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How to Paint an Acoustic Guitar


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I need information on how to repaint an acoustic guitar. My son really wants a red guitar. He is 7 and has been "playing" since he was two. Problem is that the one he wants is both too big for him and too expensive for me. So I want to try to repaint one that is his size. Do I strip the varnish off first? Do I stain it or paint it? Will it destroy the sound? How does one go about changing the color of a guitar? I am pretty handy but not a muscian myself.

Purplerabbit

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Howdy,

For an acoustic guitar I would strip the existing finish and either: A) Apply a dye/stain directly to the wood and then nitro over it. Or :D Get a red tinted nitro from re-ranch. But no paint. The top piece of wood is a major source of sound & tone generation. Heavy paint and the guitar goes dead.

Guitar Ed

Advice worth what you paid for it. Nothing.

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Howdy,

For an acoustic guitar I would strip the existing finish and either: A) Apply a dye/stain directly to the wood and then nitro over it. Or B) Get a red tinted nitro from re-ranch. But no paint. The top piece of wood is a major source of sound & tone generation. Heavy paint and the guitar goes dead.

Guitar Ed

Advice worth what you paid for it. Nothing.

Just for what it's worth, Nitro is paint :D

Anyway, there are 2 types of paint that are great for acoustics. Nitro cellulose laquer, and PolyUrethane (automotive, not the minwax stuff) You probably want to stay away from the Poly though as it is very expensive and you need spray equipment and very good respirator equipment to use it. It is actually more flexable than nitro by quite alot, is far more durable, and will not crack over time. I was worried it would kill the tone, but I've finished a few guitars with it and it actually IMO sounds better than laquer does.

Anyway, For what you are doing, using laquer, if you buy a guitar that is laquer finished already (which most acoustics are) you can actually spray over the existing finish, BUT!!!!!!! do a small area first to make sure there won't be a bad reaction. The only area I would strip to wood is the top, but be very very careful, the spruce is very soft wood. Also, use a hard block to sand it, if you use your hand or a soft block, you will end up removing more material where the braces are glued on the back because the wood in between the braces will flex downward when you sand, when it all is at it's natural tension, the braces will have an impression in the top which looks horrible.

You will want to reseal the top with some type of wood sealer before you spray.

On the top, I would spray maybe 2 coats of red tinted nitro (I guess you can get it from reranch, I've never dealt with them) and finish it with 6 coats of clear. The nitro goes on really thin and shrinks and evaporates away a lot, so 8 coats total is not much at all. On the back and sides, and back of the neck, you can use more coats if you want as the tone isn't affected as much.

Some of the obstacles you will face will be

1. The bridge, unless you remove it, you will want to mask it all off, this will leave an unsightly masked edge line around which can be removed with careful sanding and a final coat of clear sprayed over the entire body including bridge.

2. Neck/fretboard, you will have to be sure to mask off the top of the fretboard, and if the neck should happen to have binding, you'll want to mask that off for the red, then mask only the top edge of it for the clear.

3. Body binding, you will want to mask all the binding off for the red, and unmask it for the clear, some careful sanding before your final coat of clear will be needed if you want to get rid of the line the masking of the red will have created.

4. Soundhole rosette, again, you'll want to mask it, BUT, read number 5 below

5. Soundhole rosette and binding. On some of the cheaper guitars, the soundhole rosette is nothing more than a waterslide decal that has been clear coated over. The binding is just painted on, and if there is a purfling it is a decal as well. Fender is notorious for this, I've had to do repairs where people came and said, I've chipped the binding, well, no they hadn't, they scraped off the paint that represented binding. If this is the case, I would recommend just scuffing the existing paint on the surface and using it as your sealer base, don't sand to the wood. This is of course unless you don't care if the rosette and binding is gone.

6. The pickguard, this may seem like nothing, but unless you use heat, if there is a pickguard on the guitar, removing it can cause damage as minor as damaging the paint under it, to as major as cracking the top. These suckers are stuck down good, if there is one on there use a hair drier to soften the glue holding it down and carefully peel it up.

Other than those things, it's just hardware removal and reinstallation. Take your time with it, when doing the paint finish, if you want to spray multiple coats, either do them immediately one after the other with laquer, or wait one day per coat. if you don't wait long enough, you may experience cracking in the laquer as it cures.

Good luck!

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