Guitar repair – Facelift for humble oldtimer

Back in the day – say mid-80s – these imitation jazz guitars flooded the Indian market but mostly of smaller towns. Of course, the metropolises had their swanky shops selling ‘branded stuff’, still do.

Now, these guitars are usually patronised by first-timers eager to get their hands on a ‘guitar’! Their sale price is right and they don’t look too bad, but the best thing about them is the zero fretwire. But that is where the goodness ends. From here on, it’s all bad: material, construction, tunability, etc, etc, etc.

But with the zero fretwire in place, one is assured of very low action, for the strings actually ride on it. The purpose of the nut in these guitars is to ensure that the strings stay in place and don’t fall off the fretboard.

The young man who brought it in, has another, newer guitar and this was his first guitar. For sentiment’s sake, he wished for this to be working again, and so, honouring his wishes, I took in the instrument, though I usually turn those of its ilk away: too much work, time and effort and too many people not willing to pay for it all!

And so it began, by pulling off everything – pickguard, tailpiece – and first giving the guitar a good hot water bath. Well, there was no splashing around but more like a sponge bath.

Then it was the turn of the fretboard and bridge to get some love and attention.

The tarnished fretwires were polished till they almost shone.

Dryer than cinder, the rosewood-type wood looked ashen, almost shocked at the scrubbing it had to go through. But with some love potion, it was all good. Notice the bridge and the saddle. The bridge has these two discs with which you can move it up or down if you wish to raise or lower the action. The pieces of brass that you see stuck in the wood are individual saddles for each string. Cool, eh?

The young owner had also said that the tuning machines used to be a problem (why wasn’t I surprised?) and asked me if I had new ones to replace them.  I told him that I did not have new ones and asked him to buy some from the market. After a few days, I recalled having an old set that I had salvaged from a guitar going to be thrown in junk. He agreed to buy them at half price.

Once I had swapped them all, it turned out that one of them was not working properly. So, I told him to keep the tuners, buy new ones and then bring the guitar to me whenever he feels. I would swap them out again for him.

But if you disregarded that one string (the one wound on the truant tuning machine), the action was good! It was still a player!




Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

2 thoughts to “Guitar repair – Facelift for humble oldtimer”

  1. one of my friends have zero fretwire neck but i didn’t knew how this affect the overall tone and stability

    1. The tone is not affected by the zero fretwire per se, but it does ensure that the action stays nice and low, which in turn, helps improve playability and thus, the tone.

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