What do YOU do to a Vintage guitar when you first get it to make it playable?

davidos

Supporting Member
Messages
746
I have found that several vintage guitars I have purchased need a lot of TLC to bring them back to life... It often takes weeks and constant tweaking to bring them back to life to the point where they don't feel like crusty old antiques...

The first and obvious is a string change... most vintage guitars I have purchased have come with dirty strings (from A+ dealers too!).

The nut is almost always shot... I usually don't change (unless they go in for a refret). I try to either repair slots or just deal with it.

Clean hardware so all bridge screws work as well as they could.... again, a crap shoot.

Frets and fretboard. Clean and lube.

Truss Rod... subtle tweaks...

All of this is a constant back and forth... There is no specific setup spec or number... It seems each guitar has it's own ideal setup that usually takes me weeks to figure out... I guess that's where the fun is!
 

Pyritez

Member
Messages
220
That, plus reset the bridge/saddles & intonation to my liking.

If you move the intonation just slightly more toward the bridge you can still do a vibrato with the slide on the open string(s) without any trouble.
 

Laurent Brondel

Supporting Member
Messages
2,582
Except for a couple of exceptions, a complete refret and setup (nut, and on TOM's possibly saddles if they've been shot).
I tend to buy guitars that have been played a lot and frets are usually almost down to the wood, it's also the rare fretboard that doesn't need a bit of correction.

Otherwise it really depends on the individual guitar: a thorough clean-up, rewire the electronics to originals when tampered with etc, oil tuners, clean rust on movable parts like trems, saddles etc. Sometimes cracks need to be attended to, or old incompetent repairs "fixed".
 

Buduranus2

Supporting Member
Messages
943
Well, when I first got it I just played it as is. Over time I swapped in Schaller banjo pegs and a few years ago added a Bill Keith D tuner for the low E. Went through a number of bridges until I came back to a Mighty Mite custom-milled to fit the original posts. Along the way I replaced the wiring harness with better quality CTS pots. Copper shielded all the control cavities. Last year I had the original fretboard replaced with an old-growth Brazilian board. (I wore the original one out. Maybe 15 refrets.) New binding too, of course, and the neck refinished with nitro. Bone nut. Original pickups although the bridge pickup got turned around along the way. Sounds good so I just left it. Otherwise completely stock!

Firebird-full-in-case.jpg
 

WordMan

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,982
Well, when I first got it I just played it as is. Over time I swapped in Schaller banjo pegs and a few years ago added a Bill Keith D tuner for the low E. Went through a number of bridges until I came back to a Mighty Mite custom-milled to fit the original posts. Along the way I replaced the wiring harness with better quality CTS pots. Copper shielded all the control cavities. Last year I had the original fretboard replaced with an old-growth Brazilian board. (I wore the original one out. Maybe 15 refrets.) New binding too, of course, and the neck refinished with nitro. Bone nut. Original pickups although the bridge pickup got turned around along the way. Sounds good so I just left it. Otherwise completely stock!

View attachment 265904
I salute you and that amazingly cool and well-maintained workingman’s badass Firebird. 15 refrets?! A worn out ‘board? You’ve been at work with that thing!!
 

MayhemMike

Member
Messages
153
When I first receive the guitar I worry about what it needs to be played. Then I think about how those now famous delta blues players, played pieced together guitars with home made strings, and I am snapped back to reality. Unless it is grotesquely out of sorts, I change the strings, tweak the intonation, and play away. After all, they did.
 

27sauce

Member
Messages
35,351
I get the frets leveled and polished if they have enough height, or if it plays moderately well. I’ll make sure the electronics work. I’m wrestling with whether or not to pot a microphonic pickup on a super clean old(Not vintage) telecaster custom as we speak.

I’m not against getting a refret. I am mindful of fretboard thickness and losing wood to leveling a board. Unless I got it cheap or I’m dead set on playing it, I don’t like to be the one to make that call.
 

Highnumbers

Member
Messages
694
The first thing I usually do (after assessing the guitar for any undisclosed damage or structural issues) is lower the action, I like it as low as possible without buzzing. Make sure it plays ok, then take the strings off and give it a deep cleaning (can't stand other people's gunk all over an old guitar).

Then, all the usual stuff. Set intonation, adjust truss rod if needed, tweak saddles or nut if there is buzzing. Solder any loose connections. Refret if it's needed.
 

rockinrobby

Senior member Professional musician ...
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,487
Definitely remove all of the previous owners DNA! The rest is Academic..
 

walterw

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
37,540
Last year I had the original fretboard replaced with an old-growth Brazilian board. (I wore the original one out. Maybe 15 refrets.)
wow

see, that's the scenario where there's a good argument for stainless frets, it could have saved the original fretboard
 

walterw

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
37,540
anyway i have one or two things that are old enough and cool enough to be called "vintage", but none of them are valuable enough or pristine enough that anybody would be angry if they were refretted, so refrets they got
 

Buduranus2

Supporting Member
Messages
943
wow

see, that's the scenario where there's a good argument for stainless frets, it could have saved the original fretboard
I had SS frets on it for a day or two many years ago. Overly bright, false overtones and very hard on my fingers. Couldn't get 'em off fast enough.
 

walterw

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
37,540
I had SS frets on it for a day or two many years ago. Overly bright, false overtones and very hard on my fingers. Couldn't get 'em off fast enough.
the "bright" part we can argue about, but "false overtones" sounds like a bad leveling job and "hard on the fingers" makes no sense at all unless they were a different size and shape than you were used to (so nothing to do with the material)
 

fetchzee

Member
Messages
228
Brass nut, Grovers, Dimarzio Super Distortions....

















Come on, there were a whole bunch of vintage guitars that didn’t survive the 70s unscathed, no matter what the dealers tell you today.
 
Messages
616
Check the frets are level, neck is straight, and the setup is right.

Then try the electronics.

If it needs work, it needs work.

But itd be looked after. :)
 




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