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I've just returned from getting a guitar appraised at Gryphon Music in
Palo Alto, California. They had some interesting comments on taking care
of guitars. Here's what they said, at least in reference to my guitar (a
1927 Martin 0-28K):

0 Don't polish the guitar. A polish that has any abrasives in it will wear
down the finish eventually, and many good guitars have a thin finish to
begin with. A white polish can seep through cracks in the finish and
highlight the cracks. A wax-based polish can build up, making it hard to
keep the guitar looking nice, since you eventually end up just polishing
the polish. Oil-based polishes can seep through and either darken the
cracks, darken the wood underneath the cracks, or darken the wood in a
larger area. Where they seep through, they can also cause the grain of the
wood to raise, and perhaps add to the cracking of the finish.

0 Wipe down the guitar, including the strings, with a clean, lint-free rag
each time after playing.

0 Sweat from your bare forearm leaning against the front of the guitar can
soften the finish, and even soak through it. In the worst case, this can
turn the top finish into a tar-like dark spot where the arm rested. They
suggested wearing a long-sleeve shirt while playing, and failing this,
just draping the rag you clean the guitar with over the side of the guitar
and along where your arm lays. I've been doing this anyway with this
guitar, and I find it more comfortable, because my forearm no longer
sticks to the front. (This works well enough with my finger-picking, I
don't know how practical it is for flat-picking.)

0 Don't bother putting lemon oil, or anything else, on an ebony
fingerboard (I didn't ask about rosewood or maple). They said that ebony
is so tough "it is essentially dishwasher safe." They said that by the
time I got the guitar, the ebony was either dry or not, and adding lemon
oil wasn't going to change this fact. I didn't ask further on this, but
the impression I got is that the lemon oil doesn't really soak through the
wood, more like it looks shiny on the surface, and then gets rubbed off
again as you play, giving the impression that it soaked in and did some

You can assume that any inaccuracies in the above are due to my poor
short-term memory, and not to any misinformation from Gryphon's personnel.

Bill Baeck

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