Many guitar and bass companies skimp on the strap buttons on their instruments.
G&L, Music Man have excellent strap buttons stock. both feature wide tops that can be a bit of a pain when initially installing your favorite strap, but that minor inconvenience is what insures your instrument will not easily free itself from said strap.
For most other companies the strap button is an afterthought; a cheap, tiny, weaker than plastic pot-metal alloy. If you have invested more than $20 on an instrument, you should consider replacing those buttons-- and most who do choose strap locks.
Today, there are many different versions of strap locks on the market, but there are two companies that stand out, and are very popular: Schaller and Dunlop.
Schaller Vs. Dunlop
|Schaller's new "S"-type locks|
Dunlop approaches things much differently. While the company has offered different interpretations of its strap lock design, the most common is the "Dual Design" which functions both as a locking unit, or as a standard, wide top strap button. The user has the ability to use any strap without or without the locking device, AND the lock can be used without even being attached to the strap, which is how I often use them.
Which One and Why?
|Dunlop's "Dual-Design" locks|
Having used both systems over the years, the Dunlops are my favorite. They are simple to use and as mentioned, can be used without the locking unit when needed. However, the two companies use different sized screws to mount to the instrument-- this can be a serious pain in one's posterior!
|(L-R) Dunlop, G&L/MusicMan, Fender|
Sometimes you will get lucky and find that the stock buttons were secured with a narrow-shanked screw, smaller than that provided with your new strap locks. If so, all you have to do is remove the old and replace with the new buttons via their larger screws.
Inevitably there will be times when the hole left behind from the stock screws is too large for the new buttons. It may also be that you find yourself with a guitar where the buttons have been yanked from the body, and you need to repair the stripped out hole.
Two Primary Methods
1. Toothpicks. This is the go-to method for a lot of people who want the cheapest, easiest solution possible, or for those without woodworking experience. The toothpicks fill the void and provide the desired screw something to bite into. On occasion people use glue with the toothpicks. This method works, and is a useful, temporary fix.
|$0.75 four-foot long dowel|
- Step 1. Determine the size of the hole and source a corresponding sized dowel (I got mine from Lowe's for $0.75). In some cases it may be necessary to drill out the existing hole in order to create a specific size (usually when the original hole was damaged).
- Step 2. Add a woodworking glue ("Titebond II" is my favorite) and the dowel. Allow 30-min to dry. Note: wood dowels tend to slightly vary in size. This required a little sanding for proper fit.
- Step 3. Trim the dowel flush to the body.
Here you see I used a razor blade; no special tools needed. However, if you have access to one, a Japanese pull saw will save you the trouble of sanding flush any portion of the dowel that isn't flush. Again though, the job can be done with a simple razorblades and a measure of patience.
-Step 4. With a steady hand, drill a pilot hole into the newly installed dowel. The hole should be slightly narrower than the diameter of the screw you will be using. Now you simply screw in the new strap pin. That's all there is to it!
- Step 5. Optional. To provide protection between the wood body & the metal strap pin, I cut a small circle of felt to fit in-between. This little piece of material also fills the gap, hiding the fact that the wide base of the new strap button overhangs the body slightly. The 8x10-inch section of felt cost just over one dollar from our local craft store-- which also sells wooden dowels(!) so I could have saved myself a trip to the hardware store had I gone here first. And being that you only need a small section of the material, you have a lot of room for trial and error.
-Step 6. Enjoy! Spending the extra time and effort will give you a sense of accomplishment that far exceeds the toothpick method. And you have the added assurance that the button is as secure-- or more so-- than it was when the instrument first left the factory.
Until next time...
....stay tuned and in tune!