Removing top layer of finish from les paul top

Destructomusicgear

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Hi, I have an r9 that had the real nice cherry sunburst finish sprayed over with black nitro. The top is really flammy and I would like to see if I can remove the black and retain the cherry sunburst finish beneath. Any one ever done this? Any thoughts? Thanks!
 

Joe Desperado

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It is not a difficult process, but can go south very quickly. As you remove the black, you have to be in control enough not to get into the finish bellow. This is a slow process, by hand a little at a time. A lot depends on the top coat thickness. You may get away with rubbing compound with small swirling motion.
 

ARandall

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I would say that you better prepare yourself for a full top refin.....even while hoping for an easier time of it.
It it hopeful....even likely that if the black was an aftermarket job then the full depth of clear coats is between the two. In that case you not only have some depth to play with, but the black will bottom out at a fairly even point.

If the guitar is a factory overspray (there are a few like this) then it is likely there is not that much clear over the burst, and there might be some sinkage to deal with into the bargain.

After your removal, it would be wise to put on a few coats of clear as you are likely to have quite a bit of paper marking in the clear that will further risk sand through in the process of buffing back to gloss.
 

Jay4321

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This can be done assuming the ebony finish on top is relatively even but it would have to be done very carefully and patiently, and even then there's no guarantee. Plus, if someone resprayed it, there's always a chance there are things underneath that were filled or low spots. You're hoping for a mostly fill clear coat layer with an even, unmarred surface. Get the black gone, clean up and spray a couple coats of lacquer and polish out.

Worst case, it doesn't work out someone can re-respray the top whatever you'd like. Someone respraying an R9 with a nice flame stop a solid color is suspect though, people do things for whatever reasons but pretty often it's because there's something that was best to cover up.

Once had one I bought for $500, someone had died and the son had jammed a butterknife into the top like 40 times. That one is out there somewhere now with a gold top on it. Had been a really nice top but it was wrecked, one of the volume knobs was smashed half through the top also
 
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Destructomusicgear

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Thank you all or the replies. I'll give pulling the black off a go first because it was an after market job. MJT did it and like like Jay4321 says if I mess it up I'll just have it refinished anyways. As for a "cover up" that may be but the seller send me pics of the finish before the black overspray and it was in good shape. I may ask MJT to confirm this.

As for removing the black would you start with sand paper? Would a cut and cleaner buffing compound and abuffing wheel be better to start with? Any guidance on steps to remove the black would be greatly appreciated.
 

Jay4321

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Watch your grits but I'd start at like 600 wet sanding and evaluate. There are polishing papers you can find, once you show and break through you could switch to the green colored ones (use wet) they're not too abrasive. This is a test of patience you get in a rush with any one part and you're sanding through

Get more opinions but I say wet sanding 600 and protect the holes, and not too wet. Water gets inside any exposed wood and you can expect swelling. Sometimes I will mask off holes and come back to those completely dry.

But key for me would be once I see any daylight at all in the spot I'm working on, stop for that area and move to another. When in doubt, stop and go to a finer grit. Virtually any grit will get you there eventually, just a question of how long and how much paper you go through. You don't want to polish the thing so not really higher than 1500 if even that.

Wipe down with naptha thoroughly on occasion but especially between changing grits

Also keep in mind that once you're done, you'd probably want to go over the surface briefly with 600 before spraying new top coat to ensure adhesion.

Buffing off a lot of it not a crazy idea but with a carved top R9 think I'd trust my hands more. I suspect some other folks would like that idea

Again get a second opinion
 
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Jay4321

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Hell it's an R9 get 3 more opinions

The green sanding paper can be found at stewmac but can be bought in bulk. It's one of the most handy shop things ever. I use it on just about everything from frets to polishing. The other papers are good too but this one can slowly remove material without being overly abrasive. They are 3M polish papers. I wouldn't want to do ALL the removal work with it just at the tail end when you're going easy.
 
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cmjohnson

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I'd sand back the black finish using 1000 grit paper. Absolutely I'd be in no hurry and risk sanding through the very finish I was trying to reveal.
 

emoney

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I'd go a little more aggressive with the grit as you may not be able to cut it with the 1000 grit. If it was really sprayed with Nitro then it will have melted into a little of the clearcoat I'd imagine. Personally, I would probably try a small area, say in between the bridge and to under the stop piece and I would start with 320 dry paper wrapped around a foam sanding block just to see if you can get it to cut and how thick the topcoat is. In a perfect world, the factory clear will protect your color coats but I'd venture to guess you'll need at least a top coat of clear to flatten it back out.
 

Jay4321

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320 might be okay in some hands but would recommend AT LEAST 600 for at least your first little area. You'll know based on that first patch if you have room to be more aggressive or not. I would err on the side of tedious and slow
 

moreles

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Don't go by the numbers! Start in an inconspicuous, flat spot with a really fine grit -- I'd guess 600 -- and see how it cuts, and if you can get more aggressive, safely, you'll be able to tell. Go by what you actually encounter. As others have rightly said, you won't know what you're dealing with (unless you sprayed the black...) so wait and see. How the black laid on and interacted with the underlying top remains to be seen. Best case scenario -- which is not really unusual -- is that you can simply sand off the black. Lots of people have reported having this happen. On the other hand, as A Randall says, you need to be prepared for a full refin, as people burn through corners, sand into color layers, and sand unevenly. Most people can't really -- I mean really, seriously, cleanly -- sand a guitar to begin with, so if you don't have skills and patience, pay someone to do a refin. Personally, I would enjoy this challenge, particularly because I enjoy refinishing so having to do one would be an opportunity, not a calamity.
 

Destructomusicgear

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Thanks for the replies everyone. I really appreciate the advice. As for pics, yes it's time for some pics. The balck and what is hiding underneath.
Screenshot_20220117-103624_Reverb.jpg
Screenshot_20220107-153359_Reverb.jpg
Screenshot_20220107-153405_Reverb.jpg
 

Destructomusicgear

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I talked to MJT. They don't have any record of doing a black refin to cover up a damaged top. seller says top was perfect when he asked them to refinish it. Im gonna have mjt redo the top as it's not as expensive as I though it would be. Now I just need to decide what type of sunburst I would like it to be. What colors did gibson offer in 2004 on R9s?
 
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cmjohnson

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If that really is the original finish of that guitar, then I'd have to wonder what is TOTALLY WRONG with the mind of the IDIOT who wanted it painted black????

That's a very nice top and as for the finish, that sunburst as it was looks pretty much perfect to me. I'd want to keep THAT.

Rather than ship it off to have it refinished AGAIN, I would very carefully sand back the finish and as I said earlier, I'd use 1000 grit to start. I know from experience that even 600 grit can be pretty aggressive on a thin nitro finish.

This isn't something that will go well if you are impatient. Take it SLOW.
 

Destructomusicgear

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Update. The top is stripped and perfect. Not sure why anyone would cover up a top like this but it's free now. Gonna do a pearly type burst on it.
 

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Who

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If that really is the original finish of that guitar, then I'd have to wonder what is TOTALLY WRONG with the mind of the IDIOT who wanted it painted black????
I like the black better.

I wouldn’t have painted it, but I think the black guitar looks better.
 

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