1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
     
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Durable finish for poplar

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BassmanNate, Jun 21, 2016.


Tags:
  1. BassmanNate

    BassmanNate

    Apr 10, 2006
    So, I've been wanting to build a bass for at least 10 years. I've had so many false starts that I finally just decided that I need to do something. So, I'm looking at the cheap kits over at Guitar Fetish and just doing a finish and assemble for my first project.

    My question is what's a good, durable finish to put on poplar since it's a fairly soft wood? I'm wanting to do an opaque blue with a clear coat over it. It seems that polyurethane is a pretty hard finish and would protect the soft poplar. I was looking at doing a rattle can finish but can't seem to find colored polyurethane.

    I also I have access to a HVLP spray system since my father-in-law does aircraft maintenance on the side and uses one to paint aircraft from time to time. Would it be worth the trouble of buying a base and mixing color in or should I try to keep it as simple as possible for my first project?

    For the neck, I want to try to keep it a flat/satin finish. I've never liked the feel of a glossy neck. Is it best just to use something like satin polyurethane for that or is that more a sanding technique?
     
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    An automotive single stage urethane or base coat clear coat will be about the most protective and durable finish you could use. The HVLP system should spray it fine, but it can get a bit pricey. I have used poplar plenty of times, it isn't excessively soft so you don't have that much to worry about.
     
  3. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Suggestion - trying staining a spare piece of the poplar and see how you like it. I make vintage baseball bats, and poplar is used for some larger bats. I find that poplar stains really nicely (covers up that green tinge), and actually looks a lot like maple. If you like that, you can go with the rattle can poly.
     
  4. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Like Hopkins, I have used poplar in a couple of builds. Certainly, it is not pine soft, I'm guessing it is actually harder than mahogany. Also like Hopkins, after research, experiment and having some instruments hold up very well, it is hard to beat automotive finishes. I do, however think that Hopkins and I are in the minority of people who use these products, for many reasons. I would make a practice poplar board, buildog suggested trying some stains. Bottom line, as long as you get the results you want and you have a durable finish . . .your approach or actual products used are less important.

    Again, get some extra board feet and mess with it. This also affords you the opportunity to practice routing or shaping without risking your precious instrument! Just a suggestion.

    Brent
     
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Poplar is also cheap.
     
  6. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Nice and cheap. Tools well, stinks though and is a bit heavy compared to some of the stuff I am using. I love working with my growing sassafras stash!

    Poplar was my choice for my first body build. I bought enough 6/4 to make a body and I paid $15.75 locally.

    I think you will like it.
     
  7. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I have always found poplar to be pretty light weight.
     
  8. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Hopkins, poplar is light compared to many other woods. I am going to try, although I do not know it will be ideal, sassafras which is much lighter than even poplar. It is all relative and poplar is a great choice where weight is concerned. I should have clarified much better than I did. There are MANY reason to choose poplar and I have!
     
  9. BassmanNate

    BassmanNate

    Apr 10, 2006
    Thanks for the replies! Just to clarify, I'm not looking to build my first from scratch. I've had too many false starts trying to do that to try to make that my first build. I'm looking at the poplar p-bass kit over at guitarfetish.com Solid Poplar Vintage Cut P-Bass Kit Rosewood or Maple Fingerboard

    If I get to a second build, I will likely design and cut the body myself and mate it to a pre-built neck. Just working my way up in complexity.

    Hopkins, when you say that spraying the automotive urethane could get pricey, are you referring to the system or the finish itself? As I said, my father-in-law owns a HVLP system. I agree that for 1 instrument, the quantity I would have to buy the finish in for that might be excessive. Not sure where to look for it so I can't price it out directly.

    What are the spray paints that you get at automotive stores? I thought those were acrylic but are they actually something else?

    earlysecond, what does sassafras smell like when you're working with it? Used to love me some sassafras tea but I live in an area now that doesn't have it growing like grass.
     
  10. praisegig

    praisegig Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Stephenville, TX
    I've purchased base coat colors from my local auto paint store in pint size, endless color choices. Most spray bombs at auto stores are acrylic lacquer, like Duplicolor Perfect Match. Even though I have spray equipment, in most cases for I body, I will buy a 2K spray bomb like SprayMax or Eastwood's 2K clears. Enough for a good film thickness for wet sanding and polishing. JMHE
     
    Rano Bass likes this.
  11. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Sassafrass smells awesome! When planing the whole shop smells like rootbeer! I
     
  12. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Halethorpe, MD
    For the neck I just finished, I used Varathane brand matte polyurethane. I used an old t-shirt and wiped it on. Three thin coats, then applied the head stock decal and a couple days later started wiping on again. I applied a total of six coats. I hit it w/800 grit sandpaper and then a green scruffie on the back of the neck. A very nice finish.
     
