Refinishing clear coat to remove scratches

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by craigie, Oct 2, 2016.

  1. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    I'm sure this has been covered many times in the forums, but I'd like some advice to the latter stages for finishing.

    I have a 1997 mexican jazz bass body (black) that I got in a thrift store. It was very abused: rusty pickup poles, bridge looked a bit rusty, frets worn right down, many scratch marks, and looked like the strap had been taped into place from the residue around the horn and behind the bridge.

    I pulled out the frets from the neck and made a decent fretless out of the neck and put that on a different bass. I put a 2007 mexican jazz neck with the 1997 body, and cleaned it up as best I could, swapped the pickups for a "set" of noiseless split coil humbuckers (one dimarzio model J I believe for the neck and one NJ4SE for the bridge). Even though not a matched set the pickups sounded great and the bass was very nice.

    Now I'm robbing the pickups for another bass I'm putting together, and will put the original mexi ceramic pickups back in and sell the bass.

    I removed everything from the body and wet sanded it with 1000 grit sandpaper. I still wasn't satisfied with the results so used 0000 steel wool. At this point I thought "oh poopie I'm in it now" as it looked swirly, and dull. Then I wiped it down with paint preparation solvent from crappy tire and magically it looked shiny as heck. The deep scratches are still there but not very visible.

    The problem is that if I touch it or it touches anything then it looks worse. So what I believe I've done is level sand the clear coat finish to remove minor scratches, and deep scratches still exist in the clear coat, and perhaps into the colour coat. The colour coat is black over white primer which can be seen in a few spots: one wear spot, one chip, and at the bridge holes.

    My question is what is the next step?

    1. Apply more coats of clear coat. This should help to fill in scratches. I would only use spray cans.

    2. Apply wax. I've read in a few places about applying wax after the clear coat. Is this a typical finishing step? It seems needed to keep hand grease etc from being so visible.

    3. Apply Colour coats first. The black looks good, but this may be better for filling in scratches. Also, I may be able to get a funky colour.

    My goal is to sell the bass. I want it to look as good as possible for sale without tons of work and expense. Also, I want a durable finish for the buyer.

    Photos to come. Right now I've got to go out with the wife and babies.

  2. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Just try polishing with a polishing compound
  3. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    IMG_20161002_093948.jpg You can't really see all the scratches on the top in this photo. IMG_20161002_094004.jpg You can see how scratched the bass looks. There was a big sticker on the back.

    Attached Files:

  4. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    Here's what it looks like after wet sanding with 1000 grit, and sanding with 0000 steel wool, and wiping with solvent. So you can see it looks pretty good. Scratches are not that visible. Need to find out how to improve it and keep it looking good. IMG_20161002_133117.jpg IMG_20161002_133105.jpg
    SirMjac28 likes this.
  5. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    I've already taken the steps above, for better or worse. I could try the polishing compound before trying anything else and see if it works. That's probably the best course of action.
  6. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    I tried with meguars ultimate polishing compound (for cars). I didn't put a whole lot of elbow grease into it but I really didn't like the results. The scratches appeared worse as they filled in with white. I tried to get the compound off as best I could but the result was unsatisfactory. I wiped it down again with solvent and it looks nice and black. I think it needs new clear coat. My reasoning is by sanding it I've taken it back a few steps to some time after the colour coat. I never saw any colour come off. I used a white rag to wipe it with solvent and it turned the tiniest bit dark after doing the whole instrument. That's just gunk I'm sure and not the black paint. So my reasoning is to level it well and continue with the finishing process. A bit more fine wet sanding to remove scratches and then clear coating. I will progress to finer sandpaper this time. I think the clear coat will fill in the scratches and add protection. As it stands the scratches are barely visible (without any gunk in them to make them stand out). You have to look in just the right light to see them.
  7. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    It looks pretty good to me. Enough that I'm not sure you would really gain any more value in your selling price by getting it shinier and/or newer looking. It is what it is - a '97 MIM Fender body with an '07 MIM Fender neck. It looks good enough now to get the max cash for a used instrument...
    SirMjac28 and Will_White like this.
  8. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    It wouldn't be wise to spray anything on the bass, unless you just fancy a refinish project for fun. If you did refinish it, after the finish has cured you would need to sand it level and buff it back to a gloss. Which coincidentally is a similar stage to what you're at now, except you haven't needed to wait for it to cure and you've not had to buy any lacquer! Also any finish you get in an aerosol will be noticeably less durable than the stock Fender Poly it currently has.

    So you've got two sensible options - complete the wetsanding and buffing the finish properly (that means upto 2000 grit then compounds). Or - sell it as it is. People really don't care too much about scratches and dings on a bass like that and an amateur refinish would detract more from the value than the scratches would. It'll also look a lot nicer to you when you reinstall all the hardware, as at that point you start seeing it as a bass again instead of a canvas!
    Will_White and SirMjac28 like this.
  9. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    Good advice from both of you. The problem is it shows finger print oils very badly. Maybe I'm just looking for that too closely. I'll try to make it work as is.