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Kevin Chilcott Luthier, Royal Guitars, Royale Guitars
Care and Set-Up

In this section I'm going to try and outline how to care & look after your guitar, giving you hopefully a few useful tips here and there and also try to give a few guidelines as to what set-up is all about.


Good Care of your guitar, if you want to take care of it, should ensure that it will give you great service over many years, and if you do ever want to sell, it will be in good condition to get you a good price, and the new owner will have a very usable instrument with which they should be very pleased.

1. Purchase.
Your good care starts in the shop when you buy it (if you buy it in a shop), and it doesn't matter if the instrument is new or secondhand. If you are going to part with you hard earned cash (or just stick it on 'plastic'), you need to make sure that the instrument is exactly what you want, is playable - has a set up if it needs one, and has a reasonably new set of strings on or a new set as part of the 'deal'. If you are not sure about what you need to do, for example if you have not bought one before..... you must take along somebody who knows at least a bit more than you and can assist you to make the right choice. If you don't find the right one..... go back another day or try another shop. 

You should have no problems auditioning a classical or acoustic guitar; and if you are trying out an electric guitar, semi', electro-acoustic or bass you should be able to try it without an amp, with at least one amp or preferably more and be able to play it for some time and with volume if required. Unless you can do all these things, you are not really in a position to buy anything as you don't know what you are actually buying! This may sound stupid, but this is very important. 

If you do buy a guitar in a shop, there should always be some sort of guarantee even if buying secondhand. Obviously if you are buying privately your options will be more limited, but the basic premise is the same.

2. Transport.
A Case of some description is essential..... you need to be able to carry it around - firstly of course to get it home in one piece !, and to be able to take it to and fro to a friends house, school, out busking, a rehearsal or a gig and be able to "sling" it in a car or van without damaging it. This is easier said than done !  A hard shell case is preferable, or if not that, a "gig-bag" is OK and could certainly prevent minor damage, but not recommended.  A case of some description should be provided, or at least available, if you are buying a new guitar; if it's second-hand, you should be able to 'wheel and deal' a bit to get a decent one.

" I will always remember one poor young lad who bought a top of the range red Japanese Guitar, with a birds-eye veneered and banded top, from us secondhand. It cost him 275 ($385) back then in 1987. He didn't want a case... took off up the road with it... and then promptly fell over ! He had damaged the tremolo unit, the jack socket and the guitar front. He came back very upset. We did manage to get him sorted out in the next couple of days... but these things do happen so easily.

3. Home.
When it's 'at home', your guitar can still be quite vulnerable..... when you're not actually playing it, your guitar should really be in a case or on a stand in a safe place, or perhaps hanging on the wall from a decent bracket. It is very tempting to just lean it against the nearest available object. (If this last option is your only one, you should always lean the guitar with the strings 'in' - the weight of the guitar against the pull of the strings). Maple necked guitars, with a 'parallel' headstock are much more resilient, but not invulnerable ( Click for Pic ), to major damage than those with a mahogany 'angled' headstock - and it is all too common that the latter type get just a 'gentle knock', fall over and..... Snap ! Broken Headstock..... which will not only  cost you money to repair (if possible), but also, seriously affect the secondhand price if you ever decide to sell it. So please, please, please, keep your 'pride and joy' in a safe place..... it's worth it !

4. General care.
General care really starts as soon as you get your instrument home. If the guitar is new and has come from a shop, it has most likely been in the shop for a while and the frets have 'dulled' off a bit and it will also probably have finger marks and smears over it, so it is best to give it a bit of a clean off all over straight away with some sort of polish. 

So..... when you get a chance, pop down to your local Supermarket and pick up a can of polish and a duster. I had always used 'Original Pledge' but that has been discontinued so I now use 'Pledge Multi Surface' and personally have never found it a problem with any finish on a guitar or bass I've come across, but of course I cannot guarantee it will not react with any particular finish. Regarding dusters, as long as it is clean it doesn't really matter what type it is, but I have found that rags from old cotton bed sheets are best of all. 

It's very important to remember to wipe over your guitar each time you've finished playing on it, because your sweat will cause your strings to tarnish and make them 'go off' quite quickly. More seriously it will, in time, corrode the plating on the hardware..... gold plating is particularly susceptible. People sweat at different rates, and some people have more corrosive sweat than others, so it is always best to wipe your instrument over..... and make it a habit.
Observation - Over the years talking to many players, I personally feel that if you are a person that has excessively sweaty fingers, you would probably be better off having a guitar with a natural rosewood or ebony fingerboard rather than one that has been lacquered - maple or otherwise. The natural fingerboard will absorb some moisture, whereas a lacquered one will leave all the moisture on the surface and you will be effectively playing 'sloshing around' on top, the moisture's only escape is to 'drip off' !

Regarding the fingerboard, wait until you are going to put on a new set of strings, and you can if you wish take all the strings off and have a close look at the fingerboard and the frets to see what sort of condition they're in. Usually when changing strings it's best to take them off and replace them one at a time so there is always tension on the neck, but it will not do any damage taking them all off together once in a while. 

