Northern Ash TeleCaster Bass Finishing Options....What to do?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Member8675309, Jan 7, 2018.


  1. Member8675309

    Member8675309 Inactive

    Aug 19, 2017
    Nashville, TN
    Hello,

    I ordered an unfinished Northern White Ash TeleCaster body from Rosser Guitars. I’m very much a novice when it comes to fine finishing (I’ve been a utilitarian guy), but I have had enough experience to feel confident in attempting any manually applied finish (non-spray). I’m going for glossy, look into the wood and see it’s soul beauty.

    The wood I’ve chosen will require more work, but I chose it for it’s grain pattern. What I’m looking for is a one stop shop of advice, pictures, step-by-step instructions, product recommendations, etc.

    Furthermore, I am leaning towards the French Polish method. If there is a similar finish out there that yields similar results...I’m all eyes.

    Also, which of these finishes are best for tone?

    Pictures are great too. The one I’ve supplied is the pattern, but mine will be white ash, not poplar.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. You opened up a huge can of worms! Are you looking for a specific color or shade to the wood? If you just want to clear coat the body you have to show the most grain, use a neutral color grain filler first to seal the pores in the wood. If you don't, you will be piling on coat after coat of product and never getting a pore free finish, you will always have some of the grain exposed. Sanding with 400-600 grit will become your new pastime. You need the sealer to be flat and smooth. You need to be aware when you are sanding the sealer, if you get down to the wood, stop and pile on more sealer. Its a delicate process,but surface prep is the absolute secret key to a fantastic finish job. When the grain is adequately filled, you will not see anymore crevices of grain showing,and the wood will have a glass smooth finish, ready to apply the top coats.
    As far a getting outstanding results with the least amount of experience or knowledge, lacquer is hard to beat. If you brush it on and get a run or sag,let it harden,sand out the run, and continue building up more coats. Lacquer is especially forgiving in that respect because it hardens enough to sand within 12-24 hours depending on how thick you pile it on. In a nutshell, you build up enough to be able to block sand it flat and smooth enough to polish to a high gloss finish. It is not uncommon to build up 8,10,12 or more coats as you end up sanding alot of it off to get it as flat as a piece of glass. After it is smooth and flat, you polish it with finer and finer grits of compound until it shines like chrome. It really isn't tricky, just delicate. It's really easy to sand through the sealer and expose the wood, or sand through the lacquer into the sealer...either way you have to stop, step back, and fix it.
    Get a small square piece of the wood you will be dealing with to see how it reacts to what you are doing before you start on the actual body...it is a huge help. After you get the finish you are looking for on it, you will have much more confidence when it comes time to do the real deal.
    I'm not going to go into staining,shading, or tinting as they add different factors of difficulty to the equation..that being said, when you get a basic lacquer job finished, you will have a feeling of accomplishment that is hard to beat!

    I ordered an unfinished Northern White Ash TeleCaster body from Rosser Guitars. I’m very much a novice when it comes to fine finishing (I’ve been a utilitarian guy), but I have had enough experience to feel confident in attempting any manually applied finish (non-spray). I’m going for glossy, look into the wood and see it’s soul beauty.

    The wood I’ve chosen will require more work, but I chose it for it’s grain pattern. What I’m looking for is a one stop shop of advice, pictures, step-by-step instructions, product recommendations, etc.

    Furthermore, I am leaning towards the French Polish method. If there is a similar finish out there that yields similar results...I’m all eyes.

    Also, which of these finishes are best for tone?

    Pictures are great too. The one I’ve supplied is the pattern, but mine will be white ash, not poplar.[/QUOTE]
     
    Member8675309 likes this.
  3. Member8675309

    Member8675309 Inactive

    Aug 19, 2017
    Nashville, TN
    Thanks for responding! I should receive the body in three weeks. When I’m done, I will post pictures...even if it’s a disaster.

    I had actually forgot to mention I would like a grain look.....with color. I’ve been looking at ColorTone options from StewMac (thinking of green or red). I’ve also considered using artist oil paints to create a color of my own. I read from some forum in the internet abyss that if you use ‘Japan Dryer’ the oils work well, otherwise it’ll take forever to dry.

    I’m trying to write out a to-do list so that I can get a clear picture of how this is going to go down. I’m guessing a grain fill is the first step? I think I read somewhere that you color first, then grain fill. That just doesn’t seem right. Anyway, what’s a good grain fill product that I should look at? I’m not sure if they’re all created equal.

    I’ve definitely considered just doing a lacquer finish. I keep telling myself to keep it simple, especially considering how much seems to be required in prep before a final finish. Attempting a French Polish, messing it up, and having to start over to some extent is something I’d really like to avoid. So, an easily repairable finish is a strong aspect I need to consider. But, I also don’t mind a challenge, and am somewhat familiar with shellac.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
  4. Thanks for responding! I had actually forgot to mention I would like a grain look.....with color. I’ve been looking at ColorTone options from StewMac (thinking of green or red). I’ve also considered using artist oil paints to create a color of my own. I read from some forum in the internet abyss that if you use ‘Japan Dryer’ the oils work well, otherwise they’ll take forever to dry.

