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Refinish an acoustic for my little bro'?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by teej, May 9, 2006.


  1. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I was looking for a cheap acoustic bass on eBay yesterday when I came across this. I was thinking about getting one and fixing it up for my little brother, for his birthday, since he's always wanting to play my basses. Plus, I thought it would be a cool little project to work on between stages of my Serenade.

    It needs tuners, a pickup, preamp, and the bridge needs to be moved back 2 inches. The bridge looks like it's screwed into the top, though. How difficult would it be to fix that?

    So... What do you guys think? :cool:
     
  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    It shouldn't be too difficult. Looks like it could be a fun project and it's not very expensive.
     
  3. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    My main concern is exposing whatever holes might be under that bridge. Luckily, I've got 5 extra sheets (26" x 18") of birdseye maple veneer that I'd like to stick on the face.
     
  4. i like the idea.. sound like a nice project but.... if you just want a cheap acoustic fro your bro..... i suggest you look at the other items from the same seller.....

    same bass, only this one is complete
     
  5. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Yeah, i noticed that one a little later. The bridge even looks like it's in the same spot! :rolleyes:
     
  6. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I had made a "Best Offer," which I won this morning @ $25, before I noticed that there was a complete acoustic for $99. Anyway, I did some cost comparisons.... the total for the bass is $45, a cheap set of tuners could run [maybe] $15-30, and found a cheap bass pup/pre combo for $24 (free shipping). There's still the issue of the strings, though. I'll be sure to post some progress pics when this gets rolling.
     
  7. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    This morning, I went out to run a few errands, and take Jersey (my dog) on a little hike. When I got back a few hours later, there was a small package on the doorstep from Southeast Music, and within was my Artec EQ-7545R pickup and preamp. Yeah, yeah... I make it sound like it's some totally fantastic setup, like a John East U-Retro or something.

    I'm just documenting, sparing no details, for future generations. :cool:

    Well, as it turns out, Southeast Music is located only 63 miles from here (thanks MapSource). I could have easily driven up there in an hour, picked it up, and saved $8.00, but oh well.

    In addition, I just bought a set of practically new gold Gotoh tuners from user todd 4ta a few minutes ago. Guess how much?

    20 bucks!

    And to think, I was about to buy a set of generic gold tuners from Choppers Music for $30, and then have to wait a month before delivery. :rolleyes: Thanks Todd!! I'm guessing I'll get them Thursday, if it goes out with tomorrow's mail. Friday, at the latest, if it doesn't.

    So to recap, I got the pickup and preamp this morning... the bass body and neck should get here Wednesday... and the tuners Thursday.

    After that, it's just a matter of dropping in te preamp, wiring the jack and pickup, installing the tuners, and relocating the bridge, since it's 2" forward of where it should be. I may put on some birdseye maple veneer to cover any holes that may be under the bridge. After I hit it with a few coats of lacquer, it'll look pretty slick, I think! Lastly, the string-up and a good polish, but I think that's a given.
     
  8. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    UPS delivered the package this morning at around 11:00a. Warpdrive Music did a terrific job with the packaging. They had the bass wrapped in bubble wrap, inside a guitar box, wrapped in airbags, inside another box, full of popcorn.

    A+ Warpdrive! :D

    You'll have to excuse the Low-Q shots. I didn't know that I had the camera set to Macro mode.

    Also, note the veneer in the one shot. I cut that out just a little bit ago. It's a piece of birdseye maple that's going over the spruce -- Explaination in the next post. I also cut out a matching headstock cap. ;)
     
  9. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    This process was a real pain!

    I started at around 1:30 and ended just before 5:00, but from 1:45 to 2:00, I was at Lowe's getting a putty knife and new bridge screws, and from 2:45 to 4:15, I had to pick my little brother up from school, pickup my paycheck, go to the bank, and pick up some groceries for my grandmother. So in all, it was only an hour long process.

    The outcome wasn't good. Some spruce chips broke off with the bridge, and had I not planned on using one of these extra sheets of birdseye maple to go over the spruce, I would have been most upset.
     
  10. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    The last part for tonight was sanding the finish off the headstock. I figured that as long as I'm putting veneer on the body, I may as well put some on the headstock to match. Before either one happens, though, I've got sand down to bare wood so the glue can get a good bond. The color came off very easily, to my surprise. Another surprise was the THICK sealer coat underneath. I started sanding through that, about an hour ago, so I'm not completely through, with the exception of a few spots.
     
