delaquering the body of bass guitar

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Teppei Kamei, Jul 30, 2003.

  1. Teppei Kamei

    Teppei Kamei

    Jul 30, 2003
    Hi there. I have a Fender Mexican Jazz Bass and am thinking of delacquering the body strictly for looks.

    I have 2 questions:
    1) How, if at all, will this affect the sound of the bass?
    2) What is the best way to delaquer a bass?

    Any advice would be very welcome. Cheers. - Teppei
  2. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    <i>Hi there. I have a Fender Mexican Jazz Bass and am thinking of delacquering the body strictly for looks. </i>

    Kiss your resale value goodbye.

    <i>I have 2 questions:
    1) How, if at all, will this affect the sound of the bass? </i>

    For me, it opened the sound up pretty well. Then I put paint on it (yes, enamel - long story...) and lost some of the bite. You shouldn't leave the body entirely unfinished. Bad things happen to unfinished wood over time.

    <i>2) What is the best way to delaquer a bass?

    Most paint strippers won't have any problems with lacquer. Just check the label, it'll tell you. Personally, I like spray-on strippers, but you pay a premium, and you must wear eye, skin and breathing protection when you use them. Absolutely follow the label instructions. Don't take shortcuts. And realize you may never get all the color off the wood using just a stripper (pretty close, though, in my experience, depending on color.) To get it all off, you may have to sand down pretty far to uncolored wood, changing the shape of the instrument somewhat.
  3. hibeam


    Oct 16, 2002
    I just spent probably 3 hours in total to get the paint off of the back of a Mexican Fender using 60 grit sandpaper and a crumby palm sander. Originally, I had tried stripper to find that it had no effect. What brand do you use that is effective at tacking off the numerous layers of clearcoat and laquer that Fender uses?
  4. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    Hmm. I used Homer Formby's and it did a fine job on lacquer. It was a multi-part kit, and I neglected to use the second part (the step that cleans the stripper off the wood.) Don't neglect that step. The stripper-cleaner dries harder and more permanently than any actual finish I've dealt with.

    Are you sure that Mexi J is lacquered and not polyurethaned? Poly can be a tough to remove. There are strippers readily available that are formulated to remove poly, and they do an ok job. Heavy Duty Kleen Strip worked fine on poly for me, with plastic wrap and an extended wait period, though a lot of people will recommend an aircraft stripper. You can usually get those at auto supply stores.
  5. hibeam


    Oct 16, 2002
    I thought all solid color Fenders were finished in nitrocellulose lacquer?

    Anyway, I've taken all the paint off of the front and back, and will probably start working on the sides tomarrow. I might run down to Home Depot to see if they have any heavy duty strippers.

    The alder beaneath ain't too bad, though the tummy contour on the back and the slope on the front are a drastically different color than the rest of the body, so I'm thinking I'll dye it to get it as uniform as possible.

    thanks mslatter.
  6. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    Had to go to Mr Gearhead for the definitive answer (I believe this applies to new basses only...)

    "Q. "What kind of finish do you use on your basses?"
    A. Our U.S. made American Vintage series basses (excluding the '75 Jazz Bass which has a polyurethane finish), are finished with nitrocellulose lacquer. Our other American, Korean and Chinese made basses are finished with polyurethane. Our Mexican and Japanese-made instrument bodies are finished with polyester while the necks are finished with polyurethane. The Custom Shop Relic, Closet Classic, and N. O. S. series basses use nitrocellulose lacquer finishes. Most other Custom Shop models use polyurethane, however, on a "one-off" order they may accommodate most finishing material requests. (Specifications are subject to change without notice). "
  7. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    Hmm. Just read what I cut and pasted... If your body's finished with polyester, then I don't believe you'll be able to strip it chemically very well. Sanding is probably your best option there. Be careful not to sand too deep, or you could really mess up the shape of the body (don't ask me how I know that....)

    If you're going to have to sand, can I recommend some good sandpaper, then? It's the 3M Sandblaster consumer brand. Very good cutting, with the least amount of clogging I've ever experienced. Very good stuff. Once you've tried it, you'll never go back.
  8. RobbieK


    Jun 14, 2003
    Many people complain about the difficulties of chemically stripping Fender poly. The modern two-packs can have a very high chemical resistance! I strongly don't recomend sanding. I've heard of some guys using heat guns to blister the finish off, but I've never tried, myself...
  9. hoytbasses


    Mar 30, 2003
    Cape Cod
    I build stringed instruments.......

    every Mexi bass you find will be hi tech finish and not lacquer. sanding is the best way to strip it but please make sure to wear a mask: you can use a belt sander with 60 grit to JUST break through the finish, then immediately switch to 80 grit to remove the paint from the body: once it's off , sand with 100, then 150 , then 220 grits. If you take it down to bare wood with 60, you'll have nasty sanding scars to get out.. sometimes a bigger pain to do!

    here's a couple proviso's:

    1. you have to keep the machines moving or you'll end up with a dip in the wood:

    2. the wood underneath a painted finish is probably not very aesthetically pleasing. It might be basswood, poplar, or alder(all great SOUNDING woods, but boring aesthetically) and will need some sort of stain to give it any character.

    3. In our guitar building class we have used aniline dyes to get really great colors on poplar and basswood basses. they come in any color and can be bought from stewart macdonald. also, if there is a leather shop near you, you may be able to purchase a little leather dye, which works great to stain your bass.

    4. depending on what type of clear coat you use, you may want to wet-sand the body: once you've sanded to 220, wet down the entire body and when dry, sand again with 220 and maybe 320. this will keep the grain from coming up when you apply the finish, especially if you use a water based polyurethane or lacquer

    5. you won't be able to sell this beast once you refinish it, so be sure you really want to do it before you do

    have fun

    Karl Hoyt
  10. RobbieK


    Jun 14, 2003
    Another option is to just sand through the colour coats. Often you'll find a clear sealer under there. If you can leave this layer relatively intact it will save you a lot of time and hassel. Then you could put gloss coats over this sealer. You can even try tinting the first 1 or 2 top coats, or doing a burst or something. Finish with clear. Most finishes should be compatible with the sealer coat, but they won't bite chemically - you'll have to stop at 220 or 320 grit to leave a good key for the top coats.