How Do You Remove The Knobs On A Stratocaster?

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

The Fender Stratocaster’s two-tone and volume control are among its most valuable assets. They have a significant impact on the quality of tone your instrument produces.

However, due to wear and tear caused by aging or frequent use, these knobs may need to be replaced, especially since they are usually made of parchment plastic. While some guitarists prefer to replace them for aesthetic purposes, others want to remove them to give them more space to play freely.

No matter what reason you have, it is crucial that you correctly remove these knobs to prevent any damage to both your Stratocaster’s finish and components.

In this article, I will discuss the proper method to remove your Stratocaster’s knobs and how to replace them properly, including the materials and tools you might need.

Things To Consider Before Removing Your Stratocaster’s Knobs

Before removing your Stratocaster’s two-tone and volume control knobs, it is essential to be aware that pulling them off with your hand will be difficult and not the best method.

One factor you should be mindful of is that the material usually used for these knobs is plastic which is fragile to deal with. Therefore, it is a must never to use a metal screwdriver when removing them. Unnecessary and unrecommended tools will only damage your Stratocaster’s knob skirt, pickguard, body, and finish.

Removing The Knobs Using An Electric Guitar Knob Puller

Specific tools are created to make this particular task easier to accomplish. Removing the control knobs off your electric guitar is challenging and may sometimes be irritating for new guitarists.

One unique tool mainly designed for removing control knobs is the guitar knob puller, perfectly designed to pull off just about any knob you can imagine on a guitar regardless of the material it’s made with. This tool completes the job and ensures that your Stratocaster knobs, pickguard, finish, and body is damage-free.

Knob pullers also serve as a barrier between you and your electric guitar’s knobs, preventing any discomfort that may result in a finger skin pinched or a nail pulled back. This is a highly efficient tool because of its straightforward design. Anyone without prior experience with using them can quickly learn properly.

How To Use A Guitar Knob Puller

  1. Lift the ring at the top of the handle.
  2. Slide the lower pieces (also called the knob grippers) under the knob you want to remove. 
  3. Secure the knob grippers. Make sure they are perfectly positioned beneath the knob.
  4. Once done, lower the ring you previously lifted on the top of the handle until the gripper firmly grips the knob you intend to remove.
  5. Hold the knob puller’s handle securely and pull the knob straight up and out of the potentiometer’s shaft.

Removing your electric guitar’s control knobs may be done in five easy steps. Anyone can do it themselves regardless of their skill level and prior experience in removing guitar knobs.

Removing The Knobs Using A Thin Cloth Or Rag

Before, when guitar knob pullers were not yet out on the market, guitarists removed control knobs using a thin cloth or rag. This approach has been highly used throughout the years due to its effectiveness and ease of use. Of course, now, it is already a secondary option due to the production of guitar knob pullers at an affordable price tag. 

How To Properly Use A Thin Cloth Or Rag In Removing Your Guitar Knobs

In this method, you will use a thin cloth or rag. The fabric’s or rag’s thickness will depend on the gap between your electric guitar’s pickguard and knob. As long as it can fit beneath between them, then the rag is good to go. 

Make sure you’re using a cloth or rag that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty because grease and lubricant are frequently found on every component under the hood of your Stratocaster. 

  1. Hold the edge of your cloth or rag at its taut and slide it underneath the control knob you want to remove. 
  2. Wrap the cloth or rag around the circumference of the knob until you entirely cover the gap between the pickguard and knob from the bottom. 
  3. Bundle the cloth or rag, ensuring that you can securely grip it.
  4. Pull the cloth towards the center of the potentiometer shaft until you see that it’s circularly covered.
  5. Firmly grip your cloth or rag and pull it in an upward direction to pull out the knob. It is advisable to grab both edges of your fabric nearest to the knob to get optimum results. You might also need to exert sufficient force since most knobs are rooted securely onto their shaft. 
  6. The last step is to wait until the knob pops out of its shaft. 

Installing New Control Knobs

Replacing your Stratocaster’s control knobs can provide a new look to it. But you can also replace the knobs when they become difficult to turn. Fender Stratocasters feature three control knobs, as well as two-tone and volume controls. Using replacement knobs specifically designed for Stratocasters is vital to get the best results. 

The replacement process is simple and should only last approximately ten to fifteen minutes. After removing your control knobs using one of the methods mentioned above, here are the steps you should follow. 

Steps In Installing New Guitar Knobs

Purchase A Set Of Replacement Knobs 

The primary step you should do is to purchase a set of replacement control knobs that suits your personal preference, especially since there are a variety of designs to choose from. Nowadays, replacement knobs are made from metal, wood, or plastic. Stratocaster knobs are available universally in sets, ensuring that you can purchase one specifically designed for the Stratocaster you own.

Although not required, you might consider purchasing a pickup cover kit with replacement knobs, especially if you value aesthetics. Some musicians may like the contrast in color, but others may also prefer their control knobs and pickup cover to match. 

Note that most replacement kits already have control knobs and pickup covers. The majority of electric guitars have two volume knobs and a single-tone knob. On the contrary, Stratocasters are unique and features two-tone knobs and volume knob.  

Note: It is highly recommended to purchase replacement knobs before removing the old ones installed on your Stratocaster. This prevents the exposure of your potentiometer shaft and ensures the installation process flows smoothly. 

Set Your Control Knobs To Zero

For a reference point, set all of your control knobs to zero. Turn the first knob off first, then turn the other two counter-clockwise until they are both set to zero. Keep in mind which way the label on each knob is pointing. The words “volume” or “tone” will always be facing away from the guitar. 

When you install your first knob, you will have a reference. If you don’t align the first knob with the others, you might install the knobs in the wrong direction. 

Rotate Potentiometer Shafts All The Way To The Right

To match the exposed potentiometer shafts with the other two knobs, you need to fully rotate them to the right. There is no need to worry because you can still turn it without the knob on. 

The knobs have labels that always go on the flat edge of the pin, which should be pointing in the same general direction as the words printed on the other knobs.

Place The New Knob Over The Potentiometer Shaft

Position the new knob over the potentiometer shaft to align its label together with the other knobs. The labels “tone” or “volume” on your new knobs must be parallel with the labels on the other two knobs.

For the knob’s middle opening to be on top of the shaft, place the knob on top of the shaft while holding it in place. When the potentiometer shaft on your Stratocaster and the opening on the knob line up, you will feel it.

Install The New Knob By Gently Pressing And Wiggling It Down On The Shaft

To install the new knob, gently press and wiggle it downward onto the potentiometer shaft until it slides onto it. Make sure to slide the knob slowly to avoid misalignments and damage to the shaft and knob. 

If you encounter any difficulty aligning the shaft with the knob’s slot, wiggle the knob slightly as you push it down. Just continue to depress the knob until its bottom rests against the guitar’s body.

Do The Same Process With The Remaining Other Control Knobs

Once you’re done replacing the first knob, you can remove the second one by using a guitar knob puller or thin cloth method. 

After removing the worn-out knobs, you should replace them by installing new ones. Repeat the procedure mentioned above for the second and third knobs. The entire installation process will last approximately ten to fifteen minutes.

Main Takeaway

Removing and replacing your Stratocaster’s control knobs aren’t as difficult and time-consuming as one might expect it to be. In this procedure, make sure that you only use the above-mentioned methods and techniques to ensure that you securely and safely install them without damaging your Stratocaster’s finish, pickguard, and other components. Hopefully, this article provided you with new knowledge on correctly removing your electric guitar’s control knobs by yourself.