What to do when a Luthier isn't an option?

My Fender Stratocaster, and my Epiphone, both have issues and I haven’t been able to find a luthier in Thailand. I’ve looked. The word doesn’t exist in the Thai language as far as I can tell. I’ve tried searching for a luthier online using both English and Thai languages. Nada. I’ve taken the guitar to the shop I purchased it from, as well as to other shops claiming to be able to setup and repair guitars. They take the guitar, return it to me, charge me money, but nothing is done that I can tell. I always get it back in the same condition that I gave it to them. Very frustrating.

So what can you do when you’ve no access to someone qualified to fix guitars when you need your guitars properly set up and fixed? In a perfect world I’d take the guitar to a qualified luthier and have them teach me the 90% of what I should be able to do on my own and purchase the tools to do it. But? There’s no one I can find in Thailand to either setup/fix my guitars or teach me.
Again - very frustration.

Also, if anyone out there is a world traveler in music circles and knows anyone in Thailand who is a luthier - please let me know! Thanks!

Hi there,

Well, it all depends on what sort of a fix your guitars need. There are relatively easy things like nut/saddle adjustments that a lot of folks have learned to do for themselves. But there are more complicated issues like a twisted neck or other, more general, structural problems that are better left to professionals.

Justin did a series of videos with luthier Charlie Chandler on an electric …


Here’s the issue with my Epiphone.

WIth the guitar in tune and correctly intonated at the 12th fret, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th frets are significantly sharp. Significantly enough to affect open chords using the 6th E string. Just those frets on that string. I’m at a loss.

The Fender Strat is a different animal and I don’t know if what I’m experiencing are features or problems.
For example, one problem is that the 1st and 6th strings seem to slip off the edge of the guitar at times when fingered. Odd as it’s not a problem with the Epiphone. It’s makes bending a rather interesting experience.
Just as with the Epiphone, with the 6th string intonated correctly at the 12th fret, the first 3 frets are significantly sharp. (Think of the odds of buying two guitars and having the same problem?)
Then I have bad fret buzz on the 5th string / 7th fret. Everything else around it is fine - no buzz.
Which totally sucks for a guitar that cost me almost $1000 USD here in Thailand. Here in Thailand, just add 20% to the price of the guitar ya’ll play in the West. Tariffs are horrid here. It spends a lot of time in its case. I hate playing an expensive guitar that doesn’t sound good.

At this point I’ll have to just accept it and play with what I have, with the problems that are present as I don’t see another option. But I’m open to suggestions. And again - if someone here is worldly enough to know a luthier in Thailand, please drop me their name and how to contact them.

There are a few possible explanations.
1] You’re pressing too hard - exacerbated if you have jumbo frets…
2] Your nut slots have been left high from the factory meaning they need to be filed down a small amount using specialist tools (not expensive).

You can immediately get around the 2nd problem by tuning your entire guitar down a semitone and using a capo at fret 1.
If the nut slots are high you have just taken it out of the equation.
If you’re still getting sharp notes then train your fingers to only press as hard as is needed to get the notes.

Just one fret buzzes with one string?
A guitar tech might analyse that easily to determine the cause - not so easy remotely. Given it is a Strat, raise that string’s saddle a small amount using the two grub screws that adjust the saddle height. Try 1/4 of a turn at first. Loosen the string, turn the screws, re-tune.


I’ll give those suggestions a try.

I agree with Richard. Try the capo and if it resolves the problem you need to fix the nut.

The nut is one of those special parts of the guitar. You could be able to fix it, the idea isn’t hard, but as beginner, it can be easy to mess up. Nuts are cheap, and you could purchase some extras to practice on, but generally, your issue would be easiest addressed by someone with experience.

Maybe there is a luthier forum where you could inquire about Thai luthiers?

Other thoughts. As Richard says, a common problem is pressing too hard and pulling the note sharp. Adjust your pressure to the lightest you can still ring clear. I have put my clip on tuner on to see where the note is in tune as well.

If the fret is the problem, I don’t know how easy it would be to fix. You could look to see how symmetric the crown of the fret is. If it is lopsided maybe that screws up the intonation. Then you need to re-crown those frets.

By nature of the instrument, not all the frets can be perfectly intonated anyway (at least that is my understanding) I imagine if you are really sensitive to this slight variation in tone, it could be maddening. Fortunately I am pretty tone deaf, so I don’t care.

How old is the guitar? Can you return it to the manufacturer?

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Hi Daniel,

On my Epiphone, the neck is annoyingly flexible. It is a set neck, so I knew it wasn’t just screws. I had to learn not to flex the neck when holding my chord. This means NOT pushing or pulling on the neck with my arm - just squeeze with fingers and try to keep other pressure neutral.

String gauge made a little difference but I knew I wasn’t bending strings out of tune by fretting because even the open strings sounded out of tune.

Hey Daniel,

I had a problem with the high E string slipping off of the fretboard on my Squire Strat & found this in one of Phillip McKnight’s videos on YouTube: what to do if the e string slips of of my stratocaster neck - Google Search

It solved a couple of problems I had with my Strat!
Hope it helps!



