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Refinishing SG, white staining mahogany stripped SG, newbie questions

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Hi all,

Short story:

I decided to strip down the finish and refinish my guitar.

Here are the photos before striping:


It looks like this now: (I still have to work on some areas)


I have no idea to be honest how to finish it now...

my only idea is to make top whitey, so I would get dark brown sides and white top, like cofee and milk, I think it would look nice and original.

This is side shot, it doesn't show real color, but I'd like if my guitar looked like that:


Unfortunately it looks like this:


it's more like pink/salmon/light brown color.

I'm not experienced at finishing with lacquer, and I don't have proper tools, dust free environment etc.

I'd like to finish it using polishing paste, though I'm not sure if I will be able to get same results as applying paste to sanded down/matte poly (probably not). I don't need mirror gloss as I won't et that, just some solid shine.

Now my questions are:

1) there are some black spots in wood grain. I guess I would need to sand it down to get rid of them.

I don't want to do this, as guitar is thin already and I'm not good at this, can I fill them with black wood filler? (after sanding, some pores/grain have been cleaned up)

2) considering that I want to finish the top with white stain, how and when should I apply black wood filler?
I've read that some people apply clear coat (varnish) before using filler, and this results in filling gaps and not staining whole body to black.

3) The polishing paste I'm using is not "cut" style, I mean it does add some layer but it doesnt "take off" original finish.

Will polishing paste work on stained body, or do I need to cover it with some protection (varnish layer) first?

Is simple clear poly ok? Can I just use some brush to apply thin poly coat and sand it?

Will it work with nitro? (there's still original nitro finish on sides).

I am afraid that I could mix black wood filler with white stained body when I will polish the guitar.

I have nitro lacuqer at home, also Tru Oil (birchwood casey) and gun oil.

I had quite good results when i used Tru-oil on almost raw maple neck of Peavey Wolfgang, though it's quite sticky and I had to apply multiple layers during a few days.

I don't want to use nitro as I just use simple products for polishing guitars which work very good on poly.

Ive never used wood stain or filler, just refinished some tops with polishing paste.

Long story:

I own some guitars and usually I use polish K2 polishing paste (I let it dry then slowly and lightly work it out) to restore superb clean look of poly-finished guitars. It's similar to more known Druchema, but in my case Druchema leaves scratches. Other products like Gibson Pump Polish or GHS cleaner, Martins etc just clear the guitar, they don't offer any protection, imho.

I have no experience at all, but I've learned to do it so in the end i don't even get swirl marks visible under light.

For example:

before https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lmmeatzjs8rc4lc/AABazmjJuXzq6VOaTFVrbXcza?dl=0

I've sanded down the finish to matte poly (so not direclty to wood):

after https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kx2ii4qyvj6cmwx/AADfy_aY-KKJvoI48r_RDvfYa?dl=0

Unfortunately this is only temporary effect, as my polishing paste probably contains some wax, and after some days light scratches are visible again.

Anyway, to the topic:

- I've always had problem with polishing nitro on Gibsons. I can "clean" them with Gibson Pump Polish or other products, but I can't make them look better (cover some scratches). The problem I'm having is that polishing pastes/produts leave some clouding on nitro when not worked out properly (which is hard for me).

So I decided to buy Meguiars #9 swirl remover (no silicone) and #7 show car glaze (no silicone).

I had matte/faded Gibson SGJ and I didn't like matte finish (in some spots it was shiny, some not etc).

I decided to use #9. After wiping it off, it looked nice. But after it dried, after some hours - Meguiars filled open grain with white and left some matte film. I could get rid of this film but then after some times it was back again. So I decided to strip down the finish..

I wanted to buy Virtuoso Premium Polish but it's ridiculously expensive in Europe after adding shipping price.

Sorry for any mistakes I made, English isn't my first language, also for long post, and hurting my guitar.

I could get it to professional but SGJ itself wasn't so expensive and I don't trust many of local guys (also long story)

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Welcome to the forum. I will try to answer your questions. Let me just first say that it is generally better to link directly to the specific picture you want to show, also to embed them here so anyone trying to help doesn't have to open a link, try to figure out which picture you mean before being able to look.

1. You have black spots in the wood and to get rid of them you ask if you can fill them with black grain filler. I'm guessing you have divots or "dents" that still have the old dark colour and you ask if you can fill those dents with tiller. If so I would advice against it as filler, even grain filler, vill react/move differently from solid wood and a bigger area filled with filler or putty or similar will over time be visible through the finish

2. Do you want to create a see-through white finish with accentuated black grain? If so I would sugest that you seal the body first with a thin coat of sealer or shellack or similar before applying the grain filler. If not the wood will get stained and you will have a hard time sanding that stain out. Also, after sanding the excess grain filler away I would strongly digest that you use a tinder lacquer instead of a white stain. I actually sugest that after sealing, grain filling, sand back you first seal the surface to stop the filler to react with the tinted coats. I have had som reactions between the filler and the white-ish lacquer.

