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After Body Stripping (for Basses)

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. Hey everyone,

    I recently got a Squier PJ Bass for $100, and ordered an unlined Might Mite fretless neck for it. I would like to eventually do a real nice either natural wood stain, or paint/refinish job on it, but right now I hate how it looks and want to do something cheap until I can afford all the stuff that I want to do.

    I will strip the body with a heat gun and a scraper, but after that do I need to put a finish on it? I'm assuming I will because my fingers and stuff will leave oil on it. If I do have to, is there some sort of finish that is cheap, easy, and can be easily removed later?


  2. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    After stripping with the heat gun you will still have an indestructible sealer coat. That won't need any finishing. I suggest just leaving the current finish on and playing it until you have the money/means to do a proper refinish.
  3. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    So what is a good way to strip your bass body?
  4. Yeah, I just started and I see what you mean. It still doesn't look so nice. It seems to have some marks and scuffs where I scraped. Is this coat thick enough that I can sand it down a bit to make it look smoother, while still leaving the bass coated?
  5. Actually, it almost looks like the sealer coat is chipped all the way through to the wood. The marks look relatively deep. the coat actually kind of looks like a shattered piece of glass with wood underneath... Sounds cooler than it actually looks. I don't think sanding will help much, but at least I know it will be good until I can do it right. Thanks for your help Stilettoprefer
  6. First I tried attacking it with a heat gun and a scraper, but it was way too tedious. I then tried some Heirloom Furniture Stripper and it worked wonders. I just brushed it on, waited 5 minutes, brushed on another coat, waited another 5 and then scraped it off.

    I got the front and back off now, and will do the sides tomorrow, as well as some sanding to the sealer coat just to clean it up a bit.
  7. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    Sounds good! :) Hopefully it won't damage the wood.
  8. praisegig

    praisegig Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Stephenville, TX
    I you decide to do an opaque finish, the polyester sealer coat is a great base for paint. Just prep the body with level sanding. prime, paint and clear coat.
  9. Thanks!

    I'm going to have to see what I feel like once I clean it up a bit by sanding some of it off. It is an agathis body but from what I can see so far it looks better than I was expecting.
  10. Budbear

    Budbear Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2004
    Staten Island, NYC
    Years ago, I restored antique furniture for a living. Chemical stripping is definitely the way to go. There is less chance of damage to the wood (as you have discovered). Just make sure you work in a well ventilated area. Make sure any scrapers you use have their corners rounded to prevent accidental gouging (the disposable plastic ones are a good choice). Old refinisher's trick: after stripping and before sanding, wipe the wood with clean rags and plenty of denatured alcohol to get the last bit of residue off. Let it dry completely before sanding. Have fun.;)
  11. So I'm probably done the work for now. Still undecided with what to do next, and like a little help, but I really thought that I should post these photos.

    As I said eariler, the bass is a Squier PJ bass, which has an agathis body wood. I had a hard time finding images of an agathis body, but pretty much everything I read about them said that they don't have a nice grain to them. Now I'll admit, this bass doesn't have the nicest grain that I have seen, but I have seen much worse as well.

    First, here's what the bass looked like when I got it.


    In the image you can only see one or two pieces of tape, but for some reason the original owner had put at least 30 random pieces of tape on the body, and they must have been on for years because they were a PITA to get off. I really wanted to change up the body because I already have a PJ bass and that body is a high gloss black as well, and didn't want two basses that looked so similar.

    Here's what the body looks like now.



    For anyone that wants to do something like this, I strongly recommend using a stripper like the Heirloom Furniture Stripper I linked above. Despite what I've read elsewhere, it was MUCH easier than using a heat gun and scraper. Plus, I used the scraper and heat gun on the front of the bass near the upper horn and in between the pickup and neck and there were a lot of gauges in it (I think the heat softened up the sealer coat, and the scraper had a big impact there), so I had to sand a good portion of the sealer coat off to look OK for now. I thought 80 grit sandpaper would be fine, but it was WAY too coarse, even with trying to sand over it with 200 grit, there are a lot of scrapes from the sandpaper that are just too deep for me to go any further without going through the sealer coat.

    Now for the last couple of things, which I'd like a little help on. If you look at the photos after the stripping, you'll see that there are some light patches and blotches. I am 99% sure that this is some sort of wood filler. Before I started sanding, it really seemed like this discoloration was within the coat and not beneath it, so I believed that they would go away with sanding, but with so little left (there may be about a 1/16th of an inch of sealer coat remaining) they are still there. Now I think it is likely some filler, but am worried if I do decide to sand off the sealer to stain the body that I will have to sand a lot or too much to get rid of it so that the wood looks good for staining. Is this wood filler, or is it some discoloration in the sealer coat? I actually still think it may be the sealer coat, because there is one little spot where i chipped off the sealer coat and on the edge of the chip, in the sealer side, I see the blemish, but the wood below is definitely wood and not filler.

