Dan Erlewine modifies a plastic cutting board from Walmart to solve a guitar binding problem. He needs four matching pieces of black-white-black binding, and he shows a clever trick for doing this. From the free Trade Secrets newsletter at

Issue 194 July 04, 2013
Dick Boak of Martin Guitars talks about pre-war tenors

Dick Boak of the Martin Guitar Company visiting Dan Erlewine’s guitar repair shop. The conversation is about pre-war Martin tenor guitars, and Dick really knows this subject. From the free Trade Secrets newsletter at

Issue 193 June 20, 2013
Hot tip: A new way to use your guitar repair vise

Compact, low-profile guitar repair setup: Dan Erlewine removes the mounting base and bolts his StewMac Guitar Repair vise to the end of his bench, for a new low-angle working style. Also: a quick tour of Dan’s customized workbench.

Issue 191 May 23, 2013
The King of Dieselbilly Talks Tele!

Titan of the Tele: Bill Kirchen explains why he flips his control plate backwards, and shows how he got the famous sounds he recorded on Hot Rod Lincoln.

Issue 190 May 09, 2013
How to let your ears find the best tone cap for your guitar

Ever wonder whether a different capacitor would affect your tone? It’s between you and your own ears, nobody else can tell you what you hear. Erick Coleman’s got a simple way to prove to yourself which cap is the choice for you.

Issue 188 April 11, 2013
Binding repair on a ’55 Gretsch Roundup

A truss rod fix leads to a binding repair: Dan Erlewine has to remove the fingerboard from this great old cowboy guitar, and some of the red side dots disappear. He shows two techniques for replacing them.

Issue 187 March 28, 2013
No-cost tools for shaping Martin guitar bridges

Two do-it-yourself tools that I’ve been using for years to shape the bridges on Martins: I show you how to make one in a jiffy, and there’s a free downloadable plan for the other one! — Dan Erlewine

Issue 186 March 14, 2013
How to get a good clean solder joint!

The three basics to keep in mind if you want your work to be as good or better than the guitar’s original wiring. — Erick Coleman

Issue 185 February 28, 2013
Is this bridge saddle in the right place?

The free Fret Position Calculator at does the math, but can I trust its numbers for placing a Martin bridge? I tested the computer against my “stone age” method. — Dan Erlewine

Issue 184 February 14, 2013
Do-it-yourself banjo bridge lifter

Dave Collins at Herb David Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan shows an easy-to-make tool for swapping banjo bridges.

Issue 183 January 31, 2013
Rare black Dan Armstrong bass: fretboard repair

Dan Erlewine’s working on a black lucite Dan Armstrong bass — one of only eight that Ampeg ever made. The fretboard has a nasty crunch. Step-by-step, Dan details how he does this tricky fix.

Issue 182 January 17, 2013
Good tone from 0-10: easy clip-on mod

Trade Secrets On The Road: Dan Erlewine visits the repair shop at Herb David Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He brings back this great, simple tone tip from repairman Brian Delaney.

Issue 180 December 20, 2012
The simplest custom build ever?

Erick Coleman builds a custom guitar that’s even simpler than Bo Diddley’s rectangular axe. It’s a great example to show the basics of building an electric guitar.

Issue 178 November 22, 2012
How to fit a preshaped nut on a guitar

Tips for fitting a shaped and slotted nut. Dan Erlewine tries a preshaped nut in his own Fender Strat: it’s so easy “it’s almost like cheating!”

Issue 177 November 08, 2012
A shrinking pickguard cracks the guitar top!

In Dan Erlewine’s shop: This Martin D-35 has a cracked top due to the pull of a shrinking plastic pickguard. Dan fixes the problem and shows how to keep this happening from happening again.

Issue 175 October 11, 2012
Fixing (and breaking!) a 1957 Gibson P-90 pickup

After 55 years, the original owner sells a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior because the pickup’s dead. Erick Coleman tells the story of bringing that pickup back to life.

Issue 174 September 27, 2012
Fixing a small chip in your guitar’s finish

This issue of Trade Secrets is a video: Dan Erlewine demos three of his favorite finish repair tips: 1. Super glue drop fills. 2. Frank Ford’s razor blade trick. 3. Strip-sanding with fingertip pressure.

Issue 173 September 13, 2012
Video: Gluing a Martin D-35 back brace

This issue of Trade Secrets is a video: Dan Erlewine glues a Martin back brace, using Scissor Jacks along with tools you can make in your own shop. After this video, we developed the Brace Gluing Wedge to simplify this job and reduce the number of tools needed.

