At some point in the future David and I will do a photo essay on restringing, but haven’t got to yet. For now, this is something you can do about twice a year.
First of all take off your strings. That’s right all of them. If you have a guitar with a movable bridge, mark it’s precise location with masking tape. That way when you restring it, there will be a better chance that your intonation will at least be as good as it used to be. You may wish to actually remove the bridge and put some double stick tape on the base to hold it where it belongs when you replace it. Many banjo players simply put a pencil mark at the bridge location. Violins and fiddles are for another day if enough of you express interest.
For guitars with adjustable bridges and stop tailpieces, you should remove them and you may want to masking tape adjustment wheels on the bridge in place if you want to keep your action about the same. If this is an electric guitar, place masking tape over you pickups.
For guitars with rosewood or ebony fretboards take “0000” (accept NO substitute) and rub the fretboard against the grain and parallel to the frets. You may not some dark residue on that board which is mostly salt and dirt and tends to corrode strings. Get that gunk off! That “0000” stuff is soft enough not to wear down the wood, but will remove the grime and give you nice smooth frets. When that is done, oil the fretboard with either a fretboard conditioner (Fender makes a good one), pure lemon oil or orange oil. The idea is to restore the moisture to the wood that was there originally to prevent the wood from drying and splitting. Remember, what goes on to your fretboard will be absorbed, in part into your body. Also, do this to any unfinished wood parts. Wipe off excess oil and restring your instrument keeping in mind that the last winding of your string around the capstan should be closest to your headstock.
For those with maple fretboards, Ricks, or other guitars with finished fretboards it is a bit different. You may wish to mask the fretboard leaving only the frets themselves exposed. Use the steel wool on them alone. Don’t forget to make your pickups. The magnets attract the metal filings from the steel wool. I have had to do this to some rather expensive new guitars when the lacquer wasn’t completely removed from the frets. You can then remove the tape and using fretboard conditioner, lemon or orange oil polish the fretboard. I have found that the Fender Detailing Cloth works great for this.
It goes without saying that when all the strings are off your guitar it is a fine time to polish your head stock and other areas that are difficult to get to when the strings are on it.