Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Polishing a Guitar

There was a tweet from Takamine the other day where they had a follower ask a question. I was going to send a link to my blog post on the subject, but it's one of the ones from my old iWeb site that is no more, so I dug the info out of the archives and am reposting it here... Hope it helps someone...

The other thing I mentioned the other day was making my guitar look new again... I stumbled upon a video at juststrings.com from the Taylor Guitar shop that showed how to polish, clean, etc. your guitar. Basically, it’s one of the things you’d take it to a professional for. It wasn’t how to “setup” a guitar (string height, etc.), and that’s something that people still pay others to do, but this was an overhaul, so to speak.

Here’s the page where you’ll find the video - http://www.juststrings.com/literature.html - Look down the page to Elixir. If you’re interested, and I assume you are if you’re reading this, watch the video. I bought some low tack blue masking tape, some boiled linseed oil, some 0000 steel wool and found the exact same Turtle Wax product that the guy mentions. I started with the Turtle Wax.

(EDIT: here's a direct link to the YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plU27QJBKn8&feature=player_embedded)

You may notice that the guitar he’s polishing is not in bad shape at all, so the gloss doesn’t show that much. My guitar has just had the occasional guitar polish added over the years, but nothing nearly to this degree. I took an old T-shirt and used it to add the Turtle Wax and then to buff it out and MAN you can really see the gloss and shine! It really made the body look new again, and even slicked up the back of the neck...

I forgot to mention that I took the strings off and saved them... After polishing the body, I took the 0000 steel wool and rubbed in (not scrubbed it) in a buffing pattern WITH the grain up and down the neck. I did not use it like a file to wear down anything in particular, just to rub the neck. I noticed that a lot of the black residue was pulling from the frets. I did NOT press down harder, but continued to rub up and down. The frets really cleaned up, best I could tell.

I forgot to mention that I put the tape over the sound hole like the tech shows. He mentions to do this to keep the steel shavings out of the body of the guitar. He was VERY correct... You can’t SEE the shavings on the video, but they were sure there! The only thing he had in the video that I didn’t buy was a soft bristle paint brush to help brush off the shavings. I didn’t think it was that big a deal, and I couldn’t find one soft enough, but before I do this again I’ll pick one up.

(EDIT: I *DID* pick one up, so this made it easier to brush and go on)

When I was done with the steel wool, I could see shavings all over the body of the guitar. I used my old T-shirt and brushed it off. Do NOT rub, or else you take a chance on scratching the finish. Once it was clean again, I took the boiled linseed oil and followed the application technique the guy described and demonstrated. I did NOT soak it, but buffed it into the neck like he showed. It seemed to really make the fingerboard feel new and normal again, and not try and cracking, like 21 year old wood will do. :-)

I also noticed on the ‘clean side’ of the paper towel that it was coming off BLACK from all of the dirt and grime over the years. I turned to another ‘clean side’ and continued to pick up some grime, but much less. Then a third ‘clean side’ came back clean, so I stopped. Now the frets shined like they were new again. :-)

Next came the application of new strings. I thought I had another set of RotoSound, but did not, so I used some Martin Marquis. I tuned up and played a few licks. MAN! It even sounded better - more crisp - better action with the neck. And I was able to do some faster picking... The Turtle Wax on the back of the neck coupled with the conditioned fingerboard and clean frets really made for easy play!

What did I do with the old strings? Remember - I saved them... I put them on a cheap guitar that Benny picked up at an auction. It’s a CHEAP guitar, but will hold a decent tune as long as you’re in the first five frets. These strings made a big difference over what came on it, so I decided to take it to work. Today it sits leaning against the wall near my desk. If something happens to it, nothing is lost, but as long as I have it it’s nice to be able to just pick up and strum, play something that’s on my mind or just grab it to play during a break to clear my head...

Oh yeah - I also took a socket and tightened the tuning pegs like he shows in the video. Most of them were slightly loose, but that got them snug. I also took a small screwdriver and made sure all the screws on the end of the peg handles were snug. I can’t tell that it  stays in tune better, because that guitar has always held a good tune, but it seems a little “tighter.”

There you go! Hope that helps someone!