How I Recently Restored A Tired Old Guitar

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time it’s probably quite clear that I love guitars. I mean LOVE guitars. They’re more than just an instrument to me, their also collector’s items and works of art.

Well, I came across a no-name guitar recently that was in rather rough shape. It had some broken machine heads, peeling paint from a poorly done paint job, a scratched up fret board, and basically just needed some all around love. I liked the way it felt in my hands though. It just had the right weight and balance and fit my body so well. It also had a nice shape, and if it were in good condition it could really be a beauty.

As you can tell, I was struck with a vision. So I took it upon myself to see what I could make of this old beauty.

Stripping it Down

The first thing I did was strip the guitar down to it’s body. This meant removing the strings, the machine heads, the pickups, the pots, and all of the supporting wiring for these components. With all of this removed the body was free of any components that could be damaged as I started my work. First I had to get rid of the peeling paint job.

I tried a number of techniques to get this done. A paint scraper was too aggressive, I felt like I was going to damage the body right off the bat. Steel wool seemed to work, but it was impacting the finish beneath the paint so I had to keep thinking. Then I tried using a pressure washer on a gentle setting, and sure enough that did the trick. I’d hesitate to recommend this technique outright, because if you’re not careful with the water you can definitely damage the guitar. That said if you think this is the right way to go, you can get an idea of what size pressure washer you’ll need: One thing I didn’t get around to trying but also had in mind was using paint stripper, I just didn’t have any on hand.

With the paint removed I turned my attention to the fret board. It was extremely delicate work, but I got some fine grit sandpaper and smoothed out all the scratches. I started off with 300 grit and eventually moved to 500 grit to smooth it out once the scratches were taken care of. I continued with some general cleaning and polishing since I had the guitar dismantled, and once it was all set I started putting the pieces back together

Bringing It Back To Life

With the guitar body all cleaned up, it was time to turn it into a beauty. I replaced the old poorly-applied coat of paint with a fresh coat of stain done right. Once that was dry I put clear coat on to make sure it would last. I also touched up the stain on the fret board – no clear coat required here though, as it just wouldn’t have felt right on the fingers.

Then it was time to put the electrical components back in. There was nothing wrong with the pots, so I just reinstalled them as they were. I took the opportunity to replace the pickups, as the stock pickups were kind of garbage. The guitar was fitted for two strat-style pickups and one humbucker, so that’s what I replaced it with. It took a bit of soldering and patience, but eventually I got everything put together well. In hindsight it would have been better to wait until I’d restrung the guitar so I could actually test out the pickups, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.

The last piece of the puzzle was to replace the machine heads. I picked out a matching set from Amazon and they luckily fit just perfectly with the existing holes. With that in place it was time to put on a fresh set of strings and see how good the seemingly new guitar sounded. Guess what? It sounded fantastic.

When all is said and done I had to ask, was this worth it? Well, since I had a basically brand new guitar I wasn’t complaining. I’m not sure I’d do it again though because it sure was an awful lot of work, and I already have plenty of guitars as it is. That said, it is a beautiful guitar and I’m proud to have it as part of my collection.