3. Polish is polish meaning they clean up an already finished surface (can also be slightly abrasive to remove very shallow surface scratches) and lacquer/varnish/finish is film creating products. Ordinary polish shouldn't be used on bare wood. They doesn't add material at all. It usually also contains silicones that make future finishing a nightmare

Some pictures of what you want to achieve might also help to get us to understand what your goal is

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Thanks :)

And sorry for posting links instead of images.

1) About my goal...

To be honest, I'm not sure what I want to achieve, as it's hard for me to say what could look nice.

At this point the whole guitar(besides top) is dark brown, open-grain, faded finish (it's Gibson SGJ).

So my only ideas are : either finish it with dark brown color as it was before, or finish the top to white color so it would contract dark brown and probably would look interesting.

I'm quite sure though that I should leave transparent or semi-transparent finish, because thick one-color top would probably look ugly mixed with natural, open-grain sides and back.

I think this combination of colours would be the best beside dark brown(matching) top. I just don't have enough imagination to think about anything else.



My guitar looks like that:


So I think that it would be the best to put some light finish here, just to keep it glossy (I don't like matte because it has glossy spots after playing), add little protection from scratches (original faded finish is very easy to scratch and they are very visible), but I don't want thick, even surface, because I think it would look weird compared to natural sides.

Also I think transparent, light poly finish would be ok as sides and back are transparent.

Top color looks whiter on this photo, it's more like light brown/salmon or something.

2) If it comes to grain pores (divorts/dents):
I just want to achieve "uniform" surface. So I either have to fill all "pores" same way or clean all of them. Now I have some areas where these pores are filled with black filler I guess and some are more cleaned. I'd like to avoid sanding whole thing down if that's possible.


What do you mean by:

"tinder lacquer"

Is this just tinted lacquer? What kind of lacquer?(poly?)

I actually sugest that after sealing, grain filling, sand back you first seal the surface to stop the filler to react with the tinted coats. I have had som reactions between the filler and the white-ish lacquer.

So should I use two kind of lacquers? One transparent clear coat just to "seal" filler and then put tinted (white) lacquer over it?

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What do you mean by:

"tinder lacquer"

Is this just tinted lacquer? What kind of lacquer?(poly?)

We have something like lacquer/varnish and wood stain, for example: Minwax polyshades.

If it comes to "lacquer" name, I see that most of tinted ones are acrylic for some reason.

Could you give me some examples of product, so I could translate them and check how they are classified in my country?
I see that lacquer/varnish are interchangeable here so it's hard to say what exactly do I need. My feeling is that varnish is light and lacquer more heavy.

I actually sugest that after sealing, grain filling, sand back you first seal the surface to stop the filler to react with the tinted coats. I have had som reactions between the filler and the white-ish lacquer.

So should I use two kind of lacquers? One transparent clear coat just to "seal" filler and then put tinted (white) lacquer over it?

So the whole process should look like this:
1) sand properly whole surface (it's not finished yet)

2) do one clear thin coat to keep filler from colouring the top to black

3) fill open grain with filler

4) sand the top, apply clear coat (lacquer)

5) apply white lacquer coats

Is wipe-on lacquer ok? I'm not sure if I w I don't have any spray equipment or proper environment.

Sorry for writing this again, I can't edit my post.

Edited by alseic
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OK, I think I get the part about the grain filling (sorry to confuse you, now I don't believe we are talking about dents) I believe you have sanded past through the wood that earlier was grain filled. So the areas were the pores are open and not filled with black are the wood "as is". Those areas need to be grain filled to get an uniform look and feel.

To do this follow my suggested working order (clear, pore filler, shading etc...). I have used mainly water based finishes made for instruments. My current choice is the LMI KTM-9 finish. It is almost as hard as nitro finish, can be sanded, tinted and have very little of the blue-ish characteristics some water based finishes have. It can aslo be applied with a brush if being carefully. Were do you live? LMI ships to Europe, but the price can be a tad too steep when shipping and import taxes add up. If none of the specialised finishes are available I would look for poly urethane floor finishes and experiment with those. There is of cause always Rustins plastic coating, a classic finish, of Brian Mays Red Special fame... Available from England

OK, about the process: You got it right. I might add that both steg 2 and 4 in your list should just be a thin sealer coat. I can really recommend shellack for this. It can be applied by hand, dries very fast and if stick to almost anything and anything sticks to it, ensuring you get minimal compatibility problems. Don't use readymade solutions of shellack. Those doesn't dry hard enough. Dissolve shellack flakes in pure alcohol and you got the best stuff there is.

I aslo would like to add that a white- tinted, see-through layer is better applied thin and covered up with additional layers of clear. If not you risk wearing through the white down to bare wood. The best way to apply the white is to sparsely tint the finish with white pigments an apply several thin layers with a spray gun. If applied with a brush you risk getting streaks that will show up as whiter lines. They can be sanded out, but then you risk sand-throughs... My suggestion is to make all the preparations up till step 4 by hand/brushing. Then take the guitar to a car painter that really understands what you want and then do the top coats by hand. Just make sure he uses the same finish you use and that he shows you a quick example of how the end result might look like. Not all car painter understand guitar finishing. Or find a kitchen refinisher or something similar

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