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Rid Me Of The Plastic Finish!

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Good evening from London

Please bear with me as i'm a complete novice at all this.

I have a 97 Jap Strat with a natural finish. I love the guitar but the colour of the wood.... Well it's a bit Ikea. It has that awful Plastic acrylic on it which i want to remove, stain the wood darker and then just varnish so the body feels like wood to the touch.

What is the best way to remove the plastic, acrylic, poly... Whatever it is? I though just plain old paint stripper as i don't want to sand the body and there's no paint job to worry about harming.

Any advice would be gratefully received

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Didn't mean to touch a nerve on the stripping tutorials - there is "some" good info in there. I have stripped numerous guitars and how you do it really depends on the finish that's on there. For example, Fender/Gibson mostly used nitro lacquer and Ibanez used the damnedest polyester finish! Also, many cheaper guitar manufacturers use a lot less clearcoat - so ....

For most finishes - a simple coat or two of Citristrip will work. It's not terribly toxic and IMHO doesn't seep into the wood as much as others. This will take two rounds and works on most imports like this:

1. Put on rubber gloves

2. Holding the body at the neck joint or with an attached scrap piece of wood, spray the body as you would to paint it (Citristrip comes in a convenient rattlecan)

3. Place body in kitchen size trash bag for 4 hours

4. Use PLASTIC SCRAPER to remove bulk of finish

5. Rinse with water soaked rags and repeat with clean trash bag

After the body has rested for a day, any residual finish is thinned enough to sand off with a bit of 400 or 600 grit. After sanding, wipe with naptha and start new finish.

If you have to brush a stripper on, make sure you use the one direction -> start at the horn and work your way down. If you don't mind toxicity, Kleen Strip works well.

If you're stripping an Ibanez -> use Aircraft Stripper to remove the 1/8" thick polyester or Formby's Furniture Stripper. Both are extremely toxic, but really effective.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm currently refinishing a neck from and Ibandez Roadstar II. I don't know what kind of finnish is on there but I do know its speckled red and slow. I think I'm gonna go with an oil finish. ANYWAY Ive read almost every tut out there; heat, sanding, chemicals, and variations on each. I used an orbital sander on the front of the headstock, but the paper clogged too easily and I didn't know how i was gonna do the neck without F***ing it up. I aslo tried sandblasting it and although it made that spot a lot faster, I mean list tung oil fast, it didn't really remove anything. SO I took one of the woodcarving knives my girlfriend gave me for my 18 birthday and just started chipping away. I caught the edge of the finish where I'd sanded down to the wood and slipped the blade in underneath it and then it chipped off. Its gonna take an hour or so longer to finish but this seems like a simple cheep and environmentally safe way to do it. Personally I was afraid the stripping chemical I purchased would somehow damage the wood. No science behind it just didn't seem like a good idea. I literally did this about an hour ago.

Tell me what you guys think...


You can see where I had sanded into the different layers of finish.









little cut + sharp blade= halottablood

Edited by InSasquatchCountry
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Looks like it went pretty well for you. Definitely not the first technique I would recommend. Firdtly because of safety, secondly I would be worried about gouging into the wood.

Ya know you do gouge it a little, but nothing a bit of sanding cant take out like 200,400,600 and you fine besides I think i would have damage the neck a lot more by power sanding it, its too thick to hand sand.

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I stripped a Roadstar about 10 years ago. They went really heavy on the poly finish. I found the most effective method involved starting with a heat gun and putty knife. You have to get medievel on these things. Once you've got some of the thickness peeled off, (I've seen up to 1/8" thick), then use some stripper. Circa 1850 in aerosol rattlecans worked well for me. Scrape it down some more but use care because its easy to make nicks and scratches in the wood. Let it dry really well then hit it with sandpaper. Starting the job with sandpaper can be next to useless. The sandpaper friction makes heat which melts that plastic finish and then clogs things up in no time. It can get expensive.

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I'm gonna keep chipping away but thanks for the input. Healer/Monster I think his method would work well for you, the only reason I'm doing this to mine is I don't feel comfortable using harsh chemicals. Is this what your guitar looks like?


I kinda like how that looks. If your not in love with everything else about the guitar it may be easier to sell it and get a new one. I'm just puttin the option out there.

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I dis the picking it off with a knife on my horrendous snake shaped ebay special it was coming off in sheets! Then I realised I could use my fingernail. :D

You have the same reaction as me. "damn cut myself, where's the camera?"

Edited by joshvegas
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I dis the picking it off with a knife on my horrendous snake shaped ebay special it was coming off in sheets! Then I realised I could use my fingernail. :D

You have the same reaction as me. "damn cut myself, where's the camera?"

The blood was just so red. I was gonna keep working but I was afraid of staining my guitar, although that would be bad ass. If you do use this method WEAR EYE PROTECTION!! Last night I took the trash out, picked up the neck, slid the knife under the poly and *pop, a piece was behind my eye. Serious pain!! I tried washing it out to no avail. Luckily after 2 hours I felt it slide around the side of my eye. I pulled down my bottom lid and snagged it with a wet q-tip. Sucks cuz I had band camp today and didn't get to sleep till 4.

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