Gibson guitar cleaner

Gibson guitar cleaner DEFAULT

Approximate reading time: 7 Minutes

Les Paul Faded upgraded

Gibson Les Paul Faded upgraded polished using Virtuoso polish  ·  Source: Jef Stone/Gearnews

Gibson Les Paul HoneyBurst Faded

Gibson Les Paul HoneyBurst Faded 'Top Wrapped'  ·  Source: Jef Stone/Gearnews

Gibson Gold Top '57 dark back

Gibson Gold Top '57 dark back  ·  Source: Jef Stone/Gearnews

With all the negative news about Gibson recently, I thought it was about time I shared my top tips for getting your Gibson Les Paul to play like a dream. This week we’re looking at some basics like cleaning, intonation and restringing. Later in this series, we’ll be looking at some Les Paul modifications.

This week, I’m going to offer a few tips on setting up and cleaning a Gibson Les Paul. I own a few and like to keep them in good condition. Finding a good Les Paul can be a bit of a mission, so when you find yours, I suggest you follow these simple tips for keeping it in shape.

My suggestions this week do not involve any modifications or third party add-ons or upgrades, but you will need to invest in a few cleaning products and so I have linked to all my favourite ones that I use. These will not damage the nitrocellulose finish on your Les Paul. Of course, you can use these on any other guitars you own and so feel free to try them out on any of your guitars that have a similar construction.

Clean your axe!

When cleaning your guitar, the first step is to remove your old strings. Then you will need to get rid of any dirt, or finger gip, as I call it, using something that won’t damage your fretboard. I would suggest an old plectrum or piece of plastic about the thickness of a credit card. Use this carefully to scrape off any nastiness.

It’s time to clean the fretboard. One of my favourite cleaning products is Fret Doctor bore oil for cleaning and conditioning fretboards. It works wonders on rosewood and ebony boards. I put this on early in my set up, as I want it to work its way into the fretboard.

Get a small drop of the oil on your finger and work it across the whole fretboard. A small drop because less is more. My tiny little bottle of Fret Doctor has lasted 10 years and I reckon I have another two to three years left in it, so don’t slap it on, be stingy with it, as it only needs a very small amount to do its job.

Now clean and polish the body and back of the neck. For this, I use a cleaning product that comes in two parts to clean and polish up the nitrocellulose finish on my Les Pauls. My favoured set of cleaners is made by a company called Virtuoso. They make a cleaner and a polish specifically for nitro finishes, and they work really well. Again, less is more with this stuff. You can see how it worked on the Les Paul HoneyBurst in the photo above. That guitar is a Les Paul Standard Faded model that I polished up using Virtuoso polish.

Fret Polishing

I always polish my frets after removing my strings. It feels so much better when you’re bending strings and sliding up and down the fretboard whilst playing. It’s easy to do. You can use a product called Miracle Cloth for this. It’s an impregnated yellow cloth that lets you remove any nasty dirt from your fretwork with ease. Some players use a cloth called Gorgomyte for this, but essentially they are the same thing.

Masked fretboard

Mask your fretboard and then polish using 0000 wire wool, I do this to all my guitars including this EBMM JP7!

You must clean the frets afterwards using a clean dry cloth, as the residue from the Miracle Cloth should be completely removed to achieve the best results.

Another approach to cleaning frets is to use 0000 wire wool, like this. If you sue this method, you will need to mask the wood or you could damage it. I often use low tack masking tape to mask off the fretboard. I would also suggest that you tape over your pickups – if you don’t bits of wire wool will stick to the magnets and that is not a good look!

Off your nut

On my own Gibson guitars, I always remove the original Corian nut fitted at the Gibson factory, as I find that Corian is quite sticky. I have this replaced with a good quality bone nut. This might seem extravagant, but I find they stay in tune better and that the strings don’t stick as much as with bone as with Corian. I would suggest you pay a good guitar tech to do this job unless you have all the tools and experience to do it yourself.

To make the nut super slippery I use Big Bends Nut Sauce, which is a lubricant that you can apply to the nut and saddles of your bridge that helps alleviate friction. It comes in a handy applicator that’s a bit like a syringe, so it’s easy to apply.

Clean your pots

It is a very good idea to periodically clean any switches, contacts and potentiometers on your guitar, as they can get scratchy or noisy over time. To do this I always use Servisol Super 10 Switch Cleaner. I never use anything like WD40 as it is not the correct type of lubricant and will ruin your pots. A good quality switch cleaner will clean and lubricate your electrical contacts.

