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Refinishing Tips

     In the fall of '98, I found a cheap '65 Musicmaster II off and bought it, sight unseen. I hadn't planned on refinishing it (it was already painted black, and I knew it had a painted white pickguard), but that quickly changed when I saw it in person. The body looked like it had been spray-painted, without the use of sandpaper; the brown faux shell 'guard was scratched up and appeared to have been been painted with white house paint. I said to myself, "I can do better than that." In retrospect, that might not have been true, because even though I had access to a professional lacquer spraying booth and had near professional instruction (many thanks to Messers. Ron Day and Barry Wymore!), it really didn't turn out so professional. I tried to do it the old-fashioned Fender way with nitrocellulose ("nitro") lacquer, using a "paint stick" plus nails to hold up the body while drying, but I'm pretty sure I would have been fired if did that bad in the old Fender plant. Anyway, below are some refinishing tips (most of which I learned the hard way) that I hope you'll find useful. However, your mileage may vary.

     Most of the info below is derived from refinishing a poplar '65 Musicmaster body. Where appropriate, I've also included some info from my second (and final!) refinishing attempt, on an ash '56 Duo-Sonic body, which used spray-can nitro lacquer. All part numbers mentioned refer to the Stewart MacDonald catalog. I've never ordered from them, but the Guitar Re-Ranch also sells refinishing supplies, and is definitely worth checking out.


Stripping (wood)

Stripping/polishing (plastic)

Sanding (wood)

Prep work/priming



     I wish I'd read a little bit more about refinishing before I tried it. Hopefully, you'll learn from my foolhardiness, but please don't stop there. The Guitar Player Repair Guide, 2nd Edition is a pretty useful book to have, and it has a lot of info on refinishing. And if you're buying nitro lacquer, chances are it'll be from either the Guitar Re-Ranch (a website dedicated to refinishing supplies and tips), or StewMac. The StewMac catalog itself has some tips, and they offer a few books/videos on the subject. StewMac used to offer a free 28-page "Finishing Information Booklet" (part #4001), but it was discontinued after they published a $24 full-sized book on refinishing (part #5111). However, their 28-page booklet "Electric Guitar and Bass Assembly Guide" (part #4003) is about $3 and includes a section on finishing.