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Late 70s / Early 80s Fender Paint Crazing

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Chebass88, Sep 15, 2008.

  1. Hey All,

    I hope this finds you well. I have a question about the finishes on late 70s / early 80s Fender guitars & basses. I own a 1978 Precision (black), and recently played it on a gig this past weekend.

    It was fairly hot (~85°F), with approximately 100% humidity. The area where the bass was resting against my stomach (back of bass, upper horn area) turned into a gray color, and the paint / finish was REALLY soft. Of course, my shirt was almost completely soaked in sweat due to the playing conditions. I've noticed this before as well, whenever there is the combination of warmth and moisture (ok, ok, ok, insert inappropriate joke here). In trying to find out more about the paint, I've discovered that it is REALLY soft - a fingernail goes right through it. If I were to wipe it with a cloth, it woudl also become scratched. I'm not worried about damage to the paint, as I will not resell this bass (a gift from my father for HS graduation). The guitarist in my band (1983 Stratocaster, also black) has the same issues with his guitar.

    I think it is only the topcoat or the top finish, not the actual black paint itself. I had a paint chip on the back which I smoothed over with some steel wool - the black paint that was exposed remains black as can be, even in the middle of the grayness.

    This does not happen with my 2005 G&L L2500 (also a black finished back) - YES - an apples / oranges comparison, but valid to a point (see question # 4 below).

    Here are my questions:
    1. Is this normal for late 70s / early 80s Fenders?
    2. Is this unique only to BLACK finishes from that time?
    3. Is there any way to prevent this from happening? I imagine a refinish would make this happen - not sure if I want to take that plunge. Other way - never play this bass in a warm / sweat-inducing environment (not really an option)
    4. Given that a "new" finish does not absorb moisture like this, and a 30 year old one does, is this merely related to the age of the coating, or is there something inherrent to the finish used by Fender at that time?
    5. Does anyone else notice this (on any bass, but late 70s / early 80s Fenders in particular)?
    6. When I look at the bass now (2 days later), it looks fine, as the moisture has likely evaporated from the surface. What are the long-term effects of having the overcoat undergoing thermal and moisture cycling?

    Thank you VERY much for your time and responses in advance. They are greatly appreciated.


    Chebass88 (Ian)

    P.S. I don't have a picture of the crazing (no camera at the gig), but here is a picture of the bass while it was lounging on my sofa:
  2. P.P.S. - For all the Fender purists out there - I have a set of Lindy Fralins that will be installed in this within a couple of weeks. I'm also currently sporting the Labella 49-109 flatwounds. imp
  3. allotabass

    allotabass Guest

  4. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I have a black '82 Jazz and it gets drenched in sweat quite often, but I've never noticed any of what you describe.
  5. Bone


    Oct 28, 2006
    This is more a characteristic of acrylic lacquer(this can also happen with nitro but I see it more with acrylic). Your bass should be finished in Polyurethane which is a finish that has a hardner added to the paint. If your bass has not been refinished it could be because the paint was undercatalized when the painter was mixing the color. In 30 years of doing finish work I've had a few paint failures from getting in a hurry and forgetting the hardener of over reduceing my paint. It's rare but it happens.
  6. Hey all,

    Thanks for the advice!

  7. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    This is EXACTLY what has happened to my black 78 P-Bass and it is driving me nuts. It has this foggy, hazy look to it that will not go away and I think I've tried about every polish on the market. It's to the point now where I never even wipe it down cause it winds up looking worse when I'm done than it did before.

    I have also had the chipping happen at almost exactly the same spots as shown on the OP photo. As with the OP, this has been my bass for more than 25 years, was a 16th birthday gift from my Dad and is not going anywhere. I just wish I could get it looking a lot better.

    Any help would be appreciated, or am I looking at a new paint job?
  8. According to all the relic nuts, this is not a bug, it's a feature, and increases the value of your Fender by giving it "mojo".

    Myself, I'd rather have paint on the bass.
    bassbully likes this.
  9. svtb15

    svtb15 Banned

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig. Q+
    I waited 25 years for that to happen to my bass.. It beautiful the way it is.. Leave it alone and do not refinish it..
  10. nls666


    Jul 31, 2005
    The Netherlands

    I have a '78 Jazz with, what looks like, the same paint "issue". The foggy "clouds" which you can't polish off. Guitar polish only makes it worse. The paint is also quite soft... Sometimes it bothers me, but on the other hand... it's an old bass, so it looks old. I'm not going to refinish it...
  11. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I took mine to a well-known metro area "boutique" guitar & amp shop and the guy looked at it, asked me how long I'd had it and when I told him he said, well, there's really nothing you can do. Surprised me, to say the least.

    BTW Chebass, is that an XLR jack you've got built into that thing?
  12. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    The clouding and flaking is typical of poly-finished black and 3-tone sunburst fenders from 1965 to 200N. You probably sweat a lot--I do too. Just think about it like this: We relic basses way better than the cool, calm, collected crew. :hyper: :bassist:
  13. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    IME, when the finish is fully dried out, probably in winter, the clouds will "part." Buffing it and waxing it a lot before then will probably only slow down the process.
  14. My vote: wait till a bit more peels, then disassemble and refinish it. The process will be a learning experience. I don't like my basses to have bad finishes.
  15. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    For several years by now already my finish has also developed hairline cracks that run straight across the entire body (i.e., perpendicular to the strings). Anyone else same deal?

    The thing with me is, part of me likes the beat-up vibe cause it reminds me of everything that bass has been through with me. Also I think it might possibly make it a less attractive theft target than something shiny and new. The other part of me wonders if at some point its condition could become a liability to me, perception wise (i.e., "wow look at that dude's crappy looking bass, if he can't even take care of his axe I wonder if he's a sloppy player, too"; or, "he's a good player but the other guy we auditioned is good too and his bass looks a lot better on stage").
  16. Welcome to the world of CBS Fenders. Virtually everyone I'VE seen played in Florida during the warm months(Every month but December and January) looked like that when they came off stage. The black ones seemed to be particlarly bad. But at least no one will think it is a fake vintage job.
  17. fireincairo


    Jul 8, 2008
    Nitro gets this way when exposed to humidity and human sweat. Depending on the year and color of your instrument, it could be a straight nitro, straight poly, or nitro poly mixed finish. You may want to invests in Virtuoso finish polish. It's fantastic for nitro finishes that get cloudy from humidity or sweat. It will bring the shine right back.
  18. fireincairo


    Jul 8, 2008
  19. Jay,

    Yes, but it is only the plate now (from Switchcraft). My father bought the bass new, and was gigging it 6 nights/week, 3-4 shows per night in Atlantic City, NJ (he was house bassist for several casinos from about '78 to '83). HE had to play a lot of music that a stock, passive Fender couldn't do well on (one tune was Stanley Clarke's "Hot Fun"), so he had it modified to include active electronics.

    He didn't like the idea of having a battery & having to take off a cover, so he had an external power source. The XLR jack was for that input. The electronics also included some inductors for frequency boosts - essentially everything needed to play all the really hot tunes from that era. In the end, he couldn't get a "Stock PBass sound", so he replaced all the custom-made electronics with a set of Fender replacement pickups, which I have subsequently replaced with EMGs, and soon to replace with Lindy Fralins, as I can't get a "Stock PBass Sound"

    BTW, The wear marks in the original photo started out as chips, but I didn't like the rough edges, so I smoothed them over with 0000 steel wool, which makes it look more worn than it really is.

    Its also great to hear that my bass isn't the only one that gets hazy with humidity!

  20. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I sense a "Show Us Your Beat-Up Basses" thread coming...

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