Ever looked at your guitar and thought about giving it a new look? Removing the old paint is the first step to a cool makeover! In this article, we’ll learn how to take off the guitar’s paint safely and get it ready for a fresh, new color.
To remove guitar paint, disassemble the guitar, apply a chemical stripper or use a heat gun to remove the finish and primer coats, and then sand the guitar for a smooth surface.
You are preparing a canvas for an exciting art project. Let’s get ready to transform your guitar into something amazing!
How to Remove Guitar Paint
Removing paint from a guitar can be an exciting way to rejuvenate or customize your instrument. And let’s be honest if you bought a used guitar with a butchered paint job, it’s sometimes the only thing you can do to make it less of an eye sore.
Before you start, it’s important to get what you need: chemical paint strippers or a heat gun, sandpaper, safety goggles, gloves, and a well-ventilated work area.
The process requires patience and attention to detail, as it involves working with potentially hazardous materials and delicate parts of the guitar. Ensuring safety and following proper procedures are key to achieving a smooth and successful paint removal.
Disassemble the Guitar
Before removing paint, disassembling the guitar is crucial to avoid damaging its components. Start by loosening and removing the strings. Then, carefully detach the neck from the body if your guitar allows it.
Remove any hardware like tuning pegs, pickguards, pickups, and knobs. Keep track of all the screws and small parts by placing them in labeled containers.
This step ensures that you can focus on the guitar body without obstruction and prevents any damage to the delicate parts of the guitar during the paint removal process.
How to Strip Paint (Chemical Method)
Using chemical strippers to remove paint from a guitar is an effective method but requires careful handling. First, choose a chemical paint stripper suitable for guitar finishes, preferably a non-toxic and eco-friendly option if available.
Apply the stripper liberally over the painted areas from top to bottom using a brush, following the product’s instructions regarding application time. Always wear safety goggles and gloves, and work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.
Follow the instructions on the product and let it sit for the instructed time. You may have to go several rounds on one part (depending on the type of paint and paint layers).
Once the paint begins to bubble, gently scrape it off with a plastic scraper (not metal or rubber, plastic!) moving from top to bottom not sideways (because of the wood grain), taking care not to damage the wood.
Do this side for side. Make sure you protect your surface with ample newspaper and remove the dirty layers every time before starting on another part.
After removing the paint, wipe the guitar with a clean cloth and mineral spirits (acetone works well, but be careful because of the dangerous fumes) to remove any residual paint and stripper.
How to Strip a Modern Poly Guitar Finish with a Heat Gun
Removing the finish coat from a guitar using a heat gun requires patience and a steady hand. Start by setting the heat gun to a moderate temperature to avoid scorching the wood.
Hold the gun a few inches away from the guitar’s surface, moving it slowly over the finish. You’ll notice the finish starting to bubble and lift. Use a metal scraper, because it is hot so plastic won’t work, be gentle to avoid scratches while removing the softened finish.
Work in small sections, applying heat evenly, and avoid lingering too long in one spot to prevent burning the wood.
Once the finish coat is removed, you’re probably facing a primer coat. Depending on what you are after (different color, DIY Relic project, clear finish, what is it?), you can leave this coat and only sand it lightly to smooth out the surface (if necessary) and repaint it. Or you have to remove it as well.
This coat might be more stubborn than the finish layer. Continue using the heat gun, applying a consistent, gentle heat. As the primer begins to soften, use your scraper to remove it, being cautious not to gouge the wood.
In some cases, you may need to apply a chemical stripper (especially in crevices or stubborn areas) or simply sand through it, depending on the kind of primer.
Take your time and make sure to remove all the primer evenly to prepare the guitar for a new coat of paint or finish. You also may need to sand the guitar lightly to smooth out the surface.
Sand Your Guitar
After stripping all the paint and primer off your guitar, sanding is essential to smooth out the surface. Start with a medium-grit sandpaper (around 150-grit) and gently sand the entire body.
This step helps to remove any leftover paint residues and smooths out minor imperfections on the wood surface. After the initial sanding, switch to a finer grit (like 220-grit) for a smoother finish.
Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratches. Sanding prepares the guitar for a new finish, ensuring that it will adhere properly and look even.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully removed the paint from your guitar! This process, though time-consuming, sets the stage for refinishing your guitar in a new color or finish, breathing new life into it.
If you plan to repaint, ensure the guitar is completely clean and dust-free after sanding. For a natural look, you might consider applying a clear coat to protect the wood and enhance its natural beauty. Refinishing a guitar is a lot of work, but allows you to put a personal touch on your beloved instrument.