    I’m trying to write out a to-do list so that I can get a clear picture of how this is going to go down. I’m guessing a grain fill is the first step? What’s a good grain fill product that I should look at? I’m not sure if they’re all created equal.[/QUOTE]
    What I have learned so far....you can color or tint the sealer with pigment which will give you the most visible grain pattern, you can stain the wood before you seal it with similar results, but if you add tint or color the clear, you start covering the grain because whatever you use for color will start "opaquing" the finish...making it less and less transparent the more you put on, covering the grain.
    I have used Stew Mac's products with great results...to a point. I did a sunburst finish with their spray cans that came out great. I tried their blonde finish on a bass I'm refinishing now..(read my 54 Precision Attic find thread)and it didn't come out anything like I wanted...either the spray pattern of the can, or the degree of density made it come out much too solid white looking...even though they claim it is translucent,I couldn't get an even,thin coat without it looking spattered or too dense.
    I have been using Behlens vinyl spray filler from Stew-mac. It dries really fast, and plays with lacquer really well. It also comes in cans so you can tint or brush it on as well.
    Youtube "guitar refinishing" and you will get some really good examples of different ways of putting down a nice finish.
    Much of it is personal choice as to which way to go, but if I were to do a colored finish, say like Gibson SG red..tinting the filler with the proper red tint and then clearcoating it would be the least risky and easy to fix if there were a problem.
    Above all else, make sure you buy a really big can of "Patience". You will need it !
     
    Member8675309 likes this.
  5. Member8675309

    Member8675309 Inactive

    Aug 19, 2017
    Nashville, TN
    I think I'm going to approach this with the intention that the lacquer, shellac, whatever, will be clear....no color added. I hadn't considered the 'opaquing' of the final result. Not sure if that's a word or not. Regardless, I was toying with the idea of an amber tinted final, but I think I'll go ahead and brush that one into the "DO NOT ATTEMPT" bucket. As for the Gibson SG finish....I think that is exactly what I'm going for.

    Again, thanks for your input. A little over a week ago I was unaware that a grain fill was even required for a smooth, glass-like finish. I've always created wood pieces to have a rustic look to them. Not necessarily because I prefer it (I definitely like the look), but because it was easier.....just to be honest. I think that will give you, and anybody else who comments here, and idea of my level of fine finishing expertise.
     
  6. I taught myself lacquer finishing doing Leslie cabinets...I think it is the most user friendly way of finishing because you can fix mistakes fairly easily and quickly. Stain the wood cherry red, ( I think that is the popular red SG color),seal it with clear sealer, and pile on the clear lacquer. In all honesty, you don't really have to seal it, it's just that one or two coats of sealer is equivalent to about 8-10 coats of lacquer. Don't let it put you off from the challenge.
    Being an expert at finishing is not what gets you a deep glass like finish....taking the time to fill the porous grain to the point where no more product can soak in, and taking the time to wet block sand the actual clear top coat lacquer and polishing it...is. I refinished this bass with Stew-Mac amber,cherry,and black spray cans, with 6 coats of clear over it.
    The white oval is a reflection of the overhead light...
     

    Attached Files:

    Member8675309 likes this.
  7. Member8675309

    Member8675309 Inactive

    Aug 19, 2017
    Nashville, TN
    Yeah, patience has always been my biggest issue. It’s the main reason why I never do fine finishes, I just never had the patience. I’m a teacher, and I have a 2 and 5 year old, so I’ve improved quite a bit over the years out of necessity.

    I may do lacquer. I’m going to build a small end table, I’ll try the French Polish for that, see how it works. I’ll be brushing the lacquer on. I trust my hand more than sprays, so what size and kind of brush do you recommend?

    Also, here’s my rough process for later reference:

    1. Grain Fill-Not sure if neutral color or if I should go dark. Sand, reapply. Sand, reapply.

    2. Stain w/color from StewMac, or use artists oils. I think you’d fine sand with 400+ grit after this, or is it straight to sealer?

    3. Sealer to ease the process. Fine sand throughout for smooth surface.

    4. Lacquer upon lacquer upon lacquer. Sand between coats.
     
  8. Member8675309

    Member8675309 Inactive

    Aug 19, 2017
    Nashville, TN
    I set out to do a rough experiment last night using oil paints. I spent a grand total of maybe thirty seconds sanding w/220 grit, then slathered the oil on. I wasn’t trying to make it look beautiful, just seeing how the oils spread, how long to dry, to get a feel of how it’s going to work basically. Overall, I like the result, but you quickly realize how important prep is going to be. Wood stain seems to cover mistakes in prep a lot better. Staining with paints shows shoddy prep work like a magnifying glass. E1FFD6DA-3BEE-49DB-B56F-54BFE978FF95.jpeg
     
    b3e likes this.
  9. b3e

    b3e

    Sep 5, 2017
    Warsaw, Poland
    When you work with wood, you have to discover the beauty hidden in the grain. Sometimes you work for it hard, sometimes you just go with the flow if you like the results you see. If you like it, keep it :)
     
    Member8675309 likes this.
  10. Member8675309

    Member8675309 Inactive

    Aug 19, 2017
    Nashville, TN
    It came in the mail today. I decided to use egg whites as a grain filler. Basically, you just wipe on the egg whites with a brush, let dry, wet sand to build a slurry, repeat. Easy enough. IMG_1463.jpg
     
    KDHBass76 likes this.
  11. Glad I found this topic. I got an ash Rosser at the end of summer and I've just started working on it. I like the idea of staining before sealing -- I want to go just a bit darker than the ash itself, say honey-colored. It's nice-looking grain to my eye so I want to see it. Phone photo is a little potato, sorry. Hand-rubbed lacquer over the top is tempting, still mulling. Wollstone1.jpg
     
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    Primary TB Assistant

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