I have this guys bass and he wants a setup but is on a budget and asked me to use the same strings. Haven't had someone ask me to do this yet for a set up. Is there something I should use to clean the strings? Napha? Never Dull?

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I would clean them with the lighter fluid. Some people boil them, but that seems a waste of time.

I've tried the boiled strings a couple of times with guitar strings. They sound "new" for a bit ( hours) then go dead very fast and were much more prone to breakage. Not worth it.

I use denatured alcohol, in a PVC, "bottle", I made for this purpose.  Photo when my camera's battery is recharged.

Hello David.

Of course, the best way to do a setup is with new strings.  I won't setup a guitar without installing new strings. I consider a setup a precision operation.  Used strings are not "precise". They will not compliment your work.

Using the existing strings, to me, is like having new shocks & struts put on a car with a complete computerized alignment and then putting on used tires.

I also understand that not every player 'gets that'.  IF your customer won't spring for a new set...before you 'clean' them, check for flat spots on the bottoms of the strings over each respective fret.  If there's visible wear, you're just spinning your wheels on the setup. This is especially important if your customer uses flat wound strings OR if you're going to be leveling the frets to eliminate divots.

As for the cleaning, if you do it, use naptha.  If there's ANY rust or corrosion on the strings, I'd pass on the job until he can afford a new set of strings. Rust or corrosion are the #1 indicator for needing new strings....right after a broken string (of course).

If you have no choice but to undertake the setup with worn strings; when he/she DOES eventually get new strings , it'll need yet an additional setup.  New strings at the time of the 1st setup is to your customer's financial advantage in the long run. They are also to your advantage as they will showcase your work instead of detracting from or negating its effectiveness.  This is an important step when beginning to build a good reputation, just as you are.

However it ends up, best of luck,


With Paul all the way on this one.

Thanks Paul and everyone else. Good advice. Strings were in decent shape no rust or anything. Naptha worked great! He plays in a Surf Punk band so it makes sense to me why he has this attitude about new strings. I did explain to him why he needs them for the tone and intonation. I discovered during this conversation that he likes the sound of bass strings when they get old. Not sure why but to each their own! Maybe they just have the sound he wants. Thanks for the help again guys!!!


We recently went through this same discussion, new strings required... at our shop and the new strings won.  We won't work on someone's guitar if there is any set-up required without new strings.

I understand that bass strings are more expensive but bass strings also last far longer so there really is no excuse for not using new ones here too.

One thing that I wanted to add is that it is far easier to impress someone on the importance of doing things right including the "value" that our services deliver if one does not cave on what we believe to be important.  I had a client who wanted to tell me how to do my job - notice I said had...  It's not unusual for clients to suggest alternatives to us in how to repair their instruments.  Nothing wrong with this provided that they are correct in their assertions.  One can even learn from one's clients at times too.  I most certainly have.

But something as basic as using old, possibly damaged strings is not negotiable to me either - I'm not going to let the quality of my efforts be dependent on a 2007 set of strings....

Hi David.

I know this project is complete with regard to your customer's expectations, but I'm compelled to add the following suggestion:

If he likes the 'thud' of old strings, you may wish to suggest that he try flatwound strings (the kind that the original surf bands used) or tape wound strings.  Both are much less bright than round-wounds and they are MUCH more forgiving when it comes to chewing-up frets.   He may also want to use his tone control (assuming there's one on his bass or on his amp) to assist him in shaping the thud response of his rig.

Please don't infer this information as "a lecture". As a repairman in the formative years of your career, you ask great questions and it's obvious that you're truly passionate about the craft.  Those 2 elements, in particular, are essential prerequisites to the success you'll surely achieve. (-:   

Now I'd like to ask a favor of you.  Could you explain to this 61 year old curmudgeon the term "surf punk". 

Here's where I get confused: Old school surf music (which is the music style I played/loved when I first took up guitar in 1964) is a pretty structured style and required a certain level of precision to pull it off.  Well.....precision and reverb, tremolo and a vibrato bar (:  Cool shoes and an impossibly skinny tie were also an asset.

To me, The term "punk" brings to mind a general lack of musicianship and is more akin to 'performance art' . You know, the drone of the instruments are more of an audio backdrop to the antics of the performers and their audiences.. All of the "punk" players I have known or seen seem to have little regard for the condition of their instruments or the quality of their [ahem] "musicianship".  "Punks" always struck me as folks who were on stage long before they actually learned how to play their instruments.

Given my age and and my perceived differences of these styles, I can't seem to wrap my head around the marriage of the two.  Can you hip me to the names of some decent surf punk bands so I can expand my musical horizons?  BTW: there is no such thing as 'surf' in the Midwest, so I come by my confessed ignorance honestly.  The only curls we see are from the waves of dust coming off of fields during planting & harvest seasons!!!

Thanks my friend and may you have a great and productive week,

Paul (-:

61 eh.... ;)  I don't know a thing about surf punk but they look like it's a good time....

Just so long as they don't sound like Stevie Nix where you can't understand the words it might be ok.... ;)

Well honestly I don't know any other bands that have the sound. The surf punk thing is how they describe it. Really it is loud punk rock with bass reverby leads that remind me of surf music. Here is a link for you, to their music.


Holiday in Spooksville

The Men From...Beyond

I have never tried surfing the cornfields... have to try it.

Thanks David. I appreciate your taking the time to send me the links (:

It sounds like old school surf music with an "attitude"...... a good attitude. The "16 year old" inside me really enjoys it (:

Surfing cornfields isn't that difficult. worry about land sharks (:  It just takes a while to get used to the dust and dodging the coyotes.....and the occasional rogue tractor.

Thanks again & take care man (:

The problem with boiling strings is that (1) water produces rust and heat speeds the oxidation and (2) high heat will expand the wrappings leading to rougher strings, metal fatigue, and string failure.

However, soaking them in naptha, rubbing them with a coarse cloth, drying them thoroughly, wiping them down with WD-40, and rubbing them dry again will clean and condition them.

If you want to experiment for the empirical knowledge, try soaking them in naptha for an hour, then in very warm (not boiling) tap water for 15 mins, then rubbing them down with dishwashing liquid. Then thoroughly rinse off the soap, wipe off crud with a coarse rag, dry thoroughly with paper towels. Then soak in denatured alcohol for several minutes, dry thoroughly with paper towels and air dry for 30 minutes before wiping down with WD-40 (or Tri-Oil).

The alcohol will combine with residual water molecules and flash off leaving no moisture to start the oxidation process. The oil prevents the steel atoms from forming ferric oxide molecules with oxygen atoms.

I say make the experiment whenever possible.


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