So why should you “A Guitar God in the making” learn the basics of setting up your own axe or bass? The pretty simple answer is that unless you are a touring pro (with unlimited money and your own guitar tech) you are the only one who knows what feels good in your left or right hand (and I’m not talking about something you do in private) I’m talking about how your guitar feels in your hands. You’re the best person to set up your guitar because you are the one living with it day in and day out. Only you know what you like!!

Ok, so let’s get to the quick of things, to set up a guitar properly you will need some basic tools. Which means you either have them in your tool box already, or you will have to reach down into your back pocket and spend a few of those hard earned Washingtons, Loonies or Pounds that are falling out of your over stuffed wallet! Don’t worry I am as cheap as the rest of you (most builders are) and will keep it to the minimum.

Here’s what you will need to get started:

•        A Guitar Capo.

•        Allen wrenches (both Imperial and Metric).

•        A quality 6” (150 mm) steel rule.

•        A 12” (300mm) long straight edge.

•        A set of feeler gauges.

•        A #2 medium weight X-ACTO knife with number 2         blades.

•        A good set of size 0, 1 and 2 Phillips head screw drivers.

•        A Guitar Tuner.

•        A Neck Radius Gauge.

•        A Set of Nut Files in the following gauges 0.010”, 0.016”, 0.024”, 0.035”, 0.046” or metric equivalents.

•        Some paper core fingernail files.

•        Various grades of sand paper from 400 to 2000 grit.

•        Some Graphite (powder or grease) for lubricating the nut.

•        An old beach towel to lay on your work surface to protect your guitar.

•        A neck support to raise and protect the headstock. (I will provide plans in a later article so you can build this yourself)


Most of the items above can be found at any local hardware or automotive parts store and should not cost a fortune. The Capo and the tuner you should already have. The only specialty items that may be hard to find are the neck radius gauge and the nut files. These can be purchased from a local Luthier’s supply house like Stewart-MacDonald’s, The Luthiers Mercantile International or you may find them on E-bay and save some of that hard earned cash.

One thing I did when I first got started at this was to build my own neck radius gauge by taking a compass (you can get this from any back to school supply store) and drawing a set of 7.5”, 9”, 10” and 12” radius’s on each side of a 3.5” square by .040” thick piece of soft plastic board. Then cut out the radiuses (radii) with an X-ACTO knife. Mark the radius of each with a felt marker and VOILA you have a radius gauge.  “We builders are not only cheap we are resourceful”. Take a look at the plan below to get an idea of what I’m talking about; it will save you about $20.00 plus shipping

So that’s it for this month. Next month we’ll go over all the steps for setting up your guitar and the correct order to do them in.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading the column as much as I have writing it and if you get a chance please visit my web site at

Also if there are any questions please send them along to and I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner.

Cheers and remember

“Rock and roll ain’t nothing but jazz with a hard backbeat.”  Keith Richards



To read more about Mark click HERE


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