Welcome back to the second part of this article about making your guitar lighter.
In case you missed part 1 you can find it here: 15 Creative Ways to a Lighter Guitar – Part 1
This time we are going to take a look at a few more truly creative (and perhaps more involved) ways to get those precious pounds off your back.
Here we go!
Pickups are another component of electric guitars whose weight may very well surprise you if you’ve never removed or held them. Basically, a pickup is made from metal wire wrapped around metal “poles”.
In guitars such as Stratocasters which have three pickups, the pickups can add significant weight to the guitar (even over a pound!).
Lace Music makes a different “species” of pickup that weighs about one-third the weight of traditional pickups. So there are lighter ones out there.
For a slightly different approach, if you find yourself only using only one pickup most of the time (such as only the bridge or only the neck pickup) consider removing it completely! You’re guitar will actually sound better as a result because there will be less magnetic pull on the strings from the pickups which allows them to vibrate more freely.
9. Removing body wood
Gasp! Removing body wood! Ok, if you’re looking to sell your guitar in the future, this one may not be for you. But if not, relax, there’s really nothing to it. Just grab a file and some sandpaper and go to town! You can even bring out the a saw for large chunks if you’re brave enough.
A great area to remove body wood on bolt-on guitars is at the heel. Not only does this make the guitar lighter, it allows easier access to the upper frets. Look around on your guitar body and ask yourself “Hmm, what DON’T I need.” This is also a great opportunity to customize your guitar’s body shape and exercise some creativity.
10. Making the neck thinner
If you have a weak stomach, you might want to look away. Another method of weight reduction is making the neck thinner. The easiest way to do this is to get a small flat block and stick some sandpaper to it.
Sand up and down the length of the guitar neck directly in the center until you’ve created a flat spot about 5/8” wide. Not only does the flat spot allow you to have more leverage when playing, it gets your hand closer to the fretboard which makes your fingers “feel” more accurate.
I do this with all guitars that I play, and I really don’t enjoy playing guitars anymore that don’t have the flat spot!
11. Removing unnecessary headstock wood
This method may be a little less drastic than removing body wood, but is also a great opportunity to save some significant weight while exercising your creative side.
With guitars that have all the tuners on the same side of the headstock, such as Fender guitars, much of the headstock wood below the tuners can be removed with no ill-effects. Here’s a chance to create your own custom headstock.
As an added benefit, less headstock weight will make the guitar “feel” much lighter and easier to maneuver, simply because the guitar neck acts as a “lever” pulling down on you towards the floor. With less headstock weight, the guitar’s neck will have less “leverage” on you :).
12. Chambered guitar
I’ll admit this method may not be the quickest weight reduction method, but if you are into customizing your guitars here is another fantastic opportunity to save your shoulder AND improve your sound.
With most Fender style guitars you can buy replacement bodies from various vendors on the internet such as Warmoth, Mighty Mite, Allparts, USA Custom Guitars, etc. You can buy what are called “chambered” versions of these bodies.
Chambered bodies have small “chambers” throughout the inside of the guitar to reduce weight, but on the outside, the guitar body looks normal. Chambering can reduce the weight of a guitar body by almost half while making the guitar acoustically louder and adding a more “open” hollow-body type sound!
I personally use and prefer chambered bodies myself for both the weight and sonic benefits
13. Removing the pickguard
Removing the pickguard may be for those who care more about weight savings than looks, but nevertheless, it is another component that isn’t really a necessity.
Many pickguards have a metal backing which can make them surprisingly hefty for a seemingly thin piece of plastic. Take it off and screw the pickups directly to the body wood. Many argue that “direct mounted pickups” also improve the sound of the guitar.
14. Single truss rod
For those who don’t know, a truss rod is a steel (usually) rod located inside the guitar’s neck that is used for adjusting the “bow” of the neck due to the tension from the strings. Many newer guitars are utilizing what are called “double expanding truss rods”.
Basically, instead of one rod, the double rods have two steel rods, which nearly doubles the weight. If your guitar has a double truss rod, consider opting for a new guitar neck that has a single rod.
Replacement necks can be easily found for Fender style guitars. As an additional advantage, you will be able to choose your neck woods, fret size, and headstock shape for further optimization and customization.
15. Removing polyurethane finish
Last but not least is perhaps the most extreme and/or difficult method of removing weight from a guitar, but I have seen it done multiple times. Most new guitars (if they are shiny) utilize a thick polyurethane finish on the body.
Many “purists” dislike “poly” finishes because they don’t allow the guitar to “breathe” and therefore dampen the sound of the guitar slightly. It also just so happens that removing this finish will also net you a few extra ounces in weight loss.
The finish may be removed by either sanding or – possibly the more common method – a heat gun and a scraper. Depending on whether or not you value your time over your money, a better solution to this problem may be to simply buy a new, unfinished body like mentioned above.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and have learned one or two actionable items that you can use to lighten your own load. In case you missed it, check out 15 Creative Ways to a Lighter Guitar – Part 1.
Can you think of other methods? What else has worked for you? I want to hear your questions and comments. Tell me what you think!