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Installing a Strap Button on a Hollow or Semi-hollow Guitar

I can't be the only person that hates having the strap button on the neck heel on hollow and semi-hollow guitars like ES-335s.  The guitar just doesn't hang right.  The upper bout is a much better place.  The guitar is much more balanced when the strap is attached to the upper bout.  The problem is that the wood in that area is at best 3/16" thick.  It might hold a screw, but if it doesn't... well, you're screwed.  It could make quite a mess.

But it can be done, and here is how you do it.  You'll need a phillips screwdriver, a drill and a couple of small bits, some masking tape, some strong wire, a place to hang the guitar upside down, and a tube of epoxy.  Not just any epoxy, get some like pictured at the left that has the long, skinny mixing tube.

  • Tape off the area where you want to install the button and mark the center.
  • Using a bit about the size of the end of the mixing tube, drill the hole.
  • Hang the guitar upside down.
  • Prepare the epoxy syringe and mixing tube for use, following the instructions on the epoxy package.
  • Insert the tip of the tube in the hole and eject the epoxy.  For thinline guitars with small, pointy bouts, like the ES-339 pictured, half of the tube may be sufficient.  For thicker or for single cutaway guitars, use the whole tube.
  • Immediately cover the hole with a piece of tape.
  • Allow the epoxy to set according to the instructions while the guitar is hanging upside down.  For 5-minute epoxy, an hour is recommended.
  • Using a drill bit slightly smaller than the strap button screw, drill a hole through the center of the hole that is now filled with epoxy.
  • Install the strap button.

What to do with the hole left where the button used to be?  Well you can leave a button attached there if you have one.  I covered mine by drilling it out and inserting a mother-of-pearl fretboard marker.

While we are on the topic of strap buttons.  It is a good idea to inspect your strap buttons frequently to make sure they are secure.  On softer woods like basswood, pine, and even mahogany, the wood may compress or give way so that the screw becomes loose.  A quick and dirty fix for this is to use a couple of toothpicks and a dab of glue in the hole.  The correct fix is to drill out the holes, dowel them, and re-drill for the button screw. 

If you don't have the tools or courage to tackle a job like this, well, that's why I'm here.