Guitar setup: how to upgrade and install straplocks
Avoid onstage mishaps by locking your strap onto your guitar. Here’s how to install straplocks properly…
The straplock is a jolly handy gizmo. It simply fastens to your strap and onto a specialised strap button on your guitar, which locks it into place. There are plenty of designs around by Schaller, Jim Dunlop, Loxx and Fender.
We’ll be installing a Schaller-type straplock but with one key upgrade: the screw. We’ve talked about dealing with a stripped strap pin screw hole, which can be a real annoyance. In the interests of keeping your strap well fastened, the screw has to do its job too, so whilst upgrading to locks we’ll cover upgrading your screw too.
Grover, Schaller, Fender, Mighty Mite, Marvel and Ernie Ball straplocks all use a normal screw as part of their design so they are candidates for a screw upgrade.
There are some imitation ones around, such as this Schaller-style one bought from eBay for about £5. This particular straplock is trustworthy but we’d always be wary! You are trusting it with your prized possession. In particular, be aware of straplock kits sold with short screws. The locks will hold but the screws will come out first!
What you need
- Cordless drill
- 4.5mm twist drill bit
- 3.5mm twist drill bit
- PH2 screwdriver
- Coarse flat file
- Candle wax or soap
- Adjustable spanner
- Set of straplocks
- 2x spare neck attachment screws
Skill level: Beginner
And they’re off! Unscrew the old screw with a PH2 screwdriver. You will be surprised at how short it is.
This Les Paul’s old screws had been over tightened and they had stripped the hole in the body. This is a particular problem for softer timbers like basswood.
On the left is the original screw and strap button.
In the middle is the new strap button with the screw that comes supplied with it and on the right is the winner with a screw that’s more worthy of the job! The screw on the right is the same size as the ones that attach the necks on Strats and Teles (4x45mm).
The problem is that the beastly 4x45mm screw will not fit into the strap pin, the threaded part is too wide, as is the head.
We will have to modify the strap pin and the screw but it will be worth it! Put the strap pin in a soft-jawed vice and drill out the strap pin with a 4.5mm drill bit.
Now that the threaded part of the screw fits we need to mess with the screw’s head.
Clamp a coarse flat file into the vice and then put your new screw into the drill chuck; we’re going to use the drill as a makeshift lathe to slim down the screw head. Keep it level and pull the trigger, like you’re firing a gun sideways.
Here’s an example of what we’re after: the edges of the screw are worn down evenly.
Keep checking your work to see when the head will fit into the strap pin, the screw head should fit snugly. Be careful as the screw will become hot as you file it.
Test fit the screws into the new strap pins, they should go in smoothly and the important thing is that the head sits deep enough.
Now test fit the locking mechanism onto the strap pin (with the screw installed), check that the catch drops down low enough. If it doesn’t lock down properly, you have some more work to do.
With this new whopper of a screw we’ll need to make the hole larger, so mark out the depth of the screw onto your 3.5mm drill bit and drill it out; 3.5mm is a good match for the screw that’s 4mm - too small and the screw may grip so much it can shear off… then you’re in trouble!
One of our favourite tricks is to use candle wax (or a bar of soap) to lubricate the threads so that as you screw it in, it won’t harm the timber.
Put on the felt washer and then rub the threads of your screw/pin creation on it.
Using your PH2 screwdriver, screw in the strap pin. We like to use a screwdriver and not a drill driver, it’s too easy to overdo it and cause damage.
With an old school screwdriver you can feel when to stop. Blow off the excess wax - don’t be tempted to wipe it as it will smear onto the paint job!
With the guitar prepped it’s time for the other half of the equation - the catches that go on the strap itself.
This is the order that they should be attached: catch, strap, washer, nut. We’ve seen them installed wrong many times!
Push the catch through the eyelet in the strap. On newer straps this can be a challenge!
Fit the washer and the nut, being very careful not to cross thread the nut. If it’s being stubborn, put the U-shaped part of the catch in a soft-jawed vice and push downward with the washer.
With both your lovely straplocks on, the guitar has a new quality. Metal straplocks can create some noise sometimes even through the amp!
Lessen this creaking by using some wax on the buttons! Once done, those beefy screws will hold as well as the lockers themselves!