Repair, set-up and maintenance of guitar


In the distant 1970 the professional guitar repairmen Hideo Kamimoto started writing a simple book of a how-to-do-it type aimed to add and enlarge the knowledge of the beginning repairman.


The book is released eight years after (Complete Guitar Repair by Hideo Kamimoto, 1978) with included new and revised chapters, covering the complete range of guitar repairs with special attention given to the particular problems associated with each type of guitar.


Set-up and maintenance of guitar


In the foreword of his book he is writing: “Over the years it has become quite apparent that many professional guitar players struggle along with instruments so badly out of adjustment and repair it is a wander they haven’t given up entirely. I’m sure many others have given up the instrument, blaming themselves for their inability to master it, when in actuality the instrument itself was at fault.”


Bob Ezrin, who produced Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Kiss, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel and many others, made it clear that everything started with the guitar itself: “An excellent set up is the center of every good, complexed guitar recording”, he said. “The pick-ups must be in good shape, the electronics must be as clean as possible, and the fretboard must be buzz-free.”.


Why the quoted highly respected sources are paying so much attention to the correct repair, good (and personal!) set-up, condition of the guitar, maintenance etc.? When properly adjusted, repaired, and set up for the player’s style, a guitar can often show dramatic improvement in tone and playing ease. One must experience the change, before and after, in order to appreciate the benefits which can be derived from the hands of a capable repairman.


Set-up and maintenance of guitar


Most of the clients in the shops buy guitars with the naive assumption that their instrument is correctly set up since it has been “factory adjusted.” It is so unusual, however, to find a new instrument – in any price range – which is well adjusted even for average playing, it can be safely assumed that every new instrument will require some additional adjustment and set up. Unfortunately, most music stores have either limited or no repair facility at all and the number of people able to properly set up an instrument, let alone ascertain what is required, is pitifully small.


Fixing, repair, set-up, maintenance and any other serving of guitar, depend of its type and the personal needs of the player, require the corresponding knowledge and experience as well as specialized for the purpose hand tools, which are usually expensive and not sold in the hard stores. The last often is undermined and the consequences for the instrument vary from “approximate” to “tragic”.


Set-up and maintenance of guitar


Guitar making and guitar repairing are related but by no means similar, and each requires specialized skills.


Fortunately, these skills are complementary and the experienced repairman can transfer most of his repairing techniques and abilities to guitar making. The guitar maker who is already highly skilled will find probably with surprise that taking an instrument apart and serving or maintaining its parts is totally unlike the original assembly procedure.


Set-up and maintenance of guitar


When and how often we must take a good look or maintain our guitar, how could we see that it’s time for repair, set-up, intonation corrections, relief adjustment, recrowning damaged frets etc.? The answer of that question is very easy: do not wait until you realize you have a problem with the guitar, it’s too late than (and expensive…)! Make a regular visits to the chosen by you qualified repairman, say twice per year – let him take a look at your guitar, see the inevitable changes (due to the way of using it, changing the string size, changing the style of playing, climatic changes etc., etc.) and discus with you the possible ways of fixing the problems, if such exists. The inspection of an instrument or fixing eventual minor problems usually doesn’t cost anything or in any case tenfold less than if the problems are accumulating and instead of twice per year your instrument appear in his workshop for a firs time after five years of usage.


It probably sounds paradoxical but the practice proved it: as often you pay visit to the luthier (or a dentist) – as less you are paying!


Project TLC


June 2016
An existing cheap acoustic guitar of Dreadnought type was almost completely redesigned according to the customer’s wishes to improve its acoustic qualities.