Maintenance Guide


This manual includes useful information for keeping your Ruokangas guitar clean and well adjusted. We have included instructions for the most common adjustments, but left out repairs – fret dressing, nut filing, refretting etc – that require special tools and skills. We advice you to leave such work for a professional repairshop to do.

Notice that this manual includes info of our most common guitar models. Whenever you notice optional procedures (f.ex. stringing up, various types of tuners), see the warranty card specifications sheet for detailed info of your guitar, in case you’re uncertain which instructions to follow.

Your Ruokangas guitar has been fully adjusted at our workshop in Finland prior shipping to our dealer or directly to you, so usually all you need to do to get started, is to pick up the guitar and play! However, our guitars are made of wood, an alive material that may react to changes in humidity and temperature of your environment. In case your guitar needs adjusting, scroll down to see the ‘set-up guide’ section of this manual.

Gotoh_lockStraplocks are a standard feature in all Ruokangas guitars. It is strongly advisable to use them! See the drawing – as installing the lock unit to your strap, remember to tighten the nut well. When attaching the strap to the guitar, simply turn the thumbscrew of the lock unit clockwise, slip the lock in and release the thumbscrew. Repeat the procedure to unlock the strap.

Schaller_lockSome of our guitars have Schaller straplocks. The locking part should be aligned so, that the guitar rests in the “cup” as strapped on. Remember to tighten the nut of the lock unit well. When attaching the strap to the guitar, simply slip the cup to the strap button. To unlock, pull the knob of the lock unit and slip off the cup from the strap button.


R_ClothYour Ruokangas guitar is finished with polyurethane or nitrocellulose lacquer. For light cleaning you can simply wipe the guitar with your Ruokangas microcloth provided with the guitar, or a soft cotton cloth. If the guitar needs more thorough cleaning, the finish can be safely cleaned with commercial guitar polishes available from guitar shops. Look for polish that does not include silicone. Spray polish to your Ruokangas microcloth, wipe on the surface with circular moves and buff to a luster with dry part of the cloth. Guitar polish can be used to clean the pickguard, lacquered maple or birch fretboard and metal parts of your guitar as well. Notice that guitar polish is meant for cleaning the guitar – it does not remove scratches from the finish. Do not use guitar polish for ebony or rosewood fretboard!

OilingFrBRosewood and ebony need to be oiled once or twice a year. Lemon oil works great for this – it can be found at most guitar shops and some regular hardware stores. Look for oil that does not include silicone. Apply oil to a soft paper or piece of cotton cloth and wipe on a generous amount. Wait for awhile (about 1 minute is enough) and wipe off the excess oil with a clean, soft paper or cloth. If your fretboard is very dirty, f.ex. ‘Dunlop Fingerboard Cleaner and Prep No. 01’ works great for melting the dirt off the wood before oiling it.

CleaningUnderStrTo prolong the life of your guitar strings, there are a couple of useful things to learn and get used to. Wash your hands before playing and wipe the strings clean after playing – a clean cotton cloth will do in most cases, especially with Elixir strings. Don’t forget to clean from under the strings also by slipping the cloth between strings and fretboard. Many players prefer to use commercially available string cleaner compounds as well, such as ‘GHS Fast Fret’ or ‘Dunlop Ultraglide String Conditioner’.

CleaningPotsWe use high quality pots and switches, but they will get dirty and wear down eventually. If there are crackling noises as turning the pot or switch, you can clean the part from inside the control cavity with appropriate contact spray available from electronics stores. Look for spray that is specifically made for cleaning pots. Using wrong type of chemical (f.ex. dry electronics spray) will damage the pots! Apply the chemical slightly, then turn the pot back and forth for a few times. If cleaning doesn’t fix the problem, take the guitar to your local pro repair shop.

First of all, we recommend you to change strings to your Ruokangas guitar regularly to maintain the tone, tuning and playability. It’s natural that your guitar needs also adjusting from time to time. When you do a full set-up, follow the precise order described here to achieve the desired result.

