General Maintenance

Electric Guitar Neck Shims

When performing a setup on a bolt-on necked electric guitar, shims are a way to quickly adjust the angle at which the neck joins the body, facilitating the desired action adjustment.

We commonly find improvised shims installed in the neck pocket. They range from purpose-built plastic shims to a hodgepodge of items like sandpaper, cardboard, and/or guitar picks. In our shop, we prefer to make make full length, angled, shims.

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Sunken Jack Syndrome – Gibson / Epiphone 335

This Epiphone 335 model guitar came into shop with the output jack stuck inside of the body. The nut and washer that had once secured the jack to the top of the instrument had come loose allowing the jack to drop inside. In shop, we call this “sunken jack syndrome”; This happens fairly frequently on hollow body and semi-hollow guitars such as the venerable 335 model produced by both Gibson and Epiphone, as well as various other similarly styled models including many of those made by Gretsch Guitars.

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Restringing an Electric Guitar

Strings are perhaps the single most important part of a guitar; Every other part of the instrument is designed to support or enhance the vibration produced by a picked or plucked string. A good set of strings is the first step in maintaining the best sound from your instrument.

Put another way, the guitar string is not unlike fuel to a car; Without them the guitar doesn’t go, they are consumed by the process, and they require regular replacement! As such, basic restringing is a necessary skill that we strongly encourage guitar players to learn how to do for themselves.

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Stripped and Broken Screws on Guitars

Solid body electric guitars typically use a variety of wood screws to secure the different components such as tuning machines, strap buttons, bridges, and pickguards to the body. The use of common wood screws provides a quick and secure method for installation and the eventual removal of the hardware when required. Though typically reliable, factors such as incorrect installation and storage, or heavy use, can lead to the need for maintenance and repair.

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Replacing Crumbling Vintage Tuning Machine Buttons

Shrunken, crumbly, plastic tuning machine buttons are not uncommon on vintage instruments. As it ages, plastic breaks down. This makes the plastic brittle. Eventually, the tuning machine’s buttons deteriorate to the point that they can no longer hold up to the pressure exerted upon them from normal use. If forced, they may fall apart entirely. This can make restringing or even simply tuning the instrument impossible

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Guitar Humidification

It’s easy to forget that wooden musical instruments are made of materials that were once part of the trunks of living trees. In their past life, their function was to transport water from the tree’s roots to its leaves. Towards this end, wood is what’s called “hygroscopic”. This means that the moisture content will change depending on the relative humidity of the surrounding air. When humidity increases, the wood absorbs moisture from the air causing the wood to expand. If the humidity decreases, it releases its water into the air and the wood shrinks. Though a fascinating marvel of the natural world, this property does present a complication for owners of musical instruments. 

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Guitar String Recycling

Musical instrument strings are not recycled through municipal recycling programs. That means that strings cannot be put in the recycling bin at the curb. As a result, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million lbs. of instrument string metal could be put into landfill every year.

Fortunately, TerraCycle and D’Addario have partnered to create a free recycling program for instrument strings and clippings. Calico Guitarworks is proud to participate in this great initiative.

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Guitar Action Adjustment

The guitars “action” refers to the height of the strings in relation to the top of the frets. The action being either “too high” or “too low” are among the more common complaints that bring clients into the guitar shop. If the action is too high, strings far away from the fretboard, the guitar can be difficult to play and may not intonate properly. If the action is too low, strings very close to the frets, the guitar may have an audible chattering or a muted buzz in certain positions as the strings vibrate against the frets.

Depending on personal taste, guitarists strive to have their playing action fall somewhere in-between those two extremes. The “sweet spot” is as varied as the instrument and its owner.

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