Suggestions on learning how to repair guitars

envirodat

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I have been reading the threads by the many gifted folks here who have created lots of amazing guitars. I lean towards acoustics for what I enjoy but the electrics that I have seen have been stunning. I enjoy it when Freeman Keller, 1bad914, Pypa, Jim from PA, BobJ, Parkwood, Ghostchord, CrazyDave have shared pictures of their builds and share so much information as to what they are doing and why. I think these folks are the ones giving me the bug for this.

I don't think I have the skill set to build a guitar as I am usually in the measure 3 times cut 4 group but I would like to learn about guitar set up and understanding more about. I am hoping if I get good enough I can give away the guitars I work on to starters and let them have something decent to start the journey of joy you get playing. I see guitars at Goodwill and other places, usually MIK, MIM, MIJ cheaper guitars that I think with some work would be a nice guitar for someone to learn and play on or simply take camping.

So my questions to all of you who do this is are
  1. How did you get started?
  2. What references (ideally a book or something I can purchase and use over and over) would you recommend?
I figure it would be smarter to ask here instead of going down the worm hole called the internet and being zombified by YouTube videos. I know retirement will happen one day and although I don't have time now to try to work part time in a shop, if I can learn and play when I have time and found a guitar to save, it would be fun.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions and I hope this is the right forum to ask. If not, please let me know and I will have the mods move it if needed
 

dsutton24

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Learn to solder well. It's not a hard skill to perfect, but there is a learning curve. You don't want to learn on something you care about.

Also, expanding on the "you don't want to learn on something you care about" theme, get yourself a junker to tinker with. Often times if you ask around at pawn shops or music shops they'll often have things hanging in the back room that have problems, or have taken a fall off the wall. Think cheap.
 

Timbresmith1

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The Teeter book used to be the bible. Along with Irving Sloane’s. Maybe dated at this point, but they will put your head in a decent space for the basics and understanding the craft, even of some of the materials (glue/ finish) have changed.
 

guitar_paul1

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Learn to solder well. It's not a hard skill to perfect, but there is a learning curve. You don't want to learn on something you care about.

Also, expanding on the "you don't want to learn on something you care about" theme, get yourself a junker to tinker with. Often times if you ask around at pawn shops or music shops they'll often have things hanging in the back room that have problems, or have taken a fall off the wall. Think cheap.

Yes, this. Also first learn how to do all the basic setup adjustments like nut slot, intonation, relief and action height. That way you have a reference for what you are aiming for in performance.
 

saleake

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I took a class from Nazareth Guitar Institute in Nazareth Pennsylvania. I built a Stratocaster type guitar.

They also have classes where you build flat top and arch top acoustic guitars.
 

ElJay370

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You start with an unbridled love of the instrument as a piece of art and engineering. Couple that with a love for building and taking things apart. Add in a bit of perfectionism and a ton of patience. Cobble together a few specialized tools and supplies (many of which you’ll have to make yourself). Finish with a bunch of cheap junkers you’re not afraid of ruining.

Grab the Erlewine book and dive in.
 

Freeman Keller

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I do a fair amount of repairs along with a fair amount of building. They are not necessarily one in the same.

I built my first guitar over 15 years ago (and still play it today). It was a kit very much like Pypa just did in the Acoustic forum. There were several reasons for building it but primarily its the fact that I'm an anal engineer and I like to try to understand how things work. There are a whole lot of skills necessary for building an acoustic guitar, doing a kit eliminates some of them, but there was a lot to learn during the process.

Two of the important things you learn when building a guitar is how its structure and geometry works and how to set it up. You buy the tools and learn how to do the work. With luck your guitar is playable and you are happy with it.

Repairs, on the other hand, involves everything that can go wrong with a guitar. Things change with age and playing, things break, things wear out. The most basic part of repairs is adjusting the geometry to be correct and setting it up to be playable. Same tools and skill set as building.

