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View Full Version : best way to remove polyurethane finish?


tone slave
08-24-2007, 12:39 AM
i have a 1994 prs ce maple top and i'm considering removing the polyurethane clear coat. i know, :eek:, but a) it's beat to hell, and b) guitars just sound better without a finish.

i would like to remove the poly without harming the stain, but i doubt that's possible. obviously sanding it all off is one solution, but would take forever and would have to be done very carefully, especially on the top to preserve the contour. i'd obviously have to pay an experienced luthier or repair guy to do this, and i imagine it would be expensive.

the other solution is to use some sort of chemical to remove the finish, which would be much quicker, but i'm worried that whatever chemical was used may somehow harm the wood.

either way, it seems like the stain would also be removed, but maybe i'm wrong.

so what is the more desireable solution?

sleis
08-24-2007, 02:51 AM
Not sure what PRS uses, but I have been able to peel off sheets of finish with a heat gun on Fenders. I love to get the poly off and nitro it up. Sometimes I wish I had more money just to buy guitars that could be stripped and refinished with nitro. Whatever Fender uses is pretty impervious to any chemical stripper it seems.

gigant0r
08-24-2007, 03:42 AM
Heat gun is the best solution for removing that thick poly.

Mrgearguy
08-24-2007, 06:01 AM
Dynamite.

Actually, the heat gun is a good way to go. If you can get a plastic scraper under an edge it peels off in sheets as described above. Other than that and sanding, you don't have much choice. Hate that stuff.

sampleinajar
08-24-2007, 07:07 AM
Oh man. Don't sand - it is a mess and the dust is not good for you. I have been there, done that. Awful, awful.

Steve

gkoelling
08-24-2007, 08:00 AM
I've never done it but have also heard that a heat gun is the best way. Just don't get too close for any length of time or you'll burn the wood.

Attila
08-24-2007, 08:38 AM
Dynamite.

Actually, the heat gun is a good way to go. If you can get a plastic scraper under an edge it peels off in sheets as described above.
That's interesting; I didn't know that.

tone slave
08-25-2007, 01:59 AM
Not sure what PRS uses, but I have been able to peel off sheets of finish with a heat gun on Fenders. I love to get the poly off and nitro it up. Sometimes I wish I had more money just to buy guitars that could be stripped and refinished with nitro. Whatever Fender uses is pretty impervious to any chemical stripper it seems.

:NUTS ...am i crazy for doing this?

:eek: ...holy shit i'm doing it no turning back now

:dude ...holy sh*t it works! look at that beautiful mahogany!

:worried ...oh man do i want to try this on the top or should i just do the
back and sides and not push my luck?

:confused:

bigalthethird
08-25-2007, 02:05 AM
Pics!

Oh and do the top too.

59 Deluxe
08-25-2007, 12:54 PM
i want to strip a poly finish myself. what exactly is a heat gun and where could i find one? any hardware store?

HarryJ
08-25-2007, 01:01 PM
In addition, the only chem that worked for me is ZAR stripper

HJ

Tuco
08-25-2007, 02:56 PM
Yes, I would like to hear a few more details about how to strip poly.

Denyle_Guitars
08-25-2007, 06:07 PM
Yes, I would like to hear a few more details about how to strip poly.

Just give her a cracker and she does the rest.:rotflmao

It used to be that you could use aircraft stripper but now there are too many so called aircraft strippers (like Klean-Strip) at every mom & pop hardware store that aren't too great on guitars. If you google aircraft stripper, you can find lists and rankings of which are strongest.

takakat
08-29-2007, 03:08 PM
Maybe the easiest way is set the fire and when the poly is burnt hose it down and sand the char off. Jimi set the fire on his poly finised 68 Strat didn't he?

K-Line
08-29-2007, 08:10 PM
Careful with the heat gun, just enough to loosen the paint. If you get it too hot it can loosen the glue in the seams. My advice, get a body from USACG or the likes and sell the other. Time is money......I got neither!

Austinrocks
08-29-2007, 08:17 PM
Been to a couple of Fender Relic Clinics at the Guitar Shows, Fender uses Naptha to soften up the finish, I have not tried it on one of mine. I would prefer that to a heat gun.