  11. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Early this morning, I began stripping the finish from the top in preparation for gluing on the veneer. I hit it twice with this crazy strong paint remover. It melted the binding a little, but the final sanding leveled things out, so it's not even noticeable anymore. I found out that it's not a solid spruce top, but what looks like a spruce/birch ply.

    That's OK though. :smug:
     
  12. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    After dinner this evening (went to Sweet Pepper's Deli - pretty good!), I glued on the veneer. I was affraid that I wouldn't be able to clamp it evenly (causing bubbles), but I used the mac. ebony bridge blanks under the clamps, and that worked out great! To pass the time while the glue was drying, I watched a documentary about the Freemasons, and their role in The DaVinci Code (good book, by the way), on the History Channel (see photo below).

    Per the Titebond directions, I waited 30 minutes, and then another 15, before unclamping. The results are good! All that's left to do carefully cut away the overhanging veneer with my trusty X-ACTO and drill the pegholes. After that, I'll brush on a few coats of poly, then apply my logo decal, add a few more poly coats, let it dry, and that's that!

    By the way, I'm using Olympic's water-based polyurethane on this one, as opposed to my usual Minwax oil-based. I was going to use Minwax's "Polyacrylic" stuff, but the smallest can available was $15, and I didn't want to spend that much on something that I'll probably only use once, so I got the 8oz. can of Olympic. It's made I've never used a water-based finish, but I hear it's easy to apply and dries quickly.
     
  13. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    :meh: :eyebrow: :confused: :eek: :crying: :mad: :rolleyes: :bawl: :scowl: :( :rollno:

    All of these pretty much explain how I feel right now.

    I tried to apply the veneer to the top last night, and again this morning, but both failed HORRIBLY. I spread a coat of Titebond across the top, and then applied the veneer. All was well for the first 15 seconds, but then the whole sheet rolled up like a freaking burrito. In a panic, I tried to unroll the sheet, causing it to snap in half. Then this morning, I got my last sheet of veneer, cut out the shape, and tried applying it with Titebond Moulding and Trim glue, but it had the same result. This glue has a stronger initial tack, but it only delayed the inevitable cupping witnessed last night.

    So, with no more veneer, I went back to my eBay source and bought 2 more sheets. They should be here by next Wednesday.

    And with the remaining scrap pieces, I experimented with several different glues I had in my arsenal.
    • Titebond I
    • Titebond I (10% water mix)
    • Titebond Trim Glue
    • DAP Weldwood Contact Cement
    • Gorilla Glue
    All of the Titebond glues had the same results -- cupping.

    The Gorilla Glue worked wonderfully until the stuff started to expand, as it is supposed to, causing bubbles to form under the veneer.

    The Weldwood contact cement, however, seems to be the winner. The stuff is terribly messy, but a thin coat spread across the back of the veneer does the trick. It doesn't cause the veneer to cup like the Titebonds did. The edges wanted to fold up, but some pressing with an ebony bridge blank took care of that. My main concern is the effect of the contact cement and veneer on the acoustics. I read that a veneer-topped acoustic sounds worse than a solid-topped one. Another concern is coating such a large surface with that tiny brush attached to the lid. I'm affraid that the glue would dry before I coat the entire veneer.


    I bet the tuners I bought are in the mailbox, but mom's got the mailbox key, and she's at work until 4:30, and I work today from 3 to 11, so by the time I get home, everyone will have gone to bed, which means I can't get the key until tomorrow.

    So in the mean time, I've been sanding the edges of the headstock veneer, and making the pegholes a bit bigger. The original tuners didn't use ferrules, so the pegs were a bit smaller. I've also been resanding the top, to get as much of the wood glue off as I can. Anyway, with the veneer not expected until next week, there isn't much I can do.

    Signing out.
     
  14. NamelessOne

    NamelessOne

    Mar 9, 2006
    Calgary, AB
    correct me if i'm wrong, but isn't contact cement the stuff that you apply to both surfaces seperately, than allow to dry. when you touch the surfaces together, it bonds. so, it doesn't matter if you aren't fast enough applying it...

    right?
     
  15. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Honestly, I'm not really sure how contact cement is supposed to work, though it does make sense.

