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Finish on F Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by brianh, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. brianh


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    To any F Bass owners (or any bass with this type of finish)-

    While I love my amberburst birdeyemaybe BN5, the finish on the bass really isnt holding up well. Any place where I frequently touch (pickups, areas where I hit when slapping, thumb rests) are loosing the finish. Additionally, there seems to be some blemished developing (not bad ones) around the bass in random spots on the finish.

    Don't be misled, the bass is still gorgeous, but the amount that it is wearing down is alarming. I want my bass to stay beautiful!

    Any similar experiences/advice?

  2. Same.

    I am brutal on mine though. And she's been through some tough weather changes on the road.

    I don't really the color (purplish) so a little wear is okay for me.
  3. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    Send it to George to refinish... about $700 including shipping both ways.
  4. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    I've seen a few F basses with wear like you describe (mine was ok, but it was fretless and I don't play very hard). Agreed with AJ...George is VERY responsive IMO and will take care of your baby.

  5. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    George uses a nitrocellulose finish on his basses. This is the same type of finish that was traditionally used on instruments from the '50s and '60s. One of the reasons why people like this type of finish is due to it's flaws....eventually it will wear and break down over time (this process usually takes decades). But, in the short term, it will show wear if you repeatedly abuse/rub a certain spot. The fact that nitro separates a bit and allows the instrument to "breathe" is also what people like about the finish...whether you belive that wood needs to "breathe" or not is a different issue.

    More modern finished do not break down, discolor, shrink, flake, and wear like nitro does, but they also do not react on the body and neck the same way either. The finish on the back of the neck will not wear smooth over time like you often find with early '60s jazz basses, for instance. Modern finishes are more stable, resistant to breaking down, resistant to temperature changes, etc. However, some people also feel that they inhibit the woods ability to resonate. This is also open for debate.

    As with most things in life, you'll find people who swear by nitro, those who swear by modern finishes, and those (probably the vast majority) who are indifferent. This is NOT a case of one finish being bad, or one being better over another...they're just different. It is also not a defect with F Basses, nor is it a problem with George's build philosophy. What you're experiencing is to be expected from normal use over an extended periof of time or rough use in the short term. The good thing, in your case, is that unlike nitro finishes, Nitro is probably the easiest finish to touch up and repair. Hope that helps.
  6. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    theoretically, would an F bass sitting in the case for 400 years have some finish breakdown?
  7. I really like Fbasses a lot, but the one thing that really bothers me is the finish. I wish it was a harder, more durable finish. Aside from that, there's nothing that I can say bad about his basses.
  8. jordanm


    Feb 24, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    Jay I have heard this discussion of modern and nitro before. While were on the topic, could you please describe the tonal differences between (aged) nitro and oil finishes? I would greatly like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

    Also for you people not liking the nitro, I assume George will use modern finishes on custom orders? Just a thought..
  9. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Well...first, George uses Nitro exclusively. There are a lot of reasons why nitro makes a great finish, and there are many people who still use it (like George) to great effectiveness. Again, I'll point out that it is the easiest finish to "fix". Because one layer tends to "melt" into the next, an experienced finish guy can touch up, manipulate, and work with the nitro finish on a bass "as is". Personally, I think that burst finishes with nitro look GREAT! With modern finishes, they might be a little easier to work with when they're first spayed, but if you get a scratch, a ding, a scuff, etc., you're essentially looking at a refinish if you want to make it completely disappear. Small repairs usually are not as easy, although I don't want to evergeneralize here....there are some guys and some materials that will yeild a great patch job. You just can't "touch up" many modern finishes like you can nitro.

    Personally, I think that a lot of this discussion is only worthwhile just for the sake of the discussion itself. If you don't ever want your bass so show any amount of wear, if you don't ever want it to get chipped, dinged, or bruised, either hang it in a glass case or just be extremely careful. I've been playing my candy apple red Lull exclusively for three + years and it doesn't have a single mark on it, but that's because I'm extremely careful! If I wanted to ENSURE that it would NEVER get a ding, I'd put it in a glass case....but what would be the fun in that?!?! :D ;)

    Jordanm-as for your second question, in theory, an oil finish will sound similar to an aged nitro finish. With a very old nitro finish, the finish supposedly starts to separate from the wood a bit, so the story goes. This is what people refer to as "letting the wood breathe". I've yet to see any real evidence that basses "breathe", or that a thin modern finish inhibits an instrument's resonance and ability to vibrate, but these are the arguments that tend to surround the topic. Oil finishes were/are commonly used to approximate the effect of an old nitro finish that has separated from the body at a microscopic level, allowing the bass to resonate and vibrate more freely. Many people feel that this is one of the key elements that makes 40 year old basses "magic". Again, on a personal level, I think that I would have a hard time trying to prove a causal relationship here, or that this magic even exists. But the issue of vintage vs. modern basses is a WHOLE different can of worms! :p

