How to make a sunbusrt finish?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by peaveybassamp88, Jun 7, 2003.

  1. I bought a '65 Teisco for $100 and I was planning on re-staining it. The stain/cheap paint stuff on the neck is in bad shape, and the body has dozens of knicks and scratches in it, but I like the sunburst finish (I think it's actually called tobacco sunburst). It's a gold color in the middle, then fades out to a brownish-red then to a black. If i had a picture right now it would probably help more. But my question is: would it be hard for me to replicate the original finish myself? What would I have to do to get started? How would I actually make it fade?

    Also, I was talking to this guy working on becoming a luthier, and he said that for a sealant/varnish on the bass that I couldn't use polyurethane. He tried it once on a bolt-on and the neck got permanently stuck after he put it back on. What would be a good sealant instead of that?
  2. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder

    Whether or not you can refinish it depends on your abilities and patience. Yes, you can redo a sunburst finish, but I would first, on an instrument of this vintage, ask why? Sometimes older instruments are worth more if left in their original condition, and refinishing them can really knock down their value.

    Basically, you will need to strip the body down, then block sand it, apply a sanding sealer, then probably a vintage yellow finish, then a few coats of lacquer, then wet block sand it down, then the first layer of a redish brown, then more lacquer, then wet block sand that down, then the final very dark brown or black final burst along the edge, then more coats of lacquer and block sanding down to 1500 or 2000 grit, then polishing and swirl removal. You want to get several coats of clear lacquer between each of the "layers" of the sunburst finish, so that if you screw one layer up, you can sand it off and start just that layer over without having to take off everything.

    You could use either polyurethane or lacquer, however, again on a vintage instrument you will really want to go with a nitrocellulose lacquer, as that is what was on it originally. I suspect if someone else had a problem with a neck sticking in a bolt on body after refinishing they didn't let the new finish completely cure first, and assembled the two while it was still soft. The finish can feel VERY dry and still be soft.

    As a starter, read through the finishing basics 101 on the guitar reranch site ( Reranch also sells vintage colors and sunburts colors in aerosol cans. The rest is up to you and your abilities, but again, really consider why you want to refinish the instrument.

  3. Thanks Bass Kahuna for posting! I think I'll wait and see for now if it will actually be worth anything (money-wise), and I'll check around with more people. I understood your point of not doing anything to it because it might bring down the value....if I were to sell it. Even if it was in perfect condition now, I don't think it would get more than $400, and it is FAR from perfect now. When I say dings and knicks in the finish,I mean dings and knicks! :meh: In the condition it is in now, I would probably get only $100, which is what I paid for it anyways. During a string change/checkup today the nut broke on the E-string side, which is a pain to fix and value-depriving event. I think I'll just re-do it...then have someone offer me $10,000 for an original Teisco. damn! Thanks again for your help!