Issue 171 August 16, 2012
Fixing a loose bridge on a yard sale special

Dan Erlewine fixes a 1980s Harmony guitar with a bridge that’s falling off. To see how fast he can do this repair, Dan decided to play Beat The Clock!

Issue 164 May 10, 2012
Does this bone nut fit my guitar?

Erick Coleman answers a question that’s come up a lot lately: how to find the right size replacement nut. He introduces a new Sizing Sheet that makes measuring easy for anybody.

Issue 160 March 15, 2012
Wiring a humbucker to get two sounds

Erick Coleman shows how he modified a Parsons Street Humbucker, turning it into a switchable single-coil/humbucker combination.

Issue 151 November 10, 2011
How to strip a modern poly guitar finish

Erick Coleman’s got a Fender bass with a purple metallic finish. He wants to spray an 1960s-style sunburst, but first he’s got to get that hard plastic coating off of there…

Issue 146 August 18, 2011
Fixing a potbelly with the Belly Reducer

Dan Erlewine’s got a Martin with a potbelly: string tension has pulled the top into a hump on this 1928 0-18. To make things tougher, the guitar top’s encased in a thick layer of epoxy finish! It’s an interesting puzzle…

Issue 143 July 07, 2011
Rugged and road-ready: replacing skimpy parts

Erick Coleman finds that a 1970s Hondo is really well built, but the parts weren’t road-ready. A couple of fixes, and this guitar’s ready to tour the world!

Issue 139 May 12, 2011
Dan Erlewine’s Facebook fretless bass

Dan Erlewine’s been posting photos on Facebook, creating this photo story on how to convert a fretted bass to fretless. It’s a Trade Secrets story and it’s on Facebook too!

Issue 132 February 03, 2011
Fine tuning a bolt-on replacement neck

Erick Coleman pulls his old Strat out of mothballs and gives it a new neck. He shows what’s needed to get a replacement neck ready to play.

Issue 131 January 20, 2011
How to bind a fretboard, Gibson-style

Erick Coleman’s restoring a 1950s Les Paul, and returning the bound fretboard to its original condition. With small files and elbow grease, he shows how to create the fret-end “binding nibs” for that distinctive Gibson look.

Issue 130 January 06, 2011
Keep that body in shape! Go-bar/neck jig gluing rig.

Dan Erlewine has to leave a guitar body with the back off for months. How to keep the sides from going out of shape during this time? Believe it or not, the answer is blue foam insulation from the home improvement store.

Issue 129 December 23, 2010
Make custom labels for your guitars!

Dan Erlewine’s making a forgery of an old Gibson label, using his brother as an accomplice (he’s got a good excuse). While he’s at it, he shows how you can make new custom labels for your own guitars.

Issue 128 December 09, 2010
How (and why) to use templates to rout control cavities

If you sometimes think of making a custom electric guitar, Erick Coleman has tips to make one part of the process a lot easier. Here’s how to rout the neck pocket and control cavities so they look as good as a factory build.

Issue 127 November 25, 2010
You need a bag of clothespins for your workshop!

Dan Erlewine modifies wooden clothespins for a bunch of jobs around the shop — today it’s gluing kerfing into an old Gibson. While he’s at it, he plays Santa Claus and offers a make-it-yourself holiday gift idea.

Issue 125 October 28, 2010
Rubber bands as clamps: super-useful, and cheap!

Erick Coleman has a simple tip that saved a lot of time at the recent Purdue Guitar Workshop: rubber binding bands make great clamps! They’re for lots of things — check out the examples in this issue.

Issue 123 September 30, 2010
How would you reach inside a guitar to do this gluing?

Dan Erlewine’s got a puzzle on his hands: this guitar’s center strip fell out along with the braces. These parts are meant to be glued BEFORE the guitar is assembled. How do you reach inside to do this on a completed guitar?

Issue 120 August 19, 2010
Recreating a lost part from from 1917

Dan Erlewine is missing one last part needed on a 1917 archtop Gibson. It’s a long gone, irreplaceable pickguard support that he recreates from found material in his shop. A useful tip for fabricating modern plastic parts, too!

Issue 119 August 05, 2010
How Boogie Fever led to a Neck Transplant

Erick Coleman’s buddy wanted a guitar just like the one he saw on Soul Train in the 1970s. Curing his Boogie Fever required a neck transplant, but Fender’s Micro-Tilt neck adjustment makes that tricky. Here’s how to do it.

