Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: Guitar maint, storage, cleaning, ect

  1. #1
    PRS Addiction CoreyT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Auburn, WA. USA

    Guitar maint, storage, cleaning, ect

    It is for a different brand of guitar, but there is a lot of good tech in it.


    Cleaning and caring for your new McKnight:

    All of our current guitars use catalyzed urethane lacquer finish and requires very little care. I suggest a lightly water dampened cloth to remove any body oils followed by a clean soft cotton cloth to dry the finsh. There is no need for any chemicals or polishes with this durable finish.

    My earlier guitars (serial numbers ending with 23 or less) were finished with nitrocellulose instrument-grade lacquer. Lacquer requires a bit of care when handling, so take the following measures to protect your new instrument.

    Do some “preventive” cleaning each time you play to avoid a number of future problems. A soft cotton cloth is best for polishing and cleaning guitars. Flannel “guitar polishing cloths” are available from local music stores. Alternatively, use an old 100% cotton T-shirt with no printing or graphics to wipe down the guitar after playing. Paper products such as tissues, napkins and paper towels can actually scratch a fine guitar’s finish, especially if it is lacquer or shellac French Polish.

    Simply wiping with a cotton cloth will keep your guitar looking like new. Some areas, such as the area under the strings, might be a bit hard to reach, but it’s not that difficult to simply shove the wiping cloth under the strings to remove any surface dust.

    You can extend the tonal life of strings by wiping them vigorously after each time you play. Simply grip the string through the cloth and scrub up and down its length. You can also keep the fingerboard relatively clean by wiping right over the board, strings and all.

    As you wipe down the finish, particularly on the top and back, you might notice some spots or larger areas that don’t come perfectly clean. Removing tougher fingerprints, smudges, and other dirt can be accomplished with a trace of moisture on your wiping cloth.

    For even more cleaning power, moisten the wiping cloth with a little mild detergent diluted in water. Spray the cloth, not the guitar. That way, you’ll be able to control how much water actually gets on the surface. The idea is to use as little moisture as possible, to avoid it getting into any tiny voids in the finish. Follow the damp wiping by buffing with a dry cotton cloth to remove any streaks.

    There are many commercial guitar polishes and cleansers on the market. They are basically of three types: water-based cleaners, creamy water-based cleaners with very fine abrasives, and oils. Most of these are fine products, and, used according to directions, will yield good results.

    Oils will remove oily smudges, but might not have any effect on water-soluble dirt. Water-based cleansers (which look semi-transparent in the bottle) should be sprayed on the cloth rather than on the instrument, and will clean up water-soluble dirt best. The creamy-type polishes may contain a slight abrasive, and are best avoided if you have a matte-finished guitar. Too much polishing can cause a semi-gloss finish to become shiny in patches.

    Vinyl, Rubber & Plastics:

    So here’s the deal: Vinyl eats lacquer. As such, it presents significant danger to a nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Rubber also can discolor and soften lacquer. A vinyl covered guitar stand can damage lacquer finishes. You’ll also find that certain capos can inflict this same bit of damage.

    I find it interesting that guitar stands, hangers and straps made with vinyl are still sold. Worse yet, most, if not all, are sold without a disclaimer about the damage they can cause!

    Heat is your enemy:

    Excess heat is the most unrecognized and destructive force that acts on stringed instruments. I’m talking about the kind of heat that builds up in parked cars. It’s the kind of heat that kills the family dog in short order. It’s the kind of heat that drives out moisture and causes instruments to crack. It’s the kind of heat that causes glue to melt. It’s the kind of heat that causes necks to warp.

    How hot is it?

    On a hot day in full sunlight, my car can reach an interior temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit in only fifteen minutes. At that temperature, it’s not long before the interior of an instrument case gets extremely hot, too. At around 140 degrees, the glue that holds modern instruments together begins to turn to liquid. LITERALLY.

    Where should I keep my instrument? In the case, on a stand, hanging on the wall?

    For most instruments, the safest storage is in their cases. There, they are protected from dust and accident; and, to some extent, from temperature and humidity fluctuations. The downside is that they are also more out of the way and less likely to get used for a casual tune.

    I don’t recommend gig bags as they offer the least protection for your fine instrument. Chipboard cases are a bit better, but still offer minimal protection. I suggest a HARDSHELL case made of plywood for the ultimate in protection. You can purchase an ABS plastic case, but they tend to distort and warp over time and you will find that they don’t close properly once distorted.

    Frank Ford prefers to keep his hanging on the wall.

