How to take off knobs on a guitar [+ steps to avoid damage]

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 2, 2022

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Knobs are a great way to customize your guitar, but they can be really hard to take off.

Sometimes you have to remove the volume and tone knobs on your electric guitar.

Maybe you’re changing the pots, maybe you’re painting the Stratocaster guitar, or maybe you just need to get in there and clean things up.

Whatever the reason, it’s not as difficult as it may seem.

However, you have to be very careful when using a screwdriver for this task because you can end up damaging your instrument with one wrong move.

How to take off knobs on a guitar + steps to avoid damage

It’s not uncommon for people to break knobs when trying to remove them from their guitars. This is because the screws that hold the knob in place are often stripped and need some TLC before you can remove them.

The easiest method to remove knobs on a guitar is to use a spoon or picks as levers to pop off the knobs. Some guitar knobs are screwed on so you need to use a screwdriver to loosen and remove them.

In this article, I’ll show you the best way to take off knobs from a guitar without damaging them. Then I’ll also provide some tips on how to make the process easier for you.

How to take knobs off a guitar

If you’re looking to change your guitar’s knob, there are a few things you need to know first.

First things first, you’ll need to identify what kind of knob your guitar has. The last thing you want to do is damage a high-quality guitar like a Fender.

The two most common types are:

  • set screws
  • press-fit knobs

Set screws are held in place by a small screw that goes through the center of the knob, while press-fit knobs are held in place by a metal or plastic ridge that fits into a groove on the shaft of the knob.

Once you’ve identified the type of knob, taking it off is a fairly simple process.

Volume knobs and tone knobs are the main knobs you can remove.

When removing or installing a volume knob, be extra careful not to damage the potentiometer (volume control) underneath.

To remove a volume knob, unscrew the set little screw with a Phillips head screwdriver and pull the knob off.

If the knob is press-fit, gently pry the top of the knob away from the shaft with a flathead screwdriver.

Once the top is loose, pull the knob off of the shaft. The knobs are easily pulled out.

Split shaft guitar knobs are the most common type of knob you’ll encounter. They’re also the easiest to remove and install.

  • For electric guitars with screws, use two picks as levers to pop the knob off. If the knob is stubborn, wiggle the picks around to loosen it.
  • For set screw knobs, turn clockwise to tighten and counterclockwise to loosen. Twist the screw gently.
  • For press-fit knobs, gently press the top of the knob to tighten or pull away from the shaft to loosen. Be careful not to overtighten or it may damage the guitar.

To put the knob back on, make sure it is properly aligned with the shaft and the set screw or press-fit ridge is in the correct position.

Then screw in place or press the top of the knob onto the shaft. As before, do not overtighten.

Different methods to remove the knobs

You may be wondering how to take off knobs on a guitar. Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it may seem.

With a few simple tools and some patience, you’ll be able to remove those knobs in no time.

There are three methods to remove guitar knobs: using a spoon as a lever, with picks, or using a screwdriver.

Here are a few tips and how-tos to help you get started:

Method #1: With picks

Electric guitar knobs are usually attached with screws, but there are a few different ways that they can be attached.

Picks can be used in place of a screwdriver to remove knobs from a guitar. This is a good option if you don’t have a screwdriver or if the screws are difficult to reach.

Best strings for electric guitar
Best strings for electric guitar

I recommend using 2 of the thickest picks you have for this process. Otherwise, you run the risk of breaking the pick and having to start all over again.

To remove the knob, insert the first pick between the body of the guitar and the knob by sliding it under. You may need to wiggle it around a bit to get it in the right spot.

Next slide the second guitar pick on the opposite side of the same knob.

Now that you have both picks in place pull upwards and pop the knob right off. You have to pull both picks in the same direction upwards.

The knob should start to loosen and come off right away but if you have an older guitar it might be stuck. If it’s still being stubborn, try wiggling the picks around a bit until it comes loose.

Method #2: Using a spoon

The control knobs on the top of your electric guitar will eventually have to be removed.

It’s best to think twice before using a flat-head screwdriver to help you remove a stubborn knob (or knobs). While a screwdriver may do the trick, it also has the potential to damage your guitar.

You can use a variety of methods to remove a stubborn knob, but a spoon is likely to be your best friend!

This is especially beneficial for guitars like Les Pauls with carved maple tops.

Insert the spoon’s tip as a lever into the guitar’s body using a folded napkin or another soft surface. Because spoons have convex bowls, this serves as a fulcrum for the movement of the handle.

