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Author Topic: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?  (Read 5093 times)

OMK

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How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« on: April 14, 2008, 09:47:15 PM »

I know this has nothing to do with model boats, and apologise for steering it this way. But can any paint experts out there point me in the right direction?
I'm looking to remove the finish from this body (see pic). Now I'm uncertain just what the finish is, but I do know it's tough. I'm guessing it's maybe a poly' or even enamel (?).
Would anyone know how - or what I might use - to remove it? Someone suggested to use paint stripper, but, even after 24hrs, it didn't do diddly.
Is there a way of removing this glossy varnish back to the bare wood, without damaging the wood itself?

I would truly appreciate your advice on this.
Many thanks in advance.
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FullLeatherJacket

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2008, 10:33:05 PM »

Is this a Fender Esquire from a funny angle?
Notwithstanding, two further questions:
1. Have you tried an old-fashioned furniture scraper? Nowt but a flat steel plate which you draw edgewise across the surface of the workpiece. Works for me and generations of French polishers before me.
2. Where were you this last weekend??!! Your coffee went cold!
FLJ
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Stavros

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2008, 10:47:34 PM »

Hi PMK this is a strange on if it was either then I would have expected paint stripper to have worked BUT it depends what make you have used.If it was Nitromours well you have a problem!!!!Thinking about it could it not be epoxy resin that is covering the wood if it its only hand sanding would get rid of it and you would run the risk of damaging the wood


Stavros
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Bunkerbarge

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2008, 12:02:14 AM »

By no way am I either an expert on guitars or paint finishes but the couple of guitars I have seen close up I would put a lot of money on it being an epoxy coating.

Your options are either mechanically remove it by either scraping or sanding or try to refinish it by repolishing the epoxy coating to a high gloss surface.
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bigfella

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2008, 12:19:46 AM »

Hi PMK

I had to have a refinish near the bridge on a Gibson Marauder after retrofitting a whammy bar in the eighties (what was I thinking) anyhow the guy who did the finish said that most guitars of that vintage used Nitrocellulose. He also told me that it was tricky stuff to either match or remove. I am unsure how he managed it but he matched it perfectly. Not that it helps you, but if it is NC then you should look up ways to remove it.

Regards David
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OMK

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2008, 01:37:00 AM »

Is this a Fender Esquire from a funny angle?

How you doing, old buddy? Good weekend?
You're pretty bang-on with the Esquire guess. Drop the 'E' and you're there.
But hang on a cotton-pickin' minnit. You said...

"Works for me and generations of French polishers before me."

...which implies you've already been there - bought the shirt.  I'm scared witless about going in there with the scraper. Too many curves. Me and scrapers, we're not the best of friends. I could end up making a hash of what is otherwise a real slinky guitar.
Regarding your Q #2... check your inbox. I PM'd you with just about every excuse under the sun.
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OMK

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2008, 01:40:23 AM »

stavros it was indeed Nitromours i dont like the stuff it doesnt work
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OMK

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2008, 01:48:23 AM »

Your options are either mechanically remove it by either scraping or sanding or try to refinish it by repolishing the epoxy coating to a high gloss surface.

Thanks, Mr. B'
But you might have gathered by now that I'm not too keen about going in there with a ruddy great scraper. I was hoping for an easy-out, maybe use some sort of anti-epoxy killing jollop that you just paint or spray on (that's assuming it is an epoxy, of course). I didn't realise epoxy could be made that shiny.
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OMK

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2008, 02:26:38 AM »

Bigfella, I admire your having the balls to stick that whammy on the Marauder. How did you get on with it?
In the proper hands whammies can sound beautiful. Dave Gilmour has been using his for yonks. On the other hand you could end up sounding like Hank Marvin if it's done wrong.

Can I ask you a favour?
The bloke that done your finish, I'll buy you a crate of tinnies if you could have a word with him on my behalf. Would he know any chemical jollop to use, other than elbow grease?
Failing that, can you remember the name of the guy who posted them pics of his home-made guitars... the guy with those unique figure-of-eight headstocks? Maybe he might know.
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bigfella

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2008, 06:03:03 AM »

Bigfella, I admire your having the balls to stick that whammy on the Marauder. How did you get on with it?
In the proper hands whammies can sound beautiful. Dave Gilmour has been using his for yonks. On the other hand you could end up sounding like Hank Marvin if it's done wrong.

Can I ask you a favour?
The bloke that done your finish, I'll buy you a crate of tinnies if you could have a word with him on my behalf. Would he know any chemical jollop to use, other than elbow grease?
Failing that, can you remember the name of the guy who posted them pics of his home-made guitars... the guy with those unique figure-of-eight headstocks? Maybe he might know.

