#7: Fixing A Ding In A Guitar :(

What’s worse than fixing up a mates guitar?

– fixing up a mate of a mate’s guitar

– and worse than that?

– well, you get the picture.

Quite a lot of my business comes from word of mouth recommendation, and when I got an email of one young chap who’d bumped his guitar and wanted me to “fix it,”  I must confess that I felt more than a little nervous.

Anyway I thought that I’d write a page on what I did in case it can help someone else…..

So.  The damage was caused by his guitar slipping off his strap, and these are the photos that he sent….

Clearly  – quite a dent !

Having received the guitar I did the following….

The above sequence runs you through the process visually but there are a few points to note.

  • I chose to use nitro cellulose lacquer because – although the original finish was Poly Urethane, lacquer melts into previous layers whist Poly Urethane forms distinct layers.  This means that the irregular “fill” will actually form a solid lump in the hole.
  • 4 days to layer in the lacquer – really quite time consuming.
  • When flattening the lacquer – AVOID THE EDGES – it appeared on this guitar that the lacquer near the edge of the guitar was MUCH thinner than on the main body of the guitar. I remember my mum telling me when I was little and trying to help by cleaning windows at home – “Do the corners and the centre will take care of itself” – this is kind of the reverse – concentrate on the main body of the guitar and the edges will take care of themselves.  On this project I never actually applied the sandpaper to the corner – it just kind of rounded itself!
  • Allow the lacquer time to dry – I left it for about 4 days – and due to the depth of the fill some of the deeper sections were still soft  and began to “smudge” whilst sanding, so I left if for an extra two days and it seemed OK after that.
  • Use lots of grades of sandpaper.  On this project I used 200 grit sandpaper followed by 800 grit wet and dry paper – I then started using my Micromesh sanding papers that I got from Stewart MacDonald – using Gerlitz Guitar Honey as a lubricant. With the Micromesh stuff I used 1200, 2400, 4000, 6000 grades – each progressively finer grade removes the scratches left by the former.
  • Final scratch removal was down to my Eternashine Scratch Remover – using the blue #2 polish It quickly removed the sanding marks – but showed up where I’d missed the removal of deeper sanding marks – Back to the sanding process!
  • Once all the polishing was done I cleaned the body with Gerlitz Smudge Off.
  • Finally putting a protective wax finish on using Gerlitz No 1 Carnauba Wax.
  • Fretboard was as always conditioned with Gerlitz Guitar Honey.


  • If you’re in any doubt of your ability DON’T DO IT.
  • If your guitar is old/valuable DON’T DO IT.
  • If you’ve never tried anything like this before DON’T DO IT.
  • I was VERY lucky that the lacquer I had was the right shade of black for this job – believe me I had never realised just how varied “Black” can be!
  • Preparation is KEY – don’t skimp on the masking tape – runs cannot be easily removed!
  • I have NEVER dared to try a touch up on an archtop guitar – the key to this success was that SG’s are fundamentally a slab of wood with paint…. Flat surfaces are easier to work with, I’ve successfully done similar jobs on telecasters, Stratocasters, Acoustics (although they’re dodgy due to the incredibly thin finish), Juniors etc – all flat surfaces 🙂
  • DON’T use your finger as a sanding block  –  your slab bodied guitar is flat – your finger isn’t.
  • DON’T blame me if it all goes “Pete Tong” [wrong] – it’s you that decided to “Have a go” rather than paying a luthier.….

Tags: ,

Leave a reply