Before you can release the knob, you may have to move the spoon around a bit. When it comes to this situation, you need to be patient!

Method #3: With a screwdriver

  1. First, you’ll need a screwdriver. A flathead screwdriver will do the trick, but if you have a Phillips head screwdriver, that will work as well.
  2. Next, locate the screws that hold the knob in place. There are usually two screws, one on each side of the knob.
  3. Once you’ve found the screws, unscrew them and remove the knob. Be careful not to scratch the guitar during the process. It’s easy to touch the pickguard by accident so hold the screwdriver tightly between your fingers.
  4. To reattach the knob, simply screw the screws back in place. Be careful not to overtighten them, as this could damage your guitar.

With these simple steps, you’ll be able to take off and put back on those guitar knobs like a pro!

For set screw knobs, simply unscrew the set screw with a Phillips head screwdriver and pull the knob off.

For press-fit knobs, gently pry the top of the knob away from the shaft with a flathead screwdriver. Once the top is loose, pull the knob off of the shaft.

With the old knob off, you can now install the new one.

Plastic knobs

Be careful with plastic tone knobs, as they can be brittle and may break if you’re not careful. The plastic tip can also be unscrewed from the metal shaft.

Grip the plastic tip firmly with your fingers and twist it counterclockwise to unscrew.

To install a plastic knob, first, make sure the set screw or press-fit ridge is in the correct position. Then screw in place or press the top of the knob onto the shaft.

As before, do not overtighten.

Can you use a hex wrench to take off knobs on a guitar?

In most cases, no. Set screws are usually too small to be removed with a hex wrench.

However, if the set screw is very tight, you may need to use a hex wrench to loosen it.

How to protect guitar when taking off knobs

Usually, the knob pops off using the method I just discussed but you can use a thin cloth or paper towel as a buffer in case it is stubborn and doesn’t want to come off easily.

Wrap the thin piece of paper towel around the guitar neck and use that as a buffer between your hand and the guitar body. This will help to avoid any scratches.

Now use your other hand to twist the knob off using the methods stated before. The paper towel will help to grip the guitar body so you don’t accidentally drop it and scratch the guitar.

I hope these methods help you change your guitar knobs with ease!

Your guide to tightening and loosening guitar knobs

Guitarists often ask how tight their guitar’s knob should be. Naturally, this is a difficult question to answer as it depends on personal preference.

However, there are a few things you can keep in mind that will help you make the decision.

First, if the knob is too loose, it may come off during play. This is obviously not ideal, as you could damage your guitar or injure yourself. Second, if the knob is too tight, it may be difficult to turn, making it hard to make adjustments during play.

So, what’s the best way to tighten or loosen a guitar knob?

For set screw knobs, simply turn the set screw clockwise to tighten, or counterclockwise to loosen.

For press-fit knobs, gently press the top of the knob onto the shaft to tighten, or pull it away from the shaft to loosen.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to overtighten or loosen the knob, as this could damage your guitar.

If you’re still unsure, it’s always best to consult a professional guitar technician.

How to put knobs back on a guitar

Putting knobs back on a guitar is a simple process, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

First, make sure the knob is properly aligned with the shaft. You don’t want the knob to be crooked, as this will make it difficult to turn.

Second, make sure the set screw or press-fit ridge is properly positioned. If the set screw is not in the center of the knob, it will be difficult to tighten. If the press-fit ridge is not positioned correctly, the knob will be loose and may come off during play.

Once the knob is properly positioned, simply screw the set screw in place or press the top of the knob onto the shaft. Again, don’t overtighten, as this could damage your guitar.

And that’s it! You now know how to take off and put back on a guitar knob. With these simple tips, changing your guitar’s knob will be a breeze!

Why remove knobs on a guitar?

There are a few reasons why you might want to remove the knobs on your guitar.

Maybe you’re changing the look of your guitar, or maybe the knob is damaged and needs to be replaced.

In most cases, you can replace old knobs with new ones by yourself, but in some cases, you may need to take your guitar to a professional.

Perhaps the knob is looking very dirty and it’s full of grimey dust under there.

Whatever the reason, changing a guitar knob is a simple process that anyone can do.

Takeaway

Taking off volume and tone knobs from a guitar is a pretty easy process that anyone can do.

First, locate the screws that hold the knob in place. There are usually two screws, one on each side of the knob. Unscrew the screws and remove the knob.

Alternatively, use a spoon or guitar picks to pop off the knobs.

To reattach the knob, simply screw the screws back in place

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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