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Guitar Finishing and Refinishing

Several factors determine the cost of finish work on stringed instruments:

MATERIALS:  We work exclusively with nitrocellulose lacquer as the clear coat over any color coat or stain, sometimes using compatible acrylics for color coats, but always nitro for the top clear coat. The basic materials (clear lacquer, reducer, sealer) are not expensive, but there is a wide cost range on the color coats. Reds are more expensive than other solid colors, and metallic colors cost more than plain colors.

 The type of finish with the least costly materials is a visible grain finish (a clear-coat over a color stain) but the wood has to be something you would like to see. Some guitars get stripped only to reveal wood with dark knots or inconsistent grain, or a body made of two or three pieces, one darker than the rest.

Many of the finishes on vintage Fender and Gibson instruments featured colors from automotive paint maker DuPont. Some of these have complex recipes that are hard to duplicate, for example Shoreline Gold or Firemist Red. They are available, great looking, and cost anywhere from $80 to $180 per pint.  But they look great!

However, there are some vintage colors I can mix in-house, and are less expensive, including but not limited to: Sonic Blue, Fiesta Red, Olympic White, Candy  Apple Red, TV Yellow, TV White, etc.  Vintage White is actually a newer Fender color, introduced to simulate the look of an older guitar. It is easy to mix.

Remember that colors and stains fade with age, and clear lacquer topcoats take on a yellow hue.  Any new paint from DuPont will be true to the original - not faded.   To give the new finish an aged look, a lightly tinted clear coat can be sprayed over the color coat. The Amber look of old bindings can be duplicated with the same technique on newer bindings.

LABOR represents about 80% of the cost of refinishing a used instrument, and about 75% of the cost of finishing a new unfinished body. There are no short cuts in finish work. The hours required for an excellent finish are compounded by the intervals between steps to allow for adequate curing time of various materials applied. Even working efficiently takes time. Finishing a new body takes about 8 weeks, and refinishing an old one takes about 12 weeks.

Sometimes a total stripping of the instrument is not necessary. For example, you may simply want to refresh the finish with the same color, or even a different color.  IF the instrument needs little or no wood repair, and the finish is compatible with lacquer, a surface prep can be substitud for the wood prep phase, reducing the cost of a refinishing job by 25% TO 50%.

THE SPECIES OF WOOD affects the labor cost. Open grain woods such as Mahogany and Ash take more labor then closed grain woods such as Alder and Maple.

BINDINGS on bodies and necks also cause more labor.

SIZE AND SHAPE of the instrument also affects the amount of time spent on the finish work. A bolt-on body and neck are easier to handle than a one-piece design. Strange shapes sometimes limit access to the surface.

CONDITION OF THE WOOD:  Sometimes a complete stripping of the instrument is unnecessary. For example, you may simply want to refresh the finish with the same color, or even a different color. If the instrument needs little or no wood repair and the finish is compatible with lacquer, a surface prep can  be substituted for the wood prep phase, reducing the total cost by 25% to 50%.



Because of the variables described above, these prices are shown as ranges. and are for labor only.  A closer estimate can be given upon inspection of the instrument. 

REFRESHING THE FINISH ON A BODY                                                           $175 to $275

No stripping, little or no wood repair, color coating, clear coating, wet sanding, buffing.


FINISHING A NEW BODY (sealed and ready)                                                  $250 to $350

Color coating, clear coating, wet sanding, buffing.

REFINISHING GUITAR and BASS BODIES                                                       $350 to $500

Includes stripping, cleaning, leveling and contouring, wood repair, grain filling, staining, sealing, priming, color coating, clear coating, wet sanding and buffing.

REFINISHING A ONE-PIECE BODY/NECK                                                         $450 to $600

Includes stripping, cleaning, leveling and contouring, wood repair, grain filling, staining, sealing, priming, color coating, clear coating, wet sanding and buffing.

REFINISHING A BOLT-ON NECK                                                                      $125 to $250

Includes stripping, wood repair, staining or color-coating, sealing, clear-coating, wet-sanding and buffing.



TINTED CLEAR-COATS for the vintage aged lacquer look.                                   $50 to $75

HEADSTOCK FACE REFINISHING                                                                      $25 to $75

APPLYING HEADSTOCK DECAL       During finish work, $25       Done separately, $75 and up

FRETBOARD STAINING or DARKENING                                                              $50 to $75

DOT INLAYS INSTALLED in fretboard. (Pearl, Abalone, Clay, etc.)                        $75 to $150

AMBER THE BINDINGS on bodies and necks                                                       $70

PICKUP CAVITY ROUTING                                                                                 $35 and up

Here are a few examples of previous projects

1964 Gibson SG Special
Stripped and refinished in Cherry Red, along with all new electronics and vintage style Bridge.


1965 Gibson SG Special
It arrived with a finish that rubbed off on your hands and a mislocated bridge. We stripped it, corrected the bridge location and refinished it with a custom mixed Cherry Red stain and nitrocellulose clearcoat.



1967 Gibson Les Paul Recording Model



Jackson guitar refinished in Firemist Red Metallic



1972 Fender Telecaster Bass
This one came in stripped, and went out in vintage Fender Surf Green.
The neck pocket was shimmed and active pickups were installed.



The Zen Voodoo Bass Project
Our resident artist was commissioned to do the artwork on this Fender Bass as part of a total refinish. The project also included unique wiring and a pickholder.




1966 Mosrite Mark I "Ventures" Guitar


Warmoth Lefty Body and Neck
Sometimes it just isn't the right color!  Body and neck were stripped. Lake Placid Blue Metallic plus nitro clearcoat for the body, and natural finish with clearcoat for the neck.


1977 Fender Mustang Restored and Refinished in Vintage White



70's Fender Jazz Bass with 1962 Neck
Strippped and refinished in vintage Fender Shoreline Gold



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