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Fender Precision Build / Refinish - what should I do

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by UpperBout, Mar 15, 2013.


  1. UpperBout

    UpperBout Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Near Chicago Illinois USA
    Endorsing Artist: DNA (David Nordschow Amplification)
    I just picked up a light-weight early 70's Precision Body

    2013-03-14-11.24.50-1024x768.

    that I plan to marry to an early 70's Precision neck.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see from the photos, there's been a route for a hum-bucking-style pickup. It appears to have patched over with a wood insert, although the outline is clearly visible. The previous owner said he thought it was putty, but I can see the grain in the patch, so I think someone put in a wood blank. Two unfortunate aspects to this: 1) The wood insert might be a bit too low on the surface of the body 2) The wood looks dissimilar to the other wood which I assume would be Alder, and the grain runs perpendicular to the other grain on the body, as best as I can tell.

    The body is positively enveloped what I assume is a hard black poly finish (the last refinish attempt by the previous owner was in the late 80's).

    My game plan here is to re-create a 70-ish Precision. These are both refinished pieces, so I am not super worried about retaining vintage integrity. This will be a player's bass. Although I do want to keep to using colors and features that would have been available in 70-74.

    So here are my questions:
    1. I don't know what kind of wood this is. Any way to tell without seeing the grain? (It weighs 4 lbs, 4 oz.)
    2. What should I do about the rout?
    3. If I choose to strip the finish, chemical or heat?
    4. My favorite type of finish is sunburst. Would it be possible to either put a correct grain block on this bass and have it finished in sunburst -- or --
    5. If it's not possible to do the put a correct grain block on this bass and have it finished in sunburst, is a veneer technically possible?
    6. Plan B is probably an Olympic White finish.
    7. Plan C is to gently sand the rough spots on the top and use it as is (Black) - the finish is so thick I think that would work pretty well.
    8. The neck pocket, control, and pickup cavities are seriously thickly coated with paint. Is there a way to selectively strip these? Should I?

    My plan is to hire professionals if necessary (recommendations?). But if there a way I can be the "dumb labor" for the prep work, I'd like to do it. I can take my time on this, or even send it away if needed. I don't have unlimited funds (obviously) but I'm willing to do this right.

    I've read just about every thread on TB I can find that discuss the pros/cons of this.

    I think my "best case scenario" would be for me to strip (or otherwise prep) the body myself to get it to a point where I can send it to be finished by a pro, then do the remaining assembly myself.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Chortles of derision?
     
  2. pudge

    pudge Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2008
    NY
    I would go with plan "D" get some parts that match to condititon and play as is.The history of the bass is the history of the bass.My guess is the body is alder the early 70's body i have is almast exactly the same weight.I bought it as a defretted basket case around 1980.The finish may come off easily or maybe not.You couldjust rought it up auto body putty the low spot and spray over the existing finish also as an easy way out.

    404778808.
     
  3. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    If you really want to do a burst and the wood looks like crap underneath, then you can always do an ancient trick:

    1. Fill the route as best you can with the same wood.
    2. Route a section of wood the same width of the cavity all the way from one end of the body to the other, about 1/8" deep.
    3. Prepare a piece of wood to fill the route and match the grain as best as possible to the existing wood. The right species is important here. This will cover the patch route.
    4. Plane or sand it flush with the top of the bass.
    5. Rout out the neck pocket and the pickup pockets.
    6. Make roundovers and pocket area match existing contours.
    7. Redrill bridge holes and grounding hole.
    8. Finish and apply burst, etc as per your preferred method.

    This process will give the final appearance of a three piece body with as close grain matching as you can muster. Applying the burst finish will cover the edges where the rout and filler piece would normally be visible. In the end no one would be able to tell it had been done (unless they carefully compared front to back :D )...
     
  4. UpperBout

    UpperBout Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Near Chicago Illinois USA
    Endorsing Artist: DNA (David Nordschow Amplification)
    This is a very intriguing idea. Thanks!
     
  5. UpperBout

    UpperBout Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Near Chicago Illinois USA
    Endorsing Artist: DNA (David Nordschow Amplification)
    I agree with the sentiment of not trying to make this bass "new". But I've already got a black-bodied Fender in another form, and I'd like to somehow get this reincarnated as a sunburst.

    In a certain sense, I don't actually mind the visible patch... History!
     
  6. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Solid color Fenders are always alder. Alder generally looks like alder. The sunburst basses were also alder. Under the black you will find an impervious clear finish called Fullerplast. You will never remove that from the wood, unless you sand it off. I wouldn't bother, since the burst were applied right over that.

    Thats how my '74 P bass was anyway. Some of the older Fenders had the wood stained yellow first, like my '59 Jazzmaster.

    But there no reason you can 'burst that and have it look good.

    My favorite P basses were always the 3 tone sunburst, tortoise pickguard and rosewood neck. :)
     
  7. UpperBout

    UpperBout Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Near Chicago Illinois USA
    Endorsing Artist: DNA (David Nordschow Amplification)
    We're not sure it whether it was sunburst or solid as it left the factory. The previous owner thought this might have been white at one point. No-one really knows what once was under there. There is some white near the bridge grouding hole, but I take that to be primer/filler because it looks like dried toothpaste - not paint. The current black finish is so thick and there are no scars to reveal anything. I am going to pull off the strap buttons tomorrow and see if I can see what the layers are/were.

    Yup. I think in the back of my mind, that's exactly what I'm going for.
     
  8. UpperBout

    UpperBout Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Near Chicago Illinois USA
    Endorsing Artist: DNA (David Nordschow Amplification)
    Looks like "Plan D" it is!

    I've decided that I'm about $200 and 4 weeks away from a playable bass if I go with the existing finish.

    Refinishing puts it at about $600 (stripping, refinishing, and parts) and 12 weeks.

    So now I have an actual practical question about this finish.

    I'd like to polish it a bit and perhaps treat it with some kind of over-coat, like maybe carnuba wax (?). The paint itself is most likely Krylon or some rattle-can variant.

    What would be the best treatment for some mildly abrasive smoothing? I've been thinking some polishing compound and some of these buffers:
    [​IMG]

    What about after the finish is smoothed? What's the best way to apply a top - coat? I've had a few people recommend some variant of Meguiars wax (can't locate the specifics at the moment).
     
  9. UpperBout

    UpperBout Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Near Chicago Illinois USA
    Endorsing Artist: DNA (David Nordschow Amplification)
    Looks like "Plan D" it is!

    I've decided that I'm about $200 and 4 weeks away from a playable bass if I go with the existing finish.

    Refinishing puts it at about $600 (stripping, refinishing, and parts) and 12 weeks.

    So now I have an actual practical question about this finish:

    I'd like to polish it a bit and perhaps treat it with some kind of over-coat, like maybe carnuba wax (?). The paint itself is most likely Krylon or some rattle-can variant.

    What would be the best treatment for some mildly abrasive smoothing? I've been thinking some polishing compound and some of these buffers:
    [​IMG]
    I am thinking either sanding or scotch-brite would be too abrasive, and the current paint actually looks OK, better than in the photos after I cleaned it and carefully scraped off some gunk with a razor blade.

    What about after the finish is smoothed? What's the best way to apply a top - coat? I've had a few people recommend some variant of Meguiars wax (can't locate the specifics at the moment).
     

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