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

Pretty impressive colour change!

I can only think that maybe he is using a wood bleach to delete as much of the original stain as possible. Tigers eye is heavily yellow and any left on/in the surface would result in a green hue when blue stain is applied.

PRS use spirit based stain, to my knowledge, which results in more vibrant colours, but again will most likely penetrate the woods surface more than water based stains.

I can’t imagine that he sands the stain off, unless he has cajones the size of water melons! Any significant sanding in the area of the bridge/pickups would affect the set up.

If he tells you how he does it, I think we’d all be interested to know how he achieves such a significant colour change.

Oh and glad that you didn’t decide to go at the guitar with a heat gun or scraper.
Alcohol based gel stains (dyes) would make the most sense but I don't know what they're actually using. I've got a lot of finishing experience with everything from cabinets to gunstocks and if it was my 594 in question, I'd either leave it be or send it to the PTC. My biggest worry wouldn't be the finish but tonal changes from removing material in sensitive areas. They're also using a better finish than most of us are able to get our hands on and better equipment to apply it.
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 f@ck 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.

This totally trumps whatever I just posted :)
He got back to me. No chemicals or bleach with his stripdowns, just sanding. I wonder how much wood you have to take back to get rid of the majority of a stain?

He does a great job with his colour changes without any bleaching and keeping the shape and carves looking spot on.

Edit: He got back to another email in regards to how much wood is lost. Apparently around 0.4mm of sanding to get through the stain. Seems reasonable, he must have great sanding skills.
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He got back to me. No chemicals or bleach with his stripdowns, just sanding. I wonder how much wood you have to take back to get rid of the majority of a stain?

He does a great job with his colour changes without any bleaching and keeping the shape and carves looking spot on.

Edit: He got back to another email in regards to how much wood is lost. Apparently around 0.4mm of sanding to get through the stain. Seems reasonable, he must have great sanding skills.

Major league sanding skills, nice! Looking forward to seeing your NOGD!:D
Okay guys,

A little update. I've experimented around with a discrete section of the finish that is between the trem screw holes and the route for the trem and taped up and took off a small amount of clear coat without disturbing the stain underneath. I used paint stripper (methylene chloride, the nasty stuff) and only let it sit for 5-10 minutes max and was able to delicately scrape back the clear coat. I then wet sanded the small section with 2000 grit and applied some wipe on poly and all looks good so far. No loss or change of colour of the stain and fairly easy to remove with careful work. I'd most likely just go section by section so I can work slow and careful.

I'll sit on this for a while before I decide if I am going to proceed and I realise what I've already done would affect resale value let alone proceeding further but I'm not selling this one again. At the worst I could just proceed with a complete refinish from the guy I've been conversing with if it doesn't work out how I'd like. Please don't flame, I'm aware of what I'd be getting myself into and the risks, etc. I genuinely appreciate all the concern so far as well as the invaluable advice.

I'd love to attach pics so far but for some reason the IMG link to my photobucket isn't working.

Also, the finish has faded a little compared to underneath the pickup rings and trem, makes me interested in some UV fading maybe, hahaha
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Having refinished an old Strat, I would also recommend sending it to a professional. I personally would sent to PTC if this guitar is a "lifer".

My Strat came out awesome - vintage yellow nitro finish. But it was a ton or work. I sanded down to the wood and probably lost some wood in some spots but it was not noticable. I had to though to fix some damage. removing the finish was a ***** but the finish process might have been even more work. (Sand and Sealer, primer coats, sanding back primer to add more sealer, prime again, more primer coats, sanding back the primer to smooth it out. Half dozen coats of color lacquer, wet sanding, a half dozen coats of clear coat, wet sanding, polishing and more polishing...)

The finish came out really professional looking but now I know why it costs so much to have someone refinish a guitar. I probably wouldn't do it for someone else for less than $1000. ...and that was a solid finish. There is definitely an expertise required to get the grain to pop like PRS guitars do.
Since you started it, you may as well go all the way.

You most certainly need to post pics and take us along for the ride.
Okay, first strip layer done. 5 minutes of paint stripper on small sections followed by careful scraping then wetsand with fine grit sandpaper. Unfortunately the cloudiness remains on the edges.

So it's either take my lumps and accept it as it is and either wet sand with micro mesh to desired satin gloss that I'm after or apply a few coats of wipe on poly and call it a day, or....

Or do another round of stripping to take back more clear. Could easily start entering the land of diminishing returns really quick. Not sure if I'm through the acrylic urethane layer yet or still have more to go until the base coat. Does the cloudiness generally get trapped between the acrylic top coat and the polyester base coat? Or can it happen between acrylic coats? Is there an easier way to get rid of cloudiness?

I'm pretty much after a worn patina to the guitar, less blingy. Not a relic so much as just a worn, played in look. I'm liking the satin, dull look it has at the moment after stripping the top gloss back. I'm going to get some aged nickel humbucker covers to help the look too.
I've tried to insert images from my photobucket but it's not playing ball for some reason. I could provide a link if that works for you guys.
Awesome, thanks mate, here you go:

I'm thinking of doing another little test section under where the trem sits and put another layer of paint stripper to see whats under the current layer I'm up to.

The neck on this guitar actually has a slight warp/twist in it from the guys in my old band leaving it in the tour van for a day when the van broke down and most of us had to leave early to get back to work. Still plays good though there is a bit of choking at the 7th fret on bends, not sure if thats due to warping.

Theres a local luthier who I'm thinking of asking to make a replica neck (without logos, etc obviously) with a maple fretboard and more of a 50's V neck profile (like my main strat) for me so I can retire the current neck until I can get it fixed.
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Alright, a quick test on a discrete section with stripper indicates that the next layer to take off is the base coat as once I scraped it off I was down to just the stain and a quick wet sand of that area brought the stain off too!

So I think no go beyond what I've already done without professional help. Is it normal to get clouding between the base coat and the stain itself?

Thanks so much jxe! If you look close (especially in the second picture) you can see the cloudy, milky thing on the edge of the upper and lower bouts. Also almost the entire inside of the the lower horn scoop is cloudy. Definitely not really bad by any means but still annoying. I just hope it doesn't spread further with time. I guess if it does then a professional refinish would be in the cards. She has such a beautiful flame and one piece too!

I think I will just micromesh sand at this point for a nice satin patina and call it a day. Considering a tinted clear coat to maybe brown up the red a little (tortoise shell colour would be great) but I'm undecided on that.