refinish on restoration

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by boombloom, May 20, 2005.

Refinishing Restored Bass

Poll closed May 30, 2005.
  1. Refinish the whole thing!

  2. Refinish the top.

    0 vote(s)
  3. Refinish the patches and rim and leave the original stuff alone.

  4. Other

  1. Last summer I bought an 1850's german flatback in dire need of work. Restoration is just about complete. There has been extensive repair of the top. There is a patch under one bridge foot and almost the entire rim is new. I'd like some input from you all regarding finish options. The sides and back finish are generally intact. Should the whole top get new varnish, or should the patches be finished to match the original? I am visiting the luthier this afternoon and I have some decisions to make. Can't wait to play this bass. It was barely playable when I bought it. As of yesterday there are strings on it and the luthier says it sounds great. Thanks for your thoughts!
  2. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    depends on how it looks after the work with no refinish work.
    post some pics :D

    i would just have your luthier touch up the bare spots to match the original finish.
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    It would be easier to ansewr your question if we/I could see the Bass at the current stage. The restorer should not have disturbed the original Finish/Varnish unless he was replacing wood or Inlaying pieces in the cracks. I would have him touch up everything as-is and then coat over it to help even things out. Do NOT sand the wood or any old Varnish off. Work with and around with what you have. If it is as old as you say, then leave what's left alone.
  4. I got to play the bass today. It's got beat up old strings on it for the moment, but it sure was a thrill. Huge sound.

    Attached Files:

  5. I know the photos aren't very good, but can anyone take a stab at what I've got here? There is a pencil signature inside, but no one could make sense of it....

    Attached Files:

  6. Nice looking bass. I'd leave the back and sides alone I think. More light in the photos of the front would help. The question is how well the new finish could match / compliment the old on the front. Even if you redo the whole front you wouldn't want it to look too new. The re-edging work looks very good. Whatever you decide, I think you've got a great bass there.
  7. Here's a somewhat better full frontal shot....

    Attached Files:

  8. I would try to match the finish by using artists oil colors as a glaze. I think I could get close enough that it would blend seamlessly. The rest of the varnish looks fine to me.
  9. Looks like a good old German or Czech shop bass...I agree with everyone to just touch up. However, being a French polish nut, I would have the whole thing FPed.
  10. In addition to advice about how to proceed with finish, I'm also trying to find out as much as I can about this bass. What does "shop bass" mean and how can this be recognized? Thanks!

  11. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    "Shop bass" is dressed up way of saying "factory bass". This instrument was more than likely not built by one person, but a series of workers. There were/are different ways of mass-producing basses. In one scenario, you have a one-roof, small factory kind of setup where someone builds rib-structures, somebody else joins and works the tops/backs, somebody carves scroll/sets necks, and another person does the finish. It could be just 4-8 people, and the bass will get a label of the owner/master of that shop. Or it gets no label. Master-art instruments are generally built by 1 person, with 1 or two apprentices helping out with the grunt work. Shop basses can be identified by straightfoward, no-frills materials, construction, and varnish. This doesn't mean they aren't good instruments! However, a shop bass doesn't appreciate in value the way a master instrument does.

    There is another scenario where many different makers live in the same town/city, and one person builds rib structures at one address, then somebody else joins and works tops/backs at another address, etc. This style of production has been going on well before Stradavari.
  12. Yep, and another nudge from me on the French Polish....after you match that old, dark color, which really shouldn't be too hard, and apply some Polish, you're able to see all the old scratches, pits and hits the bass has taken in the 100 or so, years underneath that shine of the FP.
  13. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Is it common to French polish basses? It's a great instrument finish- goes on super quick, and it's easy to repair.

    Some years ago I bought an old Gibson LG-0 that I suspect had been stored in an attic- all the original finish had curled up and flaked off. I'm not set up to spray lacquer, so I gave it a French polish treatment that both looked good and certainly didn't hurt the sound. Just sold it to a friend who is in love with it.
  14. French Polish is common on all the members of the string family.
  15. OK. Edges and patches it is, with a French polish. Should be ready in about 2 weeks, and I should be able to pay off the whole project in 40-50 local gigs.

    Next question: What might this bass be worth?