    As for the tonal differences between oil, nitro, and a host of other finishes, I really don't think that it matters a great deal...it's not a concern of mine, my customers don't care, and the topic comes up at Talkbass very infrequently. In fact, of all of the various elements that can impact the tone of an instrument, the type of finish is usually pretty low on the scale...as long as we're assuming that we're not talking about strange chemicals or an unusually thick finish, etc. Are there people who will swear to you that the differences are monumental? Probably. They might be posting as I'm typing this! :smug: Are there differences? Most certainly. Can the average bassist detect them, or even discern what attributes one has over another? Maybe, maybe not. Are there many other factors that grossly overshadow whatever differences there might be? Probably so. :bassist:
  10. I remember my teal blue F already showing wear in 6 months. The finishes are beautiful, but wear easily. It kind of makes the Fs even more fender like IMHO. I think I like it sometimes.
  11. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I've only owned one F-bass and I experienced the same problem that your stating. Not a very durable finish. The only positive thing I can say about it is that it's fairly easy to touch up. Of course it would be better not to have to worry about having to touching it up.
  12. My opinion on this topic isn't scientific at all and is simply done by me and my ears over a number of years of trying to find differences between finishes, and what I've found is that there's really little difference between the finishes tonally, and I have a pretty discriminating ear when it comes to these tests. I suppose that if you continued to test two basses over the years with different finishes, I suppose then you'd potentially be able to tell a difference, but with my severe GAS problems, I never really get to that point and it's really all about the here and now if that makes sense.
  13. basses55

    basses55 Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 24, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Alleva Coppolo Basses and Guitars, FBass, Olinto Basses, Bergantino Audio Systems
    My 2 cents on this is that different finishes do influence to a degree some sonic characteristics...that... after hearing different finishes on similar basses off and on for 30 years. I've also been able to A/B the same make and model back to back in real time with the same woods etc. In fact..we just did that yesterday! To some it may not be a significant diff to make any sense to talk about it...to me..I cant help but hear it so it does factor into my assessment. So it just depends on the player and/or what your taste is IMO.
    As far as practicality....just another thought....again for me, cosmetic imperfections have always taken a back seat to the tone and musicality of the instrument..so..if the bass sounds better ( and great) to me with nitro taking dings and wear then it gets more dings and wear with pleasure. I'm playing bass and using the bass to make music..which is why I bought my first bass and continue to play music:) I do understand that some people view high end basses with more of a balance towards an asthetic work of art....and thats cool....for me its priority is as a tool.
    So IMO George's choice of finishes does contribute to the mix of what makes up its tone ..and if you like what your hearing on an FBass..thats a good thing (I'll take any wear).Thats also not to imply that other finishes might not sound good on an FBass..just possibly a little different.

  14. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I know that you're right to a degree Mitch, everything certainly contributes to the overall sound. But I sure like the sound of my Roscoe and the finish is hard as nails. It would be nice if George offered his instruments with a diamond coat type finish.
    I guess that I want my cake and want to eat it too!;)
  15. basses55

    basses55 Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 24, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Alleva Coppolo Basses and Guitars, FBass, Olinto Basses, Bergantino Audio Systems
    Joe...like I tried to convey at the end..by no means am I implying that nitro is the best sounding finish for all basses..and what is "best" IMO might make another guy 's eyebrows rise(I've also loved the tone of some basses with harder finishes too)... there IS just so many factors in the mix for sure.

    Just that *IF* someone really loves the tone of Fs- that particular manufacturer's mix or formula- changing the finish might not be worth the reward..or it may ( even be better to some?) depending on your taste. Its just not as simple as getting a harder finish for cosmetic reasons IMO...and its so coincidental that this topic should come up today..just yesterday George and I were doing tests on exactly this subject...as we have been discussing this for a while.
    I have a fretless Roscoe from 3-4 years ago...pretty nice bass I agree.
  16. Dave Hill

    Dave Hill Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Atlanta, GA

    What did you and George determine from your testing? How sensitive to finishes is the F bass tone? I must admit that this a gripe of mine as well. Not too bad though, because I can't pick up anything but my BN5 anymore. A little buffing can do wonders too.
  17. brianh


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    What exactly does "touching up" a finish entail. In other words, how can I repeair the finish on my BN5. I'm definately not paying $700 to send it back to the factory.....
  18. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    real quick before i go off to my gig with my F bass ;) ,
    yes , the finish of F basses will wear sooner than say, Roscoe's finish which is hard as nails. To me, like Mitch, it's all about the tone, so I'll take some wear. I try to poilish my F bass and clean it often and I don't see anything coming off the pickups, etc.. but i have very short fingernails ( ok, i bite 'em, it's bad, i know ) and my finsih is holding up great. I have seen it get dull on some blue F basses rather quick. I amost had an F bass sent to another luthier for a different finish once ( during construction ) but i decided i didn't even want to risk messing with that wonderful tone.
  19. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I use Stewart MacDonald Polishing Compound #4 (swirl remover). It worked great for remove fine scratches from my F-bass finish caused by fingernails. The finish is fairly soft so you can actually do it by hand (soft cloth) and don't even need a buffer.
  20. ptidwell

    ptidwell Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 13, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Owner LoPHAT Cabinets
    I have the same problem on the pickup.
    Through my search nitros is an easy repair, however I am in LA and nitros is illegal here so finisher will touch it. I do have one of the best refinishers in the country (Pat Wilkins) about 5 miles away he will match the pickups with poly. I am considering that because it is not that expensive and I don't believe it will effect the tone.