Refinishing a Les Paul Faded

Larry Corsa, of CV Guitars, has a customer who wants a Les Paul Faded with the Peter Green modifications. However, he doesn't want it in Honeyburst. He wants it in a blue burst - and Gibson doesn't offer one. This where I, as Gecko Guitars, come in.

Body Before Stripping

Click the images for larger photos

Step 1. Open the
box. This is a beautiful burst. It has some normal flame, and some wild type figure. In this stripped down state, it's almost as light as a Strat with no hardware. Gibson has been making these with tone chambers for a few years now. It makes them much lighter.

The finish on these is very, very thin. The stain is rubbed directly onto the bare wood body and 2-3 coats of sanding sealer are applied. That's it. No grain filler, no clear lacquer.


Time to get it going and get it masked off.




Masking off the Body
Body Masked Off
All taped up
Step 2. Mask everything off. Masking on this totally covers the guitar from head to foot, except for the top. Multiple layers of tape go on the top edges. I don't want stripper or bleach getting onto anything they're not supposed to.

Alright then. Let's do some testing on some wood first, not on the guitar.

Test Strip and Bleach





Testing the Strip and Bleach Process
 image 1 Bleach Complete
Step 3. Test strip and bleach. I don't want to screw this up. So, I'm going to test the process out on a nice piece of flamed maple I have laid by for a future project. The left picture is of the maple with a patch stained the same amber stain as the Les Paul. The right side is how it looked after bleaching. The stain was totally bleached out.

The bleach I used is similar to what you use in your washing machine, only much, much stronger. It's a mixture of swimming pool shock treatment and water. I just dumped a package in a gallon bottle and filled it to the top and shook it. After it had set overnight, I started the bleach test process.

It worked well enough I decided to do the body. Let's take a look at that.




Stripping and Bleaching the Body

Stripped Body

Step 4. Here's the body totally stripped and the dried bleach removed with multiple wipe downs with moistened pads and water. It looks just like a nice, unstained piece of maple, doesn't it?

It's time to re-stain the body.







Re-staining the Body

Restained  Body Top

Side View Stained

Step 5. Re staining the body wasn't too difficult. I started with some blue Stew-Mac ColorTone Concentrated Liquid Stain. I squeezed a few drops in a small dish of alcohol. Then I wipe the mixture on with a clean, white, cotton applicator pad. It came out pretty well. There were some spots on the binding I had to wipe off with steel wool. Gibson didn't do a great job on the binding in the cutaway and waist cuts. There were a number of tiny, hair like cuts radiating outward that wicked the dye. I had to clean that up.

The top's color is more accurate on the bottom side shot.





April 28th
Next up, final finish.


Restained  Body Top

Side View Stained
May 30, 2008

Step 6. Clear shooting the top and cleanup. She's done. There's not a lot of difference between these two pictures and the last two, since there's just a little bit of finish on the top. She's a beaut.










So, that's it. Back to you Chet

Comments from the customer, Larry Corsa of CV Guitars: Hi, Rick,

I received the guitar this morning. Spectacular! You do great work. I’m sure Fred will love it!

Best regards,