    Will_White likes this.
  13. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Sounds like a good option for those who don't want to or cannot spray.

    IMO it is usually best, especially on the parts of the guitar which are touched like necks and forearm/belly contacts, to make a desired satin finish by wetsanding. It is MUCH less likely less quickly to gloss up. At my friends shop, I recently saw a black satin finish production guitar which had glossed up in many spots on the body.

    I am currently spraying ProFinisher. I really like how it sprays, especially compared to Varathane BUT I just cannot stand the 1 mil per wet coat build I will approximate these products at. It I they were more viscous and I could get in the 2.5 mil per build range it would be much more satisfactory!

    As always, tons of product options, tons of approaches . . .whatever works for you, makes stunning results and lasts, that is the product and process to use!
     
  14. BassmanNate

    BassmanNate

    Apr 10, 2006
    So you would just finish with a normal urethane and wet sand with something coarser than you would normally finish your sanding with?
     
  15. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Yes, simply level sand with 1000 (800 or even more course if you are brave (I use dry 600 to start with)) then quit finish sanding at 1500 and take a look. If it is too flat you can go to 2000 and by then it is starting to get some shine. Others may use steel wool or different abrasives.

    I have a feeling that my "avoid the satin unless you are a pro" mantra is not sitting well with some folks. At that point I highly encourage you to get some wood scraps and try it both ways! It is hard to describe. I HAVE tested and found that I get the most uniform, desirable satin finishes by the method I just described. If I am painting a car in my home booth. . . .no, usually that is a clean enough environment to get a decent satin job with a flattening agent (which is $40 a pint and dries out very quickly)

    Hope that helps.

    Just try it on a test piece, I think then, you will better understand.
     
  16. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I'll back up what earlysecond is saying about satin finishes. I don't do a lot of satin finishes, although I may be doing more on some upcoming models. My method is to spray on water-base gloss polyurethane, level sand with 1000 grit paper wet, and scrub with #0000 steel wool. It gives a nice satin sheen that can be adjusted to make it even. It wears well over time, and can be easily repaired in spots.

    Several times I've tried the pre-mix satin finishes, and have given up each time. Way too difficult to get the sheen even all over with no mistakes. And no way to repair spots that get scratched or shiny.
     
  17. earlysecond

    earlysecond

    Jan 26, 2016
    Bruce, I don't own a satin guitar, probably will at some point. I did want to ask, of someone who has one or has to stand behind once once it i delivered to a customer. . . .do you find that the chemically crated (flattening agent) satin paint eventually glosses up where there is a lot of contact and skin oils? To me, since we know it cannot be easily repaired, this would be a major reason to mechanically flatten vs. chemical flatten.

    I have published my bias in another post. Since I come from car painting, I have a certain disdain for satin finishes. Not from an appearance point of view, I love how satined metallics, especially silver look, they are hard to get right and even harder to maintain. One exposure to avian feces and it is over. IMO- at least in the car world, satin is for garage kept cars which nobody will ever touch. The satin craze is OLD! It was born when people building hot rods out of whatever parts they could get cheap could not afford to put a decent finish on a car, they used primer. That and old NASCAR boys who ran shine would rattle can a car in primer to change the color ever other day to fool the revenuers. Either way it was born out of the inability to afford or a deliberate effort to break the law.

    I have said it before and you can feel free to flame me and it might just change . . .I know that satins, especially natural satins are all the rage. . . .to me it just looks like one could not afford or achieve a beautiful deep gloss. I will do one eventually just to test and show that I can. I doubt that I will like it, but who knows!
     
  18. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Automotive paints are not inexpensive. You are looking at about $35 a pint for base coat, and about $50 a quart for clear.
     
  19. BassmanNate

    BassmanNate

    Apr 10, 2006
    Ah, thanks for that. Any other options that would be reasonably inexpensive to spray? I know some people use just polyurethane from the hardware store. Is there any way to add color to some of that stuff? Also, I got a coupon in the mail today for this thing: 20 fl. oz. HVLP Gravity Feed Air Spray Gun Seems like a fun project to work on. I have an air compressor with a regulator on it. Might be a cheap way to learn to spray if I can use some kind of finish that doesn't cost too much.
     
  20. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    What size is your compressor? HVLP consumes a lot of air. I personally think you would be better off using the HVLP spray system.
     

Share This Page