You will need to open your guitar’s control cavities and spray the cleaner into the little slot on the side of the potentiometer using the provided straw to get it in the contact area. As always, less is more and you should spray a little and then turn the pots fully each time in both directions. You should also spray a little onto the contacts of the pickup selector switch to keep it clean and lubricated as well. It’s also a good idea to spray a little on a guitar jack plug and insert it into your guitars output jack a few times to clean the contacts there as well.

Top Wrapping

It’s time to put some strings on. I suggest you use at least gauge 10 or above, as the shorter 24.75″ scale length of a Les Paul benefits from heavier gauge guitar strings. When I restring my Les Paul guitars, I like to ‘Top Wrap’ them. I find it makes them feel a bit slinkier and I also like the way it feels on my right hand as I rest it to palm mute when playing. Now, I don’t think it does anything tonally, although many argue that it does, but I do feel it helps with string tension as it makes less of a break angle from the stop tailpiece up to the ABR-1 or Nashville bridge.

Top-wrapping involves feeding the strings backwards through the stop tailpiece and then back up and over the top of the tailpiece, then over the bridge. You can see a couple of my guitars below and this will show you how it should look when it is done.

 

Top Wrapped Les Paul faded
Top Wrapped Les Paul faded
'57 Gold Top top wrapped
Gibson ’57 Gold Top top wrapped

String locking

When you pull your strings through the tuning peg/machine heads, I suggest that you pull them though, leave enough slack to allow you to ‘tune-up’ and keep the string under tension as you tune to pitch.

I do this by pulling on the string with my right hand, as I tune up the tuning peg with my left hand and by keeping the string taught I avoid any bad wraps around the tuning post. For me personally, I always pull the string up at a 90-degree angle through the tuning peg and wind so that I clamp the string with the wraps and lock it in place once it has been fully turned, again keeping the string taught as I wind it around the post.

You will, of course, need to stretch out the strings once you have them tuned to pitch, then repeat the process until they hold tuning.

Intonation

I would suggest you make yourself familiar with how to intonate a guitar, as this is vital for the guitar if you want it to be in tune with itself past the 12th fret on each string. You will need an electronic guitar tuner and the relevant tools for your bridge. I’ve added a little demonstration video from Elixir strings below to show you how it is done.

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Next time: Modifications!

These are just a few basics. Next time, I’m going to cover some of my favourite modifications and hardware that I use on my own Les Paul guitars. If you found this article useful, then let me know. I would also love to hear any of your own personal set up tips as well, so please comment below if you have any I should be aware of. I love a good set up tip and have found most of my ones through trial and error or via good advice from other players and luthiers.

For more Gibson articles click here

by Jef

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News GTR Gibson 24.75" bone clean fretboard intonation Jef's Gibson Les Paul Tips modifications nut polish setup switch Video YouTube
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How To Clean a Guitar – The Ultimate Guide

What Will I Learn?

  • What causes your guitar to develop dirt and how to prevent it.
  • How to efficiently clean a guitar.
  • Which products to use to clean a guitar without damaging its finish.

How To Clean a Guitar: Step-by-Step

Later in the article, we’ll go into far more detail about the points below. But if you want to cut to the chase, then follow these concise steps to make your guitar shine like new!

  1. Wash your hands – It’s obvious, but it’s also the most important thing!
  2. Remove the strings – This will make cleaning the body and fretboard far easier.
  3. Clean the fretboard – Use fine steel wool to remove stubborn gunk from Rosewood/Ebony/Pau Ferro fretboards, and apply Lemon Oil to re-hydrate. Use a damp cloth to clean Maple fretboards.
  4. Polish the guitar body – For Poly-finished (gloss) guitars, spray guitar polish onto a soft cloth and wipe down. Use a dry part to buff out the polish. For Matte/Satin/Nitro-finished guitars, use only a dry cloth.
  5. Refresh the hardware – If you want your hardware to shine, use a soft cloth and a tiny amount of guitar polish to remove dirt or dried sweat. WD-40 can be used to remove thicker grime or rust.

How Does a Guitar Get Dirty?

The amount of dirt that your guitar builds up will depend a lot on the environment that you play the most in, and for how long. For example, if you’re someone who goes out and gigs most weekends, then you’re probably more than used to enduring 1000-degree stages and standing under enough lights to guide a plane in for landing. Playing an hour set under intense stage lighting makes you sweat – worst thing for your guitar!

