I know, I know. It’s been a while since I posted anything related to guitar maintenance. I’m sorry. I’ll do better!
We took in a Warwick bass that had been left in a basement for 4-5 years, and had certainly seen better days. The body was dry and entirely dusty, and the frets were caked with rust and grime. In order to turn a profit, this bass needed some serious work.
After removing the old strings, which were as equally disgusting as the frets, I took to the very great task of fret polishing. Usually, it’s a simple process spanning only minutes. This particular job took quite a bit longer than that- closer to 35. I’ve worked on some poorly-kept instruments before (one bass had been left in a barn for ten years, with straw and spider egg sacs in the input jack and rust actually connecting a few frets to the strings) but I’ve never encountered a more tenacious layer of build-up! If you look closely at the photo, you can see impressions of the strings themselves! Eventually, the “bell brass” frets looked good-as-new. While I usually tape off the fretboard itself to prevent marring or visible scratching, this board had some rather unsightly deposits up to the 8th fret.
Next, I bathed this bass in lemon oil. The body, which came in looking dull and overtly dry, especially needed attention. I let the body soak for around 30 minutes which is usually too long for most guitars as the oil could cause damage. I was especially wary of that center seam. I also oiled the fretboard- 2 coats, actually- and it seemed to come back to life almost immediately. You’ll also want to be careful not to use and excessive amount when oiling a rosewood fretboard. I’ve seen frets lift out of their slots this way, so play it safe. A few drops (and minutes) is plenty!
Once I’d wiped away all of the remaining oil, I gave the bass a quick once-over, paying close attention to the neck bolts and tuning posts. When the bass came in, the neck was way too concave, so before re-stringing I made sure to compensate in case the rod was difficult to turn with string tension. (I guessed)
With strings in place, the bass still needed bow correction to play properly. A few turns later, we had ourselves a sweet bass. The only thing this bass needed, aside from a serious intonation adjustment, was a slight raising of Warwick’s adjustable nut. The action is now marvelous, and she sounds just as huge as her suggestively contoured body would, ummm… suggest.
She’ll be on Ebay sometime soon, so keep your eyes peeled!