HarryJ
08-29-2007, 08:22 PM
Naphtha will clean the finish very well, won't soften a poly finish IMHO
The only chem that worked for me is ZAR

HJ

tone slave
09-06-2007, 11:06 PM
:D

i did it!!! i can't believe how easy it was!!! looks like a modern eagle (with way less flame of course). the emerald green, maple binding, and natural mahogany look so sexy. i don't have a digital camera at home but i do at work, so i'll try to post a few pics tomorrow.

one more question for the luthiers on the board... i plan on just putting a very light tung oil finish over the whole thing, that's not going to do anything to the stain, will it? also, i found some green stain at a local woodworking supply store that i'd like to use to touch up one bad ding that's into the wood on the top (damn crazy rockstar singer dove into the drums at the end of a show and knocked a cymbal stand into my guitar :FM ) does prs use water- or oil- based stain? any advice on doing this properly?

otterpop
09-06-2007, 11:18 PM
to a borrow a phrase from another site I frequent... "kill it with fire!"

Dylan61
09-07-2007, 01:23 AM
Why not giving it a Nitro coat?

tone slave
09-07-2007, 08:56 AM
Why not giving it a Nitro coat?


still may be a possibility, but it would have to be an ultra-thin coat as the main reason i did this was that i think guitars sound better without a finish. i'm open to suggestions, though.

BBQLS1
09-07-2007, 09:29 AM
Tell us how you did it, what challenges you have had (cracks and crevices), whole guitar.

I've got a strat and a CU22, that I've been thinking about doing Nitro.

tone slave
09-07-2007, 02:25 PM
Tell us how you did it, what challenges you have had (cracks and crevices), whole guitar.

I've got a strat and a CU22, that I've been thinking about doing Nitro.

the strat should be a piece of cake-- get a narrow plastic scraper (around 1 inch or so). i went to a shop called rocker that specializes in woodworking supplies (they have a website, i think rockler.com) and they had a 3-pack of plastic scrapers that looked like big double-sided razor blades. i cut these up into 1" wide pieces. i'd start at a chip in the finish that is down to the wood and heat it up with a heat gun set at 75% or so of the maximum heat setting, and hold it a couple of inches away from the finish for about 15 seconds or so, then immediately and carefully work the corner of the scraper under the finish. you should then be able to easily remove 2-3" of the finish-- once you get it going it should effortlessly peel right off with the scraper since the finish should be pretty soft and almost rubbery. simple as that. obviously you'd want to pull the pickguard, jack, strap buttons, and neck off first.

which makes your prs a bit more tricky, as you can't pull the neck off. some luthiers may want to chime in here, but i'd say you'd need to be VERY careful around the neck joint as if it gets too hot it could soften the glue. if it were me, i'd do one small piece of the finish near the neck at a time and let the guitar cool down completely before moving on to the next piece.

BBQLS1
09-07-2007, 03:10 PM
the strat should be a piece of cake-- get a narrow plastic scraper (around 1 inch or so). i went to a shop called rocker that specializes in woodworking supplies (they have a website, i think rockler.com) and they had a 3-pack of plastic scrapers that looked like big double-sided razor blades. i cut these up into 1" wide pieces. i'd start at a chip in the finish that is down to the wood and heat it up with a heat gun set at 75% or so of the maximum heat setting, and hold it a couple of inches away from the finish for about 15 seconds or so, then immediately and carefully work the corner of the scraper under the finish. you should then be able to easily remove 2-3" of the finish-- once you get it going it should effortlessly peel right off with the scraper since the finish should be pretty soft and almost rubbery. simple as that. obviously you'd want to pull the pickguard, jack, strap buttons, and neck off first.

which makes your prs a bit more tricky, as you can't pull the neck off. some luthiers may want to chime in here, but i'd say you'd need to be VERY careful around the neck joint as if it gets too hot it could soften the glue. if it were me, i'd do one small piece of the finish near the neck at a time and let the guitar cool down completely before moving on to the next piece.

Thanks, I agree about the neck joint. I'm not diving into that one yet, but I have two other guitars that are likely to get the treatment soon.