How to Strip a Guitar Body (Chemical Method)

by Brian Calvert

(recommended only for bodies that have already been refinished)

Above on the left are some of the basic tools you will need to get this job done and on the right are a few that aren't necessary but they do come in handy when working on this type of stripping project!

The picture on the upper left shows you why this would be a very good candidate for using a chemical stripper. If you notice this body has already been refinished by somebody else and quite often that is the case if your buying second hand out of a pawn shop or off an Internet auction and getting a really good deal. Don't be shocked if you run into body imperfections when stripping one that has already be refinished before it is very common and we will deal with how to take care of them in another tutorial.

OK let's get started with the top picture on the right. Wearing your gloves lay the body down on your newspapers and start to cover just that one side with your disposable brush! Keep in mind you are only doing one side at a time that's why you do need to have a stack of newspaper under your body as you will change it out for every action that you take along this process. Also since it is a known fact that the grain of the wood in guitar bodies runs from top to bottom and not across be sure to spread your stripper in this direction only! Try your best not to stroke it on using a back and forth motion but rather a working toward the other end motion. Also note that some of the stripper will run over the side's, this is a good thing since it will help loosen up the paint for when we get to them so don't worry about it.

Next comes the most boring part which is pictured on the bottom left! Just let the body lay there coated in stripper for at least 15-20 minutes. Go watch TV or listen to the radio or what ever, just give the chemical stripper time to do it's job which the longer you wait generally the easier it will be.

You may have noticed on the picture above on the right there is a glass bowel sitting beside the guitar, I use this to pour the stripper into as I am brushing it on to the body instead of pouring directly on it. I have found that you will get a less contaminated amount of stripper if you do the side in sections at a time and it is also a great place to set your brush down and keep it wet while your waiting on the paint to separate from the wood. Well after you have waited for the required time you can take your Plastic (only) scrapper and start to lift the paint up off the body, as pictured on the left below!

Be sure to work in the same direction that you spread out the stripper (with the grain of the wood), never against it by going side to side. The simple reason for this is you have a smaller chance of damaging the surface from gouging it and you won't be pushing any of the paint back down into the grain this way.

Now that you have scrapped as much paint off as you can go ahead and recoat the same surface with another coat of stripper and let sit for about 1/2 the time you did before since it is already fairly coated still with the old stripper as pictured on the upper right! After you have finished giving your body the second coat you can clean off your scrapper with the paint brush, getting rid of those nasty and hard paint blotches that wont come off from drawing it across the newspaper as pictured on the photo at the bottom left.

HINT:For some of you it may take several coats to get the body looking the way you want it to, be patient and repeat the last few steps over and over till you get to this point.

Now that you have waited at least 1/2 of the time as it took before go ahead and scrape some more paint off of your body and remember to do it along the grain of the wood carefully until your body looks pretty cleared of off all the major paint that was on it as pictured on the upper right. Once you have removed as much paint as you think as possible go ahead and take a rag or paper towel and clear out the excess from the cavities as pictured on the bottom left.

Now go ahead and flip your body over and as you do so pull out the top layers of newspaper and dispose of them in a plastic bag or other garbage receptacle. Now you should have a nice clean work space so that you can begin the process all over again except this time there is already some stripper on the side's working it's magic for you and pictured on the upper right.

Just as before you will have to do the body along the grain of the wood and take it off in several layers as pictured below on the left.

Once again as pictured on the upper right side go ahead and wipe off the final few remains of paint that you can with a clean rag or paper towel, them dispose of it properly and set your body up on a fresh sheet of newspaper and get ready to do the sides as picture below on the left.

At this point as pictured on the upper right you shouldn't have to brush hardly any stripper on the body since it has been dripping down from the top and bottom all this time so you should be able to scrap most of the paint off right away! Now comes the easy part once you have wiped all the excess paint away from the body you can either lightly sand the rest off or give your body an acetone bath! That's right I said Acetone since it evaporates quickly and doesn't leave a residue it works wonders in removing the remaining paint out of the grain in the wood as pictured below plus once it evaporates the body is safe to handle without gloves!

Here are the basic rules to follow:

1. Pick a place with adequate ventilation, your health is more important than the job
2. Wear your safety gear ( mask and eye protection is a must )
3. Take your time and be sure to let the stripper do it's job (the longer you wait the better)
4. Start with a day where you have plenty of time and can come back to your project over and over
5. Keep Changing Newspapers as you do each step giving you a clean area to work in
6. Clean your scrapper often and don't let it gouge the wood your lifting not pushing the paint
7. Do only one side at a time and allow any stripper that goes over the side to stay on the body
8. Be prepared to take as many breaks as needed because fatigue will result in disaster (Stay Focused)
9. Anticipate problem areas and work around them, you can save these for last
10. Always walk away for awhile if the job becomes to much, seriously it can wait


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