Guitar care is an important part of guitar ownership, it’s about more than just making your guitar look good, it also means protecting it from serious, and potentially permanent damage. Guitar care comes in many different shapes and forms, all of which help you protect your guitar, and improve its life span.
Temperature & Humidity
Although you might not think it, temperature and humidity have a huge role to play on the health of a guitar. If there to too much moisture present the guitar can swell, or too little and it can shrink. If it is too hot this can cause glued joints to weaken, and extremes of cold can damage the finishing, leaving it prone to future damage. All of this can lead to serious issues including, damage to the wood, discolouration, warping and dulling of tone.
Small natural increases, or decreases in humidity and temperature are unlikely to cause much of an issue, but the real danger comes from unnatural variations. So what can you do to prevent this from happening?
– Never store your guitar near a direct heat source like oven, radiator, boiler, dehumidifier, as this can cause unnatural drops and rises in temperature and humidity.
– Never place your guitar in direct sunlight, keep in a car on a hot day, keep outdoors on a cold or warm day/night, store in a cold place etc. A good rule of thumb is to never put your guitar somewhere you wouldn’t feel comfortable spending a long period of time.
– If you hang your guitar on a wall, avoid hanging it on an outside facing wall. This is often the coldest wall in a room, and this transfers to the guitar, but so too does the normal room temperature, resulting in a conflict in temperatures, with one part being colder than the rest.
Cleaning is a massive part of guitar care, and this is about more than just keeping it looking shiny. We leave dirt, grease and sweat all over our guitars, which will corrode and this can eat away at the finish of the guitar. This is your guitars only protective layer, and could lead to serious damage. Every time you use a guitar you should wipe it down with a lint free cloth, to remove as much dirt, grease, and sweat as possible to limit this damage.
Every few months you should give your guitar a good clean, to help remove anything you might have missed, and prevent it from causing any damaging to your guitar:
– For the lacquer body, use a very small amount of methylated spirits, as this will help to clean, degrease, and bring out the natural shine. You only need to use a very small amount, and wipe clean after.
– Strings will just need a wipe down with a microfiber cloth, but if they are seriously dirty you can clean them with methylated spirits or soak them overnight. If you use meths, make sure you do not get any of this on the fret board.
– If the fretboard has become dry or dirty you will want something to clean and rejuvenate the wood, a lemon oil cleaner is perfect for this. Try not to apply too much at once as you can over oil the wood, making it feel oily.
Repairing and Refinishing
As guitars get older, damage does occur and finishes do fade, so they will need fixing, repairing and refinishing. While you could take it to a repair shop, you should think about doing it yourself, as this way you save money, and build up your own knowledge. If you don’t know how to do something, there are tonnes of online tutorials, and guides to help you out. We have also put together a little list of useful tips which will help you out.
– Before you do any repairs, check the extent of the damage first. It could be that the damage is too bad to repair and you could waste a lot of time, and money refinishing a guitar that looks great, but sounds awful.
– Plan and think ahead. As with any DIY project you want to plan, if you haven’t done it before you need to do you research. Otherwise you will make countless trips to shops to buy tools and supplies, which you could have got in one go.
– Make sure everything your using is guitar safe, as not all wood products are guitar safe, and you could be making a huge mistake. The best place to find suitable guitar finishing supplies in online stores like ours, or luthier stores. Here you will be able to find finishing supplies for guitars which will not harm your guitar.
– Take your time. There is no race when it comes to repairing, and refinishing your guitar. The best guitars take months to finish, not days. Leave enough time between coats of paint and lacquer. If you don’t this could compromise the finish, and undo all your hard work.
– Never be scared to ask questions, everyone has to learn from somewhere, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I still ask questions and I’ve been repairing and refinishing guitars for over 30 years. The best people to ask are friends, online forums/guitars communities, suppliers and manufacturers of products. At least one of them will be able to find an answer for your question.
This article was written by Merv Jones, at Wood Finishes Direct, who stock a range of products suitable for cleaning, repairing and re-finishing guitars.