Finish checking on a guitar. What is it, and how can I prevent it?

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 consist tight, roughly parallel, lines

Finish checking may also be far looser

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


Continue reading Finish checking on a guitar. What is it, and how can I prevent it?

What is the cost of refinishing a guitar

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?

Playwear, especially on a vintage guitar, may not be reason to refinish a guitar

Figure  1 – Playwear, especially on a vintage guitar, may not be reason to refinish a guitar; refinishing can improve appearance but dramatically reduce value!


Continue reading What is the cost of refinishing a guitar

What is the cost of refretting a guitar?

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.


So how do you know when a refret is required?

Continue reading What is the cost of refretting a guitar?