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Refinishing a Fender MIM P-Bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Sundogue, Jan 27, 2005.


  1. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I have some time off with my band due to our guitarist tearing a rotator cuff in his shoulder.

    So I thought it would be a good time to refinish my Fender MIM P-Bass.

    It was a sunburst finish (like in my avatar) with an ugly white pickguard. I ordered a tortoise shell pickguard for it and now I have it completely taken apart and I sanded off all the coats.

    I noticed while sanding that there seemed to be extra layers of wood. As I sanded I thought, "Oh my God, this is plywood!" but as I kept sanding down I realized that they put a veneer of something on it that was only about 1/32" thick.

    Underneath this plain, no grain veneer, is a really great wood that appears to be ash. It is a light tan with distinct grain. It looks wonderful, so I wonder why they put a plain veneer over it?

    The veneer is just on the back (but not on the body contour) and on the front (but it seems like it was bent to fit the front body contour).

    With it all sanded off the body looks like it is an ash body.

    Anyone know what woods MIM P-Basses made in 2002-2003 were made of? Or why they would put a very plain wood veneer over it when the body itself looks so good?
     
  2. SirPoonga

    SirPoonga

    Jan 18, 2005
    Talking about refinishing a pbass. If someone could add how do you deal with the top coating on a plain black pbass? Just sand it down until you hit wood? It seems rather thick and plastic like paint. I was wondering if there is an easy way to get most of it off before sanding. I bought my pbass huged and it has some rather decent sized dings. I have been thinking of refinishing then.
     
  3. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham

    Nov 14, 2002
    Shillington
    I refinished my P last year and used a belt sander and orbital sander. It worked, it was fast but next time Im going to use stripper. It just took to much wood off and the battery cover on the back no longer had a nice little recess to fit into.
     
  4. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I just used an orbital sander, though I did couple of passes with a belt sander on the veneer.

    I tried a heat gun and even a torch, but that stuff does not come off like a poly finish. Stripper did absolutely nothing. I have a couple of different kinds and even the most caustic stuff I have didn't do anything to the finish.

    A power sander is really quick and easy to use. It doesn't seem like it will at first, but once you get through it, you'll see there isn't much to it. I sanded it all off in about two hours.

    Careful with belt sanders!!! They'll go right through your bass in no time!!! :D
     
  5. Figjam

    Figjam

    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I doubt a MIM p bass is ash, its probably alder.
     
  6. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I thought it might be alder as well, however, the grain is quite noticable. But then again the wood itself is darker than ash.

    Either way, I'm surprised they would have put such a plain veneer on it.
     
  7. SirPoonga

    SirPoonga

    Jan 18, 2005
    So, the best way is to sand through the top layers.

    Looking at the nicks in my pbass it appears to be two layers. The top black layer, a green layer, then the wood. I believe this is what is there. I will verify when I get home. Also, I think I have an older pbass from the 90s and it's a Squire.

    Anyone know what material these layers are? Remember, this is for a black pbass, not sundogue's sunburst. Sorry sundogue, but I figures since the subject came up I wouldn't start a new thread.
     
  8. Slater

    Slater Bye Millen! Hello?

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    A post 2001 MIM Fender body should be Alder (used to be Poplar before). Fender uses veneer for sunburst MIMs. The veneer should be Ash, which should have a better grain pattern (which is why they use the veneer) for the see-through sunburst finish. It's too costly to put the veneer over the "belly-cut", so they just paint it black.

    Anyway, you should have an Alder body with Ash veneer, but who knows what happens in those factories some times...
     
  9. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Yes, I do believe it is alder upon closer inspection. I'm still not sure of the veneer as it very plain, as in almost no noticable grain at all.

    Personally I love the alder grain pattern and I think it will look great stained with a tort pickguard.

    EDIT: After further inspection, I noticed that this alder body is not a solid piece, but rather glued pieces. However, there is only one part of the body that shows (that is not covered by the pickguard) that the grain does not match up with the adjoining piece. Even though it is not an ideal body for a natural look, I'd prefer the natural look over the sunburst painting. While I love sunbursts normally, there is just something about sunbursts now that bugs me. I didn't notice it until I took a photo of it, but sunburst finishes seem to show a distinct red outline shape around the body (rather than a graduated shading) that is a bit unnerving.

    Since I saw it with mine, I now look at all sunbursts and I can't NOT see this distinct red outline and I've come to hate it. So, I'm staining my less than perfect alder body a very light color and finishing it.