If there’s no need to clean or oil the fretboard, you can change the strings one by one. This is especially recommended for guitars equipped with trem to make the tuning up easier. In case you will clean/oil the fretboard, take off all the old strings. If your guitar has a trem, use a piece of folded cardboard to protect the finish behind the bridge before loosening the strings. If your guitar has a locking trem, you need the 3mm hex key provided with the guitar to unlock the nut and to remove the strings from bridge. Loosen the strings from tuners, clip the old strings in half and remove from tuners and bridge.

String Brands
logo_2Ruokangas guitars are stock fitted with high quality Elixir strings, that maintain their tone way longer than regular strings. Elixirs have a special coating on wound strings, that prevents dirt and sweat to penetrate to the string. The plain strings have an anti-rust coating as well. If you decide, however, to change string brand, any good quality strings should work fine in your Ruokangas guitar.

String Gauges
Ruokangas guitars are stock fitted with 010-046 strings, unless you ordered your guitar with a specified set. If you change to heavier gauge, the truss rod may need tightening – and the nut will most likely have to be modified to work smoothly. If you change to lighter gauge, the truss rod may need loosening – and if buzzing noise occurs with open strings, the nut may have to be modified or replaced by a pro repair shop.


Non-locking Gotoh SD91 Kluson Style
NonLockingKlusonThese are the Gotoh ”vintage” style 6-in-line tuners with split string posts. This type of tuner is easy to restring, when you remember a couple of things. Cut the new string to appropriate length to avoid overwinding – but don’t cut it too short – a good rule is, that you measure about 2 times the distance from tuner to another and cut from there. Push the new string to the hole on top of the post and start winding. You’ve done a good job, as the string rolls nicely around the tuner post 2-3 times. Tune up to pitch. Hold the string down at first fret and stretch with the other hand. Tune up again.

Non-locking Gotoh SD90 / SD510 / SE700 / SG381
NonLockingGotohThese instructions work for all non-locking Gotoh tuners with hole in the posts. Insert the string into the tuner post hole. Leave enough slack to wind a few turns of string around the posts. Start winding the tuner counter-clockwise. Tune up the string and cut off the excess length. Hold the string down at first fret and stretch with the other hand. Tune up again.

Locking Gotoh SD91/SD510/SGS510/SGL510
LockingGotohTo remove the old strings – pull string back from tuning gear and wind tuner clockwise until string automatically releases. If the string breaks, use a small screwdriver or coin to unlock. Pull the new string tight through tuner hole, leave no slack. Start winding the tuner counter-clockwise and the tuner will auto- matically pinch and tighten the string. Tune up, cut the excess length off. Hold the string down at first fret and stretch with the other hand. Tune up again.

Locking Schaller M6
LockingSchaller 2To remove the old string, turn the thumbscrew on the back of the tuner counter-clockwise to unlock the string. Aim a new string through the hole in the tuner post – don’t leave any slack, just pull it straight – and lock the thumbscrew tightly by turning it clockwise. Tune up the string, cut the excess length off. Hold the string down at first fret and stretch with the other hand. Tune up again.

Tuner tension
TunerTensionSome of the tuning gears we use have adjustable tension (Gotoh Kluson style 6-in-line and 3+3 tuners can not be adjusted). To tighten the tension, turn the adjustment screw clockwise. Too loose tension may cause the strings to slip out of tune. Set the tension firm. Be careful though – too much tension may cause the tuning gear jam or the tuning knob to break.

TrussrodReliefNow you have new strings fitted in and tuned up. Next, let’s check the neck relief. Hold the guitar in playing position. Simultaneously fret the low-E string on the 1st and last fret (right hand little finger). Check the clearance between the bottom of the string and the top of the 9th fret. While still using the right hand little finger to hold the string at the last fret, you can use the thumb to lightly tap at the 9th fret to more clearly see the gap – which should measure around 0.2 – 0.3mm. If the gap is bigger than that, the truss rod needs to be tightened (clockwise). If there is no gap at all, the truss rod needs to be loosened (counter-clockwise). This gap is called ‘relief’. It’s necessary that the neck has slight relief to allow low action without fret buzz. Adjust the truss rod accordingly with the key provided with your guitar.

