Why Many Recommend Wet Sanding for Guitar Paint Makeovers?

Many owners of guitars that have “seen-better-days” want to give their instrument a paint makeover, but are worried about not getting the best finishing results. The most common DIY guitar-painting suggestion they’ve come across is to wet sand the wood before applying the final lacquer coating. That way, they will be able to achieve a flat glass-like finish as opposed to a dull lacquered look.

While many have read and heard about sanding before applying paint on wood as a way to achieve smoothness, using a wet sanding process is something unfamiliar to a lot of DIYers.

What Exactly is Wet Sanding?

Wet sanding is a method of smoothing out the wood surface using a special type of sandpaper with extra-fine grit of 1000 – 2000, which can be soaked in water without losing form. They are special because the abrasive materials are attached to a film or cloth backing instead of paper.

The sturdier backing also makes the sandpaper reusable several times even when wet. Furthermore, a wet sandpaper can efficiently wash away abraded lacquer particles as it can also absorb and then rinse off the white crud produced by sanding.

Wet sanding as opposed to dry sanding requires moving in a straight line while alternating directions with each sweep. The purpose of which is to sand off any scratches created by the previous passing. Moreover, wet sanding requires only light strokes since the main purpose is to remove scratches and any hardened lacquer residue before applying the final lacquer coating; usually a week after the last clear coating. .

If performed correctly, wet sanding will leave the guitar wood material without visible scratches, creating a surface so smooth it will attain a mirror-like finish after the final lacquer coating. While wet sanding seems like a messy process, it actually isn’t because it eliminates the production of dust particles.

Are Random Orbital Sanders Usable for Wet Sanding?

The good news is that there are now random orbital sanders specifically designed for wet sanding, as well as wet sanding discs with up to 2000 grits of film-backed sandpaper, usable for both dry and wet sanding.

A random orbital sander built as a pneumatic water sander has an inlet joint to which an accompanying 1” water tubing or pipe can be attached; allowing water to flow from source to the wood surface at controlled amounts. Random orbital sanders are already ideal when looking to achieve an ultra-smooth surface before applying finishing touches. Even more so for wet sanding because the circular motion automatically changes direction when hitting an uneven or irregular surface, to avoid going over the same area repeatedly in a single direction.