Once you get under the finish, the rest of the job goes pretty fast. Use care not to damage the wood with the knife or scorch it with your heat source. Remove as much of the finish as possible, including that in the cavities (Photo 5).
Step 3: Prepare the body
When all the finish is removed, it’s time to prepare the body for refinishing. Inspect the body and neck for any dings, chips, or other imperfections. Small dents can be steamed out by placing a damp cloth over the dent and applying heat with a soldering iron. (For instructions on steaming out dents, see “Steaming Out Dents in a ’71 Medallion Flying V.”) Chips will need to be filled.
Once you’ve inspected the body and checked it for dings and chips, it’s time to gather your sandpaper and sanding blocks (Photo 6).
Using a flat backing pad and starting with 120-grit sandpaper, sand the entire body working only in the direction of the grain (Photo 7). Inspect the body to make sure you are removing any traces of finish or sealer left over from the original paint job. After a complete sanding, wipe down the body with a damp cloth to raise the grain. Let it dry, then sand with 220-grit sandpaper. Raise the grain with a damp cloth again and sand a third time, using 320-grit sandpaper. Take your time and do a thorough job during these steps to insure you get a nice flat surface to build your finish on. When you’ve finished sanding, wipe the body with a naphtha-dampened rag to remove any oils or grease left by your hands. From this point on, wear clean gloves so you won’t contaminate the wood.
Step 4: Spraying
It’s now time to spray your finish. For this you will need some kind of handle for holding your guitar and a place to hang it to dry. Pieces of scrap wood make good handles for holding the body while you spray (Photo 8). They also give you a way to hang the body while it cures. Here’s where being especially patient will pay off. A professional nitrocellulose finishing job takes weeks to complete, but the end result is something you can be proud of!
Tip: Use warm lacquer, not cold. Pro finishers spray heated lacquer because cold lacquer spatters, requiring extra work to get a level finish. For best results, heat your cans in a sink of warm water before spraying (Photo 9).