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1. Sentimental reasons - It might be your first guitar, or one that was a gift or inheritance from a family member. Whatever the case may be, I can't put a price tag on sentimental value. Only you can do that. What I can do is work with you to get your cherished instrument up to good running order at a cost that isn't prohibitive.
2. It has potential to be a really good guitar - There's something about old wood that adds a wonderful sonic dimension to the sound of a guitar. This is especially true for acoustics, and some of the old Harmonys, Silvertones, and Yamahas are great examples. I have a cheap Yamaki acoustic that I bought with my graduation money back in 1973, and despite its all-laminate construction, it can hold its own against my more expensive solid wood guitars. Sure, you might be able to buy a new instrument for less money than it takes to fix an old one, but you just can't buy that old-wood sound or the mo-jo that goes along with it. Given the choice between a new acoustic guitar for $300 or an old Harmony Sovereign H1260 for the same money that might need $100 of work, I'll take the old Harmony.
3. There is a certain cost to maintain a guitar in good working order regardless of its age or cost. So let's say it will cost $100 to get that old guitar playable again, and you see that Guitar Center is blowing out some new acoustics for $100. Well, you'll probably need to invest in new strings and a set-up to get that new guitar playing the way it should. Stores don't make much on those low-end guitars and are not likely to put any effort or expense into getting them playing right before they go out the door.
OK, so those are reasons to get the old guitar fixed up. What are some reasons NOT to? First of all, some old guitars are truly crap. They were crap when they were built, and no amount of TLC will ever make them into a good player. So unless reason #1 above applies... no.
Secondly, a lot of old guitars that might have been good have developed some serious problems. Warping, glue joints failing, cracks are some of the problems, and they can be expensive and sometimes impossible to repair. For example, a lot of old guitars didn't have truss rods. Often they had a steel rod to reinforce the neck. Over time string tension bends the neck. While I've been pretty successful straightening some of these using heat and pressure, the fix won't last. The same factors that caused it to warp are still in play. Also, if there are missing parts, finding replacements may be difficult.
Most of the structural problems I see in old guitars (or newer ones for that matter...) are from the wood drying out. We are moving into the season where you will be firing up your furnace, so make sure you are taking the steps needed to keep proper humidity levels for your guitars.
Is my old guitar worth fixing?
I get this question quite a bit. Perhaps it's a guitar that a person has had for many years, maybe a gift from a family member, maybe something picked up at a pawn shop, but usually an inexpensive instrument that now needs repair. And the cost of the repair might be as much as or greater than the guitar cost to begin with. So when does it make sense to take the plunge and get it fixed, and when is it time to let it go?
Here are three reasons why it makes sense to get it fixed: