1965 Guild Starfire

This was an absolutely beautiful guitar. Old Guild guitars are so underrated in this country for some reason ? Every time I get one in for work it reminds me just how GREAT these guitars are. They play great, they sound great, they look great and ......... they smell great.




This is a very well played, but very well looked after mid sixties high quality US made semi acoustic arch top electric. Guild made some of the best arch tops in the world alongside Epiphone, Gretsch and Gibson, but like all these brands went through hard times in the sixties and seventies and was eventually sold to the accountants, like all these great guitar makers.

This guitar was given to its current owner by his father who bought it in the sixties. It played well but obviously needed a little bit of love, especially a re-fret so it could actually be played to it's full potential. While it's big step for a nice vintage piece like this, it needed to be done so it can be played and used for what it was made for.


It has a VERY dry old rosewood fretboard and therefor very brittle, almost like an old Gibson ebony board. The frets were low and hard to get a good grip on some to get them out. The fretboard had some serious player grooves in the open chord position and some chipping around these was inevitable but all in all the frets came out without too much trouble or impact.

Once they were all out I could fill and level the fretboard and get it ready for new, shiny ...... High frets.

It's all quality timber so you know it's going to be nice to work with but this fretboard had been neglected for many, many years and needed to be treated with care and given some love once this was over.


With the board restored back to it's former glory and ready for new frets it's just a simple matter of carefully hammering new ones in right ? Well, kind of, but there's lots of details to make sure you've got right first, and semi acoustics and acoustics are a different game to set necks and especially bolt on necks, which can be removed for a job like this.

If you've taken much off the top of the fretboard, as I had to here, you need to make sure the fret slots are deep enough for the tang on your new frets. That's the "barbed" part under the crown of the fret that gets pressed (or hammered) into the slot. There are lots of different size frets for guitars, including both the crown (the top that you see where the string touches) and the tang.

If you don't get these right, you can damage the fretboard and/or neck through neglect and that damage can be very hard to repair.


Everything went to plan and the re-fret settled in nicely. Guild don't do the nub end binding like Gibson. They do however stop the fret at the end of the fretboard (ie, not over the binding)

I'm not a huge fan of this method. It's done by putting the frets in and filling them down to the binding "chanell" before the binding is fitted. The "problem" with this method is you loose almost 3mm of width as the strings can't go all the way to the edge of the neck, as with Gibsons method.

As this was a narrow neck at the nut every mm counts, so I decided rather than removing the binding for a re-fret, which is always delicate on old US guitars like these and especially Gretsches, and since it won't effect value any more than any other quality re-fret, I'd do it this way for better playability.


So, with everything in place it was time for a set up and see how this beautiful piece of instrument played. What a joy it is to play and it sounds SO GOOD.

I'm a fan of these type of archtops for certain things but the construction of this one, the feel of that neck and those mini humbuckers all combine to make an absolutely wonderful guitar. I'm a huge fan of these Bigsby aluminium bridges too. Nothing else sounds like them.

I like the single cutaway shape on this too and being a "slimline" it's easy to play sitting down or standing up. But I keep coming back to THAT neck. I have a friend who collects old Guilds (who came and played this one and was impressed) and his old Guilds have great necks like this also. It the thing that always grabs me .......... and that smell.


Jul 22 2013 Written By: Tim Brennan