I'm going to restore my first guitar (1970's Alvarez).  It was all I had for many years, has been played, gigged, travelled and is somewhat worse for wear.  I realize that it's not worth much but it has great sentimental value to me and I'd like to see it looking good and playing well again. 

  • A partial refret is required as the first 7 fret positions are worn down and there isn't much material left to work with.
  • The bridge plate has partially separated and will be removed. 
  • Labor is free as I'll be doing it myself. 

A few issues for which I would welcome some suggestions:

  • Approach to stripping the (poly) finish.  Sanding vs Chemical stripper? 
  • Should I remove the binding before stripping? 
  • Suggestions on preserving the headstock inlay and sound hole rosette (I suspect the latter is a decal)

Much thanks in advance to the forum for sharing your thoughts.

Tags: Acoustic, Binding, Refinishing

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Do a complete refret if you're going to spend that much time w/it !! Just a suggestion.....

Ditto for Tim's suggestion.  I've been charging more & more over time for "partial refrets" because they end-up being just as much work (if not more) than just doing the whole refret job at once.

Regarding the finish, I defer to the experts but it seems that sanding would be more controllable than whatever chemical stripper might work.  For poly, though, the Jasco Premium Paint & Epoxy Remover (not their regular "paint stripper") works well.

If sanding, just tape-off the binding & work around it. If using a stripper, I'd remove it as it's too easy for most chemical strippers to sneak-under a taped line. 

Headstock? Just cover and seal it up with tape 'til you're done stripping and ready to top-coat.  Rosette? if it's thick-enough, it should stand-up to a light sanding and still be intact.

I just have one thing to add .Make sure that you put some paper or what ever over thr head piece and don,t let the masking tape touch the decal or you will likely remove it .    .Don,t ask how I know that.Bill.............

I'd like to suggest that you not refinish this guitar. Unless you have more finishing experience than I think you have, the result will be an ugly, amateurish finish. Possibly you have gobs of experience and you wind up with a beautiful new-looking guitar. Either way, it's not going to look like your guitar any more. Aren't the battle scars it has accumulated over the years part of its sentimental value to you?

See to the frets and other structural issues.

Actually - I have quite a bit of experience finishing with most common materials used on furniture, Guitars and Cars.  Started building guitars in the '80's.  I just don't have a lot of experience refinishing acoustic guitars, hence the post.

Thank you for the encouraging words.  Just trying to learn.

Its your guitar, so do with it what you will! I think if you take your time and plan/work carefully, you'll likely have a result you enjoy. Any pics of the guitar in its current state? Perhaps you can get some waterslide paper and print new decals?

Thanks for the decal suggestion and encouragement Andrew.  I have time (recently retired) and patience to work on this project.

Actually, I'm more concerned about the inlay in the headstock (MOP) than the Rosette (decal).  The "wood grain" is painted on the neck, back and sides.  I have no intent to replicate.  Current plan is to use dark tinted lacquer (translucent black) on those surfaces - medium amber tint on the top.  Finish approach is subject to revision based on what I find under the original finish as I'm a big fan of featuring wood grain as opposed to covering it.  I have few illusions of restoring it to original appearance but I DO want it to look good and play well when I'm finished.

Headstock is rough due to a botched tuner upgrade (not my work - long story).  I may have to veneer the headstock to hide the damage.  There are a few dings in the top that will probably have to stay due to their depth.  I'll post a few pics tomorrow. 

If the headstock inlay is truly an inlay, then it shouldnt be so tricky unless it's very thin to begin with. Id get a close look at it under intense light, that may tell you something about where the in,ay sits in relation to the wood and the finish. But of course you could always trace the inlay as it is and cut a new one.

As for removing the exisitng finish, Id try a well sharpened cabinet scraper on the thicker side for the straight surfaces. If you watch the shavings you may be able to learn something about how the finish was done, and you'll know when youve reached wood when the shaving texture changes (wispy fibers instead of translucent plastic). Scrape just to the wood or a little shy, and finish off with sandpaper. You would probably want a more flexible scraper to do the neck so you can bend it to the necessary shape to avoid cutting through too much in one spot.

Awesome.  Will put the inlay under the microscope (literally) and see what I have to work with.  Any suggestions to remove the original inlay or should I attempt this?  Not an inlay guy (on my list of things to learn).

Poly can mean polyester or polyurethane. The former needs a heat gun or aircraft paint remover while the latter responds to conventional strippers. That's been my experience but I could stand some further enlightenment.

My correspondence with St. Louis Music from 2005 indicated that a Polyester finish was used.  Sorry, I should have been more specific. 

I've stripped a lot of Polyurethane coated wood and the finish on this guitar is definitely different when abraded so I tend to believe that it is Polyester.

J. R., most of these are plywood so be careful of sanding too much. As I remember the top layer is fairly thin. 


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