To avoid wasted trips, Craigslist negotiations generally occur before you get to actually hold and inspect the guitar. Knowing that most issues don’t show up in photos, I always price in an average set of problems.

used mexican fender strat, st pete, palm harbor
After all work completed

Even so, this guitar turned out to be not such a great deal for me. It’ll be a great deal after I do all the work it needs, but I’ll be four hours “poorer” by then.

Starting with the upper left side of the white board, you can see that the switch and volume control needed cleaning and a switch tip was missing.

problem with used guitars
Nearly .04″ at 1st fret

The nut slots were twice as high as they should have been, meaning accurate intonation was impossible.

Using my Stewmac nut files, I carefully filed each slot down to just below .02″

It’s important to file with the guitar tuned. Otherwise, you can have a string not fully seated in a slot and think you need to file further. (Not that this has ever happened to me! – LOL)

Relief was 3x higher than specs!
guitar setups, tampa, st pete
Filing nut slots deeper

Next, I checked neck relief, which should be just about .01″, but it measured at .03″ This measurement is done with a capo at 1st fret while fretting the last fret, and with the strings tuned.

I’ve seen several people measure relief without tuning the guitar first. The problem is that when tuned, #9 strings put about 90#s of tension on the neck. This tension must be balanced by the truss rod to give the proper amount of relief.

So, if the strings are slack, you’ll under-measure relief and vice-versa if they’re tuned sharp.

String height set too low.
guitar setups, palm harbor
(Different guitar) Adjusting neck relief

This guitar had lots of buzzing and dead notes, partially due to low string height but also due to fret wear. The frets had to be leveled, crowned and polished.

Fret wear & filthy fretboard
Level & Crown frets
After leveling, frets are crowned then polished
Cleaning fret board
Fretboard cleaned (naptha & lemon oil) & frets polished

Saddles and bridge must be cleaned too, otherwise crud and resulting scratches can cause tuning and intonation issues.

Dirty saddles can lead to tuning and intonation problems
After cleaning in hydrasonic jewelry device.

Once string heights were set, I put a tiny drop of #10 CA on the threads of each set screw. They can still be turned and adjusted, but it will take enough effort that vibrations won’t change the settings.

I also removed pickup covers and used naval jelly to clean off any corrosion on pickup poles, then put a coat of clear nail polish over the poles to protect from future corrosion and rust before replacing the covers.

I fixed the loose output jack and tightened the tuner nuts. I almost always find these nuts loose and many players aren’t aware that loose tuner key nuts affect tuning stability.

I finished going through all the steps I take on each guitar to ensure that my customers get a good instrument that is intonated and will hold tune while playing and sounding great.

This fine guitar is now for sale and worthy of the time and effort some player will put into it.