If your guitar has a dark-colour wood fingerboard, it is most likely to be some sort of Rosewood or Ebony which does need 'feeding' once in a while (once every six months to a year is good) to stop it going dry. For this..... Olive oil is brilliant..... cheap and easily available down the road at the local Supermarket.  All you need is two or three 'dabs' of Olive oil on a cloth - enough to spread in a thin film all over the fingerboard, and then leave it for a while and you will see it, in patches, soak in.  After 5 minutes or so, wipe off any excess and then put a little bit of polish on the fingerboard and rub it over.....  the fingerboard will not only have a really nice 'lustre' to it, but will feel really smooth under your fingers. 'Feeding' the fingerboard like this becomes quite important in years to come when your guitar might need a refret. Taking the frets out of a very dry and cracked fingerboard is very tricky, and in many cases the wood breaks away in places, which needs to be 'sorted', and the 'job' takes a lot longer, and therefore will be much more expensive than if the fingerboard had been taken care of and was in good condition.

If your guitar has a light-colour wood fingerboard it is most likely to be Maple or of the Maple family and will probably have some sort of lacquer on it. Lacquered fingerboards have the advantage of not needing much attention apart from a bit of polish every now and again - However have the disadvantage of staining when the lacquer eventually wears through with use, and also the fact that a refret will be more expensive than with a Rosewood fingerboard for example, as it will have to be re-lacquered.

(The only general exception to these two main styles of fingerboards are Rickenbackers - which in many cases have lacquered Rosewood fingerboards)

More recently, some companies have produced guitars with oiled finishes. I'm not particularly keen on these types, and have never made a new guitars with an oiled finish. True, it is very quick and easy to apply, but they do wear off very quickly and can look pretty 'shabby' in a very short time. The finish needs to be reapplied quite often. The main problem is if the instrument is made of pale coloured woods - like Maple. An oiled Maple fingerboard will stain very quickly.

Regarding the frets, they should really be nice and shiny, but if they are dull and tarnished you can give them a polish with a little bit of  'colour restorer' or 'cream polish' available from your local Auto spares shop which will not do any harm to a natural dark-wood fingerboard. If you have a lacquered fingerboard you will need to be careful not to rub the lacquer too much and stay as much as possible on the frets.

When you have done all this you can give the guitar and fingerboard another quick polish all over and then put your new strings on.

Please Note.....
You do not need to spend a small fortune on special substances - 'potions', 'special mixtures' or 'witches brews' etc..... you can manage quite adequately with products available cheaply from local stores.

5. Maintenance.
Essentially this part is about looking after your hardware - the metal parts of your guitar, not only to keep them clean, but to lubricate many of the moving parts like springs, screws or bolts that let you make adjustments if you so desire. If in time they do get tarnished, corroded or rusty, it becomes an 'epic' just to free them up, before you can even get round to making the original adjustment you were attempting.
To achieve this, you can go to your local stores again and buy some Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) or some light grease and some type of liquid lubricant like WD-40 with a fine spray-tube adapter....................

.....we'll continue on with Part 5 at some point.

The Set-up.....
What is it and what does it mean ?
This particular topic is probably the most controversial , most talked about and least understood area of guitars in general, probably because it is very "subjective", 
and is also the 'area' where you will 'See' and 'Hear' the most 'Amazing' things.....

An Example !

I will be trying to give you more of my views on the subject, which of course some may not agree with, but as the 'set-up' is in a three dimensional perspective 
it is not always easy to describe on a two dimensional page.

Some Basic Tips
(Hopefully, this will be a link to a 'Tips' page)


Workshop Amps
For a little amp for 'the workshop'..... just for setting up and a quick 'blast', the little Orange Crush 15R is a great little tool. 
In fact the newly introduced Orange Crush 30R is amazing for the 'dosh' !
However, I am currently looking out for a Laney LC 15R valve amp, which does have a really wonderful tone. 
I will be changing the stock speaker to an American Weber from Weber VST (see links) or a Jensen. 
Having a good valve amp makes a world of difference when you're setting up and especially when you're making 
critical adjustments to pickup height.
You really don't need much more than one of those..... and I would wholeheartedly recommend either... you choose !
Remember to make sure that you have a cover for it..... or the dust will **** it up rapidly !





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Kev Chilcott
Kevin Chilcott Luthier, Kev Chilcott, Luthier, Guitar Maker, Royal Guitars, Royal, Royale Guitars, Royale, Custom Guitar, Custom Guitars, Custom Flying V, Custom Flying Vs, Angel V, Angel Vs, Andy Powell Signature Angel V, Mitch Harris White Angel V, Custom Bass, Custom Basses, Custom Acoustic Guitars, Custom Electric Guitars, Custom Semi Acoustic Guitars, Acoustic Guitars, Semi Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars,  Bass Guitars, Electric Bass Guitars,  Royale Custom Guitar, Royale Custom Guitars,