Help Finishing Sealed Saga Bass Body

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Blackjac97, Feb 6, 2017.


  1. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    Hello luthiers in the corner. I figure that somebody here has the knowledge which I seek. I did search the forums here on this topic, but didn't find anything that matched my situation exactly.

    Four or five years ago, my parents got me a Saga jazz bass kit for Christmas. Over the years, I have been using it as a platform for teaching myself different things about building instruments. For instance, I wanted to practice defretting a neck, so I did it to the neck from the kit.

    In the last year, I've gotten a real job, and have been able to afford the stuff I need to finish the kit and make a bass. I know there was a lot of lead up to this, but here's the issue:

    I want to finish the body in a nice chocolatey transparent brown, something like this:

    2333D65E-CCC0-4460-BC81-38CF3D13F144.jpg

    A luthier who I've been going to for a few years told me, after feeling the body, that there was a sealer coat of some sort on the body, and it would have trouble accepting dyes or stains. He said if I wanted a transparent finish I would have to spray.

    I'm now at the point where I want to finish the body. I live in a small-ish apartment, so spraying inside is not an option. I also live in Maine and it's 30ºF on a warm day, so according to everything I've read about spraying aerosol, spraying outside isn't an option right now either. So, I've been looking for other solutions.

    I found out about Minwax Polyshades, and was excited because it seemed like the perfect solution. Tinted brush-on poly. Perfect. Nope! Very frustrating to use. I did a nice even sand up to 220 grit, wiped it thoroughly with a tack cloth, stirred the the contents of the can thoroughly and easily, used a nice brush with white china bristles, never dipped the brush more than 1/2 or 3/4 inches into the can... Even when I felt like I couldn't possibly be putting it on any thinner, it goes on thick, leaves runs and edges all over the place, and tacks up so fast that you can't possibly smooth them out without putting in brush marks. I'm no expert on painting, but I'm not a total novice either, and after two attempts with the stuff, first attempt sanded off after a week, second attempt mineral spirited off immediately, I'm convinced that it's not my best option by a longshot.

    A little out of desperation, I bought some oil-based stain and put in on the spot under the neck plate, just to confirm what I had been told about trying to stain it. It wiped off like nothing after a 10 minute sit.

    What can I do, aside from spraying a tinted poly or nitro, to get a transparent finish on the body? I've done some research on gel stains, which seem like they're able to be used on sealed surfaces, but I don't know.

    If it helps in a diagnosis, when I sand the body, it's not so much saw dust that comes off as it is a white powder. This lines up with what I've read about soap-like substances being a component of sealers.

    I know this post is very long, but I'm trying to be as thorough as possible in giving up clues that could help.

    Is gel stain an option in my situation? Is there another indoor-friendly option for getting a transparent finish? Do I have to drive three hours each way to my parents' house so I can use their garage or wait until April?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Will_White

    Will_White

    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    You could mix some waterbased dye into a waterbased clear. I've done it with RIT liquid fabric dye and Minwax Polycrylic then brush that on, you're probably not going to get a smooth coat right off the brush so I'd do a couple coats of that (or as many as needed to get desired shade) then just pile on clear coats so that you can level sand it and polish it.
     
  3. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    That's a good idea. I hadn't thought about anything like that. Water-based for the tint to avoid moving it when applying an oil-based clear, right?
     
  4. For the most part, you're not going to want to mix oil and water based poly's. stick with one. Now having said that, I use water based poly's for filler coats then I let them sink and shrink for a month or so then prep it and I shoot auto poly over that. Some people have adhesion issue. I haven't so far (knock on wood). You can buy tints for oil based poly and water based poly. Oil based poly tints to amber and most water based poly's are pretty clear. There is a great thread on here about using water based finishes. I would suggest you read that a couple of times. Apply finish in several steps, then wet sand and polish is the process.
     
    Will_White and Blackjac97 like this.
  5. so I would suggest you use a poly and tint it. then apply the poly for several coats until you get the color you desire. Letting each coat dry. level sand that and then apply the poly untinted on top for several more coats. Like 10 or 12 if it's water based. once that has dried for a long time and you can no longer smell the finish up close, wet sand and polish. it sounds pretty simple, but it's not. ;-)
     
    Will_White and Blackjac97 like this.
  6. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Meadow Vista, CA
    And be sure to get all of the sealer off! Another TBer starter a thread recently because he had inconsistent results possibly from missing some if it.
     
    joeypee likes this.
  7. Will_White

    Will_White

    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Yeah as Bob said you don't really want to mix oil and water based finishing products, and for best results I wouldn't mix different brands of water based finishes and would just use the same product for grain fill, colour coat, and clear coat but that might be a little extreme (edit: that's not to say that it won't work in your situation, the existing sealer coat has had more than enough time to gas off). . Definitely give the water based finishes thread a look through lots of good information in there.
    If he does a tinted clear he doesn't have to worry about that really, only with colorants that rely on absorbing into the wood, e.g. dyes, stains, iron acetate solutions, etc.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  8. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    How do I get the sealer off? When I was sanding off the first attempt with the polyshades, I was sanding on the sealer most of the time, as I was trying to sand all spots on the body consistently. Every square inch on the body has been sanded from 80 grit to 220 grit.

