Late Night DIY: Repairing Minor Dents In Your Guitar

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Not too long ago, I said I’d show you how to repair small dings in your guitar. There are a number of ways to do this from professional painting to the method I use. Fingernail polish. I’m addressing the touch up of solid color areas here, not the repair of transparent guitar finish where the wood, although colored, shows through. (Think Gibson LP sunbursts.) This will not produce an invisible repair, but it will be less noticeable than the original ding.

The ding I’m going to repair is small and round so it’s a perfect candidate for the nail polish treatment. Pic 1 shows the ding in the guitar. It’s not really noticeable as it’s in the top of the guitar, as you play it, but, since the rest of the body looks so pristine, I’d just as soon not have it there. I’m lucky in that this area of the guitar is not seen and it’s black, an easy color to patch in this way.


Pic 2 shows what I’m using – $1.97 from Wal-Mart. Solid finish guitars, like a Fender Strat with opaque color, are fairly easy to touch up. The hardest part is finding the color. Don’t be afraid to take the guitar into the store to look through the assortment of polishes to find a match. You may get some looks (I did, especially from women) while browsing through the fingernail polish displays but, so what.


If you can’t find an exact match, bracket the color… one almost blue enough and one a little too blue, for example, but get the same brand in that case so you can mix it. Also, try drugstores, Macy’s, the beauty supply, wherever fingernail polish is sold. You’ll find many of the same brands but you may find some stores have a more complete selection of colors. The bad news is that the prices will vary greatly. It wouldn’t hurt to pick up some fingernail polish remover as well, although your better half probably has some at home. Make sure to get the non-acetone remover or you will probably damage the paint.

If your ding is a nick out of the paint with sharp edges, good. This method works well on that kind of damage. If you have a dent as well, you can usually fill it with the polish using multiple coats. Major dents and damage require filler and refinishing which is, frankly, something I’m not going to cover here.

If your damaged area has some loose paint in it, you’ll want to remove it with a sharp blade, as shown in pic 3. Once that’s done, you are ready to try your color.


The easiest way is just to touch some on the bad spot and see. If you couldn’t find a good match and are resorting to mixing your own, lay a couple of dots down on an old piece of ceramic tile and use a brush to blend them. To test, paint some on your nail, let it dry and see if the color is good. Your nail will give a pretty close approximation to how the natural color of wood will affect the color of the polish. With any opaque polish, this shouldn’t really be an issue. With some of the more translucent colors, you could paint one color underneath and put a second color on top to get a better match but that’s a hit and miss, remove it and try again process.


Once you have a coat on, leave it alone and let it dry thoroughly. Even though the label says it dries in sixty seconds, it won’t when you pile it into a hole. If it’s deep, fill it in stages so it dries properly or it will rub off. It will also shrink just a little as it dries so you will need to keep adding coats until it fills in even with the level of the surrounding paint. Try to keep the area level as it dries so the polish won’t sag. If your better half denounces you for improper procedure, remind her that you are not painting nails here so the rules don’t apply.


Mound the final coat just a little so, when it shrinks down, it will flatten to the right level. You do want the final fill to be slightly above the surrounding finish when it dries so you can polish it down. (I apologize for the pictures. I must have taken forty pics to try to get some that were even usable!)

After several coats, you reach a point of no return where it doesn’t fill any better. I’m happy with pic 6. It isn’t perfect but it looks better than the ding did. I’ll let it dry for a couple of days and try some guitar polish to smooth it into the paint.


After a thorough drying time, a couple of days or so, I used a small amount of toothpaste on a microfiber cloth to polish it down to be level with the surrounding finish. Once you can no longer feel a bump with your finger, you have reached the right level.

Pic 7 shows the finished product. I left it just a touch undone so it would come out in a picture.


Once you have the level down right, use your guitar polish to clean up the area and bring up the shine, just like polishing your car. If you chose the right color, the spot should be almost invisible… if you did everything right. If you didn’t, you might see it to varying degrees but it will certainly be better than the original ding.

You can always use the nail polish remover (non-acetone type) to remove the patch and start over if you don’t like the result.

So, there you go. Stratkat’s cheap and easy guitar ding fix! Hope it works well for you.

Doug Knight

Our “Man on the Street” reporter, with his “What’s New in Music Stores?” series, resides in Coos Bay, OR. You can find him on Friday nights at The Small Events Center at OrCoast Music in Coos Bay.

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