    All I know is that the test results are much to my liking! :smug:
     
  16. Temporary elation, teej!! Contact cement is flexible and does not fully "dry"...ever. It is the worst adhesive to use on veneer...ask any pro or furniture maker. It will cause the veneer to wrinkle into perpetuity..or longer. Hide glue is good or Titebond regular. Proper veneer application techniques are also helpful.
     
  17. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Well darn. Any ideas on getting this veneer on?

    If this were a solid body, that's one thing -- I'd just clamp away -- but I'm affraid I'd crush this thing. One idea I had was to make an MDF cutout, in the same shape as the veneer, and clamp that down since it would distribute most of the force across the entire body, and not just certain points.

    Another tip I read about was to spread wood glue across the "substrate", let it dry a bit, put the veneer on, and use an iron to melt the glue underneath the veneer. That's what I did on attempt #2, with the trim glue, but it only caused the veneer to bulge out.

    I could just paint the top. I've got some black lacquer here, but this birdseye maple looks so cool.
     
  18. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Quick update, I suppose.

    Before work, I brushed the first few coats of the water-based poly on the headstock (with a foam brush). In the past, I would use the spray-on stuff, but I think I like this stuff more.
     
  19. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I just noticed that with the bridge 2" behind the original location, drilling the new holes for the anchoring bolts would mean drilling right into the bracing. So I've spent most of the day trying to find a way around this. I came up with 3 solutions.

    The first is to use longer machine screws and mount the new bridge plate on top of the bracing. I wonder if anyone has done this, and if so, what the pros and cons are.

    Second is to carve a new bridge with a shape and hole arrangement that works around anchor holes drilled in a position that will work.

    And third is to keep the stock bridge and drill new holes, while trying to work around the existing bridge shape, thickness, and existing holes.

    I think I'll do #3, and that's because I don't want to risk dyeing the fingerboard black to match the ebony bridge I had planned on carving for this project. And the stock rosewood bridge would match the rosewood fingerboard more than an ebony bridge, so...

    I've found 2 working anchor locations: between the E and A, and D and G string holes... and on the wings of the bridge. The problem with the latter is that the wings are the thinnest part of the bridge, and I'm affraid that may lead to cracking. The problem with the first is that it's not very attractive. I cut out some bridge plates to fit either location, so it's just a matter of choosing the best solution.

    Are the anchors really necessary? I ask because it would make things SO much easier and less stressing if they weren't.

    By the way, I got the gold Gotohs from Todd, Sunday. They didn't drop right in like I had hoped, but after a little sanding, they fit like a glove.
     
  20. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    No major progress today. I'm waiting on the veneer, which I was hoping would arrive yesterday, but it didn't, nor did it arrive today, so I'm hoping for tomorrow.

    In the meantime, I resolved the bridge anchor problem, but I'm not sure if it's the best solution. (see photos)

    First, I cut out 2 new bridge plates using Shape C as seen in the photos above. This shape was made to fit in front of the cross bracing under the bridges new location. I made it from 1/16" Baltic birch ply, with the grain running diagonally in opposite directions on each blank, and glued the two together, forming a lightweight but considerably strong plate. I'm quite impressed!! It's much more ridgid than the first plate I cut from 1/8" Baltic birch ply with the grain running from end to end.

    Next, I drilled the new bridge anchor holes, forward of the string pin holes, and behind the saddle. I knew that this wasn't the best idea from the start since the fulcrum is now in the middle, and not the very back (behind the string pins). Actually, there IS one alternative -- carve a new bridge that allows the anchors to be behind the string pins but spread farther apart so that they clear the bracing under the top. The problem with this, as well as most of my decisions, is aesthetics. The bridge would be bulky and rectangular. I think what I've done will work OK, though. Perhaps I should look for a stronger wood glue, like Titebond III? I've never used it before, but it claims to have the strongest bond, so maybe it's worth a shot.

    In addition, I'll cut a hole in the veneer so that it drops over the bridge. This way, the bridge makes seemingly seamless contact with the soundboard, and I'm hoping that the added surface area around the bottom of the bridge will help counteract the ill effects I read about veneers having on soundboards. Plus, I'm hoping for a stronger bridge joint, even if the added area is insignificant.

    I also test fitted the tuners and bought a cheap Fender strap, which I hate with a passion. I've been buying higher-end cotton straps, which are wonderful on the neck. But these nylon straps are just plain itchy. :scowl:
     

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