    Is there a chemical way to do it that would be faster?
     
  9. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    Is the main benefit of waterbased that it doesn't yellow with age? I already have a half gallon of minwax gloss clear, so I would be tempted to mix batches with that.
     
  10. Will_White

    Will_White

    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    With a tinted clear you don't have to worry about it, but the fastest way to get it off is 60grit on a random orbital sander.
    Yeah water based doesn't yellow usually, with an oil based tint you can use the oil based Minwax.
     
    Blackjac97 likes this.
  11. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    I know there are different types of sealers. Are there some sealers that go deeper into the wood than others? The idea of being able to sand it away is appealing, but I have a (possibly irrational) fear that it would take so much sanding that I would risk disfiguring the body.
     
  12. Will_White

    Will_White

    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Yeah different sealers penetrate differently and there's definitely the risk of re contouring the body, I did that semi intentionally on one body but it ended up much rounder then I was planning.
     
  13. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Meadow Vista, CA
  14. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    I saw that thread, but passed over when I saw that his body accepted the dye.

    General consensus in that thread it seems is that spraying is best. I believe it, but it's still not an option for a few months. Would brushing on a poly that I tint myself be no different than the polyshades?
     
  15. I'm not familiar with polyshades, but brushing on poly is fine. just build up the finish and let it cure before you start sanding and polishing.
     
    Will_White likes this.
  16. Spidey2112

    Spidey2112

    Aug 3, 2016
    OP, I'm in the process of putting the Saga MB-10 kit together... think EBBM Stingray Classic 5. Not sure what wood they used for your kit, but mine is basswood, and from my research have found it is a closed grain wood, which translates to not taking well to transparent finishes, on top of the fact that it is sealed. I chose to go nitro-cellulose primer, paint (Copper Tone Metallic), and lacquer for mine... like you, and most of the rest of us, temps are prohibiting progress, right now. Good luck with your project, though!
     
  17. tr4252

    tr4252

    May 27, 2013
    You can get good results with a (good quality) brush, if you're inclined to go that way. The problem, as you have discovered, is that most finishes dry too fast to level nicely. If the brand you use also offers a retardant or inhibitor, you could experiment with that. It will stay wet longer, and level itself, depending on how much additive you use. Lacking a dedicated product of this sort, thinner might work well for you. The trick is to put it on thin, then level it a bit with your brush if need be. The longer the drying time, the more the ridges from your brush will flatten out. A varnish brush with fine bristles always worked best for me. KEEP YOUR BRUSHES CLEAN!

    On bare wood, a clear coat or 2 first will give you a more even finish. The rate a colored finish absorbs into bare wood varies with the densities and grain orientation, and tinted finishes on bare wood can end up pretty blotchy looking.

    I've found that a lot of thin coats is better than a few thick ones. Sand just enough to knock down the rough spots and provide a dull surface for the next coat to bond to. Keep at it until it looks good to you, wait a few weeks, and be prepared to add a few more, as some finishes keep drying and shrinking for quite a while.

    This method is good with tinted varnishes, as you're building up the finish slowly giving yourself more control of the overall evenness of the shade.

    Edit: One more thing; you don't have to finish the whole body with each coat. Try doing just the front and sides, lay it flat not suspended, then when that's dry do the back. Finishes run when they have a vertical surface to drip down from.

    After mastering the technique, all you have to worry about is dust, bugs, fumes, neighbors complaining about all the sanding noise at 03:30, etc.

    I know how frustrating it is to ruin a finish too; good luck!

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
    Blackjac97 likes this.
  18. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    LA
    image.jpeg
    Steer Skull
    Minwax Ebony Stain on top of whatever the skull was sealed with

    Applied with a disposable foam brush and a synthetic sable brush for the parts I missed, then very very lightly sprayed later with kumar varnish by krylon
     
    Axstar and Blackjac97 like this.
  19. Blackjac97

    Blackjac97 Supporting Member

    May 27, 2012
    Maine
    Thanks! In my first attempt, I tried to finish the whole body in one go. Do you have to worry about making the line disappear if you don't? It does sound like it would be much easier to do one side at a time. how do you make it look "whole" if you do it this way?
     
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    May 15, 2022

Share This Page