How to Remove Guitar Paint

Updated February 21, 2017

Some guitars take a real beating. For this reason, guitar builders use industrial strength paint that would be almost impossible to sand off by hand without the aid of chemical strippers. Strippers loosen the paint, creating a gel-like substance that can then be scraped off. Chemical strippers also work their way down into corners and cracks to loosen paint that would otherwise be impossible to remove.

Remove all the hardware from the guitar body. If the neck is a bolt-on variety, remove the screws from the back of the neck where it joins the body and remove the neck. Put all the hardware in a small box.

Lay the guitar body on newspapers on a worktable in a well-ventilated area. Pour a small amount of the chemical stripper into the can. Using the paint brush, coat the entire surface of the guitar with the stripper and let dry for 15 minutes.

Scrape from the top down with the paint scraper on one side of the guitar using short strokes, always with the grain of the wood. Wood grain always runs lengthwise on guitars. Scrape away approximately six inches at a time, letting the gel-like substance fall on the newspapers. Work your way all around the guitar body.

Turn the guitar over, coat with stripper, wait 15 minutes and scrape the paint off the back.

Turn the guitar body over again. Examine it for areas where paint remains, like inside curves and places where the scraper cannot reach. Apply more stripper to these areas and wait 15 minutes.

Scrape the remaining paint out of the cracks and curves using the wire brush and the sharpened stick. Let the guitar body dry for an hour. Sand the guitar body with 100 grit sandpaper by hand.


Don't use metal scrapers; they will scratch the wood.


Always wear rubber gloves and protective glasses when working with chemical strippers. Do not get any of the chemical stripper on your skin. If you do get it on you, immediately wash it off. Strippers can burn and blister skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Chemical paint stripper, 1 quart
  • Newspapers
  • Rubber gloves
  • Small empty can
  • Small paint brush
  • Plastic paint scraper
  • Small sharpened stick
  • Wire brush
  • 100-grit sandpaper
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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.