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already searched "refinish", but still have some specific questions

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Steve 1100, Oct 3, 2010.


  1. Steve 1100

    Steve 1100

    Sep 5, 2007
    Dallas Texas
    Let me preface this with a short introduction. I have been playing DB for 25 years. I have owned and played all types of basses (solid top, vintage Kays, CCB's, etc). I also have quite a bit of experience painting electric basses & guitars, including some pretty nice nitrocellulose lacquer finishes for some well known players, as well as automotive finish, on a fair number of insturments.

    I recently aquired a nice quality imported 3/4 bass, "in the white". I am going to have my luthier do a comprehensive setup on the bass, and I will be doing the finish. I know that I could successfully accomplish a great looking finish using the techniques that I already am familiar with, but I would like to do this bass using the materials and application method that would be appropriate and specific to DB.

    Even more specifically, I would like to accomplish a blonde "Swingmaster" type finish. I am hoping that someone who has done a finish like this can read this, and hopefully post pics, and / or post a link to where this subject may have already been covered.

    So, if you have finished your blonde bass, and are willing to share your knowledge, post up and let me know about it!
     
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Look up James Condino here. He can help.
     
  3. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    To my knowledge, a blonde Kay swingmaster finish is just a bare bones clear nitrocellulose lacquer that has aged to a nice amber hue with time and use. Back in the day, Kays were not known for high quality, so it was probably one of the cheaper stock materials bought in 55 gallon drums. You could use anyone of today's nitro formulas with a touch of color tint to get the honey blonde look. For nitro, McFaddens is the gold standard, but finding it is a bit touchy right now since they had some company restructuring last year. Behlens or Sherwin Williams will work fine too. For the real Swingmaster effect, make sure to put on about 4 times the amount you really need so it will crack and check all over the place and be a pain to match for repairs later !!!

    I get excellent results using straight shellac flakes dissolved in everclear with a touch of walnut oil- much less toxicity and you can hand rub it. Checkout my finishing video over at finewoodworking.com for some ideas:

    http://www.finewoodworking.com/SkillsAndTechniques/SkillsAndTechniquesArticle.aspx?id=30182

    You can see a blonde shellac finish that was French polished in the thread last year on my bass build.

    It sounds like you've got plenty of finishing experience, so get a few test boards and run some color variations, let them cure, stress test them, and pick your favorite. No mater what finish I'm using or what my initial goals are, I always go at it with a very open mind and make adjustments on the fly. Also, make sure you've got a good lighting source, or your colors will wind up slightly off when you take the instrument out in the real world lighting.

    I'm sure the oil varnish folks will chime in soon.

    Ask 10 folks for advice on finishing, and you'll likely get about 14 different ways to accomplish the same task...

    j.
     
  4. Steve 1100

    Steve 1100

    Sep 5, 2007
    Dallas Texas
    James, great video! The amber color that you used in the video looks perfect. I think I might try the french polish shellac as you showed in your video, instead of a sprayed finish.

    Also, thanks for taking the time to answer my question, which in one form or another has already been asked & answered a bunch of times on this forum. And thanks for understanding that I am looking to achieve the COLOR of the Swingmaster, NOT the quality of the clear coat! Sorry I was not more specific in my original post.

    I understand and agree about the Kay & Englehardt finish. I know that I could spray a better looking finish that what is on my 1955 C1, and any clown with a harbor freight spray gun could do as good as what came stock on my 1999 M1. I am looking forward to going the extra mile with the hand applied finish on my current project.

    I would still be interested in seeing pics of anyones blonde DB finishes..
     
  5. powerbass

    powerbass

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I have done shellac finishes using spray equipment. My favorite is to use shellac as a sealer coat then spray nitro on top. You can purchase various shades of shellac from buttonlac which is quite dark brown/unrefined to superblonde. With this combo you get the quick consistency of spraying, the clarity of shellac and the protection of nitro
     
  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    James' bass has a blonde finish.
     
  7. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I regularly spray shellac, the technique is the same. My usual sequence is to handrub / French polish the first coat or two using a thin mix of shellac and everclear ( maybee 1 part shellac flake to 4 or 5 parts everclear) along with a small bit of walnut oil in the mix. The walnut oil acts as a lubricant, but it also adds miles of depth and sheen to the look of the woods. Additionally, it is a natural hardening oil, unlike mineral oils or other such. When you live in a state like North Carolina, high octane alcohol like everclear is available pretty easy. While you can buy other types of alcohol at places like paint suppliers and home depot, they tend to have a fair bit of impurities in them, so I stick with the human grade.

    For a color coat, I thin the above mixture by half again with everclear- basically I just want to add enough for adhesion to the color material and then I topcoat everything. While spraying can work quite well and it adds a fair amount of material in a fast manner, it does not have the nice effect of filling all of the micro pores and irregularites in the surface that handrubbing does. While you can get a nice color sunburst by hand, for the best atomization results, I'll usually handrub the base coat and then switch to a high quality traditiional gun ike the Devilbiss 503. the atomization on one of those is the best I've ever used. I've owned and use about a half dozen very high quality hvlp guns like the sata series and such and never had good results for a nice 'burst with those; I have had excellent results with an hvlp gun retrofitted to traditional, but these days, i just reach for either the devilbiss or my little iwata airbrush- that thing is AMAZING for high quality with shellac.

    Keep us in the loop and post some photos.

    j.
     

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