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How To Refinish An Acoustic Guitar

How To Refinish An Acoustic GuitarLet’s face it: part of what you like about playing the guitar is how it just looks kick-ass to play it. You can even make it more kick ass if you learn how to refinish an acoustic guitar.

There are plenty of ways for a guitar finish repair. From fixing lacquer cracks to simple scratches, repairing a guitar’s finish will involve varying tools and methods.

In this guide on repairing guitar scratches, we’ll make sure that you can do it easily without taking more time than is necessary. We’ll want you to finish as quick as possible without affecting quality.

We should include here that not all guitar scratches will benefit from a guitar finish repair kit. Vintage guitars usually lose their value when they get refinished.

That said, here are the methods and steps to bring new life to your old, used guitar that you’re probably already romantically attached to.

Let’s start!


Repairing Lacquer Cracks

Repairing Lacquer CracksThe first thing to remember when you want to refinish guitars that have suffered lacquer cracks is that you cannot just simply sand them off. These cracks come from the inside of the guitar, and you make them worse when scratching them off.

The right repairing guitar trick to do here is wet down a small piece of a 1,000-grit sandpaper with soap suds and water.

Then, you can start lightly sanding down the area that has the scratch, making sure that you only scratch the lacquer’s topcoat. If you go beyond that, you’d be making it worse.

If it’s not enough, go a bit higher with a 12,000 level of grit. Pair this one with a buffing wheel to polish the scratch to an ultimate smooth shine right afterwards.

How To Re-stain, Repaint or Refinish Acoustic Guitar Tops

Whether you’re removing finish from acoustic guitar body to replace with a new one, these are the steps to take to make it happen.

Step 1: Prepare the tools

Unfinished acoustic guitar Repairing ToolsThe tools you must prepare with you before you start to customize acoustic guitars successfully would be the following:

  • Orbital sander
  • Acoustic guitar
  • Sand paper or sanding sponge
  • Sandpaper of fine grit, coarse or medium
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mineral spirits
  • White primer
  • Spray cans
  • Cloth
  • Spray gun, if you decide to do so
  • Sandpaper pads
  • Clear color coats
  • Eyeglasses and dust mask
  • Wire cutter
  • Masking tape
  • Allen wrenches
  • Soldering iron

Step 2: Disassemble Your Acoustic Guitar

This acoustic guitar finishing step by step should start with disassembling your acoustic instrument. You can do this by removing the strings and clipping them away using the wire or string clippers you prepared.

It goes without saying that you will need to readjust your truss rod after you have done the refinishing job and you’re putting the guitar back together again.

 Step 3: Take The Neck Off The Acoustic Guitar

Guitar neck top viewRemoving the neck can be simple, especially if the guitar necks are bolted on. You simply unscrew it on the neck joint and at the back before gently wiggling it free.

If the necks are glued on, just leave them alone and repaint them later to match the color of the body.

Step 4: Remove The Guitar Hardware

With your screwdriver or Allen wrench, remove the rest of the hardware, such as the strap buttons, knobs, pickups, pick guard and the output jack. Make sure you know how the wires are connected to each other, so you can put them back again easily.

Step 5: Remove the Bridge Studs

It’s advisable to remove the bridge studs, unless they’re hammered into the wood. If this part is difficult, simply heat the wood near it using the soldering iron you have and wait for the heat to make the studs contract and become easier to remove.

Step 6: Set Aside the Hardware and Label Them

classical guitar It takes about weeks to refinish the acoustic guitar decorations, so you have to take care of the hardware by storing them in the plastic so you won’t lose them.

Be sure you put labels in them, and separate the screws in a small plastic bag, so reassembling the guitar back together goes smooth.

Step 7: Remove the Old Finish

Sand the old finish existing on your old guitar either by sanding it completely away or just applying a rough sanding because you’re going to paint on it anyway.

A complete sanding is recommended if you’re going to use a light color or transparent finish later. Rough it up with the sanding if you’re using a solid paint refinish.

You may also get the smoothest sanding with the help of an orbital sander. The crevices of the guitar should also be cleaned.

On the curved areas of the guitar you may want to use medium coarse grit or a sanding sponge to make it a more effective sanding process. The finer sandpaper should be used on the back where you want it to be as even as can be (about 220 fine grit).

Step 8: Apply The Mineral Spirits

Asian workers stand to hold a spray gun in protective clothingApplying the mineral oils will remove the oils that have stuck into the guitar. Wait for the minerals to completely dry out before you touch them.

Step 9: Apply The Primer

Once the mineral spirits oil is dry, you may now apply a few coats of the primer. Wait for each coat to dry off before applying the next one so the primer will properly dry out.

Step 10: Start Painting the Guitar Using The Color of Your Choice

Whether you’re using a spray can or thin layers of pain, you have to wait for each layer to dry out before applying the next one. This means you have to probably wait a week before you put on the next layer.

Step 11: Start The Stain and Apply The Finishing Touches

Man holding paint spray and painting guitar partsIf you decide on using a stain, try applying a few layers of it to achieve the rich color you desire.

Once that stain has dried off, usually by a week, don’t forget to apply a clear coating to your instrument. The most recommended coating you may want is nitrocellulose clear coat.

Don’t forget to apply the coating as thin as you can, then wait for a week for it to dry off before applying the next one.

Afterwards, when the clear coating is already as rich as you want and has dried off after several layers, you can now then polish the finish using a wet sanding technique.

Start to as low as 400 grit of wet sanding process and gradually increase it to 600, 800 until 2000, especially when you’re hitting on the hardened finish part of the guitar.

Reassemble your guitar, and voila: you now have completely refinished your guitar’s coating! Congratulations!

If you need a video tutorial for the steps above because you’re more visual, stick to this video:


So there you have it: the quickest possible way to elevate your guitar’s aesthetics without missing a spot.

Share this guide to your musician friends, so they’ll know how to refinish an acoustic guitar, too!

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