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Thread: vintage bass guitar refinish question

  1. #1
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    vintage bass guitar refinish question

    i have a friend who is a very avid bass player and has a few bass guitars, one being a fender jazz i believe. a late 60's model maybe. anyway, he has sanded it down and wants my assistance with the new finish, he is sure he wants to do a wood finish and not paint it. he doesn't want anything glossy. i was thinking of maybe an oil finish that he could reapply when needed. but he wanted to know if that would show finger prints very easily.

    anyone have any good finish options that would be tough, non glossy, and not show prints easily.

    thanks
    chris

  2. #2
    Chris.....I have a friend that owns a music store. He builds and repairs instruments including guitars. I'll check with him tomorrow but if my old memory serves me correctly he general uses Tru-Oil for finishing his custom built guitars. What ever it is, it puts a hard gloss finish that has always impressed me with the end result. I'm sure you can de-gloss it.

  3. #3
    Chris,

    I gave my friend a call. We're on PDT so it's only 8:00p.m. here. He said he'd use Tru-Oil. You can get small spray cans of it or you can get small bottles of it. With the bottles, believe it or not, he just uses his finger and rubs it on an area. He recommends after you get enough build up that you rub it out with 00 or 000 steel wool. This will degloss it. In the future if you happen to ding it...you just take more Tru-Oil and repair the ding. It will form a new single layer with the old part of the finish. This guy builds some fantastic guitars and I've set and talked with him while he was applying this finish to one of his new creations. Good luck!

    Ken
    Last edited by Ken Fitzgerald; 08-20-2007 at 02:01 PM.

  4. #4
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    A lot of guitars are finished with lacquer. That would be my choice if I were doing it. Another option for a non-glossy finish that won't show fingerprints would be a satin polyurethane. It'd be tough, and could be cleaned with just about anything, including Windex or rubbing alcohol (my personal preference for de-griming a guitar).

    I've never used Tru-Oil, but it sounds like that'd be another option.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
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  5. #5
    Alan DuBoff is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
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    Chris,

    Depends on if you want a custom color or sunburst, and also if you want the paint to be authentic/original. The sunburst from the late 60s had white underneath, as I recall. The custom colors that Fender used where car colors, and the notable ones were candy apple red, seafoam green, coral, dakota red, lake placid blue, emerald green, artic white, black, and possibly a couple I'm missing. These were paints that were readily available and used for the car industry.

    I have one vintage bass left, it's a '59 P-Bass with all '59 parts with the exception of the body which is from a '63 P-Bass, and the sunburst is actually incorrect for a '59. It's a players bass, it has about 50% of the paint left on it. Looks similar to Jaco's famous Jazz bass, but it's a P-Bass.

    A good friend of mine was very good friends with Jaco, they grew up in Florida together playing in R&B bands together...what a great talent, just couldn't control his habits well enough...happens to so many...he changed the way electric bass was played...3 stone from the sun, what a classic Hendrix copy...Birdland...classic...

    A friend of mine wrote a book on the electric bass, it's here. Albert Molinaro is a good friend.

    FWIW, the late 60s Jazz basses with the bound fingerboards are sought after, that particular bass was played by a couple famous folks, Marcus Miller and Will Lee. They were made after CBS bought Fender in '65~, but they had a great sound to them. Jazz bass is a more nasely sounding bass.
    Last edited by Alan DuBoff; 08-20-2007 at 04:49 AM.

  6. #6
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    The finish of choice on most string instruments is nitrocellulose lacquer. I used polyurethane on our guitar project and was basically scolded by the purists...
    Got Wood?

  7. #7
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    Poly on your guitar.. What's gotten into you Scott .

    Actually Chris, I saw pics of Scott's finished guitar and it looked very nice. The finish on an acoustic can effect the sound but A solid body can have many finishes. Poly is very scratch resistant so it's not a bad choice. A hard varnish is a little more chip resistant and also a good choice. Since your friend said he wanted a wood finish and not paint, almost any standard finish will work. BUT...Keep in mind that you will need to build up a finish thicker than we typically see on fine furniture.

    I've used Tru-Oil with good results, but it takes a long time to get the build up required. It's just a mixture of linseed oil and varnish. It's very tough and commonly marketed for use on gun stocks.

    Nitrocellulose lacquer is the choice of most luthiers. It's typically sprayed on & dries fast enough where many coats can be applied in a short time. It also burns into itself so the build up and buffing out doesn't leave witness lines and repairs are easy to melt in.

    There are many water based finishes being used on guitars now. Check our Target Coatings for several very clear and very hard finishes. I just finished using their Ultima Spray Lacquer and was very pleased with the results.

    Shellac is a very good choice as well. It can be tinted to achieve a vintage look and builds very nicely. It's also easily repaired and buffs out well. In fact, if it were me...I'd go with shellac

    Just pic a finish that fits the equipment you have (spray/wipe on etc...)

  8. #8
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    thanks everyone, i will talk with him and see what are his feelings about those finishes.

    i'll try to post before and after pics when i do the refinish

    thanks
    chris

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fitzgerald View Post
    Chris,

    I gave my friend a call. We're on PDT so it's only 8:00p.m. here. He said he'd use Tru-Oil. You can get small spray cans of it or you can get small bottles of it. With the bottles, believe it or not, he just uses his finger and rubs it on an area. He recommends after you get enough build up that you rub it out with 00 or 000 steel wool. This will degloss it. In the future if you happen to ding it...you just take more Tru-Oil and repair the ding. It will form a new single layer with the old part of the finish. This guy builds some fantastic guitars and I've set and talked with him while he was applying this finish to one of his new creations. Good luck!

    Ken
    Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil is a very fine finish. It is very popular with gun stockers. The oil is applied with the bare hand. The warmth of the hand and rubbing allow the oil to penetrate the wood. If the final finish is more glossy than desired, a semi or flat finish can be achieved by rubbing with 4-ought [0000] steel wool.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  10. #10
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    thanks frank, after talking to him he has decided on the tru-oil finish. he will drop off the bass for me to do a better sanding job on it before the finish. then he will decide if he wants to stain or just go with the oil.

    thanks everyone, i'll try to get pics
    chris

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