Versión en español aquí.
Rejuvenate your rusty screws! Now you can refinish rusty screws to their original color at almost no cost.
This is my first Instructable, and I want to send a very warm Thank You! to all the people who has sent so much useful ideas to this site.
Ok, now back into business. Being a guitar technician in Venezuela has forced me to find clever solutions to solve some problems, since almost everything has to be imported and thus are sold at very high prices… if they can be found at all!
Have you seen those tiny screws that are so nicely plated with black chrome? They are very classy until they get RUSTY. And most players around here just balk at the perspective of having to spend up to three times the MSRP of those products, since they all are imported. But sometime ago my brother made a joke, saying it could be cheaper to just use a Sharpie® marker to cover the rust. I tried it and, well, it worked!
Step 1: Materials Needed.
Rusty black screws.
Black permanent marker, felt tip.
360-grit sandpaper or sanding sponge.
Step 2: Remove the Screws Youre Going to Paint.
Here’s a beautiful ESP LTD guitar I serviced recently. As you can see, rust is all over the screws of the pickup rings and neck heel. We need to unscrew them before refinishing.
Step 3: Remove the Rust.
These screws only have rust on their heads, so I used a 360-grit sandpaper with a sanding sponge. I won’t recommend using 400+ grit since such a smooth surface won't hold well the finish. Also, be sure to sand the entire head, specially if it’s a round one.
Step 4: Clean the Surface.
I used a quick shot of electronic cleaner spray on these screws, since it removes all dust inside the heads, and also degreases and dries in one fast step.
Step 5: Paint the Screws.
I used a Sharpie® permanent marker with a broad felt tip, since it’s better for this kind of work. Don’t worry if you can’t paint inside the head where the driver is pressed in, we’ll address that later.
Step 6: Hold the Screws Vertically.
We don’t want to marr the finish with a fingerprint, so I recomend pressing the screws into a block of foam.
Step 7: Apply Clear Fingernail Polish.
I use the ones that say “hardeners” since once they dry they do get, well, harder than simple lacquers. Use just enough to cover the head, not too much but not too little. Let it dry during 10 minutes at least. Don’t use a heat gun since it can dry only the surface while leaving a soft base: we want it to be hard enough to be used with a screwdriver!
Remember how it was difficult to paint inside the head with the marker? Once you apply the fingernail polish you’ll see how the tint creeps inside the cavity, carrying the black paint with it and leaving a smooth and shiny finish that looks like a brand new black-chrome plating.
Step 8: Reinstall the Screws.
Once the finish is dry and hard, screw them in place with care. If you push them too hard, they will lose some of the finish and will get rusty in no time. Be careful and once they’re in, common sweat won’t corrode the metal for a while.
It's important to note that this finish will rub off if the screws are handled regularly. I won't recommend doing this on the fine tuners of a Floyd Rose bridge, for example, but for the pickup mounting rings is more than adequate. Remember: this is no substitute for a proper plated screw.
Step 9: Admire Your Work!
Here you have it: a low-cost, effective alternative to keep your guitar looking sharp! The owner of this ESP was very grateful with this work, it costs almost nothing, and it makes the guitar look like new. A win-win situation for everyone!
Of course, the best solution would be to just replace the old screws with new ones, but as I told before, these ones are nearly impossible to find around here. While four black neck screws can be found for about 3.50 USD in the USA, they can cost up to 30 bucks here... that is, if you can find them!