Stay in tune vol #87
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
I will be so glad when this winter weather is over. Some people may like the cold, but I'm not one of them. It's now March so it won't be long before the spring flowers start popping up their little buds.
Well I have to say that the guitar repair business has been very busy lately. It seems as though people are starting to bring out their instruments and deciding that a few adjustments might be the thing that will make the difference in their playing. Some times all it takes is a new set of strings and a good cleaning and quick inspection to make things sound and feel better. I always make sure that when I change strings that I take the time to notice if there is anything else wrong with the guitar.
I check the tuners. Are they turning freely? Are the tuner screws loose or stripped out? Is the nut and string slots chipped or dirty not allowing the easy movement of the string. It is a good idea sometimes to get a good look (up close with a magnifier if you please) to check to see if the strings may be “binding up” inside the string slot. These slots are designed to position the strings in their proper location. If they are cut to large the string will have a tendency to roll and when this happens it can cause the string to sound a bit out of tune. On the other hand if the slot is too tight it can bind up the string and when or if you where to bend it, it may not slide back into the proper tuning . So a good inspection of the nut can solve many intonation problems. Also on electric guitars it is important to take a good look at the saddles. Often times after a lot of playing time or even a lot of not playing time the saddles can gum up with dust, rust or finger grime and sweat which can cause the saddles and the small adjustment screws to become frozen and therefore not capable of adjustment. All of these mechanical parts must be free to be able to properly adjust any issues with intonation. I have also found that many pickguard screws ( mostly the phillips style) on electric guitars get so rusted up an filled with junk that you can't even turn them. The pickup screws also can be a problem. When the pickup is adjusted too close to the string it can actually sound like a fret buzz because the magnet in the pickup is trying to pull the string to itself while it is in it's vibrating mode. This can be very frustrating.
Another problem that can arise after a guitar has sat for some time is that the pots (volume and tone control knobs) can sound scratchy or cut out while turning them . Often it is a very easy fix. You can remove the back access panel (if there is one) or sometimes you will have to take off the pickguard, such is the case with Fender instruments and many other foreign copies, this can be a little more work than you may want to get into. If that is the case, you can feel free to call me ( 440 474-2141) to do it for you for a modest price.
What I do is open up the access cavity to the electronics and spray directly into the small cavity in the pot . This is done by using the small plastic extension tube that is supplied with the can. You don't want to over due it here, just enough. You don't want to saturate the area. The product that I use is called “DeoxIT D5” Power Booster made by Craig laboratories, and can be purchased at most electronic supply houses. It is designed to clean and lubricate electrical connections by eliminating dust and dirt particles from the contacts so that when the contact points rub over each other there will be no resistance from minute debri. It works very well and in most instances it is all that needs to be done. There are times when a “cold” solder joint that may actually crack and is very hard to see, can be the problem for intermittent sounds or scratchiness. This would result in having to resolder the offending joint.
Of course when I have the strings off I take the time to thoroughly clean the instrument with a product that contains any waxes or silicones. I don't want to “wax” the guitar, I just want to clean the finish. It's important to clean around the tuning machines and in other areas that normally do not get hit with a rag. ( under neath the tailpiece, under and around knobs, etc.) Your instrument will thank you later with all of the sweet notes that it will produce . It will even feel better to play, I promise! It feels good like cleaning out your car after you have said to yourself, “ I really gotta clean my car !” about 10 times and then you actually do it. That usually is about every 4 months or so for me.
Any way another good tip for the dry winter months is that if your not playing the guitar everyday do not let it sit out near a heat source( a radiator or a floor heat vent) It's best to keep in the case when your not around . This will protect it from many of the “vagrancy’s of life”. Another tip is to unplug your cable before you set it on the guitar stand and walk away. I have seen more that one guitar fly off the stand because someone tripped over the cable. That may be good for me because I usually get to fix them , but it is terrible for the instrument and owner. Many of the things I just mentioned may sound redundant ,but I have fixed many problems that are directly related to these things or the lack of the maintenance.
So now is the time to get ready for warmer weather and all those music festivals that will be coming up and get out your instruments and wipe off the dust and tune them up and get ready to Play! in tune of course......
Patrick from Liam Guitars/ Wood-n-Strings