I would like to refinish my old (50 yr) classical guitar and would like to know how is best to remove (strip) tho old lacquer finish. Do you any suggestions on how to proceed (is there a book or video that can guide me)? I've heard that chemical removers are bad, so should I use a scrapper and sand paper? I would like to do a French finish after getting rid of the old cracked finish. Many thanks for your help.

Esteban Celis

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As far as I know, the book by Dan Erlewine is still the only comprehensive one out there - "Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step," published and sold by Stewart MacDonald ( It's really just about lacquering, though. IF you want to learn French polishing, there are some online tutorials.

As to stripping, most luthiers I know use regular chemical paint remover, but are VERY careful around inlay and purfiling, especially if it's plastic. You simply can't afford to get chemical stripper on plastic, so scraping there is a must.


Frank Ford
Wait, wait, I'm getting a faint message from the great beyond. Is this guitar a . . . Goya?

Greg Mirken
No its not a Goya... I' have received a suggestion from another board that it may not be necessary to strip it down to the bare wood since the old lacquer is not chipping off. Just to sand with a fine grit paper to a mate finish, remove all the dust well and then apply the French finish on top. Any thoughts to this route?
Well, it was a good guess. What is it? Do you know what the finish is? You mentioned the finish was cracked. Are we talking about weather-checking? What is your goal in doing a French polish finish on this?

Having been a participant in several luthier forums for a few years, I can offer this advice: the more specific your information and question, the better advice you'll receive. Without having this guitar in hand, I can't be sure of what I'm dealing with. So any answer I or anyone else provides may be generally correct but not the best for your specific situation.

Pictures? Hey, Frank, how does a guy post pictures here?

Greg Mirken


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