The first thing we do is inspect the guitar for any cosmetic damage. We thoroughly check every inch of the guitar, the front and back of the body, up and down the fretboard and neck, and check for dings on the headstock and input jack. We understand that blemishes can happen due to shipping or just manufacturer defects. We also understand that due to the natural state of wood, imperfections can happen. If there is anything cosmetically wrong with the instrument, we are going to send it back to the manufacturer because we will not sell anything that does not pass our quality control.
If we see that the instrument is cosmetically perfect, the next thing we do is tune the guitar to make sure that everything is set properly. This is especially important on any guitar that has a tremolo system, because if you set it to standard tuning and the bridge is either too high or too low, you know that there is going to be some more work that needs to be done to the bridge before you can continue (this won’t happen on a hard tail guitar but for the later steps it still needs to be tuned). If the bridge raises or dips, we adjust the springs on the back of the guitar until the bridge is sitting correctly and re-tune. This process keeps repeating until the bridge is sitting correctly with the guitar perfectly in tune. This process also allows us to see if the bridge was mounted correctly, as well as checking to see that the springs are adjusting the bridge. Once the guitar is in tune and the bridge is correct, we move on to the next step.
Once the bridge is set, we check to see if the neck of the guitar is up to our standards. This is usually the most involved step because there could be multiple different issues. The first thing we usually do is check the relief on the neck. This can usually be checked by hand, but to be precise we measure with a gauge. The relief is going to be different on every guitar due to neck radius, or whether it is an acoustic or electric guitar.
Once there is slight relief on the neck, we make sure to play every fret on the fretboard. By doing this we can pinpoint any further issues with the neck as well as with the strings. For example, if we play and there is fret buzz or notes completely fretting out on the first few frets, that could mean that the tension is not correct, so we need to adjust that. But if the tension is good but there is still serious fret buzz that could mean that the nut isn’t filed correct or there could be high frets. In either of those cases, we would send the instrument back to the manufacturer. If there are any sharp fret ends, we can file those down to ensure a comfortable playing experience.
Once the relief is good, we check the action of the instrument. If the action is too high, we lower the bridge until it is at a comfortable height. If it is too low, there will be buzzing on the higher frets. If that is the case, we just keep adjusting until it is sitting at a comfortable level without any fret buzz. If there is still fret buzz when the action is high, that more than likely means that there is a high fret, and that guitar will be sent back to the manufacturer.
Once the guitar has relief in the neck, the bridge is set, and the action is at the correct height, we re-play every fret again. If everything is perfect and there is still fret buzz, muted frets, or fret out, that means there is some sort of manufacturer defect, and the guitar is sent back. This is also a good time to double check to see if the strings are okay. If they came out of the factory kind of worn out, or they have become kind of frayed due to all the adjustments, we will change out the strings. If the guitar has a Floyd Rose tremolo system, all the steps involving the bridge and neck need to be repeated.
Once everything is good to go with the neck, bridge, strings, and body, the last thing we check is the electronics. We plug every guitar into an amp and check out each pickup individually. We make sure that the output is correct, and that one is not louder than the other. If there is any discrepancy, we can adjust the pickup height to hopefully fix that issue. We also make sure to check both the volume and tone pots to make sure they are not dirty and there is no breakup. If they are we make sure to clean them. If the pickups, pre-amp, tuner, or any electronics do not work, we make sure to send them back if we cannot fix them ourselves.
Once the instrument passes out quality control department, we box it back up in its original packaging (if it is not damaged) to be shipped out for a customer order or brought to our showroom. As you can see, we have quite an intense guitar inspection process and we are extremely particular with what guitars we are going to sell to customers. We want to ensure that if you shop with Safe Haven Music, you only get perfect instruments.