An image of a band performing onstage

Playing in this context causes you to sweat buckets, which is like kryptonite for your guitar. Sweat and grease on your guitar’s finish not only looks pretty bad, but it can wear away the lacquer and cause irreparable damage to the fretboard in particular. It can also reach and harm your guitar’s electronic components and hardware, causing rust and therefore even more problems.

If you practice between 1-2 hours a day at home in a cool and well-ventilated room, then your guitar will probably not require cleaning very often. It’s all about the context and the conditions.

How Do I Keep My Guitar Clean?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to clean certain aspects of your guitar, it’s worth mentioning methods that you can try to stop your guitar from building up grime in the first place. It’ll save you time and effort in the future. Trust me!

Wash Your Hands Before You Play Guitar

Before I pick up my guitar, I always wash my hands. That’s my life hack – and you guys can have it. But to be honest, lots of players already do this. However, you’d be very surprised by the number of musicians I’ve seen who have picked up their guitars after eating greasy food and then wondered why their axe is plastered in smudged fingerprints. Not to mention that the strings sound like rubber bands!

It’s such a simple thing to do; not only keeping your guitar clean but also allowing you to eek more life out of your strings. This saves you both time and money, as you won’t have to keep buying new strings and spend ages changing them! Just wait around 10 minutes for your hands to fully dry, then play away to your heart’s content.

Wash your hands before you clean a guitar

Wipe Down Your Guitar’s Strings

Products such as GHS’ Fast Fret or Jim Dunlop’s Ultraglide 65 are great for extending the life of your guitar strings. Just apply these cleaning lubricants to the strings to remove any grime, and you will get sparkly-sounding freshness as well as a faster playing experience thanks to the smooth feel that they leave. These products also help to remove fingertip-induced dust and dirt from the fretboard – two birds, one stone!

Recommended String Cleaner Products

Keep Your Guitar In Its Case

You may not want to hear this, especially if you like to exhibit your guitars on the wall. However, the major downside of leaving your guitars out is that dust will easily accumulate on them. Dust isn’t necessarily as big of an issue as sweat, but it can build up in the crevices of your guitar and affect its electronics and their functionality over time.

You know that crackling noise you’ve heard when moving your guitar’s pickup selector or volume pot? Nine times out of ten, dust is causing that. This can be fairly easily resolved by removing the cavity plate on the back of your guitar and blowing the dust out, but if you own a Strat or a similar guitar where the electronics are attached to a scratchplate – this is more of a headache.

So, putting your guitar back in its case (whether a hardcase or gigbag) is recommended. It will keep your guitar mostly dust-free, and will ensure that it stays reliable and noise-free.

Recommended Guitar Cases & Gigbags

How To Prepare Your Guitar For Cleaning

Inevitably, your guitar will need cleaning at some point, even if you follow the above recommendations. You can clean your guitar without removing the strings, but a thorough clean may make this necessary – not to mention a lot easier! As a rule, I generally schedule cleaning my guitar with when a string change is needed. It just makes more sense. And speaking of strings, we currently offer 4 for 3 on all guitar strings!

4 for 3 on Electric Guitar Strings

So first off, wash your hands and set up an area to place your guitar. I’d highly recommend cleaning it in a well-lit space so that you can easily spot all of the imperfections that require the most attention. You can set up the guitar on a workbench or table/desk, or even just rest it on your lap if you prefer.

Recommended Guitar Setup Products

How To Clean a Guitar Fretboard

This is probably the most important part of your guitar to clean frequently. The fretboard is the part of your guitar that gets subjected to the most wear and punishment, and excessive build-up of sweat and dust can cause permanent damage if you’re not careful.

When sweat dries and evaporates it dehydrates the wood, which can lead to cracks developing or the formation of everlasting marks. Below we have specified ways to clean the main fretboard materials that you’ll find on most guitars.

Rosewood, Ebony & Pau Ferro Fretboards

Jim Dunlop makes a number of products that are perfect for cleaning Rosewood/Ebony fretboards. But if you’ve been super lazy and a lot of gunk has built up on your guitar’s fretboard, then steel wool might be essential to use. If you do, then make sure to only use 0000 steel wool. It’s fine steel fibres will remove any unwanted dirt without causing damage or wear to the frets. In fact, it will even polish them to an extent.