Ruokangas double-way truss rod
DoublewayRod2Every Ruokangas guitar is fitted with a double-way truss rod, which corrects both up- and backbowed necks. The 2-way function ensures, that the neck remains fully adjustable, no matter what kind of climate the guitar is taken to. The truss rod has a zero point, in which the adjusting nut feels loose. Turning the nut clockwise from zero point will tighten the rod – bowing the neck back. Turning the nut counter-clockwise from zero point will loosen the rod more – bowing the neck up.

Adjusting the truss rod
SetneckThe truss rod nut is located at the headstock end of the neck. If your guitar has a truss rod coverplate, open it with appropriate Phillips screwdriver. Use the provided 4mm hex key (or 5mm key in some models) to adjust – quarter turn, tune up, check the relief, repeat if needed. It’s not necessary to loosen the strings to adjust this type of truss rod. Never try to adjust the truss rod with wrong size key, since this may damage the guitar severely.

Adjusting the vintage type truss rod
BoltonIn some of our bolt-on guitars the adjusting nut is located at the body end of the neck. To access the nut, loosen the strings (don’t need to remove them), open the 4 neck bolts and lift the neck up in its pocket about 10mm. Then adjust the rod with the provided 5mm hex key. Usually a quarter turn will do the job. If you have to turn the rod more than that, do it step by step – quarter turn at a time, tune up and check again. Never try to adjust the truss rod with wrong size key, as this may damage the guitar severely.

If your guitar is fitted with fixed bridge, skip this chapter.

Trem spring tension
SpringTensionYou can easily adjust the tension of the tremolo springs with a Phillips screwdriver without removing the backplate. Turn the two adjusting screws evenly – clockwise to tighten, counter- clockwise to loosen.

FloatingIf you prefer your non-locking trem floating for smooth vibrato effect, adjust the springs so that there is a little gap (1.5 – 2.0mm) at the back edge of the tremolo base plate. To achieve the desired position you may need to adjust back and forth for a few times, as the tuning of the guitar changes every time you adjust the springs. You have succeeded, as the trem is floating as wanted and the guitar is in tune. If your guitar is equipped with locking trem (Gotoh GE1996 etc.), it’s usually set floating and the springs are adjusted correctly, when your guitar is in tune, and the trem baseplate remains in parallel position with the top of the guitar.

Non_FloatingIf you prefer using the non-locking tremolo only for down- bends, tighten the screws so that the baseplate stays flat on the top as the guitar is tuned up. It’s common to adjust the spring tension so, that you can bend the plain strings up a full step without the tremolo baseplate lifting up from top. If you use heavy gauge strings, the trem may need 4-5 springs to work correctly.

Trem arm tension
IMGP4553To adjust the Wilkinson (by Gotoh) VSVG trem arm tension, press the arm so that the bottom plate raises from the body about 1 cm. You can then see a small hex screw behind the sustain block. Tighten the slack off the arm by turning the tension screw clockwise with the 1.5mm hex key provided with your guitar. You can finetune the tension to your liking – some prefer the arm to drop down when not using it, while others may want it to remain in the playing position.

The Gotoh GE1996 Floyd trem arm has an internal threading to adjust the height of the arm. Push the arm in place and start turning clockwise. You can continue turning the arm as long as the depth feels comfortable for you. Don’t force the arm deeper than it goes easily – when it starts to feel snug, it’s time to stop. To adjust the trem arm tension, use the provided 1,5mm hex key.

The string height of your Ruokangas guitar is adjusted at our workshop for comfy, relatively low action – measuring at 12th fret: low-e 1.8 – 2.0mm and high-e 1.5 – 1.7mm. These adjustments seem to work for most players – but then again, string height is always a matter of taste!

Non-locking Wilkinson (by Gotoh) VSVG trem
NonLockingTremAdjust the low-E string to comfortable height with the provided 1,59mm (1/16”) hex key – and follow with setting the high-E string next. Follow by aligning the rest of the bridge saddles to match the fretboard radius.

