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Refinish “old” guitar?


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IMG_1181.thumb.jpeg.08d4262caeb749d3326ff7621c070606.jpegHi all,


Just got a 1980 Fender “the strat” in pretty good shape. However, the neck is chipped along the edge with the fretboard. I am afraid of putting my hands in the guitar and potentially lowering its value. Would you leave it as it is? Sand + refinish (how?)? Or any other solution in the middle? .

My main concern is to protect the wood of any further damage and potentially getting rid of the rough chipped feeling along the mast. 

Appreciate any input 🙂.



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Hi and welcome to the forum!

Patina is one thing and shit is another. Not to mention that the guitar is in sort of an unplayable state. You definitely don't want a flake of dirty finish under your skin!

First thing I'd do is to clean the neck. Soap and water shouldn't ruin anything, just don't flood the neck so it starts to warp because of excessive moisture. A squeezed sponge should to the trick without harming the neck.

After cleaning the gunk off you have several options. The extreme is to scrape all finish off the neck which is what I read some famous guitar player does, leaving the neck to bare wood. It will soon get that grey shade of your personal secretions. One step further, you can use wax to protect the bare wood. Next more protective is some sort of TruOil, a mix of boiled linseed oil and poly with a suitable amount of turpentine for better penetration. And finally we're up to renewing the clearcoat, more in the following chapter.

If you prefer to fix the existing finish for a proper restoration (no wonder for the prices asked), a lot depends on the type of the clearcoat. Nitrocellulose lacquer will blend to previous layers quite easily while 2k poly and other polyurethane based finishes most likely will show a line unless you take it all off. But how to tell? Well, nitro is basically the same stuff as nail varnish so acetone should wipe it off and alcohol at least soften it. Then again, used liberally and given enough time and elbow grease most solvents will soften any sort of clearcoat so be careful and only attack spots that will be refinished.

1980 isn't "delicate vintage" so some experimenting may be allowed. If that clearcoat melts to alcohol I'd assume it to be nitro. So after proper cleaning and light sanding I'd try clear nail varnish to see if it blends in with the rest. If not, that can be scraped off to try something else. Even a full refinish might be within reason but if the problem area is only in the playing area of the neck I wouldn't touch the headstock.

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Hi @Bizman62,really appreciate your super thorough answer, thanks 🙂. I think I will try the acetone solution, sounds like the “less invasive” approach and probably a good starting point. You’re right about that gunk, luckilly none got into my skin so far! 





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