Before you use steel wool, make sure that you cover your guitar’s pickups with masking tape to prevent the small metal particles from sticking to their magnets. Once you’ve done that, put on some latex gloves and gently rub the wool into the fingerboard making a circular movement for ultimate effectiveness. After you’ve completed this, wipe away any debris and make sure the surface is clear.

Now you can move on to conditioning the fretboard, which rehydrates the wood and deeply cleanses it to look just like new. Products such as Jim Dunlop’s Guitar Fingerboard Kit or Lemon Oil are perfect for cleaning and conditioning. You can apply this with a damp cloth or toothbrush, or combine this with the previous step and rub it onto the board with steel wool. However, be generous with the amount that you use. What you don’t want to do is completely drown the fretboard, as it will potentially cause warping issues. A little goes a long way!

Recommended Fretboard Cleaner Products

Maple Fretboards

Maple fingerboards are more susceptible to showing dirt and marks than Rosewood or Ebony boards, due to their lighter wood tone. And what adds insult to injury is that conditioner products cannot be used on Maple. So, what is the best way to clean a Maple board?

One of the best methods to clean an unfinished Maple fretboard is to use ultra-fine 0000 steel wool. This removes dirt without causing damage to the frets. A slightly damp cloth can also be used, especially on satin-finished maple, but generally avoid using anything other than this.

A Maple fingerboard that has been lacquered should be cleaned only with a damp (or dry) cloth. Using steel wool will take away the shine and leave a matte-like finish, while lemon oil will dull the finish and similarly take away the sheen. Strictly use a dry or lightly dampened cloth. You could even use a little bit of Jim Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish if the lacquer is very thick.

A Maple guitar fingerboard

How To Clean a Guitar Body

It’s unavoidable for the body of your guitar to build-up some marks and grease over time, no matter how careful you are. Luckily for you, the body is easier and less-intimidating to clean than the fretboard. However, the finish of your guitar’s body must be considered too. So make sure to be aware of what type of finish it has before you go ahead and clean it.

For all of the finishes below, make sure to use a soft cloth when wiping down the body. The Jim Dunlop Polish Cloth is a great lightweight cotton cloth that you can easily store in your guitar case or gigbag.

Gloss & Poly-Finished Guitars

The majority of mass-produced guitars are finished in either a polyester or polyurethane finish, which gives a glossy protective layer to your instrument. This makes it the easiest finish to clean as it doesn’t leave the wood porous or absorbent. You can therefore use a variety of polishes or waxes to give your guitar a look worthy of being in a showroom.

The industry-standard Jim Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish is a great cleaner that you can use to wipe away any dried sweat or grease. It’s best to avoid spraying it directly onto the guitar, so just spray a couple of times onto a cloth and then wipe down the guitar. Here is the process:

Dunlop 65 Guitar Polish sprayed onto cloth

A guitar being wiped down with a soft cloth

You can finish it off with some Jim Dunlop Platinum 65 Spray Wax for a professional “good-as-new” aesthetic if you want to. The great thing with the wax is that it provides a grime-resistant protective barrier for some time, meaning that your instrument will stay clean for a lot longer.

Remember to avoid using lemon oil or typical household cleaning products on guitars, as they contain substances that will dull and degrade the finish. It’s almost always best to stick with specialist products when dealing with your pride and joy, so check out our full range of maintenance and cleaning products.

Recommended Guitar Cleaner Products

Matte & Satin-Finished Guitars

A matte guitar finish should only ever be cleaned with a dry cloth. If you have ever owned a matte-finished guitar, you’ll know that over time the finish will wear down and shiny spots may start to develop where your hands have made the most contact with the instrument (such as above the bridge where your picking hand rests). This means that using a polish or wax will only exacerbate this problem, so it’s best to wipe a dry cloth very gently onto the guitar’s surface and to avoid cleaning solutions.

Satin-finished guitars have more of a semi-gloss look, but have a similar smooth feel to matte-finished instruments. Regarding cleaning guitars with a satin finish, the same process applies and only a dry cloth should be used. A slightly dampened cloth would also be okay if a really thorough clean is necessary.

Nitrocellulose-Finished Guitars

Nitrocellulose-finished guitars are more uncommon these days, however Gibson and Fender use this old-school finish on many of their high-end custom shop models. A nitro finish is considered to be more “breathable” for the wood, as it leaves it slightly porous and open on the surface.

This finish wears easily over time, and generally you should try and avoid using strong polishes to clean it. If you really need to, dampen a cloth with some water but make sure that it is fully wrung out beforehand.

