Scratch Proof Matte Clear Finish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by yakmastermax, Jul 23, 2021.

  1. Hey all! I just pulled the trigger on an Ibanez SRFF805. I'm VERY excited for this bass however one thing concerns me GREATLY.

    My first bass ever was an Ibanez Soundgear SR500-BM
    Later I splurged on an Ibanez Soundgear SR1400E
    Then after that I got (and still have) a Soundgear SR506

    All of these basses have been great in many ways, tone, playability, overall quality, however ALL of them suffered from a terribly weak finish that I tore through extremely quickly. My original SR500 I ended up refinishing myself with polyurethane gloss, my SR1400E I sold before too much damage was done to the finish and the value, and the SR506 is going to need a refinish eventually.

    My new SRFF805 comes soon, and I want to start off by just applying a finish (or having a professional apply a finish) that will be long lasting, durable, clear, and matte. It needs to stand of to nails, picks, scratches etc, without glossing over or worse, coming apart.
    I would like it to be matte so that it keeps the natural stained unfinished look that the Ibanez SRFF805 comes with from the factory.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

    Here are links to my previous threads on my SR1400 finish and SR500 finish, and a picture of my current SR506 with its worn finish.

    "NBD" Ibanez SR500 Stain and Refinish (PICS)

    Disappointed and pissed at Ibanez SR1400E
  2. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Polyurethane matte. Just realize if you reshoot a brand new instrument you no longer have a warranty.
    yakmastermax likes this.
  3. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Totally normal for those instruments, as disappointing as that is. I'm also a pretty big Ibanez fan and still have my first SR505 bought way back in the early 90s. The finish flaking/wear is a result of a relatively soft grainy wood (mahogany), no pore filling, and a very thin polyurethane sprayed finish. It gives a great look, but is inherently weak, even compared to their lesser offerings with thicker gloss poly finishes. Those can last for years and years and take a good beating with just scratches to show for it.

    Regarding a matte finish, it's funny we were just talking about it in some recent threads. Basically, any surface or finish will eventually polish up to a gloss at the contact points. This even happens with stone, it's just a reality. In a recent discussion one of our resident whiz kids @Bruce Johnson pointed out that matte paint is matte because it has additives that create a microscopically rough surface with little bumps on it. They refract the light and give the appearance of matte to the eye.

    There is another way to achieve it though, and that's to spray or otherwise apply a regular gloss finish and then sand it back with a very high grit paper to knock back the gloss into a matte surface. Something like 1500 grit or higher. At that point, it can be waxed for a smooth matte look. One reason this option is potentially better in the long run is that it can be repaired. When the surface eventually polishes up under contact, you can sand it back again to the same grit and re-introduce the matte look. A purpose-formulated matte paint cannot be repaired in this manner. It needs to be resprayed over the whole surface.

    I've done a few hand-rubbed matte finishes before in order to simulate an oil finish and I'm perhaps not skilled or practiced enough, but they didn't look as uniformly beautifully matte as when I've done a sprayed matte finish. So there's that, but it's just my experience with my own limits. :D
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Agreed. I've found that the best way to get a uniform "scratched" matte sheen is with #0000 steel wool. It works better than sandpaper or Scotchbrite. And touched-up spots will blend right in.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  5. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I think every SR500 ive seen has that exact flaking finish issue, which is surprising given the otherwise high build quality. I have some cheap furniture with what I'm convinced is the same stuff, an industrial version of Minwax Polyshades, which is just tinted poly. The stain never penetrates the wood, so any chips go right back to bare wood. Excellent advice given above, i might have to try that myself sometime.
    yakmastermax likes this.
  6. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    Much like fool-proof and idiot-proof, when you try to make something scratch-proof, they'll just make better scratches.

    Realistically, any finish that will stay on wood can be scratched without going too far out of your way to get exotic on the scratcher side. If the wood is stained, repair/renewal are more complicated.

    If the wood is unstained, a wax/oil "finish" is easily maintained/repaired as needed, even though it offers essentially no "protection."
    yakmastermax likes this.