Installing Guitar Strap Buttons

Installing a strap button on a guitar or other instrument is by no means rocket science but it pays to be cautious and mindful of what you're doing. This article will detail the way I do it, the tools I use and tips for proper installation. If you could see what I have you would understand how something so simply can go wrong.

What You Need:

I take a few steps that some may consider needless but do so to insure a perfect outcome every time. While my technique may be overkill for some, others will appreciate my attention to detail and assumption that caution is never a waste of time. There's something about drilling a tiny hole in a $10K guitar that can make even an avid woodworker squirm.

Choose The Position

If you don't get this right it's all downhill from here. When choosing the spot to mount a button it must pass a few simple test. Obviously not all steps pertain to all instruments as there would be a difference between mounting a strap button on a Fender Strat horn and on an Gibson ES-335 heel.

Mark The Spot

Once you are sure about its position you can mark the spot with an awl. This indentation helps to seat the drill bit and keep it from wandering.

Bevel The Finish

This will not apply to all finishes but there are some that are very susceptible to chipping. Lightly beveling the edge of the entrance hole with a counter-sink can help prevent chips. Again ...beveling the finish, not counter-sinking the hole!

Drill The Hole

Tapered drill bit with
tape to mark depth

As I mentioned previously, I use a tapered drill bit, this ensures that the screw has gripping power all the way to the tip. This is a pretty important screw and we want to make sure it's going to hold for years...oops, forever!

In order to determine the depth of the hole you will drill, place the screw on the strap button. Measure the protruding screw and with a piece of masking tape, transfer that measurement to your drill bit.

A Touch Of Wax

When installing screws for the first time I often choose to place a bit of hard beeswax on the screw to cut back on friction. Once a screw is lubricated very lightly with wax it should go in firmly but not so forcefully you risk cracking the wood. That is an even greater concern when drilling into the heel cap!

Common Problems

I have a flare for the dramatic huh? When you have seen all of these scenarios, as I have, then you realize that people have and will make all of these mistakes.

Loose Strap Buttons

If a strap button is very loose, so much so that the screw spins freely and the button can be pulled out by hand, it is best to repair the hole by plugging it and re-drilling. I use a small dowel, or a toothpick, if it is large enough.

Should I glue the button in the hole? That would be a rather emphatic no!
Glued in screws are often broken when someone attempts to re-tighten them.

Titebond is best for gluing dowels/plugs as Superglue would ooze out of the hole, causing damage to the finish. Once the glue dries I level the dowel with the finish and drill it for a new strap button screw. Keeping the dowel to the smallest size necessary means it will be invisible when the strap button is installed.

Only A Little Loose

When a screw still has gripping power but still will not snug up, we can sometimes reinforce the hole instead of plugging it.

I have to say this not glue the screw in the hole!

I take medium viscosity superglue and coat the walls of the screw hole in order to build them up slightly, thereby decreasing the actual size of the hole and hardening the walls. More than one thin coat may be necessary, however, before installing the screw the glue must be dry!

If the coated hole is now too small it should be drilled as normal.

Strap Locks

Although manufacturers make different locking mechanisms, strap locks attach to your strap and then lock to the strap to the button on the guitar.

Strap lock kits come with both the lock which attaches to your strap and the button that is mounted to the guitar. Avoid using buttons not made specifically for the strap locks you are installing.

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