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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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  • 2 weeks later...

on the one hand... I feel like it's always a bad idea to try to "clean" an older instrument... no matter how old.  on the other... as a player, if I like a guitar I want it to play like I like.

afa I can tell... "the strat"'s go for 2-9k and anything beyond just cleaning the neck is going to drop it's re-sale.  add to this... if that is nitro... it can be highly reactive and I would def do some research if you are going to use anything beyond a damp rag.  as a point of illustration... I had to refinish one of my nitro based guitars a while back... I took acetone to it and literally wiped the finish off... down to bare wood.  easiest strip job you could ever do.

what I see there in the picture is ageing of bare wood where the finish has worn off.  you aren't going to get rid of that by cleaning.  It's going to remain black... very much like ebonized wood... it's not on the surface - it's in the top layer of wood.  the transition between the finish and bare wood likely doesn't "feel" great... but any sanding it is going to make really obvious impact.  any cleaning it risks cleaning solution getting into the poors and again, making an obvious visual impact. 

the fact that it's chipped like that and the wood is exposed... means it is more than likely nitro.  afa sealing that wood... all the things that would re-seal it well are going to ruin the value even if done professionally.

again... I would gently clean this and keep as is... or measure and buy a "player" neck to put on while keeping the original "as is".  just one aholes o.


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