Pie Fingers – The story of a Gretsch Electromatic G5120

A friend of mine at the school where I work at allowed me to take a look at his Gretsch G5120, which had exhibited a few “issues.”

A cursory first check proved that the guitar sounded rather lifeless.  Although all the electrics were sound, it just seemed to lack any “edge” to the sound.

The first thing that was noticable was that the strings were rusted  – some of us actually produce acids in our sweat that if they aren’t wiped off the strings after playing quite literally eat away at the strings leading to breakages and loss of tone as the rust accumulates in the windings of the thicker strings.



A closer look soon revealed that the frets still had some lacquer on their surface and the most commonly used positions had significant quantities of finger grease and skin cells embedded into the surface.




A quick dousing with Guitar Honey soaked in to the rather dry fretboard, and after an “exfoliating treatment with #000 wire wool the fretboard starts to show grain again, and feels slick and smooth.





The first wipe with a cloth revealed just how dirty the neck was!






All clean and the neck and frets polished…..







The body is a different story.  The rosewood bridge is dry and brittle, it even still has some shipping foam underneath it – possibly another cause of the lifeless tone.





Quite amazingly the body is simply covered in accumulated debris and the lacquer and pickups are coated in a fine layer of grease – obviously he’d been eating pork pies whilst he was playing!





Pickup height was another issue in the catalogue of factors contributing to the dullness, and a lack of balance between the pickups.






A quick wipe down with some “Smudge Off”, and things are starting to look healthier.

Following the Smudge off I applied a coat of “No 1 Carnauba Wax”  to protect the finish.





The Bridge is the next target  – “Smudge Off” removed all the dead skin and grease, “Guitar Honey” for the bridge base.






Checkout that bad boy now it’s all clean and healthy….

… a little vaseline on the bridge posts and some 3 in 1 oil on the saddle screws – should protect them from the worst of the acid sweat….




Restringing a Bigsby is always fun – but I find a little bend in the string just behind the ball end makes all the difference…






I’m a bit picky about how I restring the guitars – I tend to favour ….

Thread the string through, and about 1.5″ beyond the machine head – bend the string back on itself.

Then tighten the string, using the kink to bind against the post of the tuner.

One turn over the top, and then the rest under the protruding end – there should be enough string for about 2-3 turns – NO OVERLAP, and always working DOWN the post towards the headstock – this ensures a good “break angle” of the string over the nut.

 In order to adjust pickup height I had to borrow a spacer from the neck pickup and add it to the bridge.  I also had to remove the funnel screws from the bridge in order to get it high enough.

Great result the sound is instantly LOUDER and twangier – the tone control now seems to have something to work on!



After this it was the usual regime of tune – retune – tune again – all whilst the Bigsby settled in.

Adjust the Bridge height for minimum action and minimum buzz.

Then adjustment of the intonation – started with the foot of the bridge near the cross of the “f holes” – then microadjustment with the bridge screws and a tuner to ensure that the guitar plays in tune all the way up the neck.

Tune – retune – retune again.

Final wipe down.

Great job.








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One Response to “Pie Fingers – The story of a Gretsch Electromatic G5120”

  1. Will says:

    This is great, Phil!

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