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spirit varnish to oil varnish

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Mitch911, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. Mitch911

    Mitch911 Commercial User

    Dec 29, 2015
    hi everyone!
    my double bass has a spirit varnish on it. I'm a student who travels alot with my bass and due to the nature of the varnish, it's chipped quite a bit.

    my main question is can I get my bass re varnished with an oil varnish? and would anyone know how much something like that would cost on an average 3/4 bass?

    I've looked on this site and other outlets for info but can't find a single thing. any help would be appreciated. thanks
  2. Thou$and$.
  3. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    I'm not a luthier, but a hobbyist with experience with shellac. If you're certain that it is a spirit varnish, a luthier can re-touch with matching color, build and re-distribute the finish around the damaged areas to blend the old and new. Are you asking about spot re-touching, or completely re-varnishing? Is the chipping on the edges primarily, or is it cracking on the top/back and ribs as well? I don't think fixing chipped spirit finish spots with oil varnish is common practice, but a trip to a luthier will answer that question.
    robobass and Matthew Tucker like this.
  4. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Rodger is correct that one doesn't retouch spirit varnish with oil varnish, although oil finishes are almost always retouched with spirit ... Yes a complete strip and revarnish will be expensive. Retouching is possible. But, you really haven't given enough information for anyone to give a really informed response. Pictures? Value of the bass? Do you want a pristine finish or do you like a bit of mojo?
  5. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Interesting. I had no idea this was even possible.
  6. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    The benefit of retouching with something like shellac is that it can be easily removed with alcohol, allowing you to start over if you don't like the result.
    For spot retouching on my bass, I mix up a thicker batch of amber shellac, separate into two jars and gradually add drops of different Transtint dyes to one of them to get a match.
    james condino likes this.
  7. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Shellac sticks to just about anything :)
  8. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    The other beauty of Spirit varnish is that it dries quite rapidly, so that a second and third coat can be applied the same day... sometimes in the same sitting, if there are a large number of retouch issues.
    It does take some practice...
  9. Mitch911

    Mitch911 Commercial User

    Dec 29, 2015
    here's some pictures of a lot of spots that I wanna touch up. if putting and oil on it isn't a great idea from what I've read so I would just nwed a lot of reading touching?
    the bass is work about 5k usd. I just want a retouching job that makes it look less beat up. so nothe crazy good, just enough to be respectable
    1485371117557-917185621. 1485371137143-78065496. 14853711612201149325142.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017
  10. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Well...those are certainly easy re-touch jobs, but...

    You should perhaps consider "bass-bumpers" (maybe there is another name?)--sometimes of ebony, sometimes other materials. I make mine of heavy leather in multiple layers. Some shops even use pieces of automotive v-belt. The idea is to protect that edge where you lay the bass down from contact with the floor. I glue them onto the ribs at the high point, right next to the plate overhang, and then varnish the bumper. They do not look objectionable, to most players, and they prevent excessive wear to the overhang of the plate edges.

    The other thing...many players rather like the "road-worn" look, and do not want it reversed. If you like the brand-new look, it will require pretty diligent maintenance, as basses tend to attract bumps and scratches.

    Your call.
    Rodger Bryan likes this.
  11. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    The difference between a dinged-up bass and a naturally road-worn bass with mojo is time, and dirt. A new scratch always looks ugly because it is lighter then the varnish and draws the eye. Unless you want to keep the thing as-new, and if you are on a budget, I would tend to just darken the scratches with some waterbased pigment or soot - or a grubby finger - and get back to playing. If you have a watercolour set you can do no harm. You will be surprised how less noticeable they become. Matching the colour and finish perfectly is difficult and time consuming even for a pro. My advice is go a shade or two darker. As Chet says, your bass will acquire more dings and scratches - I think you need a practical strategy to manage them.
    Rodger Bryan and james condino like this.
  12. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Badges of honor
  13. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    I was expecting much worse. I agree with the gentleman on 1st Bass, this would be easy to touch up and bumpers may be a good idea. My greatest concern is wear on the edges over time that may lead to splintering and cracking.

    While it is purely preference- I like to see basses that are well used but well cared for, as opposed to showroom perfect.
  14. For this bass an alternative to bumpers (which transfer shock to the ribs which can separate from the top because of the shock) is a PVC tube about 5 to 8 mm inner diameter with a single length cut put around the top edges. The shock goes to the top as before the finish is safe. Only possible if the top sticks out over the ribs/linings.

    I was first concerned about the softener in the PVC, but have no problems with my Emanuel Wilfer bass after about three months.

    The tube might get loose when putting the bass in the bag or out of the bag, but they are quickly back on the instrument if needed. Maybe a double sided sticky tape (i.e. like used for photos) could keep the ends of the tubes on the bass.
    Use a smaller diameter than the thickness of the top, about 2/3 to 3/4 of it, so the tube is under tension and sticks better to the top.

    Keep the upper left bug free of the PVC, otherwise you might have problems to glide in thumb position, but the lower half of the left upper bug could take the PVC tube. Material thickness is up to you. Thicker has more edge protection, but changes the visual appearance of the bass a bit more than thinner. Anything between 0.5 to 2 mm should work.

    Might make a picture tomorrow...
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017
  15. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I've never seen a top separated from the ribs due to the use of bumpers.

    I use hard rubber, anyway. Looks like ebony, easy to install, doesn't get caught in a bag if you round the edges ... IMG_3804.JPG . And cushions just enough.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Gollihur carries great edge protector sets that stick on to the sides of the bass for when you set it down.

    The rest of the stuff in those pics is just patina.
    Josh Kneisel likes this.
  17. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    Fan-belt bumpers (pix and instructions):
    "Bumpers" for the edge of an instrument.

    You can also use Copic markers—available in many colors—for touch-ups. They look just fine on my Shen.
    Ortsom likes this.
  18. You should see my Saxon, whose scroll is in my avatar.

    It's survived two World Wars and looks it. Yours is just a baby.
    Bisounourse and james condino like this.
  19. Here are the photos. The lighter ones (#2 & #4) have been made using a flashlight, so you can see it better, the darker ones (#1 & #3) look like in reality.
    image. image. image. image.
    (I know that my saddle needs to be glued back to the lower block...)
  20. Ortsom

    Ortsom Banned

    Mar 23, 2016
    Thanks for sharing that idea. That's piping used in aquaria, aimed at being unobtrusive.

    I like the idea of loading the edges/overhang only, though I appreciate loading the ribs rarely is an issue. And I also like protecting a longer section of the lower overhang, rather than just the short bit it's lying on, because of the way you lay-down the bass. But how well that piping fits & stays put depends on the overhang, and you don't want the protector to move when you lay the bass down. I have some of that stuff & will try.

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