Issue 116 June 24, 2010
How to match color on vintage binding repairs

Working on an aged Les Paul, Erick Coleman has to sand part of the yellowed binding. The sanded spots are a glaring white mismatch. Erick makes turns the repair invisible with a little ColorTone spray and stain.

Issue 113 May 13, 2010
Quick fix for a loose bolt-on neck

Dan Erlewine’s got a wobbly neck, but not for long: here’s a fast way to tighten the screwholes in a bolt-on neck.

Issue 111 April 15, 2010
Two 1917 Gibson L-1 archtop guitars: each with too-high action

Dan Erlewine got a blast from the past in his shop recently, and before the dust settled he got another one! He’s working on two Gibson L-1 archtops from 1917, and they both have the same trouble: too-tall bridges and too-high action.

Issue 107 February 18, 2010
How to know a bridge will play in tune before gluing it on

Dan Erlewine finds an old bridge to fit a 1950s Gibson, but will the saddle slot be in the right place? He measures and calculates, but still wants to prove it’s in tune before gluing. Here’s how he did that.

Issue 106 February 04, 2010
Simple inlay repair on a Les Paul Triumph bass

This bass from the early ’70s is in great shape except for a gaptoothed peghead inlay. Erick Coleman shows how to quickly replace a missing inlay, including coloring the new work to match the old.

Issue 101 November 26, 2009
Final-shaping a D-18 or D-28 style guitar neck

Guitar maker Todd Sams directs the production of our StewMac guitar necks, and he uses the necks in his own custom Sams guitars. Todd shows how to spend twenty minutes final-shaping a neck to get it to look and feel exactly right.

Issue 100 November 12, 2009
It’s a crime to cut pickup leads this short!

Erick Coleman has been rooting around in the parts drawers at Dan Erlewine’s shop, and he’s found a 1960s Gibson patent-sticker humbucker. It would be valuable if somebody hadn’t cut off the pickup lead. Erick shows how to fix that.

Issue 98 October 15, 2009
3 tips for cutting finely detailed custom inlays

Dan Erlewine’s cutting a curvy script letter “L” out of pearl. It’s a spidery-thin shape, so he uses some tricks to cut it cleanly without breaking. He also talks about his favorite headgear…

Issue 95 September 03, 2009
A knife in the back! Popping the back off a 1929 Gibson L-5.

Dan Erlewine’s trying to pop the back off a pre-War Gibson, while keeping the binding intact. He hopes to put it back on the guitar just like snapping a lid back onto Tupperware. (Well, maybe not quite that easily…)

Issue 88 May 28, 2009
Making a custom fire stripe pickguard to fit a baby guitar!

Dan Erlewine’s in his guitar shop (or is it a toy shop today?) making a custom “fire stripe” pickguard just like the one on his 1939 Gibson J-35. He shows how to make a custom pickguard in any color variation you like.

Issue 68 August 21, 2008
Removing the glued-in saddle on a 1937 Martin D-28 Herringbone

Someone shaved down the saddle on this great old Martin until there’s barely a nub showing above the bridge. It needs to be removed, but it’s glued in and so low you can’t grab it. Dan Erlewine shows how to solve this problem.

Issue 66 July 24, 2008
Strengthening a square-tube Martin truss rod

Dan Erlewine’s doing a neck reset on a Martin that has a square-tube truss rod. While he has the neck off, he shows how to improve the truss rod before regluing the neck.

Issue 63 June 12, 2008
How to make a string nut for the first time

Why you might need a new nut: Cracked nut. Poor string spacing. Hollow plastic nut sapping tone. Nut slots are too low, causing fret buzz on open strings. If you’re nervous about replacing the string nut you’ve got company, and this week Erick Coleman shows that making a nut is no big deal.

Issue 48 November 15, 2007
Making a Les Paul clone look more vintage

Erick Coleman’s finished tweaking a budget-priced Les Paul copy. It plays great, but one last thing’s needed: making it look more like Jimmy Page’s 1970s original.

Issue 44 September 20, 2007
Go-bar decks: fast, flexible gluing

This week, Dan Erlewine asks Todd Sams to show how a go-bar deck in his home shop turned two hours of work into twenty minutes!

Issue 43 September 06, 2007
Super glue your frets for better tone!

Erick Coleman shows why so many guitars need their frets fastened. Add a touch of water-thin superglue to lock down your already-installed frets, and get better tone, too!

