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A new life and new look for my semi-hollow Sheraton...minus 1.8 pounds of poly


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Hello, beautiful people.

I’ve successfully sanded 1.8 pounds (!) of thick poly from my 1992 Samick-made Sheraton, and have re-imagined the guitar in just about every other way. Before I made this insane attempt, I read through countless forum threads from others who wondered whether it could or should be done, and a very few who were actually nuts enough to try it. 

I’m nuts, it worked, so I’m posting here for the next screwball who loves his Korean Sheraton but wants it to be something better. Maybe even much better.



I’ve owned a Blonde 1992 Sheraton for 22 years, with all electronics upgraded and all metal parts replaced with nickel. For this experiment, I wasn’t willing to risk this particular guitar, so I found a well-cared for 1992 Sheraton in black on E-bay. It was promptly stripped of everything but the frets.

For poly removal, I opted for a 3-inch, random orbital polisher with variable speeds, and a stack of 3-inch sanding pads in grits from 180-1200. Didn’t want to go with a heat gun, for fear of delaminating the layered top. I was ready to sand by hand, if necessary, but really wanted to see if the random-orbital could do the job properly.

It did. Slow, methodical, careful, not too much pressure, let the tool do the job. Massive amounts of poly dust…it’s really quite incredible how thick the outer poly was, how much it choked the wood from any resonation.

The outer coat of poly came off quite easily, as did the coat of black paint beneath it. Beneath all of that, there is another layer of thin, clear sealer…and this layer is like IRON. Good lord, hand-sanding that last layer off would have been painful and endless. But with the random orbital, it took about 2 hours of very careful work. The key at this step was to make sure I didn’t go through the top layer of maple veneer. I actually did go through in two very small spots…just barely…but knew the guitar was going to be painted black, so this didn’t bother me.



Once all the poly and sealer were removed, I was pleased to have a raw, naked, and very well-made guitar body with which to start over again. And that was the goal…in my view, these early 90s Samick-made Sheratons are beautifully made…until they’re spoiled with thick poly and crappy parts. So why not take it back to its state as it emerged from the woodshop, and then make it my own?

And yes…I did weigh the guitar before and after sanding…and it was 1.8 pounds lighter after the work. Wow.

My thought was to replace all hardware with aged nickel, remove the stop-tail, and install an old-school nickel frequensator trapeze / tailpiece. This would mean filling in the stoptail holes in the body, so before I made that commitment, I had my tech install all parts with the guitar naked, so I could play it for a few weeks and decide whether I liked the frequensator.



At this naked stage, I cannot overstate how much louder, more resonate and sensitive the guitar was (unplugged). The wood was free, it was resonating, and the sound was much more full. I could do easy A/B comparisons because I had the ‘92 Blonde Sheraton with full poly to play as well.

The guitar then went to CM Custom Historics here in New York City, for an aged nitro-cellulose finish in oxide black. Chris did a stellar job, adding a perfect aged tint to the bindings and headstock, and manipulating the temperature for those “just right” checks / cracks in the finish. Check out CM Custom Historics, he does great work. Then back to Mobile Guitars in New York for the final build.

Some of you likely think this is all too much. Crazy. That’s OK. I’ve owned many guitars in my life, and after a few months of playing this one, it’s my number one. The Lollar Novel 90 and Novel Foil pickups are a big reason why…but man this thing looks good. Just a little beat up, but beautiful, and I'm not worried AT ALL about the additional dings and cracks to come.

I’m thrilled. I’ll never let this thing go. Next year, I’ll remove 1.8 pounds of poly from my ’92 Blonde Sheraton, and have that one refinished by CM Custom Historics as well. It’ll stay blonde, though.


Bridge pickup:  Lollar Novel 90 (P-90)

Neck pickup: Lollar Novel Foil

Harness:  1950’s-style ES-335 with bumblebee capacitors, by Starr Guitar Systems. I ended up replacing the 500K pots in this harness with 250Ks from Lollar…much better match with the pickups, as it turns out.

Bridge:  ABR-1, Vintage Spec for Gibson, Aged Nickel, from Vintage Relic.

Frequensator:  Aged Nickel, from Tricked Out Guitar

Tuners: Grover 102-NV Milk-bottle, Aged Nickel

That’s it…carry on!

-        Alston






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