How to paint & lacquer a guitar head

Written by robert russell
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Painting or lacquering a guitar headstock is similar to painting other parts of the guitar. Before painting or lacquering, the surface should be prepared. Painting the headstock requires several coats of lacquer and then a final layer of clear coat to protect the finish.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper
  • Various grits of sandpaper (220, 320, 600, 1200)
  • Aerosol lacquer spray
  • Waterproof sandpaper (800 to 1200 grit)
  • Aerosol clear coat spray
  • Mist spray bottle containing water
  • Bucket of water
  • Polishing compound
  • Buffing cloth

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Prepare the guitar headstock for the painting process. If you are refinishing an old guitar, remove the strings and the guitar tuners. Unwind and loosen the strings until you can pull them out of the guitar tuner. Use a Phillips screwdriver to unscrew and remove the guitar tuners. Wrap the guitar neck and fretboard with newspaper secured with masking tape to protect these areas.

  2. 2

    Tape the edges of the headstock with masking tape to protect them. Sand off the old finish with 220-grit sandpaper. Finish with 320-grit sandpaper. This step can be skipped if the headstock is new.

  3. 3

    Apply two coats of lacquer spray. Hold the can about 12 inches from the headstock. Don't apply it too heavily. Apply the first coat and allow it to dry. Check for drips and runs. Allow runs to dry for a couple of hours and then sand them with 600-grit wet sandpaper. Apply a second coat.

  4. 4

    Sand the headstock with 320-grit sand paper. Work with the grain and sand the surface until it is smooth to the touch. Remove the tape from the edges and inspect to make sure the paint didn't bleed through. Apply any decals or logos at this stage.

  5. 5

    Apply a clear coat. The clear coat protects the lacquer and adds a sheen to the headstock. Spray on a light coat and let it dry for 15 minutes and then spray on a heavier coat. Allow the clear coat to dry and then wet sand with 800- to 1200-grit waterproof sandpaper. Read the instructions on the can for recommended drying times and test with your hand. The guitar should feel dry to the touch. Spray the guitar head with a mist spray bottle. Dip the sandpaper in a bucket of water and lightly sand the clear coat.

  6. 6

    Polish the headstock with a polishing compound. Apply the compound and allow it to dry for a few minutes. Buff it with a clean cloth.

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