How to repair a chip in a solid body guitar

Updated February 21, 2017

Solid body electric guitars are a work of art. They have graceful curving lines and a finish that’s unsurpassed, the kind of finish that doesn’t come easy. The nitrocellulose lacquer used on guitars isn’t readily available at your local paint store. But if your baby has a small chip in the finish, you don’t have to spend money on nitrocellulose. You can spot fix the chip by surgically applying some high gloss lacquer into the chip, sanding with some very fine wet sandpaper, and rubbing and polishing until good as new.

Mask off the chipped area, leaving the chip exposed, using as small as possible strips of masking tape. Clean out the chip with acetone, being careful not to get any on the guitar other than in the chip.

Find a match with one of the stain markers or coloured pencils if the chip has penetrated to the bare wood. Select one as close to your guitar's finish as possible. Carefully apply the pencil or marker to the chip. Let dry for an hour.

Using a toothpick like an old fashioned ink pen, dab it into the lacquer, getting a small drop of it on the end of the toothpick, and then apply the lacquer to the chip. Let dry for an hour. Apply another drop and let dry overnight.

Check the chip. If there is still a small divot or dent where the chip was, apply a drop of lacquer again, and let dry for an hour. Then apply another drop of lacquer, and let dry overnight.

Take off the tape. The lacquer on the chip should be slightly higher or flush with the surface. Gently sand over the chip with 400 grit wet sandpaper, bringing the chip's surface flush with the guitar’s lacquer finish. Sand carefully, wiping off the area with a cloth, and frequently check that you are not sanding too deep and going through the finish.

Make sure the chip is flush with the surrounding area. Once it is, gently sand over it with 800 grit wet sandpaper until completely blended. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth. Switch now to the rubbing compound and, using a soft cloth, continue to rub the area gently until it's completely blended. Switch to the polishing compound and polish until satisfied.

Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape
  • Acetone or naphtha
  • Set of stain markers
  • Set of coloured pencils
  • High gloss lacquer
  • Toothpick
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • 800-grit sandpaper
  • Small soft cloth
  • Rubbing compound
  • Polishing compound
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.