Fairbanks Guitars FAQ

Will an acoustic pickup affect the tone of my guitar?

A: No. There are many good choices these days in the world of acoustic pickups and we have installed many of them at one time or another. Fishman, L.R. Baggs and K&K all make quality pickups in various configurations with no adverse effect on the acoustic tone of your guitar. One of our favorites is the Highlander iP-1, which is an under-saddle pickup with excellent tonal reproduction. It's the pickup of choice for Catfish Keith.

Can I order directly from you or do I need to find a dealer?

A: You can order however you like. If you find a dealer who has a guitar that seems perfect for you, then instant gratification is yours! If you'd like to work with us to develop a guitar to your particular specifications, it will take a little longer but it will be one of a kind. Some folks like to customize and order with the professional assistance of a dealer. That works, too. You can find a list of our dealers [here].

Why do you use a modern, two-way adjustable trussrod, rather than a single-action rod?

A: Vintage-correct single-action compression rods are simply a pain in the neck. There is just too much stress placed on the threads of the rod when neck adjustments need to made, and we've encountered many stripped and broken rods come through the shop. A double-action rod requires less torque to adjust and places less stress on the wood above and below its channel within the neck. Additionally, 2-way rods have the ability to adjust both upbow AND backbow issues. This is one instance in which traditional methods fall short of todays technology.

I've seen the term 'self-bound fingerboard' in your spec lists. What is this?

A: 'Self-bound' refers to a fingerboard that appears to be unbound but really is, using the same wood as the fingerboard itself. The fret ends are not visible, just like those of a fingerboard bound with ivoroid or maple. This is a personal preference, really. We don't consider visible fret ends on the fingerboard's edge, all too ready to start poking out if the board shrinks a bit, a desirable thing. With the correct tool, re-frets are no more trouble than any other re-fret.

What kind of adjustment or repair work can I do myself on my Fairbanks?

A: We don't suggest you do anything major as you may void the warranty, but seasonal adjustments to the trussrod and saddle can be done carefully. The trussrod access hole is located at the headstock and adjustable with a long-shanked 9/64" hex wrench. Turning the nut clockwise will bend the neck back, lowering the action, or height of the strings above the fingerboard. Turning it counterclockwise will do the opposite. You can also have a second, higher saddle made for the drier months, when the top tends to shrink and sink, making string buzz a potential problem. If you have persistent problems with action height, it would be a good idea to have a professional repairperson take a look or, if you like, call us directly. Occasionally, solutions are elusive. Please remember that any damage caused by cranking the trussrod willy nilly voids the warranty.

I feel that a vintage repro just doesn't look right without a cut-through saddle. Are there advantages or disadvantages to this type of saddle as opposed to a drop-in saddle?

A: There are three advantages to a drop-in saddle: First, it is very easy to lower its height by simply taking material off the bottom of the saddle. To raise it again, a shim made of bone or other hard material can simply be placed in the slot. Second, the channel that is cut for a drop-in does not extend into the wings of the bridge, eliminating the possibility of a split developing in front of the saddle, at which point you'd have to replace the entire bridge. This is a concern in theory, but our through-saddle slots are slightly more shallow than our drop-in saddle slots, which greatly reduces the possibility of this problem. And, third, piezo pickups, which lie under the saddle, are impossible to install on guitars with a cut-through saddle.  All this said, a long saddle on a vintage-styled guitar is just the look some players want, and we're more than happy to accommodate them.

What gauge strings do you recommend?

A: Our guitars are made to respond well with light gauge strings, and this is the gauge we recommend. However, if you're used to mediums and want to give them a try, we can't stop you. You will need to keep an eye on the back of the bridge, though, and if you see any sudden changes or excessive bellying, remove them and put lights back on. Heavier strings will also require a trussrod adjustment to correct for increased relief. Our customers who use mediums on a regular basis report wonderful results and have encountered no structural issues, but this is not guaranteed. 

Is it necessary to humidify my guitar in the winter?

A: Yes! We build our guitars at a relative humidity of 40-50 percent at 70 degrees. For the first few years of a guitar's life, it's a good idea not to let its environment's humidity drop below 30 percent. This can be accomplished easily be installing any type of sound hole humidifier, checking it often and keeping it moist. Another solution is to dedicate a room in your house and place a humidifier there, keeping the levels around 40 percent. Remember that any damage caused by the weather is not under warranty.

When I look at the top closely and run my fingers across the grain, I can feel the grain lines prominently. Is this normal?

A: Yes. This is a characteristic of a thin nitro finish, and you wouldn't want it any other way. Some major manufacturers apply finish to their guitars without regard to how it will affect tone, aiming solely for that glassy-smooth surface that catches the eye. If a finish is thin enough to avoid hindering vibration, it will also move with the wood and soon sink into grain lines, creating that ribbed appearance. This will be more apparent in the drier months, when the plates slightly shrink.

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