Removing Sharpie from Nitro Finish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Jeffj, Nov 9, 2017.


  1. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Picked up a mid 80's 52RI tele that has some "signatures/autographs" on it that I would like to remove. Luckily they are on the back & sides instead of the front, but still look ridiculous.

    Any ideas on how to get these off without ruining the nitro finish? I have tried Goo Gone (that appeared to burn the finish)..naptha (faded the marker a bit, but did not remove it). Maybe some kind of rubbing compound & a buffer? I have no doubt I can remove it, just trying to not dull/burn the finish.

    Thanks!
     
  2. swiveltung

    swiveltung Supporting Member

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    It should disappear fast when you play it for a while. Assuming it's in the wear zone. Have you tried alcohol/whisky lightly and wipe dry fast?
     
  3. Khromo

    Khromo Member

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    Meguiar's Fine Cut Cleaner will usually take them off, but you need to be careful you don't burn through that delicate finish. This is mild rubbing compound, that will cut with some effort, but leave behind a very glossy finish. Some felt tip pens will penetrate more than others, so there may not be a perfect solution.

    You also need to careful that the buffed out areas don't get more (or less) glossy than the rest of the instrument, but that can be corrected with another grade of compound.

    If you try this, make sure to test on an unobtrusive part of the finish. Don't rub hard, you want to buff as gently as you can get away with.

    An old cotton tee shirt that has been washed a million times, some water but not too much, just damp, a little gentle rubbing, hard rubber sanding block (although fingertips work as well), and some Meguiar's. That's what I call a good time!



    This stuff will also clean up your headlight lenses.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
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  4. Jack Daniels

    Jack Daniels Supporting Member

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    Good luck. I had a guitar with a signature on it for several years. It had penetrated pretty deep. No chemicals or cleaners would remove it. I had to use rubbing compound and polishing paste.
     
  5. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the info. Gonna give this a try & see. Luckily all the writing is on the back of the guitar & the sides..so have some experimental areas that I can test on. It has been on there for several months & appears to be pretty set, so hopefully I can get it removed.
     
  6. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Member

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    Depends on how long it's been on there....it can be a bitch with nitro and you'll likely need a pretty aggressive product.

    Start with a fine compound and see what happens, and be aware you're dealing with a separate colorcoat/clearcoat finish, so go easy.
     
  7. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Member

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    Whose signatures?
     
  8. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    No idea. This was purchased from a high school kid & looks like he was bored & just wrote on it. There are a few names & some other random dates, etc.
     
  9. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Member

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    I ask because way back in the Harmony Central days, there was a thread about removing a large Rick Derringer sig from the front of stratocaster. Most of the folks posting had no idea who RD was...
     
  10. Rhomco

    Rhomco Silver Supporting Member

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    Try a mixture of toothpaste and WD-40. Put it on a soft cotton or microfiber cloth and buff the area.
    Good luck on your project,
    Rob
     
  11. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Here are the pics from the kid that I purchased it from. I assume these are his buddies or something. I used Naptha on the 1950/2017??? & was able to lighten it up considerably, but still very apparent. You can see where (I assume him) tried to get the others off above that one & burned the finish up some (more apparent when the light hits it). Trying to avoid that on the rest of this mess.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Progress report #1. More naptha & mixing in some toothpaste (as recommended) for some abrasion & lots of elbow grease.. I bet if a guy head some light compound & a buffer this could be knocked out much quicker/easier.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
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  13. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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    Alcohol is the solvent for Sharpie. After that you need abrasives.
     
  14. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Rubbing alcohol? Would that work better than naptha? I assume it is ok to use with nitro?
     
  15. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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    Yes - it may not take is all off, but it should get you down to something you might be able to rub out. Shellac is alcohol based, nitro is not.
     
  16. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Final report: More naptha & more elbow grease. I ended up getting some sand paper from a friend at a body shape & used a combination of 2000 & 3000 along with the naptha. This sharpie was "stained" very deep in the finish & I actually had to take a little finish off to get it mostly gone. There is a spot on the side where I sanded through, but it looks much better than a random signature in bold lettering. Not perfect by any means, but much better IMHO. Sharpie is a real PITA to remove from nitro finishes. Also a shot along side my #1 52ri for the last 17yrs.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Ringo

    Ringo Supporting Member

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    I had a brown finished mid 70s SG years ago, that had some permanent marker ink on it, I used some stuff called rottenstone, mild abrasive, it worked.

    Toothpaste can work too sometimes.
     
  18. poolshark

    poolshark Supporting Member

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    That turned out pretty good, I'd say. Rub it down with some Scratch-X 2.0 if you want a gloss.
     
  19. Dan Coughlin

    Dan Coughlin Member

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    No personal experience with guitar finishes but if automotive finish stuff is useful then the Meguiar's DA Microfiber Cutting & Finishing pads might be the ticket. They do amazingly well on clear coat finishes, I was able to take dozens of track days worth of abuse off with them. They make compounds to go with the discs as well and there's a kit available. Yes it will remove some finish but then any polish will and it sounds like with Sharpie you don't have a choice with that.
     
  20. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the info. I actually "finished" it at a buddy's auto body shop. We tried a few different things he had, but the sharpie was/is literally in the grain (mostly on the back). It's amazing how penetrating sharpie is. I think the best catalyst here is the naptha. It definitely helped break down the sharpie, but still had to do tons of rubbing, thus getting down to the wood/finish in a couple areas. The whole guitar has some dings, wear, extra routing, etc...so where it stands now it kinda blends in with the rest of the condition. I at least have it to a state now to where it isn't as obvious & juvenile as it was. Plus, it is a great playing & sounding guitar. Feels identical (although heavier) to my main one, so that was the main hope. Thanks to everyone for the help & advice.
     

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