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Epiphone Toby refinish?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Kaoru, Apr 29, 2015.

  1. Kaoru


    Apr 29, 2015
    Hi, everyone.

    I've been thinking of picking up an Epiphone Toby Standard IV as my first bass. The problem I'm having is that only 2 stores carry it in my country - in one it's totally out of stock and customer service told me they don't even know whether they'll order them anymore. The other one only has the ebony finish version, and anything else would need to be paid for in advance and I'd have to wait 3+ months to get it.

    The finish may not be the most important part of an instrument, but I just hate how the ebony version looks. Just flat black, too glossy, and it totally drowns out the nice black hardware. But I'm sort of forced to get it if I want to start playing anytime soon...

    So my question is, if I get one, could I refinish the body to look more like the walnut satin version? If so, what kind of oil/varnish/whatever would I go for? I have some experience with taking guitars apart, assembling them and sanding down finishes, so that's not a problem, I'm just really unsure how to get that nice walnut satin look and make it last.

    Any advice from someone with more experience?

    Attached Files:

  2. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    In my opinion, your first bass shouldn't immediately become a project bass. That's a pretty straightforward 4 string bass. the shape is cool, but I'm sure you could find something else which will suit your needs and also have a finish that you like.
  3. Kaoru


    Apr 29, 2015
    Normally I'd agree, but like I said, I do have some experience. Some time ago a friend gave me his old project bass. The body was very roughly shaped so I did a ton of sanding on that, had to wire up all the electronics(which later turned out to be busted - chipped circuit board), and I did one layer of spray coating. In the end I gave up on that one because the cost of replacing the electronics wasn't worth it for me. So I'd be pretty comfortable doing it if it's just sanding down the finish and re-doing it, especially if I can do it with something that can be rubbed in(like an oil) instead of spray-painted which is a bit more complicated.

    The selection of basses in my area and budget range is just horrible, as you can see by the fact that only 2 stores carry this model, only one has them in stock, and that one only has them in one finish. I really love how this bass sounds and looks, but the glossy black finish is just killing me. It's kinda like a friend of mine once commented about a girl: "I've never found someone so physically attractive and mentally repulsive at the same time. It's like my brain and dick are playing a game of chess" :D
  4. What about getting a used bass? The thing is that you never know what you are gonna get under the paint on budget basses...
  5. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Well I wasn't really thinking about whether or not you can do a good job with a refinish. In my opinion, it's irrelevant.

    This is your first bass. Its best to get something you can concentrate on playing. Figure out if you even like playing bass. If your only bass is unusable because you are constantly working on it----that's counter productive. You'll also have a much harder time selling it, if you decide you don't like it, specifically. Or if you decide you don't like playing bass.

    Play it black, order a different color, or pick something else. There's lots to try. And if you stick with it, you'll soon find yourself wanting different gear, anyway.
  6. Kaoru


    Apr 29, 2015
    I get your point, but most of what you mentioned is moot to me.

    I know I like playing bass because I've wanted to do it for a long time. The same friend that gave me the project bass lent me his Warwick for a while which I greatly enjoyed, and I'm playing the project bass now until I buy one. It's just more difficult because it's de-fretted, and I have to play it acoustic because the electronics are dead(and I have no amp anyway). It's also pretty heavy for me.

    In any case, even if I decided to quit for some reason down the road, I still wouldn't sell my bass, I'd keep it in case I wanted to pick it up again and because I'd obviously get way less cash than I invested. As for wanting new gear, that's inevitable, but it's probably going to be at least a year or two before I get to that point and/or have to cash to actually do it.

    What I do agree with is that working on it would delay actually playing it, but I wouldn't be constantly working on it - refinish the body and that's it, I'm perfectly satisfied with everything else. Refinishing would probably take a few days - still way better than waiting the 3+ months to order the one with the finish I want.

    Just assume that I'm dead set on this model and have no other option than getting the black one. Given that, could I refinish it to look like the walnut satin one, and if so what would I use to do it?
  7. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Chances are good that the walnut version has a tinted clear coat rather than a stained and clear-coated body. Unless you have experience with that and access to proper spray equipment, chances are not good that you would be able to recreate the factory walnut finish.
  8. Kaoru


    Apr 29, 2015
    I don't necessarily want to have it look exactly like the factory finish, just something similar. Something showing the grain and with a reddish/brown hue to it. Still no go without spraying?
  9. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    A couple of things to consider: Epiphone lists the body wood as Radiata which is a variety of Pine. They list the same wood on the Deluxe version which has the walnut finish. Often, the manufacturers use bodies that didn't turn out so pretty or maybe had some tear-out etc for the lower-end models with solid color finishes.

    So if you do endeavor to strip it down and refinish, there may be a surprise or two lurking under the paint. I imagine that the finish is Polyurethane, so rather than building lots of muscles from sanding, I'd use a heat-gun to take it off. I'm re-doing my re-do of my first bass and found that the heat-gun made quick work of the poly without risking accidental reshaping of the wood. For the new finish, I can actually recommend a rattle-can toner and lacquer like Behlen. I'm using that on my old plywood SG and am pretty pleased with the results so far.

    So if you really want to do it, that's my $0.02.
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    To add to this, there is a very good chance that the black finished body was finished a solid color for a reason. You may find some very undesirable looking wood under that finish.

    I would not advise going through with this project. If you can pay the deposit and order the one you like you will come out ahead. Waiting a few weeks or even months is better than messing up a brand new bass by trying to make it what you want.
  11. Kaoru


    Apr 29, 2015
    Yeah, the idea of taking off the finish and finding a mess underneath is very unappealing. I'll just have to settle for the black finish for now, since waiting a few months to start playing sounds unbearable. Having a fully functional instrument is more important at the moment.

    When I get some extra cash I'll probably experiment with the old project bass I already have and try to give that the finish I want, along with replacing the electronics and re-fretting it if it works out. If I screw up there or don't get the finish I want it won't really matter, since it's an old piece of junk as it stands. Nothing to lose.

    Thanks to everyone who chipped in with advice :)
  12. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Probably the best choice. It's one thing to strip an old instrument that probably can't get any worse, quite another to take that on with a new guitar that could get worse. Also, if what you're working on is your only instrument, you'd be inclined to rush, which from my experience is a bad idea with finishing.

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