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Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by littlebill, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. littlebill


    Oct 18, 2002
    Apopka, Fla
    I am considering stripping and varnishing my bass. I've read the discussions in this forum and been to the links suggested for additional info. Great stuff! I am looking forward to this project.

    My bass is an older (50 years plus) German plywood that is well made and has a great tone. The problem is the old lacquer is yellowed and has not aged well. At various times in its life large areas have flaked off, the latest being almost the entire lower left side. It looks awful but sounds great. Most of the threads I have read seems to be work on newer basses that are looking for more in the sound. Of course better sound would be a benefit but I am thinking more of the looks, there is some beautiful wood that would look very nice refinished. My concern is the age of the bass and would like to know if anyone has experience with an older instrument to give me a cause to think that this may not be a good idea.
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I can't think of any reason that the age of the bass would impact the decision to refinish. Unless, of course, the bass was VERY old and you didn't want to compromise the antiquity of it.

    There are many old plywood Kay basses out there that have been recently completely redone. So, refinishing a 50-year-old bass shouldn't be an issue.

    One issue that should concern you is the sound. There has been plenty of discussion here at TB about stripping newer plywoods to help them open up. This is done mainly because some of the less expensive plywoods today are finished with very heavy coats of poly or other plastic like finish. These finishes tend to add mass and choke the sound.

    However, in your case, the bass is already opened up. You need to be careful not to apply something that will choke the sound. If the bass is worth it, it may be advisable to seek a pro to do the finish work. In any case, I would study long and hard to make sure I was using the least constrictive finish product available. Violin varnishes can be purchased pre-mixed and there are also plenty of recipes for making them out there. That may be the best choice.

    It won't be as durable of a finish, but you could just strip it and finish it with straight shellac. Know anyone who does French polishing? That would look really nice.
  3. If you do decide to strip and refinish the bass, please keep in mind that the color of the finish is in the finish itself on violin family instruments. Staining the wood is only done by amateurs and you don't want your bass to look like is was done by an amateur even if you are one.
  4. littlebill


    Oct 18, 2002
    Apopka, Fla
    I didn't think the age of the bass would be a problem but sometimes you don't know unless you ask and I sure don't want to find out the hard way. Thanks for the input.
    I am set on refinishing the bass, as I said it looks terrible so even if I don't do the best job, it will be better than it is, believe me. I only decided to do this in the last couple of days since a loaner bass has become available for a couple of months so I will take my time to learn about the different finishing products and take it from there. I certainly don't want to do anything to choke the sound but I would think some of the recommendations found in the refinishing threads would not tend to do that to a bass. I do not have to be in a hurry and the word patience is advice I keep hearing.
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Every maker I know uses some sort of wash or light water stain for a ground color. This amounts to staining the wood. These are not amateurs. Of course the majority of the color is in the varnish. The darker varnish over a yellow or golden ground is what gives instruments their glow.
  6. While everything Arnold said is true, I doubt if you are going to find a yellow ground or wash at your local paint store. When I said stain, I meant what I said - stain - not ground. I've seen far too many otherwise nice jobs ruined by using a walnut, maple, oak, etc STAIN on the wood.

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