Telecaster Refinishing
Yorkshire style!

My Baja Tele came a bit of a cropper at the weekend. To the extent that it ended up with 3 large (one inch square sort of size) chunks of poly smashed off the back and sides in addition to various dings, dents and scratches. It was quite a mess to be honest, so I started looking into rebodying/refinishing it. Both options were looking expensive, which for a guitar that I got for very little, seemed a bit daft.

So today I decided to bite the bullet and see just how hard poly is to remove... Using the tools photographed (I'm doing this as cheaply as possible after all), it took less than an hour to strip the whole thing. No danger of burning it with the hairdryer, but it was still hot enough to soften the poly to get a flat broddler (pancake flipper) underneath. When soft enough it separates surprisingly easily, to the extent that we managed to get the back off in one piece. Brilliant!

More impressive is the sheer density of the stuff. Yup, that really is 1/2lb of finish.

We've just done a bit of sanding today to get the sealant off, but it looks like this might be up for oil finishing. This is the body as of today. It's 4 piece ash and in all honesty, on a Tele, it doesn't look bad (just wiped down with white spirit here). Still a lot of sanding to do as I haven't even touched the sides yet.

Here it is sanded to 400 grit and ready for it's first coat of oil.

I'll be using WezV's method of oil application, detailed below. I've got a oil finished WezV Stratele (which is the one in the video), which is spectacular. If I can get even near to that type of finish, I'll be a very happy chappy.

This is the result of 35 in materials and approx 10 hours solid work over the space of about a week. To say I'm pleased with how it's turned out would be the understatement of the century.

A quick reminder of how it looked pre-damage.

All the following pictures are clickable to enlarge...

It looks way better than it did from the factory, it's slightly lighter at 7lbs dead now and it seems more resonant. Then again it's a cheap guitar so it's unlikely a lot of effort was spent on the finishing side of things. Kudos to Fender though for using some decent swamp ash.

Beforehand I'd never have attempted this on a non-damaged Baja. Now though, I think I genuinely would. It's dramatically better than it was in many ways and the process was really satisfying. If the grain though the poly looks good, I really think it's worth the risk.

This is totally Sensei Wez's technique. Well apart from the stripping, that bit is all ours ;)
The method employed boils down to this:

  • Poly removed with a hair dryer, butter knife and pancake flipper
  • Power sanded the body with 70 grit to remove the majority of the sealant/residue
  • Hand sanded the rest with a load of 70 until it was just wood
  • Then working up the grits until it got to 400 and it was smooth as a baby's arse. All still dry at this point.
  • Apply a thick coat of oil over the entire body with a rag and leave to hang 24hrs.
  • Then wet sanding with oil at 600 and buffing off. Did that twice. (watch Wez's video for the technique).
  • Then 800, twice.
  • Then 1200 about 4 times.
  • After a thorough buffing, the wax was applied using 0000 wire wool and buffed off. Did this twice.

    Now you could also sand up to 800, then apply the thick layer and leave 24hrs. Then apply a few more layers to taste buffing off every 15 mins after application. Then move on to the 1200 wet sanding.

    Likewise instead of Tru-Oil you could use Danish (Wez recommends Rustins). They're available in different colours.

    Products used:

  • Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil
  • Briwax Natural
  • Liberon 0000 steel wool
  • Lots of wet and dry and some horrible cheap pack of 70 grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block and soft sanding block

    Finally some more gratuitous shots. All clickable to enlarge...

    One with the WezV Stratele


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