Adventures with Brasso

I was working on an old Kay archtop and I made a discovery that has helped me with a number of different repairs since.  While using some Brasso to polish brass tuner parts, I was reading the back of the can and came across the "other uses".  Listed there was "plastic watch crystals".  Since I was wearing a cheap watch with a plastic crystal, I had no choice but to try it out right then and there.  The crystal had become hazy from light scratches, but after some vigorous rubbing with Brasso, the crystal was absolutely clear again.  I was so impressed, I started looking around for other things to try it on and spotted the Kay's old hazy pickguard.  The Brasso did a great job on the pickguard too, but left it looking oily.  I rubbed some Meguiar's #9 Swirl Remover on it next, which is a "Deep Gloss Cleaner/Polish" and it left the pickguard looking like new!  As a test, I tried the #9 by itself on the back of the pickguard, but without using the Brasso first, it just didn't get the same results.  I've tried this on other pickguards since and it works every time.  If the pickguard is badly scratched you may have to wet-sand it first with 600 and 1500 grits.  You have to use a lot of elbow grease when rubbing the Brasso after using 1500 grit, or you can wet sand further with the finer Micro-mesh grits and save some elbow grease.

 

After working on that old Kay, I received a new acoustic guitar that needed a ding repaired.  Many new guitars are now finished with something other than nitrocellulose lacquer, and superglue is often the only thing that will touch up these finishes and not leave ghost lines.  The problem I was having with repairs in these finishes was that after wet sanding the superglue level, the surrounding finish that had also been sanded looked hazy even after progressing to 12,000 grit Micro-mesh.  Rubbing with scratch-removing waxes and swirl removers made these areas look shiny, but a slight haziness or lack of overall clarity was still there to attract attention to otherwise nice repairs. 

 

Cracked guitar.

This Taylor 514-CE was knocked off a store wall and it landed near its endpin and cracked. Because there are no side braces in these guitars, the string tension split the side all the way to the neck heel (that’s a piece of paper in the crack near the cutaway). The top cracked too. Because of the finish used on this guitar, superglue along with the Brasso/#9 trick is a good way to go. This crack convinced me of the importance of building using side braces.

Repaired guitar.

All done! The clarity and depth of the shine in the repaired area is the same as the untouched areas.

These finishes were acting like plastic (which is what they are I guess) and that got me thinking about the Brasso.  I cautiously tried it on a small area (the can warns against using it on lacquered finishes), and the haziness disappeared!  It magically turned clear like the watch crystal had!  The finish didn't melt and seemed to be fine.  I rubbed out the rest of the hazy area and quickly followed the Brasso with the #9 to remove any remaining Brasso residue.  After the #9, the finish was perfect to the point you could not tell it had been touched!  I was so impressed with myself that my head would barely fit through doorways!  I've successfully used the Brasso/#9 trick on a bunch of repairs since with no problems.  As a rule of thumb, if you have wet-sanded a finish beyond 2000 grit and its still hazy after using a scratch-removing wax, it's probably safe to use the Brasso/#9 trick (a lacquer finish will look pretty good after 1500 grit & wax).  It's best to test a small area first.

 

I should mention that this is my technique for the new high-tech gloss finishes only and that the new semi-gloss finishes are extremely difficult to achieve the elusive "invisible" repair in.  I have had limited success with those and will write about them later.  Also, watch out for gloss finish Takamines and Warwicks- these have a very thin gloss coat over a dull base sealer coat.  If you sand through the thin gloss coat you will have ghost rings no matter what you put over it.

 

Buck is a professional repairman based in Wichita, Kansas. He can be reached by this e-mail link:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.