Fixing a guitar dent by steaming it out

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Issue 317 November 01, 2018

Small dents happen all the time, and often they can be undone with a soldering iron and a damp rag. Dan Erlewine shows how it's done.

About the guitar in this video: The body that got dented is from a StewMac T-Style electric guitar kit.

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • Dents vs. crunches
  • The wood's still there
  • Steam pulls it back to the surface

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: StewMac tools + ideas for guitarmaking. Fixing a Dent in Wood by Steaming it Out]

Dan Erlewine: Today's trade secret tip is a wood preparation tip. I'm going to show you how to take a dent out of a piece of wood that you put in by mistake. In this case there's a couple on the edge of this guitar that Elise is putting together, she's one of my shop helpers. She's all freaked out about it, but it's not a big deal to get rid of a dent. I'm not talking about a fracture when the wood is crushed. If that happens and you get these figures of wood coming up you won't be able to swell all that out, you'll have to use filler.

Heating the dent

So all we're going to do here is wet a rag with hot water, little piece of t-shirt, soft cotton. I've got this about on high, my soldering iron here. I'm going to wet that dent. It's right here, I can feel it. And I'm going to squeeze that rag out a little bit, don't want it too wet. I'm going to set that on there and heat it, I'm going to steam it.

Now when that dries it's going to look pretty good, and I can speed it up with my hot air gun here.

Sand off the swollen grain

Then I'm just going to smooth off that swollen grain with a little 320 [on-screen text reads: 3M Gold Fre-Cut Sandpaper -]. That's nice. It's invisible.

When you are done with that soldering iron always tin it with a little solder to keep it clean and fresh. Not many tools involved with this job, a soldering iron a damp rag. I like to use a heat gun. Go for it.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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