Stay in Tune vol# 3 5/12/09
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
It always amazes me when I get a guitar in my shop and the strings are wound backwards or have way to many wraps on the tuning pegs. I have seen many different ways that people have tried to accomplish this task. Some ways are better than others of course and some people think that only there way is the correct way, but after stringing up thousands of instruments, I have found the method that I use works best for me.
I try to get the string to wrap each peg about three times around. By doing this, it insures that there will be no slippage to cause the string to go out of tune. It also visually looks good. I accomplish this by pulling the string in question, tautly to its proper peg and then cutting it approximately 2 inches past that peg. I then put it in the hole, leaving about a 1/4inch exposed and then start turning the peg counter clockwise until it is up to pitch .That is for the three lower strings (E,A,D) . The three higher strings, (G, B, E) are done the same way, only by turning the peg clockwise instead. This method of stringing up leaves a very neat and professional look to the job. There is really no need to “lock “ the string up under itself, although I see many people try to do this. I find that the only thing that does is make it harder to remove the string from the tuning machine. I’m sure that some will argue this, and it’s ok if you choose that method , but I feel it’s a bit of an “over kill”. It’s also not really necessary to go out and purchase an expensive pair of end nipper style wire cutters. A good pair of fingernail clippers usually will do the job .In fact, I recommend that nail clippers should be apart of a standard “tool kit” in every guitar case, along with a tuner and a peg winder. But having said this, you will probably destroy the clippers after awhile and they will never be good enough to use for clipping your nails again.
I also wanted to share a repair technique with you that I come across a lot. It has to do with the small screws that secure the tuning machines to the back of the peghead. These screws often find a way of becoming loose. Sometimes they can be fixed by simply tightening them up. But more times than not, the problem is that they have been over tightened and they will be stripped out. When this is the situation, I find the only cure is to fill the hole so that the screw will have something to “bite” into. I do this by first removing the string that is connected to the tuning machine. Then, by removing the stripped out screw and the nut on front of the tuning machine, holding down the tuner, (if there is one). I will then fill the expanded hole with a very small dowel rod that I have tapered down on my belt sander or even simply glue a short end of a toothpick into the hole. Sometimes you will have to use two short pieces or even three. Once the hole is filled and the glue is dry, (I usually use “Titebond” yellow alphetic resin glue, available at any hardware store) I level the protruding wood from the hole with a sharp chisel, usually, no larger than 1/8 inch. Then reposition the tuning machine to locate the new hole location. I mark this with a point awl and drill a small hole with 1/16th inch drill bit. I wrap a small piece of tape on the bit to act as a depth guide, so that I won’t drill too deep. Be very careful not to drill through to the front of the peghead. That could turn a simple repair into a nightmare! You then replace the screw into the new hole. It is important to use a screwdriver that properly fits the screw head. It’s very easy to strip these small phillip head screws. And please don’t over tighten the screw, because if you do, you will be doing the same thing you just got done doing!
Now I’m assuming that the readers of this column have some small drill bits, chisels, and a small variety of screw drivers, but if you don’t, you can of course always call on me or someone else with some woodworking tools and abilities to perform this relatively simple procedure for you. If you feel that this task is a bit risky for your skills you can always try it out first on an inexpensive “garage sale” instrument.
I enjoy sharing my “expertise” in repairing instruments, but I cannot express enough, the importance of using the correct tools, adhesives, and procedures for each and every repair. After all, we do not want to create any “shoddy” or unprofessional results in our workmanship. If you are doubtful of your skills, please do not try to attempt these repairs. You can always stick to the simple tasks of cleaning and keeping your instrument properly tuned and protected from life’s many vague uncertainties. These things alone can make a big difference in the life of any instrument. Take good care of it and it will take good care of you! Until next time …
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings