When I was young I drew all over the neck of one of my guitars with a sharpie, thinking it would make me "metal." I am now older and wiser. How do can I remove this mistake?
August 30, 2009 8:41 PM   Subscribe

When I was young I drew all over the neck of one of my guitars with a sharpie, thinking it would make me "metal." I am now older and wiser. How do can I remove this mistake?
posted by ichthuz to Home & Garden (29 answers total)
As long as it has some kind of oil based finish, I'd say denatured alcohol would do the trick without ruining the guitar itself.
posted by billypilgrim at 8:51 PM on August 30, 2009

How much older? If it's been there a while it may not come out. Back or front of the neck?
posted by kellyblah at 8:54 PM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: It's been there about 2 years.

It's a Fernandez "The Function" which is a Japanese Strat copy which they were forced to stop making about 10 years ago due to a lawsuit vis a vis Fender.

Back of the neck, where the thumb goes. Some of it has worn off with thumb polishing from playing over time.
posted by ichthuz at 9:02 PM on August 30, 2009

Not all The Functions are created alike - is the neck painted on yours, or just varnished?
posted by Dysk at 9:05 PM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: EDIT: The maker is spelled Fernandes not Fernandez.
posted by ichthuz at 9:05 PM on August 30, 2009

Unless someone knows what kind of finish it has and can offer more specific advice, I'd try alcohol (as billypilgrim says) or, failing that, acetone (eg nail polish remover). I've had good results with both of those for removing sharpie marks from nonporous surfaces. Definitely try to test them first to see if they're going to mess up the finish, though.
posted by hattifattener at 9:14 PM on August 30, 2009

Some inks are disolved completely by Fantastic, worth a try. Works 100%, instantly, for me with pen ink on plastic.
posted by Cosine at 9:33 PM on August 30, 2009

I wouldn't try acetone - I've seen it eat through many a finish.
posted by j at 9:39 PM on August 30, 2009

I've also seen alcohol eat through many a finish. Even oil based.
I'd check your local Craigslist for a luthier or even serious carpenter. Have them take a look at it. It'll either be a quick and cheap fix, or an quasi-expensive refinishing. Either way, a competent pro will let you know pretty quickly.
posted by piedmont at 9:44 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the finish is glossy/sticky and you don't care too much about keeping it perfect, some steel wool will probably take care of the marker while giving the neck a nice satin feel that, imo, is much more pleasing to play.

If you really don't want to modify the feel of the neck, naptha(lighter fluid) may help you out, but, as always, try a test spot first to make sure it doesn't eat the finish.
posted by mikesch at 9:46 PM on August 30, 2009

I've had really good luck getting all kinds of stuff (mostly TOTALLY AWESOME sticker residue, though) off of my strat with WD-40.
posted by goHermGO at 9:50 PM on August 30, 2009

My mom used this Goo-Off stuff on the cover of a record album she wrote on in permanent marker close to 20 years ago and it took the marker off without damaging the cover at all.

Also, this wiki-how has a bunch of other good suggestions.
posted by MsMolly at 10:11 PM on August 30, 2009

You could try toothpaste or plastic polish and a lot of rubbing with a microfiber cloth. It will very gently abrade the surface, rubbing off the top layer. The abrasive is such a fine grit that it will only take off thousandths of an inch of material and leave the result shiny, and you don't need to worry about dissolving the finish. Might be hard to get in the edges around the frets, though.
posted by jewzilla at 10:12 PM on August 30, 2009

A white eraser (eg. a Staedtler, available for cheap at an art supply or college book store) works really well for this. Takes the Sharpie off of CDs, books, plastic, etc. Should work on a guitar without the risk of some of the "nuke it from orbit" options.
posted by bwanabetty at 10:31 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Safest thing that I've seen do magic on sharpies is a Magic Eraser. In fact, all the demos for these cleaning products I've seen specifically use sharpies.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:12 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Isopropyl is a lot less likely to fuck up the finish than naphtha or acetone. I'd be sort of surprised if acetone didn't mess it up.
posted by ryanrs at 11:39 PM on August 30, 2009

Seconding Isopropyl. We used to use it in college to erase sharpie names on frisbees. Just soak a rag in it and scrub. If you're paranoid, you can scrub a tiny piece near the body-neck joint vigorously to see if you ruin the finish...
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:56 PM on August 30, 2009

Ok, I have to go a little off topic since I've given this a lot of thought myself. (if this is really bad, an admin can kill this part) I have the same problem with a strat I completely disfigured with mid 90's grunge crapola when I was 11-12. (1995-1996)

I also have a Flying V from 1998, (punk phase) and I put an andre the giant sticker on it, (this passed for punk once, I swear) and now shepard fairey has a fricking clothing line based around the damn image, (Obey Giant) and now I have what amounts to a guitar with a damned hurley logo on it.

