Trade Secrets!

Whoops! How to hide a scratch in your big brother's guitar


Issue 85 April 16, 2009

Rowen's in trouble
FINISH REPAIR

This guy’s in trouble.

This is Rowan, who lives down the street from me. He’s not supposed to be playing that Gibson, and he knows it. That’s his big brother’s pride and joy. Rowan’s in trouble: he put a chip in the guitar. So he came to see me...

Erick Coleman, April 16, 2009
Erick Coleman
Using a lego block as a flatpick? What were you thinking?!
Rowan’s older brother is very protective of his guitar. He knows every little chip in this finish, except for the one that Rowan just put there while flatpicking with a lego.

Rowan wants to know if I can hide the damage. I've decided to help him with his life of crime, and see if I can fix this without anybody knowing.
Chipped finish
That’s a pretty noticeable chip he’s got there! Clean through the lacquer down to the bare wood. It's smack dab in the middle of the sunburst, so it’ll require a good color match to get an invisible repair.
I’m using something new on this one: touchup pens. I’ve been looking for the perfect chance to try out this set of ColorTone pens, and that time is now!
ColorTone Touch-up Pens

It’s a set of five: one clear lacquer pen and four markers in our most popular stain colors. These are the classic Gibson sunburst tones, plus cherry red. You simply color the bare wood to match using the markers, then drop fill some clear lacquer.
Testing the color
Let’s get going, before Big Brother’s back in town. Here’s a quick test of the vintage amber pen on a scrap of unfinished spruce: it’s a dead-on match to the center of this classic Gibson sunburst.

ColorTone Touchup Markers
Color match

Lacquer pen
All I need to do is tint the bare wood with the marker to match the surrounding color. In this case, a little touch did the trick; I could get a darker tone with more passes of the marker.

I’m going to touch up the finish with the clear lacquer pen now. With unstained wood I can apply the lacquer pen straight to the repair, but I’ve put Vintage Amber on this spot. I don’t want to wipe the tip of my lacquer pen on the amber, so I’m going to do a drop fill with the pen.

I’m pumping out a little bit of lacquer into the bottom of an upside-down shot glass. This creates a tiny pool of lacquer to dip the tip.


Preservation Polish
StewMac Buffer
Lacquer drop-fill

Sanding the drop-fill
After dipping the pen tip, I’m holding it just above the area to be filled. The lacquer drops from the tip of the pen without any of the stain migrating up to the tip!

Lacquer drop-fillIt takes a few drops to fill the chip, with several hours between for drying. Once the chip is filled, it’s important to let it dry really well. In this case, it dried for three days. (It’s a good thing that Rowan’s brother is away at college!)

When the drop-fill is dry, I level the fill and polish it with the strip-sand method: pulling flexible polishing papers across the spot under fingertip pressure.


3M Flexible Polishing Papers
Rowan's off the hook Big Brother will never know what happened.

Tah-dah!At least, that’s what Rowan thinks. He doesn’t know I've signed up his bro’ for a Trade Secrets subscription. Right about now, I think they'll be having a little brotherly chat...

Erick Coleman signature

Problem-solving products for this kind of work:
Photo: ColorTone Polishing Compounds Photo: 3M Flexible Polishing Papers Photo: ColorTone Touchup Markers
ColorTone Polishing Compounds
High-quality polishes used by professionals around the world.
3M Flexible Polishing Papers
Strong micro-grit finishing papers, so flexible you can use them like cloth--wet or dry!
ColorTone Touchup Markers
Easily repair minor dings and scratches in your guitar's finish. Four popular tints plus clear lacquer.
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Photo: Preservation Polish Photo: Spray Guns Photo: Buffing Arbor System
Preservation Polish
At last, silicone-free guitar polish: preferred by luthiers and repair shops!
Spray Guns
High quality, full-featured spray guns at affordable prices, with 8-ounce or 1-quart capacity. Ideal for staining, sunbursting, and finishing.
StewMac Buffer
Our exclusive professional buffing outfit, for gorgeous "factory" finishes in your own shop.
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