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Final word on fretboard cleaning/maintenance

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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

If you were never to put strings on a guitar, the neck would remain straight.
If you do put strings on that guitar, the neck will be pulled in the direction of the top of the guitar, under the tension of the strings. Remove those strings and the guitar will return to the same state it was in before the strings were put on.

The neck has not been pulled straight by the strings - it WAS straight.

Think of it this way - you are standing up straight holding a weight in front of you (arms down, not outstretched). Your body, which is normally upright remains so because your muscles are resisting the pull of the weight (just as the wood fibres and the truss rod resist the pull of the strings).
Release the weight and what happens (apart from it possibly landing on your foot)? Does your body warp? No, it returns to it's normal state - upright. The muscles that were holding the weight up are no longer under tension and are, as far as the weight goes, now at rest.

From a pure physics point of view, warping when the strings are taken off is not possible - unless the neck is returning to the warped state it was in before the strings were put on.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

No, really, It is a myth.

If the neck was that sensitive it would change its position when you tuned.  It would also change position when you did drop D.  It's a great big honking piece of wood.

What could change your neck so you fret out?  Change in string tension overall from changing brands.  Change in string gauge.  Bad setup.

Do you really believe that prior to putting the strings on in the factory they are hoping the neck will unwarp correctly?

Take a look at Frank Fordrestringing guitars.  If he does it this way, and I guarantee he has strung more than you and me combined, then I betcha it's safe.

Not convinced?  William Cumpiano, author of the defacto standard in guitarmaking books, writes this on his excellent website :

I pasted here in case you can't find it.

Questions, anyone? IV
© William R. Cumpiano 1999, All Rights Reserved

CAN RESTRINGING HURT YOUR GUITAR?

Dear Bill,

I am having what's turning out to be a rather heated debate with a few of my friends on the topic of re-stringing an acoustic guitar. They are saying that you should NEVER take off all the strings at once, but rather change them one at a time. They think that removing all the strings at once is somehow detrimental to the guitar. Having built a few steel-strings from your book, I say "hogwash".Take off all the strings if you want. It won't hurt a thing.

A note from you on this topic would settle it once and for all.

I doubt it. But it seems that everybody that promotes this myth is hard-pressed to suggest any factual justification as to why it is indeed bad to do so.

The myth most likely originated from a skewing of what is indeed sound advice on all TAILPIECE instruments (violins, cellos, arch-top guitars): if you take all the strings off, the bridge falls off! That good advice jumped from one instrument to another and became poor advice on flat top guitars. The skewed information just got handed down uncritically from teacher to student over the years and became enshrined as a Truism. By the way there are dozens of similar religiously-held myths among players/teachers/makers. Like, never cut the strings. It damages them. I should try to list them all some time.

I also love listening to the "reverse engineering" a justification for a myth by its proponents! That is, starting with a myth, and then creating an elaborate set of highly logical and credible reasons why it must be true. Let me know the "reasons" your friends made up to support it, please!


   
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(@nathan)
Active Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 11
 

thanks a lot

it does make sense that i should be able to take them off

on the other hand its probably not such a good idea to have them all off and tighten the first strings you put on all the way

i could see that messing things up

Blues? Yes please.
Rock? Yes sir.

Music? Give me a guitar and I'll play.


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1066
 

Never cut the strings, it damages them?  That is true!


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Hi Nathan,

No problem.

Hey Paul

I hate it when that happens.

Just so I don't damage them, I talk to my strings in a gentle voice, trying to coax them to drop off past the tuning peg on their own accord.

Nick


   
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(@corbind)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1735
Topic starter  

I just changed my strings last night and did them one by one.  Why?  The past two times I changed my strings I chopped 'em all off, cleaned, and restring.  I change the strings with my guitar vertical in my guitar stand.   Yet I laugh at myself when I'd cut the final string (high e) and hear this metalic clank when my tailpiece hit the floor!  I did that in my previous two restringings and somehow I turned one or both of the dials that control bridge height.  So it took awhile to fix.

The next stringing I'll take all of them off and do a better job cleaning.   :)

I think another reason I don't like to take all the strings off at once is that guitar look very weird without them.  It's "visually dissonant."

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


   
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(@Anonymous)
New Member
Joined: 1 second ago
Posts: 0
 

I quite like the look of a stringless guitar - I always feel the need to talk in hushed tones, as if it would hurt my guitar's feelings if I could talk and it couldn't. ;)


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1066
 

I like it too.  It looks "right."  Kind of sad, like something has gone away, but you know that it will be renewed soon.


   
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(@nathan)
Active Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 11
 

ok   so whats this about not cutting them?

what do you do if they are way too long and sticking out at the peg?

Blues? Yes please.
Rock? Yes sir.

Music? Give me a guitar and I'll play.


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Nathan, I think that you're mixing two things up. It's fine to trim the ends that stick out of the tuners. What is not so good is snipping the string (which is still under tension) between the nut and theneck to remove it.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Even that wouldn't hurt the neck.

You really have to build one to believe I guess.

The only thing I say be wary of is standing on the neck itself as you change the strings.


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

I wasn't meaning that it would hurt the neck, I was thinking of the lash from the string as the tension was released, I should have been clearer.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Oh, I see.

Okay then, we agree, no standing on the neck lashing yourself as you change the strings and you should be okay.


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1066
 

Sitting, however, is usually fine.  Maybe not on cheaper guitars.


   
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(@corbind)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1735
Topic starter  

I'm off to the hardware store to get lighter fluid, shop paper towels, and 00000 fine steel wool for my project tonight.  Then it's a trip to the grocery store for some mineral oil for human consumption.  I don't have constipation so I shall not imbibe the oil, rather, slap some on the fretboard.  This will be my first real cleaning as opposed to just using toothpicks and mildly-damp towels.  I can hear my SG's tailpiece dropping off right now.  My most remembered song.

;D

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


   
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