Recommended Guitar Polish Cloths

How To Clean Guitar Hardware

Cleaning the hardware on your guitar is something you also have to be fairly careful with. Metals are prone to corrosion, and the salts in sweat and skin oils can cause rust to develop over time.

The most prone pieces of hardware on your guitar are the bridge, pickups and frets. Most guitarists rest their picking hand on the bridge, so dried sweat can develop on the saddles. The same applies with pickups that have open coils, and rust can start appearing if you don’t pay attention to these areas.

It’s best to clean hardware with a soft cloth using only a very light amount of guitar polish. The polish can help to remove any dirt, while the soft fibres in the cloth will bring the shine back. Just make sure to leave no polish residue on the hardware, as this could corrode the metal slightly. Hard to reach areas (like between string saddles on a tune-o-matic bridge) can be cleaned using a cotton bud – great for removing dust.

If the hardware on your guitar is very badly affected by corrosion or rust, then it might be best to remove those components and give them a more intense clean. WD-40 can be used to tackle thick grime and rust, applied using a toothbrush. If you do use this, then make sure that the pieces of hardware that you’re cleaning have been removed from the guitar first. Getting this substance on the instrument could ultimately damage its finish.

Locking tremolo bridge on 1998 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster

How To Clean An Acoustic Guitar

For the most part, cleaning an acoustic guitar is no different to cleaning an electric. You’re unlikely to find acoustic guitars with Maple fretboards, however the majority of them will feature either Rosewood or Ebony boards like their electric counterparts. This means that lemon oil will suffice; not only cleaning the material but rehydrating it too – giving it a new lease of life!

Acoustic guitars can also be finished in protective polyester or polyurethane finishes too, but unlike electric guitars, you’ll mostly come across natural or satin-finished acoustics. A lot of modern acoustics will have this finish as it is more porous, which lets the wood breathe. Tone-conscious acoustic aficionados believe that this results in a more resonant and open sound. Therefore, you should apply the same rules that I mentioned above for cleaning matte and satin-finished instruments. Generally, employ only a dry cloth and a little bit of water if you have to to remove stubborn marks. Job done!

Conclusion

A clean guitar simply looks and feels better than a dirty, grubby instrument. It’s imperative to keep your guitar clean if you want it to last, and to prevent replacing any of its parts in a few years time. Remember this: look after your guitar and your guitar will look after you.

Top Tips for Making your New Guitar BetterLooking for some helpful tips in getting your new electric guitar to play better? Then tune in as The Captain & Danish Pete teach you how to re-string your guitar, set up your neck and get it playing perfectly straight out of the box! | https://tinyurl.com/yevz6eoh » Jim Dunlop Maintenance System 65 Fret Collars with Fret Cloth | https://tinyurl.com/yhjq3x8j » Jim Dunlop Guitar Polish | https://tinyurl.com/yf3lh46q » Jim Dunlop Lemon Oil Bottle | https://tinyurl.com/yk6xjj9j » Ernie Ball Power Peg Pro Electric String Winder | https://tinyurl.com/yk4vx5ck » Ernie Ball Cradle Tune Workbench Tuning Cradle | https://tinyurl.com/ydzm8x6p » Monty's Montypresso Original Guitar Relix Wax | https://tinyurl.com/yh7hq9gw » Big Bends Nut Sauce Guitar Lubricant | https://tinyurl.com/ydqfsq97 » Cruz Tools Stagehand Compact Tech Kit | https://tinyurl.com/yehvfdhh » Cruz Tools Guitar Player Tech Kit | https://tinyurl.com/ygblsvvz » Check out our full range of Squier Guitars | https://tinyurl.com/y4s4sc2r » Greeramps Neck Plate | https://www.greeramps.com/products/supermass-neck-plate Learn how to re-string your new guitar, adjust pickup heights and clean those oxidized frets with The Captain & Danish Pete's top guitar maintenance tips! Perfect for beginners and seasoned guitarists alike, get your brand new guitar playing perfectly with these easy-to-follow and inexpensive maintenance tips. 🎥 Looking to watch something else? Check out our previous episode! » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMqNblbgnRI ⏰ Timestamps ⏰ » 0:00 Why You Should Adjust Your New Guitar? » 2:09 How To Adjust The Neck » 7:04 Re-String & Fretboard Maintenence » 10:19 Cleaning Your Frets » 12:10 Cleaning Your Fretboard » 14:50 Adjusting the Nut » 16:00 Changing Your Neck Plate » 18:22 Re-string Tips » 22:30 Adjusting Your Stratocaster Bridge & Tremolo System » 28:16 Adjusting The Pickup Height » 30:45 How Does It Sound Now? 🎛️ Check out Lee & Pete's Pedalboards! » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0hUAehSoJY 📺 Looking for more exclusive content? Sign up to Andertons Extra! » https://andertonsextra.com/get-extra 📱 Why not give us a follow on our social channels? » Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/andertonsmusicco » Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/andertons/ » Twitter | https://twitter.com/andertonsmusic 🎸 Want To Jam Along? Check out our Backing Tracks! » https://andertonstv.bandcamp.com/ 👕 Buy A T-Shirt 👕 | https://tinyurl.com/vdq7rmg You've watched the videos & seen the store, now join the Andertons Family with our exclusive, official merchandise! With free UK delivery on all orders containing only a T-Shirt, Hoodie or Jumper & super low international shipping costs, there is no better time to be an Andertons fan than now! Make sure to subscribe to Andertons TV for more great videos! Andertons Guitar & Bass YouTube Channel: https://goo.gl/kRJCpb Andertons Synths, Keys & Tech YouTube Channel: https://goo.gl/ns172M Andertons Drummers YouTube Channel: https://goo.gl/9yKSS9 Andertons Shopping Website: https://goo.gl/TPsG2Q #Andertons #Guitarmaintenance #ElectricGuitarhttps://i.ytimg.com/vi/Z3hVV3khtX0/default.jpgPT33M32S2021-07-13T14:03:33Z

