How to Repair a Rickenbacker Bakelite

Written by robert russell
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Rickenbacker was the first guitar company to successfully market solid body electric guitars. The Bakelite guitar was introduced in the 1930s and remained in production until the mid 1950s. Bakelite is a hard and durable plastic used for a variety of household items such as the black rotary style telephone that was the staple of most household for many years. Rickenbacker produced a lap steel version and a Spanish style solid body version of the guitar. The Rickenbacker Bakelite was a simple instrument with one horseshoe pickup, one or two knobs, and several chrome or white cover plates. Bakelites are regarded more for their historical interest rather than their tone or playability.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Vintage guitar hardware
  • Cloth
  • Liquid metal polish
  • Buffing cloth
  • Cotton swab or toothbrush

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  1. 1

    Inspect the condition of the guitar. Rickenbacker Bakelite lap steels and Bakelite Spanish model guitars were produced between the 1930s and 1950s. Restoring the guitar may involve meticulous cleaning or it may require the replacement of parts such as tuners, knobs, frets, and the pickup. Visually inspect the guitar signs of damage. The lap steel and the Spanish model are small sized instruments with minimal hardware. Play the guitar through an amplifier to test its sound quality.

  2. 2

    Purchase replacement parts for the Bakelite. The vintage guitar market is a thriving business and it is usually possible to find original parts or reissued parts that meet the specs of the originals. "Brad's Page Of Steel" is an online site used by professional and amateur steel guitarists for information about all aspects of steel guitars, including the Rickenbacker Bakelite. Vintage guitar stores are also another important resource for finding the right parts.

  3. 3

    Loosen and remove the strings with a string winding tool. Remove any parts, such as knobs, tuners, bridge, or pickups that need to be replaced or worked on. The neck on the Bakelite is also detachable from the rear of the guitar. The neck has to be detached and reset to set the action properly.

  4. 4

    Clean the guitar with a soft cloth to remove dirt and debris. It is easier to clean the guitar while it is in a disassembled stage.

  5. 5

    Clean and polish the Bakelite finish with a liquid metal polish. Liquid metal polish is slightly abrasive but it will not damage the finish of the guitar. Apply the polish with a clean cloth and work it into the finish. Allow it to dry to a film. Buff the film until the shine is restored. Repeat the procedure several times if the Bakelite finish is extremely aged and dull.

  6. 6

    Clean and polish the parts that are being restored with liquid metal polish. The tuners, knobs, and bridge can be cleaned and polished as long as they are in good condition. The guitar's value is directly equated with the number of original parts on the guitar. Use a toothbrush or a cotton swab to clean hard to get to areas.

  7. 7

    Reassemble the guitar. Reinstall the pickup and the new or restored hardware. Attach the neck and put a new set of strings on the guitar.

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