Best approach to stripping off poly clear coat of CE24 and other questions

dwrockdoctor

New Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2018
Messages
94
Hi all!

So, I have bought back a much loved 1998 PRS CE24 that I regretfully sold off about 5 years ago but had the recent opportunity to acquire it again. It is in black cherry finish with a one piece maple top with quite a beautiful figure to the flame.

Unfortunately it had been stored in it's case under a bed for at least a few years and when I opened up the case I had to wipe away a little bit of mildew from the fretboard and headstock. After a week or so of having it back I have noticed it has developed some clouding on the edges of the finish in places which must be from some moisture in the case over a long period of storage.

The guitar plays amazingly, as good as I always remembered it and has a wonderful acoustic tone as well as plugged in.

My question: I would like to get rid of the clouding in the clear coat, what is the best and safest way to strip back the clear coat?

I found someone online who had used the heat gun and scraper method on his CE24 and said the clear came off like butter and was easy. Someone else had used chemical stripper and another had simply sanded back. I'm scared my sanding skills aren't up to scratch and will affect the contours of the body. As far as chemical stripper goes, I'm not sure what type to use if I go this route and if it will affect the colour and dye when it comes in contact.

I will most likely keep the original colour and dye intact (though I wouldn't mind fading it back somewhat, does black cherry fade from UV exposure and to what colour?). Possibly finish it with some kind of tru-oil finish for a more satin, played in patina, I'm not super keen on the dipped in glass finish like I used to be and generally like my guitars to look a little more worn in.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read this, would love to hear some opinions on how to best achieve this goal. Cheer guys!
 

sergiodeblanc

Don’t you ever cry again for the rest of your life
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
Messages
24,279
If you’re afraid your sanding skills aren’t good enough, I’d honestly think about leaving it alone or sending it to a professional, be it the PTC or somebody else cheaper.

Not that I would ever try and talk somebody out of a project but, unless you’re doing it for fun or have a desire to learn how to finish guitars, no matter what you do it’s gonna be expensive. Plus like, you will save exactly zero dollars doing it yourself, and you will kill whatever resale value you’d have left in the guitar body.

Now that the disclaimer is outta the way....

Chemical stripper can stain the wood if you’re not careful, and will lead to a delicate sanding process

The heat gun can burn the wood if you’re not experienced with it, and the scraper you use with it can scratch the wood, leading to another delicate sanding job.

Sanding the poly off is terrifying but, if you’re after just getting rid of the clouding, may be the best option since the clouding occurs between the coats of poly. You could be the luckiest person alive and just take off enough poly to get to the clouding and stop there.

But.... no matter what you do.... there’s gonna be a lot of sanding.

You know, people kinda look at sanding as kind of an “entry level” job at guitar manufacturers, and it is. But not because it’s easy or just because it’s a lot of manual labor that’s “below” more intelligent workers, it’s because it’s literally the most important skill to master if you’re gonna work with guitars.

If you can’t handle or master sanding then, GTFO of the guitar making/fixing world. The folks that sand guitars at PRS are gods in their own right.

So, part one of “what’s the best way to achieve this” is.... sanding. It’s also terrifying.

Be mindful of the dish-edge of the contour of the top, and pay special attention to the raised area around the lower cutaway and horn, it’s super easy to [email protected] that up in an instant.

If you don’t own an orbital sander, buy one. Don’t use one of those palm vibrating sanders, it’ll leave lil squiggly marks that are impossible to get out.

And if you buy that orbital sander, leave it in the box until you get to the back of the guitar. The videos of dudes sanding the finish off the contours with an orbital sander in seconds will not be you. Those guys are superheros, it’d be like watching a video of (insert famous sports hero or bukaki porn goddess here) doing what they do, and you being like “oh, that looks easy! I can totes do that!”

Nope. No you most certainly cannot. I’m not saying I’m a better man than you, just trying to keep you from making the same mistakes as I have.

Sorry for the long and rambling post but... your question(s) kind of warrant one. Refinishing a guitar is a long and arduous task, there is no quick and easy solution that’ll make your guitar look un-worse than it already does. If you decide to go at it yourself, I’ll be more than happy to cheer you on and help you out in whatever way I can, even if it’s warning you of mistakes I’ve already made, or putting my arm around you and letting you cry when you burn through your new top coat when polishing it.
 

gush

She said "huge bag of dibs".
Joined
Nov 4, 2012
Messages
5,520
Location
washington iowa
Little off topic here but new nut install is a lot like what Sergio describes. Folks that can do it well are worth their weight in gold.

I CAN NOT do it. I'm very good at gluing on a new nut and filing the slots too deep.

All day, every day.
 

sergiodeblanc

Don’t you ever cry again for the rest of your life
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
Messages
24,279
Little off topic here but new nut install is a lot like what Sergio describes. Folks that can do it well are worth their weight in gold.

I CAN NOT do it. I'm very good at gluing on a new nut and filing the slots too deep.

All day, every day.

The trick on replacing PRS pre cut nuts is to sand the bottom on a flat surface. Dry fit that sh!t, sand, dry fit, sand, dry fit again, sand too much, pull second one out of the pack, dry fit, sand....
 

Alnus Rubra

Loving nature’s wonders
Joined
Oct 17, 2017
Messages
17,653
Location
Scotland
If you’re afraid your sanding skills aren’t good enough, I’d honestly think about leaving it alone or sending it to a professional, be it the PTC or somebody else cheaper.

Not that I would ever try and talk somebody out of a project but, unless you’re doing it for fun or have a desire to learn how to finish guitars, no matter what you do it’s gonna be expensive. Plus like, you will save exactly zero dollars doing it yourself, and you will kill whatever resale value you’d have left in the guitar body.