Locking Gotoh GE1996 trem
Unlock the posts with the provided 1.5mm hex key. Adjust the posts to comfortable height with the provided 3mm hex key. Locking trems do not have individual height adjustments for each string, and we have built the fretboard radius to match the radius of the trem. After adjustments lock the posts again with the 1.5mm key.

Wilkinson (by Gotoh) WT3
wt3intonThe string height of the WT3 bridge is adjusted in pairs, two strings at a time. Start from low-E and A. Set the strings to comfortable height so that they follow the fretboard radius, using the provided 1.5mm hex key. Repeat procedure for the rest of the strings.

TuneomaticThe string radius of the tune-o-matic bridge matches the Ruokangas fretboard 12” radius. Your guitar has TonePros or Schaller bridge and tailpiece. If you have TonePros, first unlock the bridge with the provided 1.5mm hex key. Then set the two thumbscrews to the desired height and tune up the guitar. In case of TonePros, lock the bridge after adjustments.

Some manufacturers give standard heights for their pickups. This is, however, also a matter of taste. You can affect the tone of your guitar by moving the pickups closer or further away the strings. The closer the pickups are, the more aggressive and “in-your-face” the tone gets. You can also finetune the balance of the bass and treble strings by adjusting the pickup height.

Too close
PU_HeightIf the pickups are too close, there are basically two problems that occur. The sustain suffers, as the strings can not vibrate freely in the strong magnetic field. There can also appear a funny effect – like the guitar would be badly out of tune when it’s not. This effect gets stronger the further up you go on the fretboard as the strings go closer to the pickups when fretted. You can hear the effect even when playing on a single string. Remember to check that there is always a gap (at least 2mm with humbuckers, 4mm with single coils) between the bottom of the string and top of the pickup as you play at the last fret on any string. Feel free to experiment with this – if you feel the tone should be just a bit brighter, try raising the pickups a bit higher. If you want it smoother, take them a little back. If the balance between the pickups doesn’t seem perfect for your playing style, sound and amplifier dynamics, slight adjustment may be all it takes.

BFTSLast but not least – let’s check the intonation of the guitar. A high quality electronic tuner should be used to do this. The idea is to match the octave (fretted) note of the strings – one by one – with their corresponding 12th fret open harmonics by shortening or lengthening the strings with adjusting screws. As you have succeeded doing this, your guitar will be in tune no matter where you play on the fretboard. All Ruokangas guitars have proven to be extremely well “in-tune” when adjusted correctly. Notice that setting the intonation must always be done with a fresh set of strings!

Wilkinson (by Gotoh) VSVG tremolo
VSV_TremoloCheck the intonation. If adjusting is needed, turn the thumbscrew (see the pic, tool for adjusting is provided with the guitar) into the threads at the back of the saddle. Open the saddle locking hex screw with the provided 2mm hex key and adjust the intonation with the thumbscrew. As the octave matches, lock the hex screw, remove the thumbscrew and move to next string. As all strings are adjusted, check again the tightness of all locking screws. Remember not to use excess force, as this will damage the locking hex screws.

Locking Gotoh GE1996 Floyd trem
LockinTremGotohCheck the intonation. If adjustment is needed, loosen the string slightly. Open the saddle locking hex screw with the provided 2.5mm hex key slightly and tap the saddle to the appropriate direction. Lock the saddle. Retune, check the intonation. Repeat the procedure until the octave matches. Remember not to use excess force, as this will damage the locking hex screws.

Wilkinson (by Gotoh) WT3
WilkinsonWT3Check the intonation in pairs, two strings at a time (EA, DG, BE). With a pair of strings, estimate the need of adjustment. You need to work both with the adjusting screw (with Phillips screwdriver) moving the whole saddle back and forth, and the rotating brass barrel. Use the provided 2mm hex key to loosen the barrel if needed. Tap the barrel to change it’s angle towards strings. When you get both strings on a single barrel to intonate correctly, lock the barrel and move on to the next pair of strings.