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Recommended Guitar Cleaning Kits

Elliot Stent

Elliot Stent

Elliot is a Senior Digital Guitar Marketer at Andertons. A fan of '90s rock, vintage Formula 1 and offensive comedy — he often feels like he was born in the wrong decade. In his spare time, Elliot browses eBay for second-hand Music Man guitars, Marshalls and merch from bands you've never heard of.

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DIY Workshop: How to clean up and restore a vintage guitar

This ES-330 was recently acquired from its second owner, Paddy Collins, whose dad bought it for him from Snell’s music shop in Swansea, UK back in 1967. Paddy’s bandmate in the early days was Mike Japp, who later played with Marmalade and Joe Brown’s band and went on to write songs with Paul Stanley, among others. When Paddy switched to drums, Mike would often play this ES-330 and according to Paddy, he was the last person to string the guitar up.

Sadly, Mike Japp passed away in 2012, so these strings do need changing. But that’s the least of it – Paddy stopped playing a long time ago and the guitar has spent most of the last 30 years stored in its case. The upshot is that the finish is in decent shape, but the lacquer is very dull and dirty and all the nickel parts have oxidised.

Although some vintage-guitar owners are reluctant to clean their guitars, I prefer them when they look cared for and feel nice. I would make a distinction between dirt and patina and, on a practical level, I find that guitars play better and strings last longer when fingerboards are dirt-free and frets are shiny and smooth.

Read on to find out how to clean up the parts and finish as we detail the processes involved in making a wonderful old guitar look and sound its best…

Initial assessment

Gibson ES-330 out of place tone knob

Although the guitar is mostly original, for some reason, the neck-pickup cover is the wrong way around and the bridge-pickup tone knob has been replaced. It’s pretty obvious, because it’s a different colour and size to the others and it won’t push down onto the control pot.

We check the electrics and everything turns out to be working – except the bridge tone control. Peeking inside with an inspection mirror, all the pots and the ‘black beauty’ tone capacitors appear to be original. The wiring harness will have to come out so I can fix or replace the potentiometer and I plan to source a vintage knob to replace the non-original part.

Gibson ES-330 dirty bridge area

Missing fingerboard inlays are all-too common on vintage Gibsons, but I’m relieved to see that all the inlays are still present and correct on this ES-330. Even so, most are just about hanging in there and will need to be re-glued. The fingerboard is relatively clean, but I think there’s room for improvement.

Happily, the finish is largely unfaded and retains its vibrant mid-60s sunburst. Lacquer checking is fairly moderate but the finish looks dull and grimy. There’s a cloudy milkiness that’s particularly apparent on the darker edges of the ’burst, along with the grease marks and dirt build-up that are typical of any well-used guitar.

