How to Apply Laminate to a Guitar Top

Written by hugh patterson
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How to Apply Laminate to a Guitar Top
Acoustic guitars are delicate and their surfaces wear down easily. (guitar image by Darren Nickerson from

Modern coatings that are used on guitars to prevent damage will eventually wear down. Having a guitar repair shop refinish the top can be expensive and time consuming, especially if large dings or dents have to be filled. Applying a laminate to the top of the guitar can cover the damage and give the guitar a unique look, depending on the type of laminate used. Applying a laminate to a guitar is cost effective and easy with a few simple shop tools. The techniques are similar to those used for counter top and furniture lamination projects.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Laminate
  • Jigsaw
  • Router
  • Drill
  • Palm sander
  • Double sided tape
  • Contact cement
  • Rolling pin
  • Wooden dowels
  • Wood filler
  • 220 and 320 grit sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Create a template of the guitar's body. Trace the shape of the body. Include all openings or cavities for pickups, sound holes controls and so forth. Use heavy craft paper for the template. Measure the template, adding an extra inch on each side. Fill in any dents with wood filler. Successful lamination depends on a completely smooth and flat surface. Sand the filled in areas with a palm sander and 220 grit sandpaper until they are flush with the surface.

    How to Apply Laminate to a Guitar Top
    The area around the sound hole is worn down by the guitar pick while playing. (acoustic guitar image by Jeffrey Zalesny from
  2. 2

    Cut out the template. Using double-sided tape, apply the template to the laminate material. Use the tape sparingly if applying the template to a thin wood laminate, which is delicate. Rough cut the laminate to the shape of the template with a jigsaw, leaving 1/4 inch of laminate around the cutout. This extra material will be routed off later. Drill any holes for volume and tone controls. Cut out any openings with a router or jigsaw. These openings include cavities for the pickups, the neck cutout and the sound hole (if the guitar is acoustic).

    How to Apply Laminate to a Guitar Top
    Almost any material can be used as a laminate. (formica texture image by Daniel Gillies from
  3. 3

    Remove all hardware from the guitar. Lightly sand the surface to be laminated with a palm sander, using 220 grit sandpaper. This prepares the surface for the contact cement. Wipe all dust and debris off of the sanded surface. Apply contact cement to the laminate and the face of the guitar. Allow five minutes for the contact cement to set. Place three or four wooden dowels across the guitar body to allow the laminate to float on the surface while it's positioned. Once positioned, remove the dowels. Use a rolling pin to adhere the laminate to the guitar's body and to remove any air bubbles. There should be a 1/4-inch lip of excess material all the way around the body.

  4. 4

    Trim the excess material off with a router, using a flush trim router bit. If adding a finish or coating to a wood laminate, wipe the laminate's surface down with a rag. Lightly hand sand the surface with 320 grit sandpaper, wipe off any debris and apply the finish. Allow any finish to dry for at least 48 hours before reattaching any hardware. Otherwise, the hardware will stick to the still tacky finish. Reattach the hardware and the project is complete.

Tips and warnings

  • Use counter top lamination techniques for plastics and wood veneer lamination techniques for wood, when applying the material to the guitar's top. Any material that is rigid can be used as a laminate. However, metals can cause sound and grounding problems with the electronics in the guitar (if the guitar is electric). Make sure the guitar is well grounded prior to applying any metal laminates.

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