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Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by blanksociety29, Apr 3, 2005.

  1. blanksociety29


    Apr 2, 2005
    Hey everyone! I'm new here on TalkBass, and new to playing bass. I've played guitar for a few years, and I'm in the process of making the switch and buying my own bass. However, I've got one important question: to paint or not to paint?

    All of the basses I'm intrested in are of great quality, but their finishes are... not so great. In fact, they're quite ugly. My guess is that after I purchase the bass, I'll paint it over the way I want it. My question is however, if I do paint the bass over, would it change the quality/tone/playabilty of the bass? Would the paint alter the properties of the wood? So far I know that the finish of a bass protects it from humidity in the air, so I'm curious to whether or not using either spray paint, acrylics, or airplane model paint might affect that protection.

    If anyone has any information for me, I would GREATLY appreciate it.


    Attached Files:

  2. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    there's cats here that know a lot more than i do about this but here goes.............

    i would have the painting done by someone who knows what they're doing when it comes to finishing guitars and basses. not all paints are suitable for this. and yes, the finish can have an impact upon tone, although this is a highly voodoo and flame war topic.
  3. pil


    Feb 17, 2005
    Pimlico, UK
    ive just finished doing a stingray...i just sanded off a bit to get the primer to stick, painted on the primer, used a soft sanding block to get the paint streaks out, got a tin of spray paint - did four coats - followed by six coats of spray varnish...and it looks fine...when i can afford the new neck i'll tell you how it plays :bassist:
  4. artistanbul

    artistanbul Nihavend Longa Vita Brevis

    Apr 15, 2003
    while it is nice to get a pro to do the job, it is fun to make it yourself. I presume the axes you are planning to buy will not be too expensive to touch. so go for it. and if it doesn't suit your tastes, go ahead and rip it off again. just be nice :)

    alternatively, you could apply paint/finish on the bass' finish. it would be much easier too.

    check some guitar project sites. they are helpful. just know what you are doing and it's all right. playing with the bass is fun no matter how you play with it :)
  5. funky_bass_guy

    funky_bass_guy Guest

    Jul 30, 2004
    Blank society, that picture in your attachment is wicked!
  6. Pay a visit to the luthier's corner forum here on TB. Do some searching, because there is a bit of info on there about it.

    Also check out the musical instrument makers forum, www.mimf.com . There is tons of info there on this subject.

    Welcome to the world of bass, and good luck with your refinish. :)
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Since this is repair and modification oriented, I am moving it to Setup. Surely some of the guys who hang over there have painted a bass. But it is not an easy job.
  8. Blank, to get this discussion off on the right foot, there have to be some stipulations made here and this statement is a good place to start.

    Basses of "great quality" have great finishes. That's simply fact and it's inarguable. They don't achieve the the reputation of being high quality without having top notch finishes. There isn't a midrange or high end bass out there that doesn't have, at least, a professional finish and generally they have stellar coatings applied with great skill. Now, to your second sentence where you state that the finishes aren't great - they're "ugly". This crosses over into the subjective where the artistic appearance of the finish becomes the center of focus and not the choice of materials and their application. The two are totally seperate things and should always be though of as such. Putting a proper, protective, long wearing finish on a musical instrument is more a combination of science and learned technique than it is artistic vision. On the other hand, selecting colors, mixing shades, and applying the tints to the body using the various methods, requires more technique and artistic vision than science. So while you may see the finishes on these upper and high end basses as "ugly" the rest of the industry accepts them as the best available in terms of the quality of the job they do for the instrument they rest on. And the folks that put these finsihes on are not simply unskilled laborers slinging a spray gun for hours a day. It takes years to develop the techniques to get these coatings right and anyone that's tried to duplicate a factory finish with tell you on the spot how difficult it is.

    If the "ugly" finish, as you call it, didn't do anything to alter the tone, nothing you put on top (as long as it's thin enough) will do anything to the tone either. However, if you do the refinish the correct way, it would involve removing the old finish and that CAN alter the tone of the instrument.

    Certain types of coatings can certainly alter the tonal properties of the wood. But this is putting the cart before the horse. In no case would "paint" EVER be put on bare wood - not ever. This is where all that skill and science come into play. Wood must be properly prepared before painting or just the thing you are afraid of can happen - the paint can alter the wood, or worse, not even stick to the wood at all. There is much to learn on the subject of proper surface preperation before painting. Take some time before you ruin a perfectly good instrument and do some (a lot) research.

    This is generally correct but you've lumped "spray paint", "acrylic", and "airplane model paint" together as if they were the same and yet seperately as if they are totally different. You've got lots of research to do to sort this out. First - spray paint is a generic name for ANY paint that is delivered to the substrate by means of air pressure or vibrating diaphragm. This could be acrylics, water colors, polyurethanes, alkyds, latex, or any pigment that can go through the system. The "spray paint" you get at the hardware store (Krylon for instance) is an acrylic enamel. This is an oil based, hard curing paint with enough acrylic for flexibility and toughness.

    Where novice painters run into problems generally is understanding the differences in the paints and their solvents. The solvents that keep the paint liquid will determine whether one pigment is compatible with another when painting one over the other. For instance - Mineral spirit based paints like brush on Rustoleum are totally incompatible with lacquer based paints. Spray a lacquer on top of the Rustoleum and you'll have a curly, curdled mess in about 10 minutes. Understanding the differences will keep you out of trouble and allow you the freedom to know when you can bend the rules to your benefit.

    To begin your education, you might want to go to reranch.com and take a gander at their site. They specialize in spray can lacquers for guitar refinishing and offer a ton of information about their product and the process. A lot of the research has been done for you so that all you have to provide is the steady hand to make a good finish.

    Good Luck
  9. Oh great, why did i have to look in this thread, im about to start a project on a guitar that im going to sand down the laquer, and then go round to a friend of mines who used to respray cars and the likes and borrow some of his gear, i assumed laquer is laquer and so all will be well :D

    If it isnt, who cares, its a guitar, they all sound the same anyway ;)
  10. Actually, automotive lacquer is an excellent finish for guitars. Or rather, a nice coating of pine tar is a good finish for a guitar but you get what I mean. :D
  11. I would coat it in fire, but you know, i spent money on that pile of junk ;) :p
  12. MMFender


    Sep 26, 2003
    I got a Marcus Miller maple fender jazz bass.
    Would i ruin the bass if i ask for modification to a luthier ?
  13. MM, I believe that your bass is ash with a maple neck.

    If you have the work done by a competent Luthier or specialist refinisher, you won't hurt the quality of the instrument at all. This isn't a collector yet and won't be for awhile and I'm of the opinion that basses are tools to be used for our pleasure. If we don't like them, we should make them the way we like them. I don't pay much attention to naysayers that poopoo refinishing instruments like this that are, essentially, losing value daily for the next 20 years until they begin to climb again. If you own it that long, it won't matter anyway. If you don't have it that far down the road, who cares? You used it as you saw fit and it served your purposes. Let the next guy worry if he wants it to have a pro sunburst refin MM.

    Let 'em eat cake. :D
  14. DubDubs


    Aug 23, 2004
    Los Angeles

    I'm just wondering. What are these basses you're looking at with ugly finishes?