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Chatter: Nicky Garratt - The Working Grunt

April 16, 2013
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Savvy Strap Lock Modifications

“HEY GREG, LET ME see your tuner will you?” Bang!

Yep. The old slip of the guitar from its strap, followed by the headstock hitting the stage catastrophically hard. One minute you’re strapped into a vintage Les Paul goldtop, and the next instant, it’s an electronically festooned piece of driftwood. (The silver lining might be its increased value for parts on eBay, but that’s beside the point.) And, trust me, nothing deflates those dramatic “monitor leaps” like scrambling to re-attach your guitar strap.

As I’m not known for tender care of my gigging instruments (in my defense, those guitars were, um, working girls, your honor), I’ve used heavy-duty strap-locking systems for decades. A good number of such systems are on offer these days—from commercial, brand name models to the red washers off older style Grolsch beer bottles that many European guitarists swear by. But not all strap-locking systems can handle road rigors without a few simple modifications. Here are some gig-tested methods I’ve found to keep your guitar securely strapped on.

 
Fender neck-mounting screws. Longer is better.
BOLT-ON

Low-fi scenesters should consider permanently bolting the strap to their pawnshop guitars using a simple washer under the strap button. I mean, you take your guitar in a gig bag anyway, so what the hell?

WASHER MANEUVERS

One issue with locking systems can be the pull-through. The business end of the strap is leather, fake leather, cloth, or occasionally nylon, and sometimes the strap-button hole won’t accommodate the girth of this type of system—it will pucker and prevent a flush-fitting washer. You can widen the hole a little, or choose a strap that accommodates whatever system you are using. (I wonder why the leading strap-lock makers don’t introduce a line of straps with the locks indelibly attached?) In any case, the first job is to immediately replace the small factory washer with an oversized, steel hardware-store version. Remember to check that the position of the strap button on the guitar doesn’t restrict the size of the washer. On some models, the strap button is positioned too close to the neck to go very large.

A BETTER ANCHOR

The next thing to consider is the screw that attaches the strap button to the guitar. I’ve found that most screws included with the strap-lock replacement button are wholly inadequate, being both too short and too brittle. Many years ago, an exasperated roadie fixed this problem for me. He was constantly rescuing me while I balanced precariously, foot on the monitor, after a strap-button screw had pulled out from the wood. He replaced all such screws on my guitars with Fender neck-mounting screws.
 
Pop open an old-style Grolsch beer, and you not only have a delightful beverage, but the red cap ring also makes for an excellent DIY strap-lock washer.
These screws are 4cm long, and very strong. You may need to grind down the screw head so it embeds fully, but I’ve found that a friendly locksmith will do a few for you for the price of cutting a key.

Now, with these industrial strength modifications, you’re a veritable Pete Townsend (but with a safety net).

Nicky Garratt is the former guitarist for the UK Subs, founder of the New Red Archives label, a vegetarian chef, and a lecturer on science advocacy topics.

 
It would be a shame to gouge out this Planet Waves Beatles strap, so make sure your strap holes are wide enough to accommodate your chosen locking system.
 
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