PMK

It may take a couple of days to track him down, but I will ask him, he was a genius as another guy who installed the whammy bar had to take a chisel to the Gibson (unbeknown to me at the time) and left a hole in the guitar about 2 inches square and about one inch deep. The guy, Mick Gentry, who repaired it is a Gibson certified luthier and he had to find a piece of matching Mahogany to fill in the hole and then match the paint work. I will get the details and PM you as soon as I get them. I put the whammy in as at the time the band I was playing in did a lot of glam rock stuff and needed that sound and only playing Gibsons I had to use one of them to Whammy and chose the Marauder, thank god that phase did not last too long.

Regards David
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Tug-Kenny

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2008, 11:58:30 AM »


Hi PMK

I come from the music trade and it occurs to me that this might be what they called a 'Polyester finish'

It was (is) used on Pianos and is very hard indeed. I know of no chemical that will attack it and the only way to remove it ( as FLJ says) is to scrape it off.

I can see you are worried about scraping as a sideways dig will ruin the surface. The secret was to have a very sharp blade, but to KEEP IT PARALLEL to the surface.  I've tried it by using a new wood chisel and drawing it backwards, held vertically. Apart from the frightening noise, there is always the risk of wobble and the corner of the blade digging in.

Then, of course, you have to consider, what you are going to recover it with. Is it ever going to look so good as that.

May I suggest you contact a 'French polisher' from a music shop for futher advice, as the whole thing sounds quite frightening.

Hope this helps.

Ken


 
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cbr900

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2008, 01:49:42 PM »

PMK,

Mate the guy with the other guitars I think was BILLYRUFFIAN..........


Roy
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Bunkerbarge

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2008, 02:06:07 PM »

PMK, If the stuff you used was Nitromors and it didn't touch it then it is definately not an oil based varnish.  Nitromors is actually superb stuff and very effective at removing oil based paints and varnishes so what you have is obviously considerably more substantial.  If it is cellulose then a special cellulose thinners should certainly soften it but if it is a resin then I don't know of anything that will touch it.

What you haven't said is why you to want to remove it.  Is is simply cosmetic or is it damaged?  If it is damaged it will be repairable by rubbing down with wet and dry car body abrasive paper.  You can get up to 600 grit from your local hardware place but for this you need much finer.  Start by gently rubbing and damaged area with 600 grit wet and dry after wetting with warm soapy water.  When the damage is removed I woul then go to 1000 grit, then 1500 grit and finally 2000 grit.  You can get such fine grit papers on line from car body finishing paint suppliers.

You should by then have a good even, very slightly matt, finish.  You can then use a resurfacing rubbing compound such as 'T' Cut which should give you a nice gloss finish again without any blemishes.  I have also heard of metal polishes being used such as Brasso and Duraglit but 'T' Cut is made specifically for the job so should be that bit safer.
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mikeyh

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2008, 03:34:53 PM »

Hi As a pro-guitarist for the last 30 years and ex-music shop owner I can tell you that the finish on your squire is 90% certain to be  polyester (mostly made now in China). The only effective way of removing it is to sand ir down using progressively finer grit papers. Beware though that a different finish than what was original can substantially alter the tone (even on an electric guitar) because most squires use inferior woods to mexican and US strats and teles, and rely on the thick finishes to 'beef up ' the tone. Good luck

Mikey
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BobF

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2008, 04:07:50 PM »

Hi PMK,

I know this won't be of much help, but Rory Gallagher used a blue denim jacket to get most of the finish off his strat.

Bob
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bigfella

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2008, 10:20:07 PM »

Hi PMK,

I know this won't be of much help, but Rory Gallagher used a blue denim jacket to get most of the finish off his strat.

Bob

Nice one Bob. That guitar of Rory's had little paint left on it. A really loved and great sounding Strat. It is amazing how some guitarists like Rory Gallagher could go through their professional life using just one guitar and some others who change their guitars like they change their undies. Me (although not being considered professional) stuck to A Gibson SG and the above mentioned Gibson Marauder, I tried to play other guitars but they just did not feel right. I even thought at one stage to switch to the dark side and try a Fender. :embarrassed: :embarrassed:
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bigfella

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2008, 12:59:56 AM »

Hi PMK

I have just been talking to Mick Gentry and he says their is no easy fix for stripping Nitrocellulose. He says that the best way is Stripper and scraper and unfortunately it will take quite a few goes. this stuff is really a hard thing to get off, he says that on some guitars he has had to strip and scrape over ten times and then still their is a residue of the stuff. Good luck, you could also invest in one of those mouse sanders and go like crazy (with a dust mask on for safety). Sorry I was not of much help with a quick fix.

