Let’s grab a guitar off the rack and get it prepped to sell. In the process, we’ll see just what flaws this “gem” holds in store for us..

So this is an Ibanez Gio, GSA20, Strat style. Let’s go through the process:

First, we check out the electronics. I plugged it in and checked the jack. Yup, loose. I checked the switch and each pickup, using a metal 6 inch rule across the poles to ensure the one(s) that were supposed to make noise, actually did and that the others remained quiet. I also checked that the volume and tone controls worked as they should for each pickup.

refurbing used guitars
I use this whiteboard on every job, then file the photo when finished

In the process, I learned that the volume potentiometer was “scratchy” (made a staticky noise), so I pulled the cavity cover that was held with tape (!), cleaned both pots and switch with electronic contact cleaner and tightened the jack. Then I removed all the tape and got some new screws for the cover.

Second, I tuned the guitar and checked the relief. Fretting at first and last frets and measuring at the 7th fret, I measured 0.040″ – way higher than the 0.010″ that the specs call for!

Note that it’s important to tune the guitar to pitch before taking measurements.

Note the missing switch tip, rusty pickup poles and filthy bridge!

I used my 4mm hex wrench and set the relief. If I’d felt enough tension to cause concern, I would have detuned before tightening the truss rod nut, but it wasn’t necessary in this case. After a twist or two, I double checked tuning then measured a perfect 0.010″ of relief.

Naval jelly helped me remove the rust from pickup poles, but I tossed rusty screws and replaced them with new ones.

Next, I checked the nut slots for each string and (surprise!) they were all a perfect 0.020″ when fretted at the highest fret and measured from string bottom to fret top. There are other ways of measuring this, but method demands the least measuring accuracy and it’s what Dan Erlewine recommends, so it’s good enough for me!

Filthy frets & fretboard & corroded strings

String height was way high, but due to wear and a questionable design, the previous owner had blocked the tremolo blocked, but in a position that forced the string height beyond ideal.

After inspecting the bridge and posts, I decided to keep it blocked, but reshaped the blocking shim to achieve the desired string height of 0.052 at ‘e’ and 0.065 at ‘E’.

Tremolo system blocked, but at an angle causing excessive string height due to bridge post issues

Then I noticed the fret wear. Not too bad, but just bad enough to bug me. There were also a few high frets, so I performed a “Level & Crown Light” – slightly leveling just enough to disappear most of the wear and get those high frets dressed. I used a 14 inch radiused sanding block with #500 sandpaper. Note: 12″ or 16″ isn’t “close enough”! Using a block with too small a radius will wear down fret ends more than the center. Too large a radius does the opposite – wears the center lower than the ends. And don’t even get me started about flat leveling blocks!!

I skipped the crowning file since the flat tops weren’t very wide, and went with #320 sandpaper to start my crowning process. In about twenty minutes, I had nicely crowned frets.

But those frets had some nasty crud along their edges and were mounted on a nasty-looking fretboard, so I taped off the neck pickup, grabbed some naptha and #0000 steel wool and went to work, rubbing parallel to the frets. Dried the naptha off and used a magnet to collect any loose steel wool bits, then rubbed in some “lemon oil” furniture polish. After that had sit about fifteen minutes, I buffed it out and the fretboard and frets looked great.

I used Goo Gone and naptha to remove the sticky residue from the tape and a decal, then used car polish to generally clean the entire guitar body and headstock.

I removed the string guides, sanded the underside with #800 sandpaper, then a light coating of Chapstick and reinstalled. String guides are your main source of friction and tuning issues. If this were not blocked, I would have replaced them with roller guides.

Headstock area before cleaning & restringing

I polished the guitar with Walmart car wax, tightened strap screws, tuner key nuts, neck bolts, etc. Then I installed new Ernie Ball #9 strings lightly coated with 3-in-1 oil, stretched (about 8 stretching cycles of stretch-retune-stretch-retune; rinse & repeat, etc.), set relief, saddle heights, retuned and intonated.

Finally, I played the guitar for about half an hour, to ensure there were no overlooked issues.

Here’s the guitar all cleaned up but before intonation