TuneomaticIntonationThe intonation is adjusted by using an appropriate flathead screwdriver. There are no locking screws, but if the adjusting screw feels very stiff, it is advisable to loosen the string slightly prior adjusting. In case further adjusting/repair should be needed, doublecheck the set-up instructions and go through the FAQ. If you still feel unsatisfied with the results, contact your local pro repairshop or Ruokangas Guitars for further information.

Buzz Feiten Tuning System
If your guitar is equipped with BFTS, use a tuner with BFTS presets (Peterson has several such models), or get more tuning tips from the BFTS website.

True Temperament
If your guitar is equipped with True Temperament curved frets, see tips for adjusting the intonation from the TT website.


I have scratches on the back of the guitar and they don’t come off. What should I do?
Guitar polish compounds are meant to clean the guitar finishes, not to remove scratches. Scratches in the finish are inevitable in the long run, but if you want annoying scratches away, take the guitar to a pro repairshop.

The maple fretboard of my guitar is dirty, how should I clean it?
Your fretboard is most likely lacquered, so you can clean it with guitar polish compound, just like the rest of the finish of the guitar.

I cleaned the pots of my guitar with electronics spray and now the pots don’t turn at all…?
You’ve used wrong type of spray. Always use contact spray meant specifically for pots. Wrong type of spray may freeze the pot. Take your guitar to a pro repairshop and have the pots changed.

I’ve had my guitar for a year now, and the fret ends feel sharp. What should I do?
This happens sometimes during a dry season (usually cold winter). The fretboard wood has shrunken slightly . This is normal, regardless how well the wood is dried before building the guitar. Our warranty covers this issue, so please send or bring the guitar to us. If you’re located far away, it may be practical to take the guitar to your local pro repairshop to fix this minor problem, that won’t most likely happen again as repaired once.

I have problems keeping in tune with 011 strings – how come?
Your guitar was most likely initially fitted with 010 strings. This means the nut slots are too tight for heavier gauge strings, which causes sticking – resulting as tuning problems. The nut should be adjusted for 011 strings by a professional repairshop.

There is buzzing at the first 5 frets although the action is not very low – what can I do?
The most common reason for this is, that the truss rod is too tight. Check the relief, and if there is none, loosen the rod a little and then adjust the string height from the bridge saddles.

The action of my guitar is higher than it used to be – what should I do?
This is a normal phenomenon caused by changes in relative air humidity. The truss rod should be most likely tightened, if you haven’t touched the other adjustments to alter the original set-up. See through the set-up instructions, and if you feel uncertain adjusting the truss rod by yourself, take the guitar to a professional repairshop.

The last 7 frets buzz, although the action seems to be ok – what’s wrong?
The most common reason is, that the truss rod is loose. Tighten the rod for appropriate relief and then adjust the string height from the bridge saddles.

I switched to 009 strings and now the open strings sound buzzy – why?
The nut may be loose, if it was initially set for 010 strings. It is possible that the nut has to be replaced at a professional repairshop.

There is an annoying vibrato effect as I play on upper frets, even with single string – what is it?
The pickups may be set too close to the strings. Too strong magnetic field causes funny effect for string vibration. Try to adjust the pickups further away from the strings. If this doesn’t help, change to a fresh set of strings – an old or defected string may cause this kind of problems also.

I can’t get the intonation right – there is not enough room to adjust the saddles?
Your Ruokangas guitar bridge does have enough room to adjust the intonation correctly. The most common mistake is, that you try to adjust the intonation with old strings. If the strings are worn and dirty, it is very likely that the intonation is false no matter how you adjust it. Change to a fresh set of strings and try again! Another possibility (not as usual) is that the pickups are adjusted too close to the strings. Try this if new strings didn’t do it.

The trem arm of my Wilkinson VSVG trem keeps falling off and feels loose. How come?
You can easily adjust the tension of the arm, see the instructions in the maintenance guide above.

pdf_iconDownload this maintenance guide as pdf