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Refreshing Koa

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by A9X, Jun 19, 2005.

  1. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Hi All,

    I have a Peavey Dynabass Unity that's all Koa except for a pair of thin neck laminates, and it looks like it's never been cared for well. I'm looking to refresh it aesthetically.

    The wood looks very 'dry', but it isn't cracked or anything, and it's obviously picked up a lot of hand oils on the back of the neck and parts of the front from playing. The wood is quite dull looking and I'm not sure what to use to clean it, and perhaps re-oil it (should it actually be oiled?)

    It's a nicely understated looking and lightweight 16yo bass and I'd like to bring her back up to snuff before I rebuild the electronics and play with some new pickups.

    I'm not very experienced with woodworking and would appreciate any tips on what to do and how to do it.

  2. If it were mine, I would begin with a hard rubdown with a soft T-shirt and some naptha. This will take off some of the accumulated gunk - maybe all of it - without disturbing anything in the surface grain. Then I would be able to see if any of the oils have stained the wood. If there are area's that are stained, I'll come back over it with some more naptha using a light abrasive - my favorite 0000 steel wool. If you don't dig the steel wool, a Scotchbrite pad is recommended by some of the guys here. The light abrasive will sometimes help even out the color when there's an oily stain or at least make it a little less noticable. It will also wipe out little scratches and cross grain wear so it's not so noticeable. I've also mixed up some Murphy's wood soap and put some on a cloth to wipe down dirty wood like this and you would be surprised what can come up from where your skin has come in contact with the wood. Your koa should really brighten up - get shimmery and glow. When I'm satisfied the wood is cleaned up, I rub some Teak Oil finish into it. This is designed to penetrate hard woods like koa, rosewood, and teaks and really makes them look good and provides a bit of moisture protection. It doesn't build up a thick film so that nice natural grain feel will still be there. Once the oil has dried, you can buff it up with a soft cloth and that body should look like it was new.
  3. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    That was just the sort of info I needed. I'll get on the hunt for the items you mentioned (or the Aussie equivalents) and get her stripped and ready to do it weekend after next. I'll clean all the hardware whilst it's off too. She should be really pretty when done.

    Koa is related to Australian Blackwood, one of my fave timbers. I'll apply your suggestions to a couple of large blackwood bowls I have that are also unfinished.
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Something else to note-- I've seen one a Unity Koa, which I liked a lot. One of the things that made it nicer to me was that the purpleheart strips had mellowed a lot, and become browish-purple. (The bright purple is not to my personal taste.) So, if yours is toned down like the one I saw, you should expect the purpleheart to jump back up to full purpleness if you do anything abrasive with it. Could be plus or a minus, depending on your tastes.
  5. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    I went shopping for the ingredients today, and found exactly one component, the 0000 steel wool. The search continues....
    Question is, how much Teak oil will I need? I presume not much, but it's only available in 1 litre containers and is quite expensive, so I'm trying to get 'a bit' from someone and I want to know how much to ask for. Cheers.
  6. Oh, I would estimate there's going to be more left in your rags than actually soaks into the bass. 2 or 3 ounces should do you fine.
  7. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    I haven't been able to bludge or buy a small amount from someone, so the project has been held up. The woodworking supply shop I tried suggested Tung oil, which is $A12 rather than the $A60 for the Teak oil. I'd like this bass to come up the best it can, and I much prefer to do things once, so, will the Tung oil give a similar result (in terms of bringing out the beautiful looks of the koa) or is the extra $48 going to be worth it? Got no real use for the leftovers if I get a litre of the teak, except maybe a few drops for the rosewood and ebony boards on my other basses, assuming that's a good idea.

    Note, that the bass has been well used and has lots of small thumbnail marks etc that are visible when held up to the light. it's definitely not pristine, but not a ho either.


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