Now that the disclaimer is outta the way....

Chemical stripper can stain the wood if you’re not careful, and will lead to a delicate sanding process

The heat gun can burn the wood if you’re not experienced with it, and the scraper you use with it can scratch the wood, leading to another delicate sanding job.

Sanding the poly off is terrifying but, if you’re after just getting rid of the clouding, may be the best option since the clouding occurs between the coats of poly. You could be the luckiest person alive and just take off enough poly to get to the clouding and stop there.

But.... no matter what you do.... there’s gonna be a lot of sanding.

You know, people kinda look at sanding as kind of an “entry level” job at guitar manufacturers, and it is. But not because it’s easy or just because it’s a lot of manual labor that’s “below” more intelligent workers, it’s because it’s literally the most important skill to master if you’re gonna work with guitars.

If you can’t handle or master sanding then, GTFO of the guitar making/fixing world. The folks that sand guitars at PRS are gods in their own right.

So, part one of “what’s the best way to achieve this” is.... sanding. It’s also terrifying.

Be mindful of the dish-edge of the contour of the top, and pay special attention to the raised area around the lower cutaway and horn, it’s super easy to [email protected] that up in an instant.

If you don’t own an orbital sander, buy one. Don’t use one of those palm vibrating sanders, it’ll leave lil squiggly marks that are impossible to get out.

And if you buy that orbital sander, leave it in the box until you get to the back of the guitar. The videos of dudes sanding the finish off the contours with an orbital sander in seconds will not be you. Those guys are superheros, it’d be like watching a video of (insert famous sports hero or bukaki porn goddess here) doing what they do, and you being like “oh, that looks easy! I can totes do that!”

Nope. No you most certainly cannot. I’m not saying I’m a better man than you, just trying to keep you from making the same mistakes as I have.

Sorry for the long and rambling post but... your question(s) kind of warrant one. Refinishing a guitar is a long and arduous task, there is no quick and easy solution that’ll make your guitar look un-worse than it already does. If you decide to go at it yourself, I’ll be more than happy to cheer you on and help you out in whatever way I can, even if it’s warning you of mistakes I’ve already made, or putting my arm around you and letting you cry when you burn through your new top coat when polishing it.

What he said, times infinity! The pit falls with a carved body are tumultuous!

The trick on replacing PRS pre cut nuts is to sand the bottom on a flat surface. Dry fit that sh!t, sand, dry fit, sand, dry fit again, sand too much, pull second one out of the pack, dry fit, sand....

Sounds like Phoebe’s song from Friends!

Dry fit, sand, repeat. Dry fit, sand, repeat. Dry fit, sand, repeat, as needed!

 

sergiodeblanc

Don’t you ever cry again for the rest of your life
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
Messages
24,279
Sounds like Phoebe’s song from Friends!

Dry fit, sand, repeat. Dry fit, sand, repeat. Dry fit, sand, repeat, as needed!


I’m fine with that. She’s the only person on that show I can stand.
 

dwrockdoctor

New Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2018
Messages
94
Thank you for all the thoughtful replies guys, especially Sergio’s detailed response.

The PTC would be a wonderful option but unfortunately I’m in Australia so economically would be very expensive. Though I would love a vintage yellow PRS and the only way that’ll happen is through PTC (or buying a new one).

I have no intention of selling this guitar, it’ll be passed onto my son when the time comes.

With all that being said, I have a swamp ash mighty might strat body I’ve been meaning to strip down and refinish so maybe that could be my test body for heat gun/scraper removal and guinea pig work.

I have stripped back a cheap strat copy before with a green stain flame veneer and managed not to lose the veneer or colour, chemical stripper and lots of sanding with a disc sander got through and I finished with wipe on satin poly and I really liked the effect. The difference between a cheap strat body and a delicate carved US PRS body is considerable though.

So a few more questions...

How thin is the poly finish on a late 90’s PRS?

And, does black cherry dye fade under UV light exposure?

Thanks so much guys.
 

sergiodeblanc

Don’t you ever cry again for the rest of your life
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
Messages
24,279
The poly is roughly (I mean I haven’t broke out my micrometer to measure chips) at most, 1/16” at its thickest. I say this because I got a nice gouge in my 93 CE from a falling skateboard truck (long story) that was at least that deep and didn’t go into the wood.

Black Cherry might fade? Not sure but my BC guitar has sat in the sun,and on outdoor stages, is 25 years old and most certainly hasn’t been babied, and still looks like this:

nUShdVn.jpg
 

dwrockdoctor

New Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2018
Messages
94
Great Sergio, good to know. At the least, I do plan to knock off some of the sheen of the gloss finish with either some steel wool or a scotch brite pad, I’m a much bigger fan of satin finishes. Just hoping the clouding is close to the surface so it’s easy to remove. I can’t tell if it is getting worse or not over the last few weeks.

I won’t be doing anything rash at this point, I’m not in a rush to do anything just yet, got a lot to think about. Thanks guys.
 

dwrockdoctor

New Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2018
Messages
94
Hi all, back again. So I have heeded your advice and I'm not going near any stripping or sanding work. I've found a place in my country (Australia) that said he can strip and refinish for me, he's done some nice work on other PRS guitars. I'm thinking of getting mine redone in vintage yellow with a nitro finish for natural wear and tear over time and use. There's a few guitars on the page where he stripped a darker dye job and refinished in a faded blue denim kinda finish that looked great so it seems he can do the same thing for me from black cherry to vintage yellow. Fairly expensive but it's a lot of work. This guitar is a lifer for me so I'm down for the cost.

The place is Custom Guitar Works in Melbourne, is there any other Aussies on here who have had refinishes done in the country and where and who have done it?
 
Top