Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Polyester problems

Q: Short of sanding it off, is there any way to remove a polyester finish from guitar sides?
A: Yes, but it might be faster and easier to sand or scrape it off. For guitars with solid sides, you can make the job easier by working it off with a heat gun. When heated, polyester tends to separate from the wood and you can sometimes get a thin spatula behind it and zipper off large sections. As for chemically removing it, that too is possible, but slow. Use a boosted DCM remover, usually called “marine stripper.” In addition to DCM (methylene chloride) as the active ingredient, these strippers often have either acids or bases added to make the stripper “hotter.” Nevertheless, you will have to daub it on liberally, then cover it with plastic sheeting to keep it from evaporating, and give it a good long time, from hours to a day or more, for the stripper to do its work. It will eventually get it off, but as I say, it might be quicker to work with a heat gun, putty knife, scraper and eventually sandpaper for what remains. By the way, the chemical stripper will also dissolve the plastic binding; another good reason to get physical instead of chemical.