    “I just use a leather thong tied to the tuners and hang it on a picture hook firmly mounted on the wall. I check behind the instrument to see were it touches the wall and I use double stick tape to attach a small piece of felt, about 4 inch square to protect the back from scratches. On the wall, staring at me, my guitar and mandolin are free to make me feel guilty for not playing enough music! They are free from the accidental kick that can send a guitar flying out of its stand. They do collect a bit of dust, but I can keep them wiped off easily enough.”

    Frank’s old friend, Barry Olivier, has been teaching guitar to individuals and groups in Berkeley, California, for over forty years. Barry told me that, since the very beginning, he has given each of his students (thousands by now!) a leather thong to tie around the pegs so the guitar can hang on the wall. He tells his students to keep the guitar out so they can take advantage of a short playing breaks.

    “If you have two or three minutes to spare, you can play a tune. That is, you can if your guitar is handy.”

    Barry describes the case as a “barrier to playing.” He offers this quote from Shakespeare (“Timon of Athens” Act 1, Scene 2): “Sweet instruments hung up in cases. . . keep their sounds to themselves.”

    Before you ask, I don’t believe that exterior walls pose any threat to a hanging guitar unless you live in a single-wall building, like a cabin. If I lived in a one-room, woodstove-heated house, or in the swamps or other harsh environment, I’d rethink keeping my guitar hanging on the wall.

    In the winter, some houses get really dry when heated, especially if they’re located in cold areas of the country. If the ambient relative humidity is really low and you don’t humidify your house, you probably use a case humidifier and instead of keeping your instrument out.

    Direct sun is an absolute no-no!

    My least favorite place to keep instruments is on stands. They are more in the way because they take up floor space; they can fall; and they may have some problems if the finish interacts with the vinyl or rubber on the stand. A good way to prevent this is to cover the contact areas of the stand with a couple of layers of thick felt. You can also purchase fuzzy pads to cover the neck holder portion of the stand, but don’t forget to cover the any area where the body might come in contact with the stand.

    We all agree that you should de-tune any instrument that’s going into storage for a long time. The only problem I have with that common wisdom is that usually I intend to play it tomorrow. . . Some of the above information borrowed [with permission] from the master repairman, Frank Ford, at

  2. #2
    One thing about the leather thong tied to the tuning machines suggestion to note is that some leathers interact with nitro finishes in a very nasty way. Another thing is that vintage style tuners' shafts can bend, which isn't exactly what you'd want to happen to yours. While this is unlikely on an acoustic, it's more likely on some electrics that tend to be heavier. Like certain PRSes.

    He's right that the best place to keep the guitar is the case. On a personal level, I don't see a case as an impediment to playing, since opening it is literally a two second operation, but that's just my way of thinking (I don't need to keep my shoes hanging on the wall to remind myself to wear shoes, either). YMMV.

    Finally, I'm absolutely convinced that a quality microfiber cloth is a shade kinder to the finish in the long run than an all-cotton cloth, though cotton certainly works well and is safer than any other non-microfiber cloth. What you want to avoid are cotton blends, cotton with nylon threads running through the material, etc., because some of these blends or threads can cause swirl marks.

  3. #3
    Here's my feeling about bore oil: a woodwind is something that has to endure a lot of moisture from the player - warm breath air, spit, and whatever other crap comes out of someone's mouth. That is kind of a moisture-laden environment, and it's also an enclosed environment, so stuff doesn't evaporate as easily as with wood that is exposed constantly to air. Also, most woodwinds are ebony, and it's not as naturally oily as rosewood.

    Nor with a woodwind does it much matter what notes you're playing, the wet breath is constant.

    A woodwind player puts the thing in its case to go home after the classical jam, and the moisture is still in there, so they use what looks like a feather duster thingy that isn't really feathers, and stick it in the bell to try and clean it out, etc. The whole thing is gross and makes me glad that I play guitar and keys.

    In contrast, guitar fingerboards are not subjected to that kind of moisture, unless your hands sweat a real lot (some people's hands do!). Mostly, it's the oils from your hands that get transferred to the surface of the wood, and they don't harm it. Rosewood is naturally oily enough that it resists most sweat. And the fingerboard always exposed to the air, so moisture evaporates more quickly. And when you play different chords and notes, the areas on the wood that are affected change while you play, it's not constantly in one spot.

    So bore oil has to serve a substantially different purpose from fingerboard treatment. Which is why it's bore oil and not fingerboard treatment. It's kind of the musical instrument equivalent of the stuff you put on wood decks to keep them from rotting since they're out in the rain, snow, and sun all the time. You wouldn't use it on the wood floors of your house, right?