So this is likely a high spot on that fret (8th)

You need a fret rocker to check


Or something like this

The frets , when the fretboard is flat ( no relief ) should all be level.

I would also get a measuring gauge and check the action etc, and possibly some Feeler Gauges so you can check and set the relief and string height correctly


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Thanks. Already have the feeler gauges and string action gauge, various allen wrenchs, and small Philips and flat screwdrivers. No fret rocker. May be my next investment.

Thanks for the reply. Personally I haven’t noted any excessive flexibility in the neck.
Maybe there is variability in the models. This is a Epiphone Les Paul Special VE. I’d also bet that there is a 50-50 chance that this is a knock-off and not actually authentic.

But, nope, haven’t really noticed that issue.

A fret rocker is just an expensive piece of metal cut so there are flat surfaces long enough to span 3 and only 3 frets anywhere on the fretboard.

I did an entire re-fret in an electric guitar using Allen wrenches of various lengths as a fret rocker.

You may be able to use the short edge of your string depth gauge. Or a credit card. Whatever it is, it just has to span 3 and only 3 frets in the area of the fretboard you are looking at (and be straight) .


@Richard_close2u @Jamolay

You may be on to part of the problems in regards to string pressure. I’ve played with different fretting pressure and - yeah - I can pull the notes sharp. Pressure may have something to do with it.

Now on to even more frustration. I’m beyond frustrated.

I have hooked this guitar to four different tuners. A Boss TU-1, Boss TU-2, an Aroma AT-101, and the built-in tuner in my Mustang LT-25 amp. Open string tuning on the 6th string and they are all close. Then I started down the frets.

I literally had one tuner showing flats, one showing sharps, and the one showing the tuning to be spot on.

Ok. I haven’t practiced in two days because I’ve been so focused (and frustrated) about this gear issue. If I continue it will be three day without practice. That ain’t happening. If it’s my karma to play on gear that I can’t set up? So be it.
So, I’m tossing the tuners in a drawer except for one, tuning the guitar, and the **** with it all.

My goal is to play, learn, and get more proficient at guitar. If I can’t get the guitar set up???. My goal is not to have to fight the oddities of the hardware and gear without the help of a breathing human who can assist me. And here in Thailand I don’t have a breathing technician capable of helping me. Tis the way of it. I’ll rack it up to karma.

I’m done with this - let the (picks, plenums, tuners) and chips fall where they may.

I’m off to practice. Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

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One last thing and I’m outta here. Does this look normal. The 6th string doesn’t cover the topmost pickup?

Sure absolutely true, theres no point buying a simple tool if you already have something that will work just as well.

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Were the guitar’s plane and your camera fully parallel when you took this photo? To me, the guitar seems a bit tilted to the side, but it might be just me. However, I’d check the pickup heights as they seem to be a bit high and imply a big action as well. I also have a Strat and the neck and middle pickups are almost (I mean really almost) flush with the surface of the pickguard.

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It doesn’t look off far enough to worry. I think there is a magnetic dead spot in the center of the magnetic pole piece anyway. The strings are further apart near the bridge than the nut, so you are seeing this angle.

As far as the height, my single coils are about the same height as the surface of the fretboard (not the frets). Use that for reference. Increasing the distance will reduce the voltage level out of the guitar. Get too close and the magnetic field will start to influence the strings more and it will sound out of tune and you will lose sustain a little.


Nice guitar Michael @sequences ! Is it an Ibanez S series?
I’ll slightly disagree with your suggestion about pickup height. You’re right that if they’re close to the strings they can pull them down.
However, using the height of those on your guitar as reference might not be ideal because it assumes the other pickups will have equally strong magnetic field.

Hi Daniel @LamphunLamyai! I don’t think the tuners are the issue. I’m guessing the open strings, all tuners show the same note exactly. So, I’d say they are calibrated correctly. I’d make sure I’m fretting the notes exactly on the same spot every time. How you fret a note also has am impact on the intonation. A good way to check is by comparing the open string with the natural harmonic at the 12th fret and the fretted note at the 12th fret.

That’s not an intonation problem. Intonation affects things past the 12th fret. As has been mentioned in the comments already, check where you fret the notes and how hard. If that’s checked, then check the nut by fretting at the 3rd fret and check the gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the 1st fret. The string should almost be touching the fret.

Do you hear the buzz unplugged or it comes through the amp? If you don’t hear it through the amp, I’d say it’s fine. My guitars buzz too when unplugged but it doesn’t go through the amp so I don’t need to raise the action.


Hi @Lefteris

yes, it is Ibanez SEW761. Super thin neck and body. The weight is really nice. :slight_smile: I like the way blues sounds on it, either picked or fingerstyle, with or without distortion. It just sounds nice.
See my personal info page for links:

I kind of agree with your comment about the strength of the magnets, but I also think that pickup magnets are not that different. I haven’t learned the magnetics however and I could well be guessing wrong. I do notice that on my three guitars, the pickup pole pieces are at or just slightly below the fretboard height. If you know about the magnetics, please set me right - I’m interested in info on pickup design but most folks online seem to be repeating something they heard without actually knowing.