Help! Old worn finish..what do I use?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by eldoryder, Sep 25, 2013.


  1. eldoryder

    eldoryder I just LOVE me some Vintage Peaveys! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Location:
    Nacogdoches, TX
    I have just spent two hours searching the forum for EVERYTHING related to cleaning old basses, followed links to Erlewhinne's (sp?) book, read countless polish manufacturer's disclaimers, and guitar manufacturer's maintenance instructions. I am more confused than ever!

    What I have is several old Peavey basses. All of them were originally finished new with:

    High Gloss Polyurethane necks w/maple fretboards &
    Semi-Gloss (matte) Polyurethane bodies

    Most of these have "checking" or micro-scratches, and some have areas where the finish has worn to where the bare wood is visible.

    Barring sanding and complete refinishing, what do I need to do to keep the wood from further degrading? I would like to play these instruments, and sweat and grime will be a factor.

    I want to clean them all before restringing them. After which I can then revert to a "maintenance" mode.

    I think I want to try a light amount of naptha on a microfiber cloth for removing the buildup on the neck, and some grimy spots on the body. Any reason why not?

    I have read where people get good results on the frets themselves by taping off the fretboard and using 0000 steel wool on the nickel frets. Good idea? Bad?

    I was then going to use Victorius polish on the body, but there's a warning about using it on "bare wood". I only have small areas that are completely degraded down to bare wood, but they ARE there. Is there anything I can put on the body to leave some kind of protective soft shine?

    I would like to leaving something behind on the gloss neck to help keep them strong against sweat. Is polish going to work, or do I need a wax?

    I don't want to use oils, as they would soak in, and make a future refinish job rather tough.

    What say you all?
  2. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    Do nothing.
  3. huckleberry1

    huckleberry1 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    Disclosures:
    student
    I have a Gibson RD Artist & an Ibanez ATK805E that I cleaned today. On the Gibson, the eurethane finish was wearing off in spots and the ebony neck had wax buildup. I took a bristle brush about 3" X 1" & scrubbed down the fretboard, frets & body with Murphy's Oil Soap & water. The frets are silver in color now, the wax buildup is gone. After that I wiped down the bass with old english lemon oil and let it soak into everything for 20 minutes. Wiped it down, did same to Ibanez with natural walnut finish & maple neck. Both basses turned out really beautiful. The mother of pearl dots on the Gibson & frets are stunning. Good luck & I hope this helps you, by the way I used to live in Wills Point,TX.
  4. Major Softie

    Major Softie

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Location:
    South Lake Tahoe, CA
    Okay, the "do nothing" response is pro "mojo," but is completely "do nothing" as far as protecting the wood. The entire purpose of finishing a body is to protect the wood (okay, there's the aesthetic issue, but protection really is necessary).

    I have a natural T40 myself (much like the one in your avatar), and the finish where your palm would rest was completely gone in an area around 4-5 square inches. I used Tung Oil, and, while it doesn't match the original finish perfectly, you only have to get about 2-3 feet away and it blends right in. The advantage of rubbed oil finishes is that you can keep adding coats - building until you're satisfied with the results. The results on my T40 look perfect except that the grain and pores are far more visible in the touched-up area than where the original poly finish is.

    This solution does not require removing any hardware on the body. If you want to get a better result, you need to strip the body of hardware and do the touch up with a polyurethane spray. This will probably require "color sanding," and buffing out to look right. Such an approach will look something in-between absolutely perfect indistinguishable from original, and better than the Tung Oil but still visible from a little closer (depending on how well the poly blends with the original, and (of course) your abilities, technique, and patient work.

    If you really want it perfect, you strip and refinish.

    I really like the way the Tung Oil touch-up protects the finish and still leaves a sense of the magic "mojo" that resulted in the wear in the first place, but everyone has a different idea of what the perfect touch-up involves.

    Another possibility would be hitting the exposed wood with "French Polish," which actually applies a thinned shellac with a pad (a technique that can result in a beautiful finish, but is a finish that requires a great deal of "finesse." Also, shellac comes in many colors, so you'd have to have the french polish that matches correctly. This is the most difficult and technique dependent touch-up solution, but the one that would give the best results if done correctly. Personally I've only done it on virgin projects, never on a touch-up project.
  5. eldoryder

    eldoryder I just LOVE me some Vintage Peaveys! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Location:
    Nacogdoches, TX
    Thanks, Major Softie for a REALLY in-depth response! You may have offered the perfect solution for me as far as maintaining the "mojo" factor, while still being able to do something pro-active AFTER I clean the grime off. I do appreciate the looks of a "well-loved" bass, but I'm not comfortable playing on someone else's dirt and grime!

    So...maybe using Tung Oil AFTER I clean the grime off is the best compromise between having a "soft shine" on both the areas that are stripped AND the areas which still hold finish.

    I'm still worried, however, that if I eventually decide that I must strip, sand and refinish that the Tung Oil will be nearly impossible to work out of the pores, and the new polyurethane will end up "orange-peeling" like crazy.

    Valid fear, or not?

