Dulling guitar finish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by therealting, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. therealting

    therealting Member

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    I have a beautiful MIJ Strat which has the beginnings of a relic finish (a few chips and dings). I find the surface of the finish a bit too "shiny" for this look, I would like to make is a little duller similar to an old nitro finish.

    Is this easily obtainable?
     
  2. johnspeck

    johnspeck Member

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    [WARNING! do this with the understanding that it is permanent!]

    FIRST: remember to try this in a spot where you can get away with it, to get a feel for what it will do to your finish, like a small spot on the back of the guitar or under the pickguard.

    Go to an auto parts store or a paint supply store. try the finest grade steel wool you can get. It gets messy, so keep it away from your electronics. You need to completely disassemble the guitar, so having some set-up experience is a must. Go light at first, you can't undo it. You can dull the finish, then rub it out a bit to look like an aged, clean finish. I find this works really good on new Goldtops, and Fender necks for a played-in feel.
     
  3. mofinco

    mofinco Member

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    Yikes! Umm... here's something a little different and more predictable AND recoverable than steel wool :( ...


    Go to StewMac and order their Micro Mesh kit. This is a kit of various grades of ultra-fine abrasive cloth, plus a dense-foam sanding block. It's designed for finish work.

    I've used this on a couple of my guitars so far to arrive at the 'patina' I wanted. In the case of my Gibson 2001 R8, I wanted to take the 'bling' off the finish and leave it with a 'sheen'.

    Completely disassemble the guitar. Completelywipe down the finish with an old t-shirt moistened with nothing but water; wipe dry. Do the same thing with naptha (cigarette lighter fluid).

    Take one sheet of 8000 grit and one sheet of 6000 grit paper from the Micro Mesh kit and soak it in a bowl of water.

    Starting with the 8000 paper wrap it around the foam block and wet sand the finish using moderade, even downward pressue, and sanding in random patterns. Don't Hurry! Rinse the paper often. After going over the entire area, wipe the finish down wth a very moist towel and allow to dry.

    Did it get 'where you want it'? Maybe not. I found that 8000 basically was fine enough to not 'make a dent' in the original finish. To get what I was looking for, I needed to repeat the process with 6000 grit.

    The nice thing about this method is that it's very controllabe, and it's reversable... unlike steel wool. If you want your 'bling' back go back to work, and use the 12000 grit paper, then polish.

    I also used this on my Les Paul replica when I got it back fom Dan Shinn after he refinned the top. Dan is currently refinning the top on R8, and when it arrives home, the Micro Mesh will come out again.
     
  4. kingsxman

    kingsxman Silver Supporting Member

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    I'll have to try the micro mesh. I have some. I just tried steel wool and some rubbing compound on my sunburst MIJ Ferandes tele and the steel wool just f*c*d up the finish in the small area I tried it. that poly just shows all the little scratches that the steel wool puts in.
     
  5. Aardvark

    Aardvark Silver Supporting Member

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    Mofinco,

    Thanks for the info. Very helpful. What is the purpose of the water when sanding? How do you keep the fingerboard from getting wet if you 'wet sand' the back of the neck? Thanks.
     
  6. SLBlues

    SLBlues Member

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    The water prevents the sanding residue from clogging the "sandpaper" "micromesh" and causing unwanted scratches in the finish. It is also a lubricant but mostly to keep the residue in suspension. I'm not sure about how to prevent the board from getting wet. Rinse the "micromesh" often in clean water to remove any residue that may build up.
     
  7. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    I also picked up some micromesh at Woodcraft if you have one of those in your area.
     
  8. kingsxman

    kingsxman Silver Supporting Member

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    FYI, used micromesh pads. 4000 and 8000 all over the finish. Started with trying to go with the grain...but eventually went in circles all over the guitar. Definitely dulled the finish and gave it an older feel. NOt quite as authentic as I'd like...but pretty good. Now if I could only find a way to yellow the binding under the poly.....
     
  9. TimmyP

    TimmyP Member

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    Are you sure you are not talking 800? I used 1500 and some polishing compound and got a superb gleam.
     
  10. chadbang

    chadbang Member

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    I went to Guitar Center in Los Angeles to study the finishes on old guitar.I was interested in how black paint ages. The first thing I noticed was there wasn't alot of the traditional wearing you see on poorly done relics. No patches where the arm rests or elsewhere. Maybe these were "nice" condition guitars, but I would have thought I'd see some of the classic "Fender Relic" wear -- not really. The first thing I noticed was that they were all basically still pretty shiny looking! I'm talking forty year old guitars and older. My thought was that I'd dull down my finish and that would be that. After seeing the real thing, I abandoned that idea. They were still shining. The look that they had was more of a sense of delicacy (thin looking, not heavy gloss), a bit of uneveness to the wood (barely detectable warping, or the paint being of unequal thickeness in places) and checking. I've been relicing my poly strat for almost a year to get it where I have achieved that look. I did that through the painful process of using micromesh (8000-16000) pads to take down the surface, then using rubbing compound to bring the shine back. Take it down some more, bring it back. Again and again. I hate to admit it, probably 25 times. In the end, I got a very realistic mild relic look that I think captures the look of those guitars. It's a very delicate operation-- knowing when to quit is key. As others have said, it feel safe doing because you can always restore the gleam. But I think continuously dulling and buffing the paint (which you could never do completely evenly) is what gives the guitar that naturally-worn-but-still-shining-look that I found looking at antique guitars.
     
  11. kingsxman

    kingsxman Silver Supporting Member

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    Timmy, yes I'm talking 8000. The micromesh pads have that.

    Chadbang, your exactly right. Relics come in all shapes and forms. "most" older guitars look exactly as you describe them. To me, the heavy relics are usually one of those guitars that just has that certain "something" and it ended up in a players hands who gigged all the time. Alot of guitars just sat.

    I think you describe the condition great. I am probably going to do the same thing on this poly tele relic. Dont know about 25 times but probably keep doing it while I'm working on the rest of the guitar.
     
  12. Rosewood

    Rosewood Member

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    Shrinking of old nitro finishes is where a lot of that sheen comes from, showing some of the wood grain which is why it's so hard to do finish repairs and keep that same look.
     
  13. ripcord

    ripcord Member

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    My advice is stay away from 0000 Steel Wool. I agree MicroMesh is the way to go.
     
  14. Lonesomedave

    Lonesomedave Member

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  15. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Supporting Member

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    You could use a rubbing compound to polish it back down to a satiny sheen.
     
  16. dulcetpine

    dulcetpine Member

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    Any photos of this work that you can post, or is this thread dead?
     
  17. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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    You can knock the finish back with Meguires products available at any decent auto parts store.
     
  18. '58Bassman

    '58Bassman Member

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    Sandpaper and MicroMesh go up to about 15 thousand grit- that's no typo. You can polish bare wood with these if you work your way up through the various grits.
     

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