    I haven't seen any rosewood boards that truly *needed* oiling unless the guitar was truly abused. Case in point, I have a 1965 SG Special with a rosewood board that has never in its lifetime been oiled (that would be 47 years), nor was it treated very gingerly in its life (it spent many a night in the equipment van, and years in my kids' rooms on stands), and the board is still not dried out nor is it cracked anywhere. It's in perfect shape and still looks shiny and fresh. I wish I could say that about the frets! Here is a shot of the SG, take a look at the 47 year old fingerboard. It's been cleaned when dirty with lemon oil only. The last time was probably 20 years ago since I got my first PRS in 1991 and stopped playing it for all intents and purposes. Pic taken a few months ago while at my brother's house (the case is original to the guitar, the tune-o-matic was installed in 1971, hence the dowel inserts, the guitar has not been refinished):

    That isn't to say that fingerboards don't need the occasional cleaning. Gunk does build up. And lemon oil like the stuff PRS sells is good for cleaning, because it's mostly naphtha and it evaporates quickly. You wipe it on and wipe it off, and you're done. As for oils, what most of them do is lay on top of the board, attract and trap dirt, gunk and more stuff for you to clean off. You don't want to leave naphtha on a board to "soak in" because it ain't good for the wood.

    I realize there is a temptation for people to overdo things with a beautiful guitar, because it gives people a certain joy when they think they're being nice to the thing. And heck, there are folks who wax their cars once a week, too. But at the same time a car is made of harder stuff than wood, and the paint is designed to be exposed to harsh environments, so it's hard to screw up. On the other hand, some of the stuff folks use on fingerboards winds up being worse than doing nothing. Some oils actually break down the wood cells. Some encourage bacteria growth, which causes rot. Even stuff like Rosewood oil isn't, it's actually a lot like turpentine and it comes from a plant that is unrelated to the kind of rosewood that fingerboards are made of. It can actually damage the wood.

    So if someone thinks they need to oil their fingerboard, I would ask first, "Why? What are its symptoms?" In most cases, there aren't any. Or they want the board to look darker somehow, but that's not its natural color, and putting gook on it to darken it makes not a whole lot of sense.

    Some people simply consider it preventive maintenance. But the thing is, they're really not preventing anything; in most cases, they're causing problems for down the road.

    My feeling is that if the rosewood isn't showing signs of problems, I leave it alone. If it's really grotty, I clean it with lemon oil and wipe it down with a dry cloth immediately.

    Anyway, it's not a matter of clogging the fingerboard, it's really more a matter of gooping it up unnecessarily, attracting more dirt and grime, perhaps even breaking down the cellulose that keeps the wood together. So I say if you're going to use something in spite of whether or not you need to, just do it sparingly.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 09-18-2012 at 11:19 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by DirtyMoonsRJT View Post
    Very thoughtful post Les... I had gotten in to a conversation with a local guitar tech who used bore oil as part of his setup routine...was interested in hearing opinions on the subject... I looked it up online but found conflicting information. Thanks.

    Btw I used to play an original sg just like that (including the bridge change) was my uncle's...totally forgot about it until you posted pics... he let me borrow it for a couple of years in my early teens...guitar screamed.
    Techs! A local tech used some bore oil during the initial setup on what was then my brand '93 new Artist II without telling me beforehand. When I picked up the guitar from the shop, the tech proudly opened the case to reveal how much "nicer" the board was -- and he'd completely and permanently discolored the maple inlays running along the sides of the fingerboard. Plus the board looked like someone had taken bacon grease to it, he just gooped it on. Was I ever upset!

    That's when I started learning to do what I could to avoid trips to guys like this one. After all, you sink a chunk of change into a PRS! And I need mine on hand for recording projects.

    What I learned over the past couple of decades was pretty simple: Have them set up the way you like them in the first place; keep the guitars in a reasonably well-humidified environment in winter, and in a reasonably dry environment in summer; and keep them cased when not in use. I can honestly say that the instruments haven't needed periodic adjustments since. In winter here in Michigan, it gets incredibly dry, so in addition to a whole-house humidifier, I use a small room humidifier where I keep the guitars. These few small things have kept them remarkably stable, including acoustics that are more sensitive to environmental changes.

    For a long time I was into car stuff and even helped restore a '58 Ferrari with a friend, judged concours, etc. During this time I learned about caring for finishes. Since guitar finishes are pretty similar, a lot of this stuff translates. Though we're not talking about finishes here, so I'm off track once again.

    Obviously, I can only speak for my own results, and everyone's different. I do respect that.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts