Our daughter got an old child guitar (80 cm / 31") as a present from her grandparents. It's horrible to play, so I have to try making it as good as possible.

Somethings to note:

  • The neck is really dry. I almost get splinters.
  • The tuning pegs are quite hard to turn. I'm assuming the gears are not the best.
  • The frets have rough edges
  • The strings are super dry and rough
  • The strings are a bit far from the neck close to the body, but not close to the head.

Some questions:

  • Can I oil the fret board?
  • What type of strings are easiest to play for a child?
  • Can I file the edges?
  • Can I use a saw or something to make a deeper cut into the "string holder" on the body (last image).

Any other tips?

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  • "dry" is not the same as "smooth" vs. "rough" . If there are splinters, those need to be sanded out before considering any refinishing. Apr 13, 2020 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


An inexpensive guitar with a zero fret!

  • yes, file the ends of the fretwires if they're protruding. Work from the fingerboard towards the back, otherwise you may pull the wire out.

  • change the strings for nylon - they'll be kinder on young fingers.

  • if there's a truss-rod, adjust it to get the strings more parallel to the fingerboard.

  • wire wool on the back of the neck may produce a better finish.

  • fingerboard itself shouldn't be a problem.

  • yes, the bridge slots can be undercut, but after everything else is adjusted. If you go too low, it may need another bridge, or paper strips underneath. The same can happen at the nut, but replacing is more complex.

  • after all, place the bridge in the right place for intonation. The 12th fret harmonic needs to be the same note as 12th fret fretted. Slide back or forth as needed.

  • attatch a strap or cord so she can 'wear' the guitar.

  • if the strings are still too tight, tune down a tone.


First question: are you an experienced guitarist (and / or luthier)? If not, you are likely to make things worse rather than better.

Next question: do you have any reason to suspect this is a quality instrument? I know it's nice to restore a "family heirloom," but unless you get an appraisal and find it is a collectible, you are almost certainly better off hanging it on the wall and buying your child a brand-new small-size guitar. She will be far less frustrated when learning on a working instrument.

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