    If you are painting it, I don't think you'd need to go all the way down to the wood. I'd just rough up the top surface, fill in dents and scratches, sand smooth and then paint over it.

    No problem getting in on the thread...all of us might as well get as much info as we can.
     
  10. SirPoonga

    SirPoonga

    Jan 18, 2005
    The green is paint tranfers on this one ding. Taking a closer look I have a thick black plastic like material on tops, a thin white layer, then the wood. How would I strip this?
     
  11. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I would just sand it with an orbital sander and/or a belt sander.

    It doesn't take that long with power tools.
     
  12. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    UPDATE:

    I've stained the body. It must be alder. The grain is not very distinct and it's a little more brownish tan than lighter like ash.

    I stained it a natural light stain. I've got the third coat of clear on and I rushed that coat so I'll be sanding out some runs and putting a few more coats on.

    I got some ebony stain and I'm staining the rosewood neck. It looks great with ebony stain on it. I still haven't recieved my tort pickguard and it apparently won't be in until late next week, so I'll have to put my painted black pg back on for the time being.

    It is going to look a thousand times better than it did when I got it, with the stock sunburst finish with an ugly white pickguard. At the very least, it will be uniquely mine.
     
  13. SirPoonga

    SirPoonga

    Jan 18, 2005
    According to Fender's website they use Alder. Can;t wait to see pics.
     
  14. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Well the first pic is how I bought it. Just the same old boring MIM factory default color scheme, which to me looks rather cheap. Which is fine as I got it cheap, but it played better than a dozen or so other MIA Fenders I played at two music shops. This Fender is really built nice. It plays and sounds fabulous.

    The second pic shows the pickguard that I painted black.

    When it's done it should look like John Deacon's Precision he had in the early years with Queen. A light natural brown, with a tort pg and rosewood fingerboard, but the rosewood will be much darker, closer to ebony.

    I won't be posting any pics of my refinish job until I get the tort pickguard. I also sanded out more of the contours on the body. The arm rest area is much rounder and the body contour on the back is deeper as well. All of the edges around the body are rounder now too.

    The finish sanding was the most fun part. I love seeing how it starts taking shape the way I want it.
     
  15. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Deacon's P-Bass.

    Mine looks very similar to this one now.
     
  16. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Here is my refinished P-Bass.

    The photo is terrible. I took it in bad lighting. The body is closer to the headstock in color and there is more grain showing. The body in the photo looks almost orange, but it;s not. The lighting made the body darker, the headstock lighter and the grain is all washed out.

    Once I get my tort pickguard, I'll repost a good photo of it.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham

    Nov 14, 2002
    Shillington
    Beautiful!!! :bassist:
    whatd you end up using for a topcoat????
     
  18. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Thanks. The pic doesn't do it justice. In fact I had reservations about posting it because it looks so much nicer than the photo shows. Personally I think the photo makes it kind of ugly.

    I stained it with MINWAX Natural, so it's only slightly darker than before I stained it. The stain basically brought out the grain and only slightly darkened it, though you'd never know it from the pic.

    The top coat is a gloss polyurethane. I have about 5 thin coats on it. I really need to wet sand it again and buff it out, but I'll wait until my tort pickguard arrives before I do that.

    Here's a modification to my existing photo. Since the photo itself was so bad, there is only so much I can do with it, but it's slightly closer to the right color.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. gapupten

    gapupten

    Dec 29, 2004
    How long did it take you to do all this?
    I haven't done any finish work on basses but have improved
    them in other ways. What I have found is that I can't justify the money I put into improving my basses on strickly a financial basis. I would think the same thing would be true, probably even more so, wth finish work.
    So how many hours of love do you have in this puppy? It really does look great -- even better with a tort guard.
     
  20. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Thanks!

    I spent a total of two hours on a Thursday night taking it apart and sanding it down to the bare wood. Then on Friday night, I finished up the sanding (another hour and a half sanding the thin veneer on the top and bottom, with a little light finish sanding). I completely removed (sanded) the veneer so it's all alder. I used orbital and belt sanders for the heavy work.

    On Saturday, I spent about 30 minutes doing the fine sanding, prepping the body for stain. Then I stained it later that morning.

    Later that same afternoon I put on the first coat of poly. By night I had 3 coats of polyurethane on.

    By Sunday night I had it all finished. I spent about a total of six hours of actual work (not including drying time between coats, or final drying).

    Monday night I put it all back together. I could have easily had it done in two days if I had no other obligations to tend to.

    I can't wait for the tort pickguard to come, because I'm going to take some decent photos of it when it's completely done the way I want it. These pics are just terrible.