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Picture of How to make your old guitar look brand-new
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In this Instructable, I will show you how to repaint, repair, and make your old guitar look brand new.
Please note: Up to step 5 I have done before I started this Instructable, hope that will clear any confusion regarding pictures.

To start, you must have the following:
- 320 and 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper
- Clear coat or lacquer
- Desired colour of paint (must be spray paint)
- Water and paper towels
- A guitar (duh)
- 6 new guitar strings

Optional items:
- Wood stain (for the neck and stock)
- SOS pads for the chrome parts

My victim of choice is my old Lero les paul copy, passed down to me by my father after he bought it at a yard sale. (Its so nice when people think of you) Its original colour is red, and I want to turn it black. There are many different designs to choose from, to take your time and think of some ideas you might want to do.
 
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Step 1: Taking the Guitar apart

Picture of Taking the Guitar apart
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Start with the strings. Unwind each string until it is loose enough so you can remove them from the pegheads. You can then take the bridge(s) off, if they are held by the strings.

Note: You may have to cut the strings with pliers to get them off, thats why you should have a new set.

After the strings are taken off, unscrew the big screws on the back holding the neck to the guitar. Since I don't know every part of every guitar, you will have to figure this part out for yourself. Once you are left with the body, take the parts holding the pickups off, they are usually attached to it. Then, take off the pickguard, and then carefully take the electronics knobs off by pulling them off. On the electronics there should be some nuts holding them in place, so take them off. Now on the back, take off the covers of the electronics, tape the open holes with painting tape, carefully push them back inside so they are inside the space, and put the cover back on. I do this because I didn't want to snip the wires to take them out, so I put them out of the way instead.

Now, for the pickups, I covered them with a tissue, then taped around it with painters tape. I then put them back in the "hole" were they came from upside down, and they fit in there fine.

When you take apart the guitar, you should get styrafoam cups or containers to put the loose screws and parts inn, so you don't loose them. For reassembling reasons, it would be a good idea if you took a picture of the screws before you took them out of the guitar so you know were they go and what you might be missing.

Another thing you might want to do is see if there's anything you might need to replace, so you don't have to do it later.

Step 2: Sand it down!

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Now that you have the plain body, its time to strip the clear coat on the guitar. To do this, get your 320 grit sandpaper. Start by getting the sandpaper wet, and start sanding. Since this sandpaper is fine, it wont chew up the paint and make scratches. As you sand down, you want the guitar to be more of a flat colour, which means no shine. Make sure there is no more clear coat left on the guitar, because any will mean the paint won't stick on properly. If there are still little scratches left on the guitar, keep sanding until they are gone.

If you want to do the neck too, just do the same thing, sand down the gloss and sand the scratches.

After you are done, move on to step 3.

Step 3: Unleash your inner artist! Or not...

Picture of Unleash your inner artist! Or not...
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Now that its sanded, its time to paint. Get your paint and do light coats, which means thin coats, not thick, which means not heavy but light, and so on. I did about 4 coats, but if you decide to do more that's up to you. After you are done the 3rd coat, you can flip it over and do the same there. (It also must be sanded)
On the last coat, make it a little bit thicker than the rest, but keep it even, because any bump or drip will still show up when you do the clear coat. If you mess up, sand it down and start over again. But when I say sand it down, I mean make it dull, like the first time.

Remember! When you paint, the guitar must be flat, or the paint will drip! That's why I recommend doing each side separately.

Don't be depressed if you don't get it right on the first try, it took me alot of tries until I got the right coat.

Step 4: In the meantime...

Picture of In the meantime...
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Now while you wait for the paint to dry, you can do something else. One thing is the neck.
If you are planning an re-staining the neck, you should have already sanded it down. Get some wood stain that closely matches the colour of the neck. Get a paper towel, and dip it in the stain. Rub it onto the wood, and let it sit for a while. For applying the stain you should follow the instructions that are on the can, to get a better quality job. After a while has passed, wipe the stain off of the wood with a dry paper towel, and the wood should be re-stained. Don't worry about it being shiny, we'll worry about that in the next step.

Here's another thing that you can do. Get the chrome pieces, and an SOS pad. The pad will take off some scratches, any rust, and will polish the chrome, so it looks brand new. You can do this with the Bridge(s), pegheads, fretboard, or any big screws on the guitar.

Step 5: Give your knight it's shining armour

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Now it's time for the clear coat. After you are done your desired number of coats, and both sides of the guitar are done, its time to put on the clear coat. Throughout the Instructable I have said clear coat instead of lacquer, that's because both do the exact same thing, so I would use either. However, I recommend getting fast dry, they make fast drying lacquer and clear coat, and it will dry to the touch in only a 1/2 hour.

Moving on, its time to start the clear coat. Remember, if there are still marks and scratches on the guitar, remove them before you continue, if you don't, they will show up through the clear coat even more, and you will have to start all over again.(I've done that too many times. Trust me, It's not very fun)

Now we're going to break the rules. Instead of nice light coats, do thick, but even coats. This is the most difficult part of the guitar, because make one little mistake, and it could cost you to do it all over again. Again, its up to you how many coats you do, I recommend about 4. Once you are happy with the front, DO NOT FLIP IT OVER! I have tied a thick rope to my incomplete ceiling, and strung it through a hole where the neck attached. You may want to leave it for a few days, to let the coats harden. You want to leave it because if you lay it on the floor or whatever you have it laying on, it could make yet more marks in the front, and you'd have to sand it down again. If you want, you can sand it with the 1000 grit sandpaper between coats to make sure there wont be any drip marks or scratches when its done.

