Need advice for refinishing a Bass neck

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fourstringburn, Apr 18, 2022.


  1. fourstringburn

    fourstringburn Supporting Member

    Jun 30, 2009
    New Mexico
    Just sanded down a Fender Jazz Bass neck to be refinished. This is a first time for me and I want to learn to do it correctly.

    I did have to use 80 grit to get all the old finish off which still took a lot of elbow grease to do! Now I want to properly prep the neck before I start spraying the finish.

    I have plenty of wet/dry sandpaper from 80 grit up to 5000. I also have some StewMac grain filler, nitrocell Sanding sealer, Aged brown nitrocell (for base color) and nitrocell satin finish for the final coats.

    So do I re-sand the neck in finer grit stages getting up to real fine grit paper before using the grain filler or leave it raw as it now is?

    Also when using nitrocell, if after spraying there is some orange peeling do these need to be sanded off right away or does multiple new coats of nitrocell keep layering and just the final coats need to be sanded smooth?

    Any advice and tips would be greatly appreciated, Thanks!
     
  2. 1n3

    1n3

    Sep 13, 2007
    Southwest USA
    Assuming this is a maple neck, you shouldn't need the grain filler. That's used to fill the pores of open-grain woods like Ash, Mahogany, Oak, etc.

    Yes, move up through the grits with your sandpaper. 80 is really coarse... hope you didn't hit much wood with that. I wouldn't bother going past 320, but opinions will vary on that. I haven't done a lot with lacquer, especially tinted, so shouldn't comment on that.
     
    fourstringburn likes this.
  3. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    If there's 80 grit scratches I'd start with 120 to get those out, then 180, 240, 320. At 320, maple is often clean enough to finish but it will depend on the quality of your sandpaper and your sanding technique. You can always spray on a coat and see if any scratches show up - then sand back out with higher grits if they do. Don't get tempted to go really fine, you'll just waste time and sandpaper and make things harder for yourself.

    I would agree with 1n3 that maple doesn't need grain filler.

    Once it's sanded out, hit it with the sealer, then tint coats, then clearcoats. Nitro doesn't need to be sanded between coats, and new coats will reflow old coats, so it's somewhat tolerant of minor orangepeel (especially if your topcoat will be satin, versus a gloss that'll get buffed out). Sanding will just slow you down by removing material. You can hit it with scotchbrite pads every several coats to pull out dust nibs and other imperfections.
     
    fourstringburn likes this.
  4. fourstringburn

    fourstringburn Supporting Member

    Jun 30, 2009
    New Mexico
    Thanks for great advice from both of you!

    I should say the reason for a complete refinish is because I had a deep dent on the Headstock face from an on stage collision I wanted to sand out which I did successfully. I couldn't get an exact match to the factory tint so I went with aged brown but I didn't like having 2 different colors so I decided to refinish the entire neck aged brown which I do like better than the original.

    Also I noticed after a few coats of laquer, I not only got some slight orange peel but I noticed after drying there appears to be some small dimples which I thought were pores in the wood. I did shoot 4 coats of sanding sealer prior to the top coats. This is why I thought the headstock face / neck may need some grain filler so I re-sanded the face and then the entire neck to start over.

    I'm actually enjoying the learning experience of doing this but I do want to make it look good so I appreciate the help from experienced and knowledgeable people like yourselves!

    I do believe the neck is maple (1997 American standard Fender Jazz) so what may be causing the dimples?
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2022
    dwizum likes this.
  5. 1n3

    1n3

    Sep 13, 2007
    Southwest USA
    Hmm... I'm not a finish expert, but do an image search for the term "fish eye" and see if the results match what you have.
     
  6. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    And/or post a photo here and someone can probably tell you what's up.
     
  7. fourstringburn

    fourstringburn Supporting Member

    Jun 30, 2009
    New Mexico
    I should have taken pics before I sanded the headstock face again.

    I'll post some pics of my progress. Thanks for the advice to get me started in the right direction!
     
  8. fourstringburn

    fourstringburn Supporting Member

    Jun 30, 2009
    New Mexico
    Here's a Google pic similar of what I saw on my headstock, those small dimples.

    That's fish eye?

    fisheye4.jpg
     
  9. 1n3

    1n3

    Sep 13, 2007
    Southwest USA
    Not what I imagined. That looks more like blistering to me, where there are separations underneath the surface.

    Fish eye is something I recall from the old automotive finish world. Here's an extreme example:
    fisheye.jpg

    With fish eye, there's a contaminant on the surface that disrupts the surface tension of the finish, producing small craters.
     
    Beej likes this.
  10. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    1n3 and Beej like this.
  11. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Snert and Rôckhewer like this.
  12. 1n3

    1n3

    Sep 13, 2007
    Southwest USA
    Yeah, "solvent pop" is a new one for me too. Reading the linked article, this makes sense for a fast-drying finish like lacquer... if a new coat hardens at the surface while solvent from the previous coat is still evaporating.
     
  13. It's caused often if the room temperature is too warm.
     
  14. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    With water-base poly finishes, these little fisheye-like pockmarks can also be caused by very low humidity where the finish is curing. Same reason; the poly on the surface starts curing and skinning over while there are still little bubbles of water trapped underneath. Then they pop through. To reduce it, make sure the finish is fairly well stirred before spraying and don't spray it on too thick.
     

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