How To: Steaming out dents in guitar bodies

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 11/11/2008 07:08:00 PM -
I wanted to write a post on a technique I've been using for about the last year to remove dings and dents in guitar bodies.

I want to emphasize that this only works for cases where the wood is simply compressed and it will not work for chips, where the wood is actually missing.

The idea is to get water into the dented, compressed wood and then heat it up with a soldering iron until steam is formed, which will then expand and swell out the compressed wood.

The example in this case is a 1966 Fender Jazz Bass body, made of alder. There are two dents I'm going to work on here - one is a sharp dent along the upper edge of the body and the other is a more rounded ding on the side. They are both plainly visible in the picture.

The dented areas are first generously wetted with water - let it soak in for a few minutes at least - and then rewet.

The a cotton cloth is dipped in water, and the wet part is applied over the dent. The tip of a hot soldering iron is pressed against the wet cloth and rolled around a bit. There should be plenty of steam as you do this - otherwise your soldering iron isn't hot enough or you don't have enough water.

This process should be repeated until the dent has popped out - with lots of added water to the wood and cloth each time and allowing the soldering iron to heat up again. I steamed these dents about 4 times over a 10 minute period.

As you can see - the dents are still visible - but the have popped out til they are almost even with the surface. Once this body is sealed, primed and sanded they shouldn't be visible at all.

The second view better illustrates how the dents have been expanded out to near the original contours.

I've used this technique on alder, ash and mahogany bodies - I haven't tried it on a harder wood such as maple - it may not work because it may be hard for the moisture to penetrate the wood to get the required steaming action - but who knows, maybe it will work ?


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  1. Thank you for posting this. I'm off to try it now.

  2. Hope it works for you - use plenty of water on the cloth and in the wood - there should be substantial steam hissing !!

    Just used this technique last week to steam the dents out of a 1990 Les Paul Junior - all mahogany.

  3. Will it work on my les Paul studio worn finish or will it ruin the colour?

  4. It will probably mess up the color and may not even work since the color IS a finish of some sort I believe (as opposed to just being wood stain). I think the steam will stain the finish.

  5. WOW: Your a fountain of knowledge, so well explained and VERY generous of you to take the time to share it with us. Kudos to you from a very grateful 61 year old Canadian. Cheers!