Issue 41 August 09, 2007
How to use a Fret Hammer

A fret hammer was one of the first lutherie tools Erick Coleman ever bought, and it’s still an essential in his shop. In this issue of Trade Secrets, he shows how to use it.

Issue 38 July 12, 2007
Lesson in pearl engraving from Doug Unger

Doug Unger restores and reproduces exquisite turn-of-the-century 5-string banjos and early archtop mandolins. Doug shares a lesson in pearl engraving with Trade Secrets readers.

Issue 37 July 05, 2007
Making a pearloid pickguard with a 1950s vibe

Dan Erlewine’s got an unusual 1951 guitar: a National with a Gibson body. The old pickguard came off in an earlier Trade Secrets, and now the new one goes on: it’s an oddball pearloid guard that’s worth checking out!

Issue 36 June 28, 2007
Build your own custom pickups

Erick Coleman needed a pickup like a good old Gibson P-90, but sized to fit a 3-string cigar box guitar! Here’s how he built it, and how you can build yourself a custom pickup for any instrument.

Issue 34 June 14, 2007
Why hide glue is best for this cracked neck

A badly broken neck on this Martin D-35 almost goes unnoticed, and the repair leads to an innovative do-it-yourself jig. Dan Erlewine explains how he chose the gluing method for this repair.

Issue 31 May 24, 2007
How to install a Fender style (bolt-on) neck

Erick Coleman shows the steps involved in replacing a Fender-style neck, with tips for tuner installation, truss rod adjustment, and correctly positioning the neck.

Issue 29 May 10, 2007
Removing a pickguard: easy way and hard way

This week, Dan Erlewine’s got two pickguard removals in his shop. The Martin D-18’s pickguard has cracked it’s top, and Dan shows how a pickguard’s supposed to come off. The “Gibsonational” is another story: this pickguard is nothing but trouble!

Issue 28 May 03, 2007
Using the String Spacing Rule for guitars and mandolins

Erick Coleman uses Kevin Ryan’s proportional string spacing rule for more jobs than Kevin ever expected: 12-strings, mandolins, bridge saddles… Plus: an explanation of the difference between equal spacing and proportional spacing.

Issue 22 March 22, 2007
Tricks for installing humbuckers

This week Dan shares two tips for installing humbucking pickups, including a simple jig you can make yourself. Also, he repairs a broken pickup ring that his customer thinks is worth $10,000!

Issue 20 March 08, 2007
Lubricating guitar tuners

This week, we’re in Dan’s Guitar Garage for a Tune-up Special: how to clean and lube old guitar tuners, and get them working smoothly again.

Issue 17 February 15, 2007
Making new tuners look vintage

This week, Erick Coleman shows how to add 50 years in 30 minutes: he makes a new set of tuners look like they’ve been around since the 1950s!

Issue 16 February 08, 2007
New ways to use the Guitar Repair Vise

In this issue of Trade Secrets, Dan makes his Guitar Repair Vise sit up and roll over. Who knew cast iron could be so flexible?

Issue 15 February 01, 2007
Using candle wax to keep a vintage P-90 working

This week in Trade Secrets, Dan runs into pickup trouble and turns to Lindy Fralin for help. The simplest possible solution keeps a P-90 pickup from 1957 from falling apart.

Issue 14 January 25, 2007
Replacing damaged tuner knobs

This week, Dan’s got a 1957 Les Paul Junior in his shop. It hasn’t been out of the case in 25 years, and the tuners are unusable. Here’s how to put new knobs on old tuners.

Issue 12 January 11, 2007
Installing an old-time banjo dowel stick

This week, Don MacRostie invents a new technique for an old technology: he shows how to accurately install a banjo dowel stick. Also, Bart Reiter sends a dowel-stick tip.

Issue 11 January 04, 2007
Mixing red epoxy for cherry-finish repairs

This week, somebody’s attempt to fix a 1960 Les Paul is an example of what not to do. Dan Erlewine tries an experiment that saves this smashed-up guitar’s finish: he creates cherry-red epoxy.

Issue 10 December 28, 2006
Installing an endpin jack

Ever have trouble installing an endpin jack? Did you chip the guitar’s finish, or drill the hole out-of-square? Did you goof up on a customer’s guitar? You’ll want to read this week’s Trade Secret from Dan Erlewine.

Issue 8 December 14, 2006
Make this brad-point bit for installing side dots

In Trade Secrets this week, Dan Erlewine shows a trick for installing side dots that are perfectly positioned: he modifies a hardware-store drill bit to make the job easy.

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