Bring it on home – before you bring that guitar home… (Part 2)

by Rik Mercaldi on April 5, 2013

One of the things I like about used and vintage instruments is the fact that they’ve been played and don’t feel so… new. There’s just something about an instrument that’s been broken in that appeals to me. A lot of guitar manufacturers these days are making artificially worn guitars, so I’m not the only one who has a penchant for the feel and vibe of a beat up guitar. If it looks like it’s been around the block a few times, I wonder about it’s previous life. Who played it and where? The stories a guitar could tell if only it could talk…
Burns Baldwin Jazz Split Sound Mid 60's
So, you find a really great used/vintage guitar, but will it need work to get it into good playing condition? We’ve already discussed checking the neck, so let’s stay there and take a look at the frets.  If they’re really worn down to the point of not being playable, it’s going to need to be re-fretted. Not a deal breaker, but you’ll have to factor in at least $300-$400, or more for a full re-fret. It will cost less if it just needs a partial re-fret, and more if binding on the neck is involved or needs to be replaced, so make sure you figure that into your total cost.

You might see more wear in the lower portion of the neck where players spend a lot of time, or small dents in the frets. It’s important to determine if they’ll need to be replaced, or if they can be fixed.  If there is enough “meat” on there, often the frets can be reshaped, or crowned which is much cheaper than a re-fret. The process known as a grind and polish can often smooth out imperfections, make the guitar play more evenly, and give the frets a little more life before they need to be replaced.

If you’re not sure, ask. If the shop has an in-house Tech, have them take a look. If not, see if you can take it to a qualified Tech, and return it, or renegotiate the price if work needs to be done. If you’re in the NYC area, my friend Paul Nieto, owner of Guitartech does great work. Check out his site here:

Any other recommendations out there for great fret jobs/fret work? Guitar techs out there, feel free to give yourself a plug here…

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