    Also, if I do decide to stain it, which I'd much rather do, I'd like to stain it a cherrywood colour stain. I believe that I sand down to the wood with 150 grit paper, apply stain (I'm assuming oil-based ) with a brush, and removing excess with a dry brush, let it sit for a week, then start to apply an oil-based polyurethane to the body, sanding after coat 2 or 3 and applying a couple more coats, sanding after every one. Does this sound alright?

    I've also heard very good things about Birchwood/Casey Tru Oil. Would this be better? Would it work with an oil-based stain?

    For what it's worth, I'd like to bass to have the same sort of colour and finish as a double bass.

  12. NelsonNelson


    Sep 25, 2011
    I have used a citrus stripper from good old Home Depot and it worked wonders. The heat gun just pissed me off and burnt the wood and put chunks in my bass. Then I just hand sanded it for hours. I took the extra step and used a light colored filler to fill the newly open grain. It was a pain...required sanding in between the 2-3 coats, but filled in all the open pores in the ash.

    I then ordered some paint from Reranch or whatever they're called online. I'm not endorsing them TB...I just decided, "Hey it's cheap and is supposed to be easy." It sprayed on like spray paint...but looked professional like a shop paint job. I did not sand in between coats. I just kept them very thin between dry times. Then 24 hours later wet sanded very fine for a while....then clear coated a bunch.

    Then about 24 hours later I wet sanded, then buffed with car polish. Yes...car polish. LOL I didn't know what else to use....it was "rubbing compound" for scratch removal/wax type stuff and it worked wonders. Shined it right up. I would suggest a blonde or a butterscotch "not so clear" color if you want to show wood grain so it'll hide the wood filler. Or...just a solid color.

    That's a cheap body....with no real grain lines, not being mean just sayin, so the extra effort for a clear coat is gonna not really show a whole lot. I had not a clue what I was doing and it turned out amazing looking. No runs....fully glossed and all. The "wood filler" is not the putty you get at the local store. It's actual watery wood grain filler...which is totally different. It almost squeegees into the pores of the wood grain.

    The car polish worked great becuase the paint was nitro...which works great with car polish. I just kind of made up "my routine" and it worked with limited funds. Hope this helps you out some!
  13. Thanks Nelson, I actually used a rubbing compound as the last stage of sanding on my fretless Squier when I had to re-level the board... A different one than this.

    I decided that I will attempt to stain it first. I do understand the grain isn't so detailed and nice, but that's okay. As long as it gets the look I'm going for. If it sucks, then I waste some time and definitely some money, but I can just throw some paint on top... After some sanding of course.

    Thanks for those tips though. If I do paint it, I will refer to this.

    Partially, for the stain I'm choosing cherrywood because I love the look of it, but it also can be pretty dark. I'm thinking that may help the not-so-prominent grain lines stick out a bit more?
  14. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    TruOil works great and you can add tint to it. It's more work than tung oil but well worth it IMO since it really is a thin protective finish and not just an oil or oil/wax finish.
  15. Can it work over a stain though? Probably. Should the stain be oil or water based?
  16. NelsonNelson


    Sep 25, 2011
    The grain filler is still needed once you strip down to bare wood...for a clear coat. It "blends" and you can't see it at all on the wood. Or else you're gonna have a super thick clear coat that won't lay level. That is if you're spraying nitro/standard clear coat for a guitar....

    I'm not familiar with all the other oil methods. But if you want the wood pores to not show and the finish to look glassy, wood grain filler that matches the wood color is the way to go!
  17. Steveaux

    Steveaux Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2008
    The Wilds of NW Pa.
    A little late to the party, but some might find this helpful.

    Old gunsmith's trick for removing poly finishes.

    Easy-Off Oven Cleaner.

    I've used this method. Put the item in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. Spray a full-coverage coat of Cleaner over the poly-finished surface. Let it sit for a while. The poly will lift and blister. I use a plastic scraper to get the softened poly off the wood. Once the poly is off, wipe it down with alcohol. Sand, apply new finish, done.
  18. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    You are inspiring me to do this to a low end guitar of mine.
    That body looks nice.
  19. Some sanding tips might help. Going from 80 to 200, you won't remove all the scratches left by the 80 grit. You always want to work your way up finer and finer degrees of sandpaper. So from 80 you usually go to 100/120, then to 150/180, then to 200/220. Each step removes the scratches from the previous step. 200/220 should be good for the stain, but make sure you work in steps. I would also suggest starting over and removing any leftover sealer/filler, and beginning from bare wood as others here have suggested.

    Check this out, read it several times: http://www.reranch.com/101.htm

    Then, for specifics on wood dyes, go here: http://www.reranch.com/dyes.htm

    That should cover it. Let us know how it goes, looking good so far.
  20. BEST tip on TB in months!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :hyper:

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