This is a term that is widely used in vintage guitar circles, but it’s meaning may not be immediately obvious. Finish checking, or weather checking as it is also known, refers to the pattern of small cracks, usually comprising a series of parallel lines, but sometimes loosely checkered, that can appear on certain guitars with nitrocellulose finishes. The cracks may be loosely spaced or very tight, and can appear on any part of the guitar.
But what causes the checking? As the two names suggest, these cracks are in the finish (paint) of the guitar and are caused by extreme changes in temperature. Typically a guitar that has got cold and then warmed too quickly: maybe travelling in a cold vehicle, then brought into a warm venue – or flown in an unheated aircraft hold before landing in a warm destination. But this does not mean guitars should not travel, only that they must be allowed to acclimatize gradually.
Finish ‘checking’ may actually be in lines rather than checks Figure 1 checking in a translucent Cherry Gibson SG, Figure 2 in the Candy Apple Red of a Gibson Melody Maker
Guitars can take a battering, it’s true. Whether it’s just the knocks, dents and dings of everyday use (how many of us started out with a guitar with no case?), fading resulting from excessive exposure to sunlight, some damage sustained from an accidental drop, or even deliberate abuse with flaming lighter fluid à la Hendrix-at-Monterey. And sometimes a guitar can sustain more serious damage requiring a structural repair – maybe a headstock or even body break. Any guitar can be brought back to ‘as new’ condition with a complete or partial refinish.
The fact is, the finish, thin and fragile as it is, is all that protects the wood from grease, sweat, beer, and a whole lot more. Whilst not essential for the instruments function, the finish also creates an important first impression; your stage act might be highly polished, your look crucial, your music tight as humanly possible… but your favourite guitar would look so much better in black… So is refinishing the answer?
Figure 1 – Playwear, especially on a vintage guitar, may not be reason to refinish a guitar; refinishing can improve appearance but dramatically reduce value!
For years guitars have been falling off their straps; for years they’ve been taking damage. And for years people who care about their guitars have been fitting strap locks to prevent this problem. So no problem then? Well not until you forget the strap with the lock heads on… or until you get a second or third guitar…
Strap locks work great, but they can get a little expensive if you have several guitars; but Fender have come up with a cheap, incredibly simple and highly effective alternative. They cost under $2 for a pair, are pretty durable, and they are easy to move to a different guitar, installing in seconds. And THEY WORK GREAT! We can’t recommend them enough. Strap Blocks are available from Amazon, and most music stores. Check out the Guitar Savers Strap Block, for an even cheaper, unbranded version.
There are some dangerous ways to get a little entertainment- sky diving, mountain climbing, and even playing the guitar safely at home. Newcomers to the guitar will find out the hard way that fingers and hands will certainly become callused, and may experience a little pain and tenderness to the touch as a result. However, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help speed up the process.
Figure 1 –You won’t have the best looking hand in the world- but it can play a mean guitar!
What are Calluses?
Calluses are thickened or hard parts of a certain area of skin. This is a result of rubbing, or pressure, and no doubt they have been experienced before on feet or hands. The thing about playing the guitar is, most pople don’t already have hardened fingertips. Specifically the index finger. As a newcomer begins to play more and more guitar, it will become more apparent that fingertips may feel tender. This can even affect guitar playing, and it is best to wait the tenderness out and wait for skin to harden. Taking a few days away from the guitar will help skin develop- and let you play much longer and harder the next time.
Rattling strings in any guitar can be a sign of worn frets. How can you tell whether your guitar has worn frets, and how much would it cost to get it fixed?
What are frets? What is a refret?
The frets are the raised metal wires on the neck of the guitar. As the guitar is played, the strings are pushed against the frets, which naturally wear over time. The wear shows as dents or flattened frets, which can lead to string buzzing, problems with intonation and playability, especially when string bending. Fret wear is a normal part of the life of a guitar, but some guitars will suffer more from wear than others: those regularly played with a capo, fitted with steel strings, or just subjected to heavy string pressure when played.
The process of replacing them is called a refret – though it can involve a considerable number of time-consuming steps to complete the job.
I was lucky enough to receive an Original Fuzz strap as a gift this year, and I’m absolutely delighted with it. Firstly, they look great – somewhat reminiscent of the woven straps produced by Gibson, and other companies in the 1970s. Mine is called Rust Stripes, but there are a lot of cool designs to chose from – with names like Kurt Vile, Doug Martsch, Duane Eddy, Cusco and Dick Dale. I play a lot of vintage guitars from the 60s and 70s and these straps suit my guitars perfectly.
But better still is the fact that they are so well made, of high quality materials, and each one is unique. The patterned side is actually hand-woven in Peru, under fair-trade conditions – “Each strap is as unique as the artisan that crafted it.”
And they don’t suffer from some of the failures off other straps… it’s thick; the woven ‘pattern side’ is backed with a similarly thick plain fabric – but one that has sufficient friction to reduce slipping and neck dive – something you normally need a wider leather strap to achieve. The end pieces are rigid leather- they shouldn’t deform in the same way that thinner straps do. And they are long; mine has a maximum length of 5 foot; sufficient for all but the lowest slung guitars.
It’s that time of year again, and the madness of Christmas shopping is upon us. We all want to make our loved-ones happy with the right gift, but some people are just so difficult; yes we know they are mad about guitar, but how would you know what present to get?
Well, we’re all guitarists too, and we’ve got some suggestions for you… from stocking-fillers to main presents, we’ve given it some thought. Read on!
1 – Black T-shirt
You can’t go wrong with a black T-shirt; they’re cheap, useful and come with just about every design ever conceived. Most bigger guitar manufacturers offer such things, but you can also get them printed yourself if you have the perfect photograph. Here are some of this seasons favourites
Synyster Gates is getting a lot of attention just now – with numerous hit records, his own signature guitars and amplifier from Schecter, and an increasing reputation as a modern-day guitar hero. We present a profile of the man, explain why he is viewed as one of the best guitarists on todays rock scene; and give some ideas on how to get his sound.
Californian metal band Avenged Sevenfold are clearly one of the most popular hard rock bands today, and with six studio albums (including two reaching number one) they are certainly hard to ignore. Brian Haner Jr, or Synyster Gates as he is better known, has been there since the beginning; Syn’s the man responsible for those insane guitar solos you’ll hear on tracks like Afterlife and Beast and the Harlot.
Times are hard just now, and everyone could do with a few extra pounds. So is it a good time to sell that old guitar that’s been sitting unloved in your closet for all these years? Well it all comes down to knowing what you’ve got, what it is worth, and presenting it in it’s best light to a prospective buyer. If it is true that the vintage guitar market is down now, can it really be the right time to sell? Well the answer may well be yes… read on!
Jeff Beck talks guitars – showing some of his collection and telling some really interesting stories on the way. About the fate of his legendary Fender Esquire he played so much with the Yardbirds, and the many other vintage (and newer) guitars he still has.
JEFF BECK LIVE AT RONNIE SCOTT’S 2007.11
Jeff’s guitar tech Steve Prior gives an in depth interview about Jeff’s guitars and beyond. Stay TUNED for more.
Jeff shows off some of his favourite guitars: his Gibson L5, 1954 Stratocaster, 1954 Telecaster, Gretch Rancher and a Maccaferri given to him by Led Zeppelins Jimmy Page. Jeff Beck clearly has great affection for his guitars, and talks about the other players that influenced his sound – mostly rock and roll guitarists like Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore, but also the likes of Django Reinhardt.
And he treats us to a few choice licks in a different style for each guitar – even when not plugged in the tonal differences are really apparent. From twanging teles to soulful strats – check this clip out!