Stripping down

Gibson ES-330 dust and debris revealed

It’s all too easy to lose vital parts when dismantling a guitar, so I always have an old tub in close proximity to keep everything in one place. I begin by removing the strings, tailpiece, bridge and thumbwheels. Lifting off the tailpiece reveals the ground wire and I suggest placing masking tape over the wire if you want to prevent it from being pulled inside the body.

Since the harness is coming out, it’s not necessary in this case and I remove all the nuts and pointer washers from the potentiometers. I also remove the jack-socket nut and use a specialised tool to release the knurled nut from the switch.

I remove both pickup covers and pull the pickups out of their holes and place them to one side. With a little encouragement, the harness drops into the body and I’m able to pull everything out of the bridge-pickup cavity. A colossal dust ball has wrapped itself around the harness and after dislodging it, I set about brushing all the remaining dust off the pots and switch.

Gibson ES-330 pot code

The pots feel stiff, so they all get a generous squirt of DeoxIT D5 cleaner, which loosens them up considerably. I decide to test the harness while it’s out of the body and to my relief, I discover that the bridge tone control is functioning again and everything appears to be in perfect working order. This is an opportunity to read the date codes on the potentiometers and I discover they were all made by CTS in the 46th week of 1964. I also clean the finish around all the cavities while I have unobstructed access, but I’ll discuss that in more detail later.

I won’t pretend that getting a wiring harness inside a semi-hollow or hollowbody guitar is easy and the first time I tried it, it took me a fortnight to put my guitar back together – a 1965 ES-330, in case you’re wondering. I’ve tried all the luthier tricks such as lengths of rubber tubing over the pot shafts and nylon threads to pull everything back through the holes, but I’ve always got myself into a tangle.

Instead, I tie threads only to the jack socket and neck tone pot, because I find that once they’re back in position, the other parts usually line up under the holes and two threads are a lot less likely to tangle. Once that’s navigated successfully, the reinstalled controls can be tested once again and our attention shifts to the fingerboard inlays.

Glueing the blocks

All but one of the celluloid markers has lifted at one end or the other and rather than remove each one, clean out all the old glue and stick them back down, I prefer to run water-thin Super Glue under them and press them tight while the glue goes off. This technique may not meet with universal approval, but I’ve never had one lift back up.

I focus on one inlay at a time and before applying the glue, I lay masking tape around the block to prevent the glue from spreading where it’s not required. Water-thin glue wicks into the gaps and it doesn’t take long before the block is stuck fast and I’m able to peel off the masking tape. Where there is glue squeeze-out, I’m able to scrape it flush using a utility knife blade and the whole job is completed quite quickly.

Reviving the finish

Gibson ES-330 pointer shadows

I’m always astonished how well vintage Gibson lacquer cleans up. Grease and oils tend to get into the finish and layers of dust and dirt will give even the best-preserved finish a dull and hazy appearance. I also find that when the lacquer on the back of a neck is left uncleaned, it can feel increasingly sticky and slow after being played for a while.

Traditionally, guitarists and techs have used automotive-style abrasive compounds such as T-Cut, Farécla G3 and machine polish to buff out lacquer finishes. I’m not a huge fan of T-Cut on guitar finishes because I find it quite aggressive; I dislike the ammonia and when it dries, it leaves a powdery residue in chips and cracks.

DIY cleaning products

My preferred product is Virtuoso Premium Cleaner, because it’s so effective at lifting all the grease and dirt out of a finish without damaging it. In addition to bringing a finish back to its best, I find it cures the aforementioned sticky neck problem.

It still takes a lot of elbow grease, but if you’re patient, the results can be stunning. You can follow up with a specialised guitar polish and on this occasion, I go with MusicNomad Pro Strength. The Virtuoso polish is good, too, and most experts recommend avoiding polishes containing silicone.

In total, I spend a few hours cleaning and polishing, taking off the tuners during the process. By the end, the finish is gleaming and the colours appear far more vibrant. The high shine will dull naturally over time, but little effort will now be required to bring it back. My primary concern was to clean the finish rather than make the guitar look like new and it has certainly been worth it.

Dark metal

Gibson ES-330 tarnished nickel on bridge humbucker

Although this ES-330 has metal pickup covers, as a 1964 example the plating is nickel rather than chrome. While chrome tends to retain its gleam, nickel has a softer look and tendency to dull down as it oxidises.