Regards David
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HS93 (RIP)

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2008, 01:17:47 AM »


You could try the Pete Townshend method but it wont sound that good after

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=6e8mdm7JKcQ

have you thought of a cabnet scraper, you can get some shaped ones to go in to hollows and it more controlable than some method's

Peter
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FullLeatherJacket

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2008, 09:05:28 AM »

Googled "Guitar refinishing" and found these guys. Any use, dude?
Never heard of a Gibson Marauder before, Dave. Weird looking beast, isn't it - like a cross between a Les Paul and a Telecaster!
Ah me - back to the drawing board............ :'(
FLJ
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bigfella

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2008, 09:17:38 AM »

Googled "Guitar refinishing" and found these guys. Any use, dude?
Never heard of a Gibson Marauder before, Dave. Weird looking beast, isn't it - like a cross between a Les Paul and a Telecaster!
Ah me - back to the drawing board............ :'(
FLJ

Hi Dave

Yes it is a strange one. Mine is the dark coloured one. It has a great tone as both pickups are beefed up as standard. Oh and opposed to every other Gibson it has a bolt on neck instead of a glued in place neck. I must get it out an post some pics if anyone wants to have a look.

Regards David
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OMK

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2008, 08:13:05 PM »

Gents, apologies for the delay (ulcer, anybody?)
A million thanks to all of you for replying. Another million thanks for all your sound advise.

Since the last post, I found a French polishers in Taunton. The chap there says exactly the same as MikeyH - he's also 99% sure that the covering is indeed a polyester-based job. But here's the biggie..... Sez he can do the job for me, but he's talking mega-. So knowing what I now know, I think I'm pretty comfortable at having a stab at it myself. It seems there is no easy way other than going about it with loads of elbow grease, but I'm in no rush - I'll just take my time.
Now to answer Bunkerbarge's question, the only reason I'm doing this is purely for experiment. Bearing in mind that it only cost 280, but it's one of the best 'copies' I've played. In fact, the action on this baby is lower than a worm's wotsits and it almost plays all by itself. (I can't understand how the Chinks manage to churn-out mass-produced copies that play just as good as the real thing - even better). So rather than risk cocking-up what is a great guitar, I went out and bought another, identical. As much as I hate to use the word, the first one is now expendable, so if'n I should make a hash of it.....................
So why all this effort?
Because MikeyH is spot-on when he says that removing the finish will alter the sound. For that is exactly what I'm after. A pal of mine done the same to his, years ago. He's dead now, so I can't ask how he did his. All I know is that when I played it, it had the most spine-tingling sound ever. My only fear at this juncture is whether I might lose the sustain. As it is, the neck and the body are in perfect harmony with each other. When you gently strike all six open strings, you can actually hear the damn thing 'ring'. I've had Fenders costing three times as much, but never anywhere near as good as it is on the cheapo Squire.

Anyway, I'm going to give it a whirl. Maybe post a few pics along the way. I know this isn't a boaty question, but I really appreciate all your input with this. Many, many thanks once again for all your help and advise.
Special thanks to Dave Jacquet for his Googling, Tug Ken and MikeyH for their musical know-how, and a special thanks to Bigfella for going out on a limb for me. (Thanks, buddy. One crate of super-chilled Castle Main 4x heading your way).
Thanks one and all.
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Stavros

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2008, 11:18:06 PM »

PMK of course Nitro cellulose try these guys thye sell on E bay give them a ring I know I used to use a paint stripper for cellulose if they cant get it try Bown Bors in Taunton
http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Nu-Agane-Car-Paints-01234-355990_W0QQssPageNameZstrkQ3amefsQ3amesstQQtZkm
Brown Bros as well
http://www.isomerset.co.uk/profile/302626/Taunton/Brown-Bros-Group/


Stavros



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tigertiger

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #22 on: April 23, 2008, 04:06:57 AM »

Hi PMK

Glad to hear you are up and about.

Here a thought out of the box. If you want to beef up the sound, then just add more layers of polyester finish over the top. You can even experiment with coloration.

Like I said, just a thought.
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HS93 (RIP)

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2008, 04:34:06 AM »

Paint striper can effect the hardness of wood it can effect the cellulose in the make up of the timber , this would alter the sound, thats why I suggested a scraper , you would find it  hard to take to much off

peter
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bigfella

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Re: How can you remove tough varnish from guitars?
« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2008, 12:43:30 AM »

PMK

Thanks for that, they really went down a treat, nothing like a cold XXXX on a hot day. Cheers, and do post some progress pics of your refurbishment of the Tele. I do seem to recall some one in the industry saying that to beef up his Tele he put tin foil in the pickup cavity of his guitar, sort of lined the cavity with the stuff behind the pickups. I am not sure if he was joking or what but I do recall some mention of better sustain. But then again I also recall an Australian test fast bowler stating when asked about where he gets his pace from saying a tin of baked beens before the start of play, sort of jet propulsion. {-) {-) {-)

Regards David
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