I've made a little device out of wood, that secures the guitar over the floor, and sits in places where it wont mark up the guitar. One piece goes into the space where one of the pickups were sitting, and the other has a long screw that goes through one of the hole where the neck attached. Whatever you decide to do, make sure its going to work, and start the back.

If you stained the neck, you can do the same thing to it, put some thick coats of clear coat on, and it should look brand new.

And, some of the plastic pieces like the pickguard, can also be sprayed with clear coat. Just sand it down with the 1000 grit sandpaper, and give it a thick coat, to make it shiny again.

Step 6: Reassembaly

Now that you're guitar is all dry, its time to re-assemble it. Remember how I said it would be a good idea to take pictures of the guitar before you take it apart? Well now's the time to use them. You can start with the neck and move onto the pickups, it doesnt really matter. But it would be a good idea to do the strings last.

Note: If you dont like the look of the paint, then dont put it back together. Once you're done the way you like it, then put it back.

Step 7: Finished!

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Finnaly! You're guitar is finished. Here's my before and after pictures:
freeza363 years ago
What guitar is this? It looks like a Les Paul, but is it a special or standard? I really like the red coloration that it ended up with.
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  freeza363 years ago
http://www.belongingsbroker.com/product/hondo-ii-les-paul-copy

"Hondo II" Les Paul copy body, and as far as I know a "Lero" Telecaster neck.
are these decent guitars? Do they sound like a true Les Paul?

Do they seem to be decent guitars?...

PuddleOfMudd25 (author) 3 years ago
For anyone wondering the body is not original to the neck. The body was originally off of this guitar:
http://www.belongingsbroker.com/product/hondo-ii-les-paul-copy
We bought the guitar like this, I don't know why the original owner switched the necks.

Also I just want to say I did this a loooong time ago, and if I were doing it now I would have left it. This was the first attempt at refinishing a guitar and it gave me valuable experience with guitars. I am currently building my own guitars that are much nicer than this one could ever be. The body on this one was so beat up I decided to trash it, it wasn't any use to me. I am currently building my own Telecaster style body to match the neck.

webwillie5 years ago
Back in 1965 a friend asked me to paint his already 5 year old Fender Jaguar PURPLE!. I sanded it and painted it with a spray can of Krylon. I think you can go to jail for doing that now-a-days...lol.
Seriously? I love both Jagars and Mustangs. And strats and teles too. And even squires. And stratocoustics. Geeze, you gotta love Fender....
admanrocks7 years ago
ha, I jut made my brand new guitar look old... I know, i'm not cool. but good work.
Was the guitar a Hond II by chance?
I think it was better left untouched.
Glockenator5 years ago
i think the red looks nicer. i also dont like the fender style head, on the les paul body, with the sg output. thats jusy me, thats just what i think
protocolZA6 years ago
http://audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=180395
There, yours is worth something, or was....
x_25 protocolZA5 years ago
That happens to be my guitar. I have it in working condition right now. Although I don't think it is work anything. It really sucks to play.
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  x_255 years ago
I agree. They're fun to take apart, but don't really sound or play all that well.
Sycan6 years ago
Looks nice, but I think the red looked better. Thats just me.
la-main Sycan5 years ago
totally agree
dchall86 years ago
Be sure the guitar is suitable for this type of make over. Garage sale or pawn shop guitars are good to try this out. If you tried this on your father's $10,000 Gretsch he might get a little peeved.
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  dchall86 years ago
Well, if you have a new $10,000 guitar, unless you're a little bit screwy, you might not want to paint it right away. Luckily the one I used was like 30 years old or so, but if I find out they're worth thousands I'd be pissed!
some of those old les pauls from the lawsuit era ( around 70s-early 80s ) can occasionally be worth a bit, but ive never herd of Lero, so im guessing your safe
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  486dx46 years ago
Whew, good. But I guess it's too late anyways...
486dx46 years ago
how did you clean up the binding? or is that just a reflection?
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  486dx46 years ago
The paint was thin enough to sand it down a bit, and the binding came through. I used the Wet/Dry sandpaper.
486dx46 years ago
id say loosely fit it back togather first because the parts really change the apearance a great deal. it may look better than you think.
rn4yourlf6 years ago
whatsup, just had a quick question. I have an old takamine acoustic which is all black. I was just wondering if you had any tips on how to make that look brand new
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  rn4yourlf6 years ago
Like I said before, redoing an acoustic guitar could be dangerous, but if you still want to, I guess if you still like the black, just sand the Lacquer down and reapply a new coat of Lacquer to add a fresh shine, and spray any plastic parts to take out any scratches. Other than that beats me to be honest, I've never even had an acoustic guitar.
Lftndbt6 years ago
Sadly I haven't gotten my guitar out enough, for it to look old yet.... When it does look a bit shabby I will certainly follow your instructions.. Nice work!!
pyro137 years ago
Awsome!!! I take it this can be done with acoustics also, right?
Gypsyman pyro137 years ago
i wouldn't do it on your acoustic, it would most likely affect the tone of the guitar, and ruin its sound.
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  pyro137 years ago
i'm not sure abur acoustics, because they have a different body structure. glad everyone likes it!!
Steverino7 years ago
if you are finishing with lacquer, make sure that the color coat is also lacquer or you will get the orange peel effect.
PuddleOfMudd25 (author)  Steverino7 years ago
ya, i cant tell u how many times i ran into that problem.
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Very nice!