Photo 10a

The draftsman’s duster. Horsehair. It’s all about horsehair. Okay, let me explain: You know how dust and skin debris collects under the strings around the pickups and at the headstock, and drifts into the nooks and crannies at the bridge and tailpiece?

If you’ve tried to clean this off with faux-feather dusters or Swiffer cloths, you’ve probably been dismayed by how these synthetic materials seem to simply redistribute most of the schmutz and create static electricity that attracts even more dust. We need to turn to the art world for a solution … the draftsman’s duster (Photo 10a).

If you carry spare strings in your instrument gig bag or gear bag, they risk getting mashed and mauled by your guitar, pedals, or other gear.

Long ago, illustrators figured out that horsehair had the perfect balance of stiffness and flexibility to remove eraser crumbs and chalk and pencil dust without smearing or smudging their work. Who knew that this is also the perfect tool for fastidious guitarists?

Check it out: The durable bristles are long enough to reach down through the strings to the body—even on an archtop. They’re soft enough not to scratch the finish, yet have enough inherent springiness to knock away any loose debris with a flick of the wrist. Best of all, horsehair doesn’t create static electricity.

Photo 10b

The draftsman’s duster is perfect for cleaning off amp controls (Photo 10b), stompboxes and pedalboards, rackmount gear, mixer pots and faders, monitor speakers, mic stands, instrument cases, gig bags—basically all the gear you own. Do you have a keyboard or piano? Those bristles will reach down between the keys to brush out built-up crud. The Alvin Draftsman’s Duster #2342 shown here costs less than $8 and makes it easy to keep your equipment shipshape.

The chopstick probe. And speaking of shipshape gear, sometimes cleaning your guitar requires more than a good dusting, like when you need to scrape hardened sweat and dirt from frets, bridge hardware, and pickup screws and pole pieces. You don’t want to use a metal tool for this—it will do more damage than good. My search for a safe scraping tool first brought me to bamboo kabob skewers, but the ones I tried were so thin they’d bend or break under moderate pressure.

Photo 11a

Then I discovered you can put a sharp point on a bamboo chopstick with a pencil sharpener (Photo 11a). Now we’re talkin’! Here’s a tool that’s stout enough to use as a scraper, yet soft enough that it won’t gouge the fretboard or scratch metal hardware.

Photo 11b

To remove gunk from around frets, apply a drop of lemon oil to a Q-tip, moisten the hardened dirt, then gently work the sharpened chopstick in and around the fret (Photo 11b). To clean and protect metal parts, use a similar technique, but treat your Q-tip with WD-40 (Photo 11c).

Photo 11c

Spare-string vault. Of course you bring spare strings to a gig—that’s a no-brainer. But as you may have discovered the hard way, even the slightest kink on a new string can render it unusable—it messes up the intonation and feels funky between your fingers and frets. If you carry spare strings in your gig or gear bags, they risk getting mashed and mauled by your guitar, pedals, or other equipment. The soft plastic string pouch just doesn’t offer sufficient protection against heavier items.

Photo 12a

There’s a simple fix: Find an unused DVD case. Remove the product-info wrap from your spare strings and then place the strings, still in their plastic pouch, inside the middle of the case. Center the pouch over the spindle—this will hold it firmly inside the case without touching the strings themselves. Most cases have two little clips, which will each hold a spare flatpick (Photo 12a). Slip the product-info wrap into the DVD case’s exterior sleeve (Photo 12b) and shazam—you can head to the gig knowing your strings are protected in their own lightweight, yet sturdy vault.

Photo 12b

Thinking sideways. All right! We’ve covered a dozen hacks, but there must be hundreds more. If you have favorite tips and tricks, please take a moment to share them with the PG community. We’re all ears.