In large part, that’s why most vintage-guitar fans prefer nickel to chrome, but the plated parts on this guitar have turned a dull grey and developed an unpleasant, powdery texture. I certainly don’t want to try to make the hardware look new again, but I do want to restore some of the nickel colour and lustre.

I opt for Autosol chrome cleaner and begin polishing up the parts by hand. Compared to the lacquer, I actually spend relatively little time on this because I’m able to achieve the look I want quite quickly. I’m also careful to remove all the polish residue.

Gibson ES-330 tarnished nickel ABR-1 bridge

The only part of this clean-up operation that’s especially laborius is dealing with the ABR-1 bridge. I carefully remove the corroded retaining wire, mindful of how prone they are to snapping. The nylon saddles are removed and placed to one side in order, ready for refitting once the bridge is polished.

Before too long, I’m ready to mount all the hardware back onto the guitar. I replace the knobs, too – including a vintage replacement that I found online. In the process, I learned that not all vintage reflector knobs were created equal and there are differences in height, the depth of the collar around the top and the height of the pot shaft section in the centre relative to the gold lacquer.

Gibson ES-330 pickup cover clean up

Once shipping and taxes were added to the purchase price, this replacement knob ended up costing almost £40. It seems a bit crazy, but at least the ES-330 has a full set of matching knobs once again and the fact that the lettering has worn off is neither here nor there.

Back on the ‘board

Gibson ES-330 dirty fingerboard

Cleaning the finish and hardware is an aesthetic preference and some vintage-guitar fans may prefer the way this guitar looked before I started cleaning it up. I respect that and think it’s a perfectly valid standpoint, but I don’t think it sensible to apply the same argument to bare-wood fingerboards.

It might be fun to speculate on what the dark buildup that develops on fingerboards actually is. I’d suggest an amalgamation of finger grease, fat, dirt, sweat, salt and dust – with a bit of dried blood thrown in for good measure. Bent strings won’t slide across ’board gunk as easily as clean wood, and the dirt and salt will attack your strings and shorten their life. If you think fingerboard gunk is mojo, then that’s your prerogative, but this ’board is getting cleaned.

My concern is always to preserve the vintage look and feel, so avoid scraping ’boards with a blade or credit card. Instead, I use naphtha – aka lighter fluid – applied to a piece of kitchen towel. Naphtha is a gentle cleaner that dissolves the detritus and lifts out the oil and grease. It does take a bit of time and you need to get right up close to the frets, but it will eventually remove all the dirt without taking any wood with it.

Gibson ES-330 cleaned fingerboard

The only downside is that naphtha will lift out the wood’s natural oils too. Once the naphtha has completely evaporated, I wipe the ’board with a product such as Music Nomad F-One or Dunlop Lemon Oil, allow it to soak in, then wipe off any excess and buff up with a clean cloth.

Occasionally, a very dried-out ’board may need a couple of oil applications, but so long as the guitar is played regularly and kept clean, oiling the ’board is something that may only need to be done once a year. The final step is to polish the frets using Crimson Fret Rubbers – I’m pleased with the outcome.

Comes with strings

The whole process takes up most of a day, but with its new set of strings, this ES-330 is playing and sounding better than it has in decades. I think it will be even better after a fret-levelling, and the nut looks like it has seen better days, but I’ll save all that for another day. In the meantime, I’ll concentrate on channelling my inner Grant Green…

Check out more of our DIY guides here. 

Sours: https://guitar.com/guides/diy-workshop/how-to-clean-up-restore-vintage-guitar-1964-gibson-es-330/
2016 Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded Project Part Three: Polish Satin to Gloss with Virtuoso

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Cleaner gibson guitar

I grab my equipment bag and run out of the house. There was something to look at: about 175 in height, a regular figure, a la "hourglass", very neat legs peeped. Out from under the floor. A pretty face, devoid of all makeup and hair, blond hair right up to the very jooo. hmm.

Gibson 335 Polish Satin to Gloss

Yes, and not too seriously we had. Then Nadya, my older sister, floats out of the bathroom, all covered in the. Aroma of French shampoo, sat down next to me, hugged me, began to calm down, they say, she had told me before that I should "tie up" already with this little bitch twirls its tail.

Okay, I moaned a little and it's time to go to the side, tomorrow early in the morning we'll rise and get the marshal's baton. It seems like every soldier should wear it in a knapsack.

Now discussing:

Then Edward went to the bedside lamp and turned it on. I am an adventurous girl, and I will create what I want. I don't care what people think, I live for my own pleasure.



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