When I purchased my used 1998 Gibson L5 CES, I noticed a few dings and dangs that I wanted to cover up or fix or remove.  The seller suggested I go to Stewart-MacDonald online and buy an amber ColorTone marker to touch up the scratches and dings to help make them disappear:

ColorTone Touch-up Markers are supplied in traditional sunburst colors that match the ColorTone Aerosol Guitar Lacquers: Vintage Amber, Cherry Red, Red Mahogany, and Tobacco Brown. They are in a permanent marker (solvent) base and are compatible with all ColorTone solvent and nitrocellulos products. They are intended for touching up a variety of finish problems where the color has been lightened or removed from the instrument’s surface. This can be on an instrument in the finishing process, or any guitar that has been dinged or whose color has been abraded off.

I did just that and I was pleased that the amber marker colored in the scratches.

There was one particularly deep scratch/gouge that, while now colored-in, was still gouged, and I wanted to fill in the area.  I kept applying the amber marker, but the gouge was not getting filled.

I went back to the StewMac site and learned that I needed a second pen — the Clear lacquer marker — if I actually wanted to have more mass to fill in the gouge:

The ColorTone Clear markers are nitrocellulose lacquer in a pen. They have a spring-loaded sealing tip for long life, and they need to be shaken and primed before use. Shake the marker for 30 seconds (you will hear a mixing ball rattle inside the marker body). Press the spring loaded tip on an uncolored board or thick piece of paper to prime the marker. The tip will become wet. It is important to do this on something without any color so it will not contaminate the clear tip of the marker. Once the lacquer is flowing, the marker is ready to use.

This marker can be used to repair chips in old instruments or to drop-fill spots on new work being finished. With the tip freshly primed, lacquer will flow onto the spot with very light pressure. Light pressure will get the most lacquer applied to the spot, and will also reduce the contamination of the clear tip with color that might be present at the repair site. For a deep chip, use just the corner of the felt tip, and let the finish flow into the cavity. Re-prime the marker frequently as it dries by pressing it onto the colorless board that you used before.


Lesson learned.

Read everything before you buy.

I spent 10 minutes shaking my amber marker before I realized, through re-reading the Stew-Mac website and deduction, that the pen with the “mixing ball” was not the amber marker, but rather the clear one.  Ooof!

The amber ColorTone pen made a white gouge blonde, but I also needed the clear lacquer pen to properly finish the job.

My next StewMac order will include the clear lacquer ColorTone marker and I will more closely read all the directions from now on for any guitar repair I hope perform myself at home.


    1. I did read the directions, but they were incomplete. You have to sort of divine on your own by reading about all the markers that if you want to actually fill in a space instead of just coloring it, you need a second pen to do that.

      1. Or you can consult someone who does ‘paint’ for a living…….
        Like me!

        1. I didn’t know there was still nitrocellulose lacquer on the market. I’ve had the old-timers wanting that from me at the paint store (for the ’47 Model-something they’re restoring) and in the automotive market, it’s not available.

          1. Nitrocellulose is the best finish for guitars. It’s hard to find done right. Too many guitar shops paint it on too thick — thin is best for vibratory sound.

            Why isn’t it available any longer for cars?

            So I have some touch up spots — and around the spot, of course, I have dulled the high gloss finish with the fix. I have some fine finishing paper here, but I don’t know which grit to use and if you wet sand or dry sand and how much force you have to use to remove the fix but without damaging the original shine of the surrounding lacquer.

          1. the finer the better. You want to finish off with 1500 or 2000 grit and polish them out. Depending on ‘lack of sheen’ you’re experiencing the idea is to get the sand scratches finer and finer so that some rubbing compound (3M 5973 qt or 3M 39002 retail size) will eliminate them completely.
            And to answer your question, I’ve spent 16 yrs behind the sales counter of a jobber warehouse selling to the body shops/collision repair facilities.

          2. If lacquer is what you’re using stick with that only. Lacquer can be UNDER anything, but don’t try to put lacquer OVER urethane or enamel….. it will NOT be pretty. It will lift, pop, bubble and any other un-desirable finish you’d like on your music machine.
            And I’m assuming since you’re just having ‘gloss’ issues, lacquer is what your guitar is finished with from the factory. WHEW! 🙂

          3. Yes, this guitar is all nitro lacquer — no problems there — but most of the mainstream guitars are poly. I’m thinking of just leaving it alone. The shine is only slightly off where I did the fix. I don’t care about resale value because I’ll never sell this guitar. It’s just good proactive protection to fill in the rough spots lest they begin to grow.

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