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Removing Peeling Clear Coat


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I bought a guitar that originally had a matte finish and the previous owner decided to clear coat it.  It was poorly done and it is peeling off.  I could stick my pick between the guitar and the layer of clear coat. So I peeled most of it off but there is some left and I think the finish needs cleaning and polishing.  What is the best way to remove the rest of the clear coat and clean up and even restore the matte finish?

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I have a guitar that originally has a clear coat natural finish. Back in the '80's it didn't sell so the shopkeeper painted it grey using common indoors matte latex. It still didn't sell until an acquiaintance bought it for zilch. He successfully used a plastic ice scraper to remove the grey paint. Part of the success was that latex paint doesn't stick to buffed lacquer although it may be possible that the instrument was sanded matte prior to painting. It now has sort of a worn out satin finish.

Your case sounds similar to that. If the clear coat doesn't peel off you can try carefully heating the problem areas with a hair dryer, not a heat gun! If that doesn't lift the clear coat the only way is to use a scraper. A single edge razor blade is a good tool for delicate jobs like that. Carefully scrape the clear coat thinner. With some luck it may start to peel off leaving the original finish untouched.

To restore the matte finish simply use fine abrasives. Wet sandpaper starting from 600-1000 depending on how bad tool marks the removal process has left, going through the grits. Test the best starting grit in a non-visible spot! With a small block it can also be used for knocking off any stuck droplets of clear coat. Steel wool is another option especially if you've removed the pickups - you may not want steel wool chips on the magnets! That said, plastic abrasives (Scotch brite type) can be a safer choice. Sand in one direction only and change the direction by 45 deg when you go up a grit. When all the sanding marks of the coarser grit have vanished go one step finer and change the direction again. At some point you can't see the sanding marks any more, hopefully it's still matte enough at that point.

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Thanks for the tip.  I got the peeling layer off the front.  It looks like there is another clear coat layer under that isn’t peeling off.  There is dust under it, maybe I can sand it smooth.  Getting the original matte finish back would be ideal, but I would be fine with a nice gloss finish.  I just had to get ride of the layer that was falling off.

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