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more... GuitarsGearDIYHow-TosGuitar & Bass ModsApril 2012

DIY: How to Intonate a Flattop Guitar

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DIY: How to Intonate a Flattop Guitar

Tools and Materials You Need for this Intonation Project

• Strobe tuner
• String action gauge
• Fretboard radius gauges
• Truss rod wrench
• Small screwdriver for truss rod cover
• Bone saddle blank
• 14" radius block
• Self-adhesive 80-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpaper
• Ultra-fine #0000 steel wool
• Miniature carbide files
• Gauged nut slotting files
• Mechanical pencil
• Vise
• Low-tack painter’s masking tape
• String winder and cutter
• Fresh strings
• Small towel or protective cloth
• Lemon oil or commercial fretboard lubricant

Recently, a storied late-’90s Taylor 914 showed up at my shop. The first time I worked on this guitar was back in the ’90s after I moved my repair operation to Nashville’s Music Row. At the time it was built, this was one of Taylor’s premium Grand Auditorium models.

This particular 914 has a fascinating history. It belongs to one of my first customers, Nathan Paul Chapman, who is a two-time Grammy-winning producer and guitarist. Chapman has produced records for many top artists, including Taylor Swift, Lionel Richie, Shania Twain, Sara Evans, The Band Perry, and the Invite. This was Nathan’s first “real” acoustic guitar, and he used it as his workhorse for Taylor Swift’s 2006 multi-platinum, self-titled debut. Not on a few songs, but throughout the entire album.

Over the years, this 914 has logged many miles and been featured on countless sessions, and generally has had the living daylights played out of it. When Chapman noticed the guitar wasn’t performing as well as it once did, he brought it in to see if we could coax it back into tip-top shape. To have the guitar return to my bench after over a decade was cool, but I knew it would need some work.

Getting the Lay of the Land
Before I do anything, I ask my clients several important questions to help me dial in the guitar to the player. Since technique differs from one guitarist to another, this background information is crucial for properly setting up a guitar after I’ve completed any repairs or modifications.

These are the questions I ask: What tuning do you use? Do you use a flatpick? If so, what size and thickness? How hard do you pick and strum the guitar, and do you play with a light, medium, or heavy fretting-hand touch? If you play fingerstyle, do you attack the strings with your nails, fingerpicks, or fingertips? What styles of music do you play? What gauge strings do you use? Do you use a capo?

Though I was familiar with Chapman’s playing, I ran these questions by him to be sure I understood how he planned to use this 914. Armed with the information he gave me, I was ready to start work on the guitar.

The Video
Watch John and Andy take the 914 through the entire process on video below, or click to the next page for detailed step-by-step instructions and photos.

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