How hard is it to refinish a guitar, anyway?

soul-o

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I have never done a refinish, but I have a Tokai Les Paul Jr. I bought for $400 and it plays and sounds great, but the "TV yellow" finish is not very appealing. It's got a real plastic vibe on top of the paint. I'd like to do it as a dark cherry red with a nitro vibe (less off that glossy shellac feel), but it's a little intimidating.

I'm sure there's a big difference between doing it and doing it well, but what do you all reckon? Is it the sort of thing someone with basic skills should attempt on a guitar they really like? It's not my main axe or anything, of course.
 

poolshark

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You'll get varying reports, but I had fairly easy success with ReRanch on my first few go-arounds. Their products are all compatible, their 101 section is pretty good, and their forum is an excellent resource. Stepping outside of ReRanch makes things a little more interesting and difficult, but the range of possibilities expands, along with the risk and some of the costs. Either way, finishing takes time and patience, but is really rewarding if you enjoy that kind of work. If your current finish is poly, get ready for some work stripping it down.
 

Mike Simpson

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If the guitar is bound there may be extra work repairing or replacing the binding after stripping the old paint. If you are after the transparent cherry red on Gibsons keep in mind that the mahogany wood that shows through is part of the effect. I don't know what kind of wood you will find under a Tokai finish...
 

soul-o

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Yeah, that is a good point. it's probably not mahogany. It doesn't have binding.

Am I correct that I'd probably spend around $300 to get it refinished professionally? That doesn't make much sense, eh? Maybe I'll just go for it. Then again, I have been meaning to replace the broken mirror in the downstairs bathroom for about 8 months.
 

Mike Simpson

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It is a lot more work to remove the original finish if that is your goal. If you are looking at paying someone to strip and refinish $300 is probably low.
 

Earth

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The hardest part, imo, is wet sanding the final finish. That's time consuming, and not fun to do. Everything else is pretty enjoyable- stripping, filling, staining, painting, etc.
 

Uncle Joe

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I'm a big advocate of starting with cheap OEM guitars that have "satin" finishes. Currently the EPI Les Paul Specials, with HH or P90s available, seem to be the pick of the litter in bargain basement options.

I've done three refinish jobs, all sparkles, and I've gotten better with each effort. I did a Squier '51 a number of years ago and that was a mistake because it had a poly finish that I just roughed-up and sprayed over. As a result I have a lot of checking on the finish. It looks okay, almost like a sparkle relic.

I learned, from that '51 experience, to start with a body that doesn't have a heavy poly coating on it. Stripping is a pain. I think it's worse than the final sanding steps for me. Everybody is different though. That's why it's good to read as much as you can prior to starting so that you may benefit from the experience of others, taking your favorite ideas from different contributors and finding your own ideal method.
 

soul-o

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That's really good advice, thanks. That is exactly what I've got here and I don't want to just butcher it trying to get the original finish off.
 

DrASATele

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There's a big, very big, difference in re-fin for a solid opaque finish and a transparent finish.

To get a solid opaque finish, just get the current finish level, so fill dings and sand/scuff til level with 220 (or work your way up to 220).

To get the transparent, you'll need to go down to the wood. How hard that is, depoends on what's already on the body. Polyurethane finishes can come off in sheets with heat and scrapers. If it's more along the lines of a resin like fuller plast (a polyester resin) you could go mad trying to get it off, plenty of those horror stories on here. Lots of sanding involved.
 

Dismalhead

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My main issue has always been getting the paint to go on evenly. I think you need a sprayer if you want to do it right. I've always tried rattle cans and ended up with less than stellar results.
 

Sandia Man

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Polyurethane finishes can come off in sheets with heat and scrapers. If it's more along the lines of a resin like fuller plast (a polyester resin) you could go mad trying to get it off, plenty of those horror stories on here. Lots of sanding involved.

The two bodies I have stripped were exactly like this, the MIM strat poly came off in 30 minutes with a heat gun, the far east tele-ish thing was encased in fullerplase/bondo/resin and took days to strip and sand, even with power tools

I have no doubt it's easier to scuff and level an existing finish and paint over it
But you can learn a lot about finishes by taking a couple off
 




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