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Stripping poly off top

Hello all... last time I tried to remove poly off of a guitar top I used a sander and didn't do a great job. I was wondering if anyone had any advice about using some kind of stripper to chemically remove most of it and maybe just finish it off with a little bit of sanding. I'm looking to brighten up a cheap Asian gypsy guitar with the hope of achieving a little bit more volume with a more natural finish. Thanks - Dean



  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 477

    This might be a helpful thread once you get it off. I've heard the results from @Buco 's Tru-Oil experiment and it sounds (and looks) great.

  • Posts: 3,191

    All hand scrubbed. Long project, at least 40 maybe 60 hours all told. Wasn't a pain though. I didn't have space to mess with chemicals. But also Craig B talked me out of it.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • constantineconstantine New York✭✭✭✭ stringphonic
    Posts: 413
  • constantineconstantine New York✭✭✭✭ stringphonic
    Posts: 413
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    Posts: 263

    I sanded it off my Asian made guitar, for the same purpose. Just sanded it, used those sanding sponges, was not difficult but time consuming and in the end, not so sure it was worth it for the time I put in. It did make it sound a bit better though

  • edited July 2020 Posts: 3,191

    I used heavy rubber blocks that car body shops use to sand. Only the top coat when I was using grit 80 or could've been 120. Then as I saw it thinning I'd switch to wrapping the higher grit (I'd need to check on what exactly I used as I went along) sand paper to those soft sanding blocks. For hard to reach areas I used a rectangular shaped pencil eraser which was great because it was firm enough to where you can push on it if needed but soft enough to conform to the shape of the guitar.

    The guitar always sounded good to me and it's extremely well built instrument. But with this light oil finish it's breathing a whole new life. Everybody who was familiar with it before said "wow!" after hearing it. Same tone is there but louder, wider, bigger, deeper. A friend who has Dupont and Holo when we jammed in late Feb commented "holy sh!t that's loud". Yeah, I could not be happier.

    I probably would've never taken the project if it didn't have a bunch of these spider web cracks in the top lacquer which happened on the delivery day in Jan of 2009 when Chicago had one of coldest days ever recorded with wind chill factor of -40. And that bothered me but everybody was telling me like oh that adds to the character and similar. I could never make my peace with it. I've been thinking about doing it for years but every time I'd try to "learn" from the internet I'd get put off because dozens of various forum posts (not here, general guitar forums) would claim you should use chemical strippers because otherwise you'll damage the wood, at the same time dozens would claim just the opposite. They usually sounded like they really know the stuff they're talking about. It was only after Craig told me (thank you @Craig Bumgarner ) he only and always does it by hand that I said OK this is what I'll do and went to work.

    Here's the link to before:

    and a few now picks:

    billyshakesBill Da Costa WilliamsconstantineLango-Djangovanmalmsteen
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 477

    Love how the flame comes out on the back

    BucoBill Da Costa Williamsvanmalmsteen
  • bopsterbopster St. Louis, MOProdigy Altamira M30, Wide Sky PL-1, 1940? French mystery guitar
    Posts: 501

    Just sanded down my Altamira M30, using the same sponges as @vanmalmsteen, made a Ziracote bridge (sanding bits on a drill, and hand sanding), busato tailpiece, rubbed 5 coats of pure Tung oil, tinting with the first 2. The sound is much nicer, crisp. It was always a good sounding guitar, but with going a little COVID isolation crazy, I needed a project.

    constantineBill Da Costa WilliamsBucovanmalmsteenDeuxDoigts_Tonnerremac63000billyshakes
  • constantineconstantine New York✭✭✭✭ stringphonic
    Posts: 413

    Great input thanks everybody!! I will definitely take another shot at sanding.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Hoyer, Epiphone x2, Burns x2, & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 647

    Sanding is safer. It may take longer but chemical stripping could damage more than just the finish on the top, it may even attack some glues and bindings.

    I did something similar on one of the cheap Aria oval hole models just as an experiment. It was a cheap guitar with a horrible orange plasticky finish on the top and sounded rather dull so I had nothing to lose. Once I sanded it back to bare wood I found there was quite a lot of grain filler, but I stopped there, to get rid of that would have meant sanding most of the wood away too. I then sealed it with a couple of coats of shellac and then went over that with a thin coat of nitro. It certainly allowed the wood to vibrate more, sounded louder and much, much brighter. Plus it looked better too. The only downside might be how it wears in the long run with some heavy use, but even then some folks like that 'relic' look these days, or a quick clean and a couple more coats would restore the finish.

    Experimenting with cheap Asian guitars with refinishing, and swapping bridges and tuners can be a fun project and possibly quite rewarding.

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