    Thanks for any further observations!
  6. P Town

    P Town Guest

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    One refinish option after touching up with tung oil, would be to strip the poly, and do the refin with tung oil.
  7. Scobby Bott

    Scobby Bott

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Location:
    Pottstown, PA
    If I remember correctly, I've heard and read repeatedly not to use any solution on maple, other than a damp cloth. Is tung oil a safe option for a maple board? The finish has worn off in some spots on the neck of my Gibson Grabber, and those areas start to blacken between cleanings (though they never really get clean). Mojo: yes, buy I'd like to keep the bare spots protected.
  8. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2010
    Location:
    LA
    the back of the neck on my 83 L2k has been rejuvenated after repeated buffings with gibson guitar polish, not sure about the fretboard though, because all my basses are rw and i just use ghs fast fret on them
  9. Major Softie

    Major Softie

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Location:
    South Lake Tahoe, CA
    Eldoryder, there are both water base and oil base polys. An oil base poly shouldn't have any trouble with traces of the tung oil after a full stripping. Water base might. As P Town points out, the full refinish doesn't actually have to be poly, but that all depends on what you end up wanting in that distant future.

    Scobby, all my suggestions had body touch-up in mind. For a maple fingerboard, tung oil certainly could work, but I don't know how it would hold up. I've never tried such a thing. There are LOTS of different tung oil products, with different polymers and different levels of polymerization. Some are designed for floors, so they ought to be able to stand up to that kind of punishment, but some others probably wouldn't be able to at all. I would probably stick with doing a poly spray touch up myself, but it would be difficult with a rattle can - an air brush or very fine touch-up gun would be much easier. Even brush work with poly might work out better than some other product.
    (The Gibson warning/suggestion about not using any "solution" on the maple fingerboard was, I'm sure, for cleaning the existing finish, not referring to how to deal with areas where the finish had worn off)

    Someone else may (hopefully) chime in with experience touching up a maple fingerboard.
  10. P Town

    P Town Guest

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    One caution regarding real tung oil. Tung oil comes from a tree nut. If you have any allergies to tree nuts, a finish of tung oil may cause an allergic reaction, depending on how much it has cured. Some products with the words "tung oil" on the label may not contain any oil from a tung nut.
  11. eldoryder

    eldoryder I just LOVE me some Vintage Peaveys! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Location:
    Nacogdoches, TX
    Well, the only thing I could find locally was Traditional Homer Formby's "Tung Oil Finish" in Low Gloss. I hope this will work for my purposes. Of course, real "naptha" was only available in one gallon size for almost $13.00! I will start cleaning, after I strip the strings and pickguard off. After cleaning, I will try the Tung Oil Finish.

    I'm inclined to just clean the maple fretboard with naptha, dress the frets (after taping the board) with 0000 steel wool, blow metal particles away, then finish with a good wax on the high-gloss poly neck and board?

    Unless someone comes in with a better last-minute-suggestion!
  12. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Location:
    Seweracuse, NY
    I'm wondering what you're doing with that bass that makes you think the wood needs some kind of special protection. There are thousands of old and vintage instruments out there that have exposed wood for decades if not longer and have not decayed into nothingness.
  13. eldoryder

    eldoryder I just LOVE me some Vintage Peaveys! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Location:
    Nacogdoches, TX
    I'm quite sure there are an infinite number of working guitars that have lots of love and wear to them with virtually no protection (Willie Nelson's for example). The fact that I would like to do something to keep from grinding my own dirt and mulm into exposed wood on my older bass guitars is a personal decision.

    I was asking for help in finding ways to achieve that. I was not, however soliciting opinions as to whether my personal preferences were valid or not. Of course, it's an open forum, and you have every right to post whatever you like.

    I don't see how it advances the subject under discussion, however. I guess I can put you into the "do nothing" category (covered under a different thread).
  14. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Location:
    Seweracuse, NY
    Thanks for recognizing that I have a right to voicing my opinion. My suggestion is that it may be alarmist for no specific reason and that as long as you clean the instrument regularly, you should be fine. Also, on a vintage instrument or some instrument you care about I'd be concerned about introducing something that may irreversibly alter, discolor or cause damage in the long run.
  15. eldoryder

    eldoryder I just LOVE me some Vintage Peaveys! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Location:
    Nacogdoches, TX
    Well, it's six of one, half dozen of the other. I guess the real issue is what I want to deal with most in the distant future if and when I decide to finally refinish the bodies on these old Peaveys.

    The weak link is the raw wood. Rubbing the bass down with a microfiber cloth will not remove the staining that may result from dirt, sweat and grime that will happen with regular use.

    Tung Oil will also seep into the raw wood, and accumulate over time in the pores. So I guess I have to choose which will be easier to deal with in the long run. I am fairly certain that a solvent like naptha can remove most of the Tung Oil. I'm not as easily convinced that it will reduce the stain that raw wood may pick up if left totally unprotected.

    I'd like to think that whatever dirt accumulates on top of the Tung Oil will stay loose enough to be removed by a solvent, as compared to its effect on untreated raw wood.

    That was, and is, my continued concern. If a case can be made that Tung Oil will damage the wood in the long run, I'm more than willing to listen.
  16. P Town

    P Town Guest

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Maybe its time to bite the bullet, and do a new refin with poly now.
  17. eldoryder

    eldoryder I just LOVE me some Vintage Peaveys! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Location:
    Nacogdoches, TX
    P Town, you're probably right. I dunno. I'm as undecided now as I was when I started this thread!
  18. Major Softie

    Major Softie

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Location:
    South Lake Tahoe, CA
    LoL!

    If you're willing to put in the time, try doing some test applications with the products you are considering on scrap hardwood so you can get an idea of what the results are going to be like. That may help you make up your mind, as in: "damn, that's going to look great!" or "oh my god, that totally looks like crap!"
  19. huckleberry1

    huckleberry1 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    Disclosures:
    student
    My idea is the cheapest rout, $3.45 for a bottle of Old English & forgot how much Murphy's oil soap, but my basses look really good, not a supporting member yet so I can't post picks.

Share This Page