Re: Teaching myself by tearing apart a piece of junk
Polyester and polyurethane plastic finishes are remarkably resistant to solvents and chemical strippers. Physical removal is the best alternative. Sanding it off is a heck of a lot of work and makes a lot of dust. This Stew-Mac newsletter proposes using a heat gun to soften the finish then scrape it off. Here is a link for the procedure:
For what it's worth, anyone getting started in lutherie or just having an interest in the topic, Stew Mac has a ton of FREE information on their web site. Sure, a lot of it has to do with guitars but a lot of it is applicable to any kind of string instrument. Plus...did I mention it's FREE?
Weber Custom Bitterroot F
Weber Bitterroot A
Fender Octave Mandolin