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Monday, July 13, 2015

Bite Size Tips 005 – Spot Finish Restoration

Hi Guitar Enthusiasts, it has been a while since the last edition of Bite Size Tips. In this one, I shall feature a very popular topic, restoring dents and nicks on guitar finishing.

Every guitar gets dents or nicks in its useful life. It is almost inevitable. But remember, perfection itself is about having wisdom to embrace imperfections. Hence restoring such dents or nicks is never about getting the original (once brand new) state but to improve it and above all to engage our minds and hands to solve an issue.

Many guitar enthusiasts got fixated to the assumption of reverting their guitars to original state. That will bring nothing good for a person because doing the impossible will only end in agony and frustrations.

In this edition, I will attempt to explain the means which I undertake restoration works for dented finishing on guitars.

Dents on Top Board
The first picture showed an acoustic guitar with dents on it top board. Definitely not a welcoming sight to guitar lovers. Instead of thinking about approaches to repair the dents, many guitar lovers fell into a common thinking trap of wanting to get rid of the dent totally. With that inaccurate thinking, it will almost surely lead to a frustrating ending.

Let begin with understanding the damage in greater details. Guitar top boards consist of wood and its finishing, a.k.a. lacquer. In the first picture, those dents have surely affected both. What matters is deciding what to repair. The wood, lacquer or both?

In FRETS.COM, repairing wood dents are explained in details by Frank Ford, one of the masters for guitar repairs. If you are interested do visit the website for a good read.

Wood is malleable, that means it can be compressed, eventually altering in its shape. Most methods used for restoring wood dents are exploratory and nothing is certain. Mine is no exception as well. I shall focus on touching up the dented finish.

The knowledge base of finishing is vast and deep. It will take a long article to cover them. Hence it wasn't feasible to explain all these related information.

So let's to work. In this case, only a spot received the repair attention, I shall call it Spot Finish Restoration.

Assuming you know the type of finish is on the guitar to be repaired. Always use the same type of finish for filling work. While all clear lacquer look alike, they do share their differences. In restoring finishing, we want to avoid having adhesion problems because of their different chemical make-up.

First step - fill up the dent(s) with sufficient lacquer. If multiple coats are required, allow each coat to set before the next is applied. Make sure the filling covers the dent(s) in both depth and area. Give sufficient time for the filling to set.

Drop fill to cover dent

Second step - remove any excessive filling with a prepared razor blade. Tape up a razor blade as shown in the picture. The razor blade is going to used as a scraper. We want to scrape away the excessive filling but don't want to scratch the top board. The goal is to get as much filling removed so that the filling is almost leveled to the top board's finish. However you will find it hard to achieve. Nevertheless, we wish to minimize inflicted more damages other than the existing dent(s) itself.

Prepared Razor Blade

Third step - Scrape the filling conscientiously with the prepared razor blade. Get the filling as level as possible. Do check the tape on the razor blade, make sure it didn't get slice through in the process. Visually inspect the process to prevent over-scraping. Stop when you are satisfy with the level of the filling.

Scraping Excessive Filling Away

Fourth step - wet sand the affected area with sand papers in graduation grits, begin with 400 and stop at 2000. In preparation for wet sanding, I soaked all the required sand papers in water prior to using them. Take cautious and do not over sand. A concave area can form or worse, the lacquer gets totally removed and leaving raw wood exposed. Both are bad for the guitar.

Wet Sanding

Fifth step - if the previous steps were done properly, this final step will be easy as a breeze. That is to buff the area to shine. Buffing requires a polishing agent and there many such products available in the market. For this, I have selected the Premium Polishing Compound from TurtleWax. For rubbing the compound onto the guitar, use micro fiber or lint free fabrics.

After Wet Sanding

Ready to be Buff

Buffing to Shine


Turtle Wax

In conclusion, it may not be perfect, there might be a patch that is visible under strong lighting. But it is better then leaving dent on the guitar.

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