I have a story to tell you. It’s a desperate, sad story but one which taught me a valuable lesson and which I hope will help you avoid the terrible mistake I once made.
I have an Epiphone Les Paul Standard, it’s a beautiful guitar. It sounds sensational and plays like a dream. From the moment I first picked it up and played it in my local guitar store nearly 20 years ago I knew I had to have it. So I went to the bank, withdrew the money I’d saved from my holiday job and bought it.
Skip forward a dozen or so years and having had over a decade of wonderful playing from my Les Paul, I packed it up in its flight case and moved house with my family. By then I had a wife and two young children, so I didn’t play as much as I had done. In fact I didn’t play much at all. So when we discovered that there was less space than we needed in our new home, and that we were going to have to use the garage for storage, I took my pride and joy, in its flight case and along with its faithful friend, a Marshall 50W valve combo amplifier, and put it with the rest of our stored possessions. I told myself it would only be for a few months, just until we made some more space in the house. What is it they say about the Road to Hell?
Several months later and the other side of a particularly nasty winter, I opened the garage to retrieve my beloved Les Paul. I hauled it out of the garage and into the house, and carefully unclasped the locks on the flight case and opened it. My heart sank. My knees weakened. I felt my breath shorten, I swear I let out an audible moan. My guitar, my wonderful, amazing Epiphone Les Paul had succumbed to the dampness in the garage.
The bridge, tailpiece, fretwires, and machine heads were all rusty. Every screw was orange with oxidation. I couldn’t believe it, I was devastated. But I resolved there and then to repair the damage and restore my guitar to its former glory. It’s been a long and not inexpensive haul, but I’m getting there.
It’s a mistake I know I’ll never make again. Next time I store a guitar I’ll make sure I do it properly, and so should you. Here’s how:
1. if you’re going to store your guitar for any length of time, take the strings off. This reduces the tension on the neck an stops it from bending or bowing.
2. Keep it somewhere dry. Not only does dampness rust the metal components, it gets into the wood, dulls the tone and makes it more likely to bend at the neck when you play it.
3. Clean and polish your guitar before and after storing it. Clean sweat from the frets. Use a good quality polish and oil for the fretboard and a good quality cloth.
4. Buy the best quality case you can afford. Gig bags are all very well, but they don’t provide much protection against bumps and bangs. Buy a hard case. A flight case or hard bodied carry case. It’s a very worthwhile investment.
5. Wipe your strings down after every time you play. The oil and sweat from your fingers gets into the strings and if you don’t clean them, will rust them and you’ll have to replace them sooner.