Guitar 911: Six Tips for Maintaining Your Guitars

(Image credit: Damian Fanelli)

Like to keep your axes in tip-top shape? Here are my six tips for maintaining your guitars.

1. Keep your old strings. You never know when they might come in handy. Old strings will work for:

• Replacement strings or backups for 1/2- or 3/4-size guitars.
• Pulling pots, output jacks and other electronics through a semi-hollow body guitar
• Backups, if you pop a string
String repairs.

2. Start and maintain a guitar-parts pile. Have a junky old acoustic or electric guitar that got smashed at a party, a la Animal House? Before you throw it out, strip the tuners, nut, any string retainers, saddle, endpin(s), pickguard, output jack, pots, pickups, pickup selector switches, bridge, neck plate, screws, pre-amps, etc. If it's there, take it. Just the body is smashed? Keep the neck. The neck was broke in half? Keep the body. You never know when you'll need one or more of those old parts.

3. Start and maintain a guitar touch-up kit containing different-colored finish pencils, magic markers, paint markers, different glues, etc. We're talking Elmer's glue, wood glue, hider's glue, etc. Do the same with any special rubbing compounds and cleaners you use.

4. Try to keep all guitar-centric tools in one spot. If you've ever used it on your guitar, chances are you will again. Neck rest, side cuts, files, sandpaper, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, etc. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you have a tool in the house that worked well on a guitar before, but you can't remember what you did with it. Especially when the project requires multiple tools you've used before.

5. Establish some good working habits when working on guitars. For example, if you're pulling screws out temporarily, use a shot glass or cup to keep all the screws together until it's time to put them back in. The same goes for parts like knobs, tuners, etc. Keep others away from your working area during the project (kids, friends, neighbors) because people like to touch things, even if it's just picking up a part and looking at it. If it gets set back down elsewhere, it can get lost real quick.

6. Anticipate cleaning up and returning all tools and parts immediately after the maintenance/repair is done. The longer that stuff sits around, the greater the chance you're going to lose something you'll need for your next project.

Check out Joe Becker online at

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