How to Remove Guitar Lacquer

Remove the newspaper from the cavity and replace the guitar's hardware and strings when your project is finished.
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Lacquer is a liquid coating that provides a layer of protection to woodworking projects, including guitars. The lacquer is the top layer of the guitar, often resting on top of the paint, that has a clear, shiny finish. If you want to repaint a guitar, you must remove the lacquer first. When removing the lacquer from a guitar, work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the body.

Things You'll Need

  • Small Screwdriver Set
  • Ventilation Mask
  • Paper Tape
  • Needle-Nose Pliers
  • Liquid Lacquer Remover
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Clean Towels
  • Newspaper

Turn the tuning pegs on the head of the guitar with your fingers until the guitar strings are loose. Grab one of the strings near the tuning peg with needle-nose pliers and remove it from the hole in the tuning peg. Repeat with all strings. Remove the pegs on the bridge (the small knobs holding the guitar strings in place) with needle-nose pliers; pull the pegs away from the guitar to remove them. The strings will pop loose; remove the strings from the guitar.

Remove all of the hardware from the guitar, using the appropriate size screwdriver to remove any screws. If you do not want to remove the hardware, or if you are unable to do so, cover the hardware with paper tape. Do not use plastic tape, as it may melt when making contact with the lacquer remover.

Crumple newspaper pages and stuff them into the sound hole to fill the guitar’s cavity. Stuff enough newspaper into the guitar until it feels as if it is slightly overstuffed.

Put on a ventilation mask and a pair of heavy duty rubber gloves. Work in a well ventilated area.

Lay the guitar on a flat surface, front side up.

Soak a clean towel or cloth in liquid lacquer remover.

Rub the cloth on the body of the guitar in small, clockwise circles. Work slowly and clean one spot at a time until the lacquer is removed. Continue rubbing the lacquer remover on the body of the guitar until the lacquer has been completely removed. Multiple towels may be needed, depending on the amount of lacquer covering the guitar. Use a new spot of the towel when it becomes too soiled.

Allow the guitar to air-dry for at least one hour.

Inspect the guitar body. If you missed any spots of lacquer, you will see a slight shine on the area. Remove the lacquer and let the guitar air-dry for one more hour.