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Refinishing this Ugly Beast

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Stiffwagon, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. Stiffwagon


    Feb 23, 2014
    Long time listener, first time caller.

    So I've played bass leisurely for ten years or so, punk bands ect here and there. I've always been a fan of rockabilly/psychobilly music, so I decided I would like to learn to play upright.

    Currently, I'm deployed on a US Navy ship. I ordered a Stagg electric upright to be able to take it anywhere and practice quietly and whatnot. But recently, I had my mom chase down something from a craigslist ad, and I landed the worlds ugliest old upright for $50. I'm serious ... its atrocious. I guess the old guy who owned it claimed he cobbled it together from plywood and parts ... and he proceeded it give it just the most irredeemable paint job in history (watch my luck and he'll be a respected member of this forum or something :p )

    ANYWAY, this was kind of perfect for me. Because, being a punk transitioning to 'billy (they say rockabilly/psychobilly is the punk rock retirement plan, right?) I kind of wanted an old beat up bass that I could paint a wild design on without feeling like I was ruining a perfectly good instrument.

    Obviously, a beauty this aint.

    Problem is, the front wood (the panel with the F holes) my mom says "feels like pretty thin wood". Again, I'm deployed right now, so I haven't even seen the thing in person. But I'm thinking I need to probably chemically strip the thing, to avoid ruining it by sanding.

    SO I guess I was just wondering what approach you guys would take to getting this thing down to a baseline where I can prep it for paint and go wild, without screwing it up too much? Obviously, I can only go up from here ...

    Here's some pictures of it - had to have the little sister hold it up for the pictures, and apparently she wanted nothing to do with her face showing, haha.










    Thanks in advance for any input!
  2. That is definitely a $50 bass.

    If you're going for the stereotypical psychobilly look, why bother removing what's already there? Take everything off the corpus, tape over the fingerboard and spray it with a few coats of something spiffy and clearcoat it.
  3. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    It's beautiful! A chemical paint stripper like zip strip will work the fastest - read the safety instructions and don't get it in your eyes!
  4. Stiffwagon


    Feb 23, 2014
    Yeah .. I mean, I guess I could just go over everything ... but this ting is rough enough that I'd prefer just to get it down to bare bones and start from ground zero, to kind of squeeze what I can out of it. Obviously its a cheap piece of junk, but honestly it kind of suits me at the moment. Don't need a Corvette for a first car anyway ... a Geo Metro will do just fine.
  5. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I would be worried about chemical paint strippers and what they could potentially do to the glue used to hold the bass together. While you can avoid seams around the ribs of the bass, and you can probably see if the top is one piece or not, it isn't uncommon for backs on instruments to be book-matched with a seam in the middle, or a few more pieces like wings on the lower bouts etc. If you can see if that is the case by looking through the f-holes, you can also avoid those areas. Chances are it's a solid ply back, but that's just a guess. In an instrument like that there is also a chance it isn't proper hide glue and it's something else like contact cement. If you start using a paint stripper, I'd be worried about potentially having a bass jigsaw puzzle instead of a bass with no paint on it. I'm not overly familiar with paint strippers and hide glue though, so take that warning with a grain of salt.

    I would lean towards hand sanding. Yes, it is going to be slower than paint thinners or a sander, but you could get a lot of it off without worrying about taking wood away or having glue issues. You don't need to go completely down to "white" wood if you are planning on painting it again anyway. Another thing to consider is if you're playing rockabilly/psychobilly, then you are largely using a plugged in sound. In that case some added acoustic dampening (ie. leaving some paint behind) is sometimes a blessing in disguise.
  6. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    I'd be a LOT more concerned that it is remotely playable. IF it is, I'd just give it a very light sanding (for adhesion and smoothing out any rough spots) and paint away. Maybe even some crazy cheap decals (flames?) to give it the punk/rockabilly vibe? Good advice above about what chemicals MAY do (in a bad way). Why put a new Vette paint job on an old beater Geo?
  7. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    This bass badly wants to be the house bass in some country punk or psychobilly venue. I'd leave it as is. Play it for awhile, and when you upgrade I bet you can sell it to a music bar for a good profit.
  8. Stiffwagon


    Feb 23, 2014
    It will be an exclusively amplified (& heavily EQ'd) instrument, if I can make it work at all. Not going to be tone-hounding, obviously. Just knockaround punkabilly stuff. So, chemicals might turn it into a pile of ugly wood instead of a glued together box of ugly wood ... and some light hand sanding might scuff up the wood and get the finger-painting off of it without burning a hole through the wood? Taking extra time is no problem, I just assumed chemicals were going to be the way to go.

    Either way the paint job is going to be rattled - I'd just like to make it look better than it actually is, from a distance, anyway! Haha..

    So what about that crappy wizard/hillbilly face carved into the scroll? Can I shave that thing off without breaking anything?

    Out of curiosity ... does anyone recall a sadder, sorrier looking looking piece of junk passing through these pages ever? I knew the ridicule would probably be thick ... but hopefully someday it's presentable. I'll be eager to see how bad it actually is when I get home finally (9 month deployment is no joke)
  9. Most definitely. There was an "ugliest bass" contest on this forum some years ago. Yours would have been a contender.

    It just occurred to me that the tuning machines on your bass are Klusons, which were used on Kay basses until both companies bit the dust decades ago. If the bass is not viable, save the machines. You'll get your $50 back on them alone, and then some.
  10. Stiffwagon


    Feb 23, 2014
    Thanks for the info! Thats the kind of thing that is good to know!

    Now if only it had come with some of that value below the tuners ...