All the rest of repairing is trying to figure out what is wrong and trying to figure out how best to fix it. The head is broken, there is a big crack in the top, the bridge is coming off, binding is loose, it makes funny buzzing sounds..... Erlewine's book is a great reference for how to fix a lot of these individual issues - I have a very dog eared copy on the back of my work bench.
The most important thing to learn about repairs is how to evaluate - I harp on this in my various threads. Take measurements and figure out what they mean. Understand how one affects another. I have a rule that for ANY guitar that appears on my work bench I measure everything before I change anything. I write it down. If its someone else's guitar I talk to them about what I see.

There is another part of repairing that is kind of interesting to think about - when do you not do a repair? I am very careful to consider the age of a guitar, how it was made (meaning what glues), and the impact of my working on it. I'm perfectly capable of doing neck resets, but I don't do them on old Martins because I want that guitar to have a paper trail of who worked on it and what they did. I'll set up a Martin any day of the week but I send the structural stuff to a guy who is really expensive, but worth every penny.

On a similar note, if you work on other people's guitars think about your liability if you screw up. Everyone's guitar is their personal baby, no matter how much you think its a piece of junk.

Speaking of junk, sometimes junk guitars are the way to learn something (your first neck reset for example) but frequently they are frustratingly difficult to work on and often not worth it. I will try to fix anything, but I frequently regret it.

Repairs are the classical way beginning luthiers made money while they tried to build and sell a few guitars. Some find they stay with repair work, it can be a steady income stream.

Whew, that was kind of stream of conscious wasn't it? I guess in summary I would suggest doing both. Build a guitar, kits are fair game, working with a mentor is too. But don't be afraid of doing some fret work or a good setup or replace the pickups in some guitar. Get Erlewine's book, lurk at the repair forum at OLF

https://www.luthiersforum.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=10137&sid=b2f6da3076b33ab1a8d8da5200bada54

Take on a project, get in over your head. Have fun.

ps - I'm always available to lead you astray, er, help.
 

trev333

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I just started with a few old guitars and putting parts together, fixing busted acoustics, etc.. then started making telecasters from recycled wood...

you slowly build up the skill set to work on guitars/timber..paint things, etc... ( I was a metal worker).

pull your own guitar apart and put it back together... can't hurt, that's all someone at a factory does. ;)
 

schmee

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Learned from doing myself or mistakes!
You can actually get a 1 year Community College course in instrument repair etc. Seems that would be a great start.
 

adjason

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get some cheap used craigslist guitars. Take them completely apart (down to the wooden body and neck then and put them back together. Read Dan Erlwines book.
 

ChicknPickn

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First neck I leveled, I really leveled it. I mean, leveled the hell out of it. And I didn't understand the crowning process very well. In the end, the frets were more like bumps on the fretboard. But by God, they were level. Fortunately, it was a low-end Mitey Mite maple neck. I learned a lot. And one of the things I learned is, get good tools. When it comes to working on nuts and frets, you want decent tools. You'll know they're good if they cost a little more than you want to spend.
 

Timbresmith1

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get some cheap used craigslist guitars. Take them completely apart (down to the wooden body and neck then and put them back together. Read Dan Erlwines book.
Just my opinion, but you don’t need every tool in the book and don’t treat every repair as an opportunity to use super glue.
(Maybe the book has been edited since I got my copy?)
 

Peegoo

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Get a few books on the topic as mentioned above. Learn how the geometry of the guitar (scale, neck relief, action, intonation, etc.) really matters.

Cruise garage sales and flea markets and grab some junked/cheep guitars.

Twiddle the truss rod. Make a new saddle and a new nut. Pull a few frets and replace them, and then level, crown, and polish them. Practice spot repairs on the finishes.

The more you do it, the better you get.

About the only essential tools that are guitar-specific is a set of good nut files. All other tools can be adapted/made from existing common tools for a far lower cost, and they will work just as well as the moocho-dinero tools sold by Stooge Mac and others.
 

Bob J

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The only repairs I’ve done are to things I’ve screwed up! Learning to do a setup is a good start. Study @Freeman Keller setup thread and you can’t go wrong. Find a cheapie guitar to practice on. I started with a kit build, but I’m one of those people who thinks they can do anything until they prove themselves wrong. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it’s not a ‘59 Les Paul (unless it is a ‘59 Les Paul, in which case you should put down the tools and back away).
Most folks on this forum are well intentioned and have good advice. This is my primary source for information.
 

smoothrecluse

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