Flea Market Fare: Restoring an Old Guitar

Restoring an old guitar from the flea market can end up being a great investment, includes choosing a fixer guitar, how to check over a flea market guitar and tools needed to refurbish a guitar.

| July/August 1982

All that it takes is some time and patience—and a bit of skill—when restoring an old guitar. 

Flea Market Fare: Restoring an Old Guitar

I've made the better part of my income for over 20 years—by playing guitar in country bands. And, not long ago, I had to leave my regular instrument at the repair shop for a complete fret transplant, a job that would take several weeks. Doing so could have presented a problem, too—since I play two or three nights a week—if I hadn't happened to have a spare guitar on hand, a no-name brand that I'd picked up at a garage sale for $5.00.

When I made that purchase, though, I honestly wondered whether I might be paying $4.00 too much! The poor thing looked like it had been used for killing rats. Its neck was broken, the tremolo bar was snapped off, and a couple of keys were missing . . . and that was only the most visible damage. But—perhaps more out of pity than in any hope that I could actually resurrect the guitar—I gathered it up and took it home. I repaired and straightened the neck . . . replaced the ivory nut . . . lowered the bridge . . . put on some keys "borrowed" from another scrap instrument . . . shaved the frets . . . dressed the garage sale special up with a new set of strings . . . and darned if the junket didn't play better than my $600 guitar!

At first I took a lot of ribbing about my "bargain basement axe", but I used it on gigs within a month, and it earned me $475. That's not a bad return on a $5.00 investment in anybody's book . . . and the kidding soon stopped.

There's no reason why you can't restore a flea market bargain, too—for your own use, or even for resale—if you're at least moderately handy with tools, have some time, and know how to play the guitar. [EDITOR'S NOTE: For an introduction to playing that instrument, see MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 72, page 154.] All you'll be doing, to put it simply, is finding a suitable "fixer" and setting it up so that it'll play easily. You might well be surprised to learn how vital this setup is. In fact, probably the No. 1 reason new guitarists stop playing is that they find it just too much of a struggle to push the strings down to the fingerboard when noting or chording. Many novices give up after a few months . . . without ever knowing what a properly setup guitar feels like.


mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard