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Sanding an Epiphone Casino

Mister Melt

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Hey all, I’ve looked around for info on this topic and found little of any use so thought I would post about this project. As you all prob know in 1968 while studying Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi in India the Beatles were told by Donovan that sanding the finish off their Epiphone Casinos would allow the guitar to “breathe”. John and George did sand them and John Lennon famously used his for the rest of his life that way. It’s well known and documented he created a huge bulk of his Beatles and solo music with this instrument- it’s his sound. I’ve always been intrigued by this story. 

I recently bought a standard new Casino (Chinese made I believe). I had previously owned a 1966 Fender Coronado 1, also hollow body, which had insane tone both unplugged and amped. But it only had one pickup and a floating wood bridge which felt out of set with my playing and sonically limited. I sold it and bought Casino (for about $2k less) and it’s perfect. Now I’ve decided to test the Donovan theory. After doing some research online where I found a bunch of conflicting opinions on how to proceed I just decided to get a piece of sand paper and start. I did a couple small test spots on the back first. It takes quite a bit of sanding to get down to the raw yellow wood. But it very satisfying when it suddenly appears! So after I gauged the effort involved I started the top. Right now I’m using 80 coarse 3M sandpaper. I was just using the paper in my hand- no block. I laid the guitar on a towel on my counter and had a vacuum with a hose attachment nearby to periodically vacuum the dust. The dust is truly evil. It smells like nail polish. I’m wearing a K95 mask while working. The process is very slow but fun. I’m getting a block today to continue. It should be done in a couple weeks. 

One other dust related problem is the dust falling into the sound holes. I blew out the inside with canned air through one hole and the dust blew out the opposite hole. Very messy. I’m anticipating problems with dusty pots but will deal with that when it all done. I have to research how to remove and replace pots and pickups on a hollow body because I will need to remove them temporarily to sand. Maybe I’ll just have SF Guitarworks put it back together and clean it at the end because I want them to make a nice bone nut for this too. I’m also thinking about replacing or modding the saddle. I want to change these two pieces because the guitar is having pretty major problems staying in tune- especially the g string.

I can’t find any info on whether John Lennon applied a finish after sanding. My instinct so far is to leave it totally raw. Also there is zero info to be found on George Harrison’s Casino which apparently was also sanded down. This video is the best views I’ve found of Lennnon’s guitar. It’s captures it at an angle with raking light and I would guess there was an extremely thin layer of finish applied- probably one coat. If I do apply finish I will probably go with one brushed on coat of nitro lacquer. No stain. But right now I’m doubting I will finish it. I’m liking the raw wood. It’s has a very nice almost vanilla color and I feel like why not just let it “breathe”.

Im psyched to hear if sanding actually changes the tone. That’s all for now. Here’s a couple photos. If anyone has a good closeup photo of Lennon’s Casino or any other reliable info please send- would love to hear it! 







Edited by Mister Melt
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Did a bit more work last night sanding only the top. Turns out I need more 80 grit paper. Finer paper is basically useless until after the finish is removed. Also I realized it is possible to sand too far into the wood. There is another layer of wood that is darker. Fortunately I only hit it on a tiny little patch- see photo. If you look closely at photos of Lennon's guitar you can see there are areas where he sanded too far as well. Specifically on the front upper horn there's a slight ghosty dark patch.

Also, the sanding block turned out to be useless as well. Its too flat. The subtle curves of the body require hand sanding. I will need to get a pair of good heavy gloves before I continue.

Bottom line: all you need to do this is some 80 grit sandpaper, a good pair of gloves, some K95 masks (odds are you have a few of those around) and ideally a vacuum.

Found a couple photos of George Harrison’s sanded Casino online. See below. Makes me seriously consider a Bigsby. Hmmmm…..



Edited by Mister Melt
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I have an Epiphone Inspired by John Lennon Revolution Casino.. I bought it new.. The Natural finish is Satin or Matte.. It is not Gloss.. I believe it has some type of protective finish.. Not sure what it is though. Like Lennon’s it has Nickel Chrome Gibson USA P90’s, Gold Grover Tuners. It also came with Switch Craft Toggle Switch, Wiring & Input Jack.. Black Grommet on the Neck Pickup Volume knob.. It is a very authentic Guitar.. And it does play easy & Sounds great..

I have 3 other Epiphone Casino’s as well… A Sunburst Peerless with Bigsby, a Sunburst 50th Anniv. 1961 with Tremotone & the recent new USA Casino in Royal Tan…  I have an assortment of other Epi’s, Gibson’s, Fender’s, Ric’s & Gretsch’s…

For me the Casino’s are Icons & are my favorite Electric Guitar.. They are so versatile.. Nothing sounds like them.. They can do everything.. Like Paul, if I could only have one Electric Guitar it woulda Casino..

Each of them sounds different.. All of them sound great! I do think the Natural finish John Revolution growls a little more though..

You’re doing a great job! I think you’ll be very happy! The one thing you can do to really get the Sound is to upgrade the Chinese P90’s to USA P90’s.. If you can find a pair of Gibson P90’s they would be correct & sound fantastic! Although, Thro-Bak, Fralin, Duncan & Lollar make fantastic P90’s as well.. 


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Hey Larsong,

Thanks for all the info. A couple quick questions if you see this reply:

On the John Lennon Casino, how thick does the finish look to you? Is it super thin? Does it just look like a clear coat over raw wood?

Also, how do your Casinos sound unplugged compared to each other? Does any one of them have a clearly better acoustic sound?

Im glad you mentioned the pickups. I was thinking of getting the Lollar pickups they offer where you send them your pickup covers and they send back new pickups mounted in the covers. But Gibson P90s sound like a great idea too. Something to think about. 

Incidentally, one of the first things I did when I bought this guitar was replace the tuners with a Grover 133N Deluxe Guitar 3+3 Tuning Machines Set - Nickel:


The other day I realized the tuning slippage problems I’m having is because I’m not stringing these right. I’m used to string through tuners and these are loaded through the top. Generally speaking stringing this guitar is kind of a pain compared to a Strat. But anyway, I’ll probably forgo replacing the nut or messing with the bridge like I mentioned in my first post now that I’ve gotten used to stringing these machines.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Apologies for slow response..

Lennon’s Revolution had Gold Grover’s.

The Natural finish is Satin.. No Clear Coat.. It may be a Nitro-Cellulose but not 100% sure.. I’ve read somewhere how it’s finished but can’t find it.. If I do, I’ll pass it along. It looks & feels Natural.. I’ve never used anything but a soft micro fiber cloth to wipe off Body.. I do condition Fret board occasionally when changing Strings & clean Chrome & Gold Tuners.. It’s a really great Guitar!

I just found this.. Maybe some insight..



Edited by Larsongs
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