I think instrument disfiguration is an important part of learning about rock and roll culture. We all "customized" our crap to better emulate the musical gods we worshiped. Now, when I look at those guitars, it reminds me of what I thought was important about music when I was a teenager (clearly a lot of pretentious image crap) but more importantly, it reminds me of a time when I thought rock and roll was really important, both to myself and and to the world as a cultural phenomenon. I'm sure your guitar is ugly as sin, but how much did you want to be/feel like a metal god when you completely destroyed your axe's resale value?

All I'm sayin is, the garbage on my guitars is embarrassing, but I'm sure the clothing line will die and I'll just remember how I felt about the music that convinced me to fuck up a $1200 instrument. (It also helps that I have one non-disfigured nice guitar to play, too) Maybe I'm just waxing poetic since I'm now a corporate tool, completely detached from punk rock, but it's a nice, ugly-ass reminder that I used to want to be rad.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:25 AM on August 31, 2009 [8 favorites]

It sounds crazy but it's worked on many a permanent marker -- try drawing on top of the Sharpie with a yellow highlighter a few times and wiping everything off.
posted by suedehead at 12:36 AM on August 31, 2009

wongcorgi writes "Safest thing that I've seen do magic on sharpies is a Magic Eraser. In fact, all the demos for these cleaning products I've seen specifically use sharpies."

Magic erasers are abrasive so avoid them for this use unless you do indeed want to affect the finish.

Many hairsprays will dissolve sharpie marks, probably because they contain an alcohol of some sort.
posted by Mitheral at 12:44 AM on August 31, 2009

Thirding Isopropyl. It is the kryptonite of the Sharpies. Back of the neck you should be fine. Should disappear the moment the alcohol touches the sharpie. Nice post suedehead.
posted by asavage at 12:48 AM on August 31, 2009

(wuzandfuzz, Scraperite Plastic Razor Blades might help you to obey Fairey no more.)
posted by scruss at 5:16 AM on August 31, 2009

I believe acetone and alcohol will both probably mar the finish. But I'm not sure. I'd go with the eraser or polishing first. Then if that doesn't work try solvents.

This might help.
posted by sully75 at 5:33 AM on August 31, 2009

If it has a glossy finish on the area where the marker is, simply color over the Sharpie with a dry-erase marker, and then wipe the whole thing off. Dry-erase marker is the secret to removing Sharpie.
posted by jferg at 5:46 AM on August 31, 2009

This stuff removes Sharpie, but test it on obscure part of the instrument first to be sure it doesn't harm the finish.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 5:52 AM on August 31, 2009

Related to suedehead's suggestion above - on dry erase boards, when you accidentally write with a sharpy, writing over it with a dry erase marker then wiping will take both markers off.
posted by CathyG at 7:10 AM on August 31, 2009

Methyl alcohol dissolves most sharpie ink. Try a small, inconspicuous part first--it may or may not do things to the wood finish.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:52 AM on August 31, 2009

Both acetone and methanol (methyl alcohol, mineral spirits in some formulations) are sold as paint strippers, fyi. Neither are fun to work with: fumes, they both eat many kinds of gloves, disposal issues, etc...

Try the rubbing (isopropanol) alcohol first. If that doesn't work, you may have to refinish the spot.

Magic Erasers are basically a really fine abrasive, so it will leave scuff marks.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2009

Just for the record, methanol is kryptonite of the Sharpies. But it's not necessary here; isopropyl is sufficient. If isopropyl doesn't work, then some of the ink has probably been absorbed into the varnish, beyond the reach of anything but refinishing.
posted by ryanrs at 10:20 PM on August 31, 2009

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