Introduction: How to Make Your Old Guitar Look Brand-new

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.

Step 1: Taking the Guitar Apart

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!

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...

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...

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

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!

Finnaly! You're guitar is finished. Here's my before and after pictures: