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Staining a finished Bass (?)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by nice_hat, Nov 29, 2018.


  1. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    Just picked up this very cool sounding and well playing Cort A6. To me, it's lacking in visual appeal. It's a handsome enough bass, I really like the wood combination, but the maple is just sort of... Acceptable. I love the mahogany grain in the back, but find the front lacking the personality I want.

    So, I've decided to stain the front. I'm going to use a water based, clear gel stain (Crystalac Craftnique) with a dye kit to mix custom colors.

    This bass comes from the factory in "open pore natural" finish. But when I pull the back plate, it's pretty apparent the back is stained (update, back not stained, but finished with a sealant). That's ok, I love the look of the back. The whole bass does, in fact, have an open grain feel, though I suspect it has some sort of sealant on it.

    I want to check in that my plan for this work passes the straight-face test. I intend to:
    • Remove the strings and hardware from the bass. Pickups and electronics as well.
    • Mask the bass so that only the parts I intend to stain are exposed. I'm leaning toward just doing the maple wing fronts, but welcome thoughts.
    • Sand exposed area of maple with 220
    • Sanding with mix of hand/block and mesh disks on a 5" random orbital
    • Wipe with... Question to the group: what would you wipe down with? Naphtha, acetone, mineral spirits, something else?
    • Apply base color stain, dry
    • Back sand to desired effect
    • Apply further stain for color and effect desired, back sand for effect, repeat as needed
    • Final back sand with 330... Higher?
    • Wipe whole bass down with appropriate product to prep for application of an oxidization cured oil (will take suggestions on this step too)

    Any thoughts on the headstock? Thinking I'm going to leave it to preserve Cort logo.

    Any thoughts on stripping/sanding/staining the rest of the bass, like the mahogany in the back and the wenge in the neck?

    What about using the oxidizing oil on those parts that are not getting stained, do I need to prep sand them or any other special prep?

    And please feel free to post pics of inspiration for some cool stain treatments, and/or color layout suggestions.

    -Much appreciated


    15434699034726706220375373087223. 15434700115475403327560881778457. 15434700320915195480352615042829.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
  2. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    Mornings, TB. Looking forward to getting some good info and ideas.
     
  3. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    Would really appreciate having a chat around this idea of mine. Any input from the TB guru's?
     
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The mahogany does not look stained to me at all. I just looks like there is no finish applied to the control cavity. Staining just the maple would be tricky at best, you would have to make sure any and all finish is removed from wood or the stain will be blotchy. If this is a penetrating oil finish that could prove to be very difficult. Secondly masking of the mahogany will not work because your stain will seep under the tape and bleed onto the mahogany. Your best bet if you want to a stained look to the maple would be to spray a trans finish over the maple instead of staining the wood itself.

    Personally, your best bet is to leave this one alone. It would not be easy at all to change the color of only one of the woods in a "hippy sandwich" style bass.
     
    nice_hat likes this.
  5. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    An interesting perspective. Yeah, I had though about the possibility of bleed, but with the gel stain being a touch thicker, and it has a built in binder, I think the edge-lock tape will do the trick

    I agree that if it has a penetrating oil it will be difficult. I think I'll check in with Cort and get a bit more info on their "open pore natural" finish.

    I've been wrestling with the idea of just doing a clear finish instead of a stain, but my goal is to retain the feel it has now.
     
  6. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    I think you should leave it alone as well.

    There's probably some sealer and then some finish coats. You'd really probably want to remove that stuff first. Chemicals and sanding is your option. If you don't get it all out, the stain will be blotchy
     
  7. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    Starting disclaimer is that I'm inexperienced in this area, as well, but have been thinking about a similar project. I thought the whole point of gel stain is that it works over existing finishes?
     
  8. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    Stain over an existing finish (especially one where you don’t know what’s there prior) is a recipe for disaster. And you can’t mask stain and expect it to give you a defined line where the stain stops - even gel stain will bleed.

    And staining maple? Maple is almost non- porous - not much sinks in.

    Whatever you decide to do, you’d be smart to find some scraps of the wood species you want to work on, and try whatever you want to do (sanding, staining, etc.) on the scrap first. Very experienced finishers do this all the time, and it really helps avoid finishing train wrecks. Note that how you sand (final grit) determines how the stain works.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
    Inara likes this.
  9. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    Thanks for this!
     
  10. Especially if the two chemical finishes aren't compatible. In some cases, the second finish will soften the first finish, and never re-cure. stays gummy for life. [experience...]

    But, there are techniques that involve sealing the surface, and applying a stain or colored finish over. Violins are made this way. The final color of beautiful violins is the result of two different colors, one over the other. Some of the best finishes are only accomplished by layering and sealing between layers, never actually soaking or penetrating the wood.

    But I agree, your bass is attractive as-is, and I think the risk is too great. I'd enjoy it, and consider a different project for a re-finish.
     
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Edge lock tape is just marketing wank, it doesn't matter if its oil stain, gel stain, or dye, it will bleed under the tape. You can only get a hard edge if you spray it.
     
  12. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    So, upon further inspection, the mahogany is stained. You can see were is dripped in the back cavity.
     

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  13. JKos

    JKos

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    That bass looks great as is. I can't see what you want to do turning out nearly as nice. But, if you do try it, good luck!

    - John
     
  14. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    Since I just got this bass, it wasn't set up the way I wanted it (i like flats these days). In my initial time playing it, I noticed a buzz coming from the bridge. I identified it as one of the saddles having a little bit of play, I'm going to fix it, but it's annoying. So when I was taking the strings off to change them and taking the bridge apart to do that fixing I decided to just take it off and look at the wood underneath. Glad I did.

    You can see a little bit in the photo that I did a test sand. The tight grain in the maple made it so it didn't take very much sanding to get to bare wood.

    I have emailed Cort asking for more information on their "open pore natural" finish.

    As for the warnings about bleed: totally hear where y'all are coming from. One of the things I have in my favor is that I'm not going to sand the parts that aren't getting stained by me. I'm going to do a little bit of a test on this spot of wood under the bridge to see how the existing finish interacts with the stain that I'm going to use, but assuming it's not reactive the existing clear will protect the other woods. Also, this isn't a normal stain, it's a water-based clear gel, it has a binder built into it. So it's almost like a direct to wood clear, but it penetrates a little bit more like a stain, and I can make the mix thicker to help. I'm an experienced contractor and finish carpenter and do detail paint and stain pretty regularly. I'm not going to rely soley on the tape to keep the edge but will also be applying it with the extent of my skill and knowledge. But yes, I can see the potential for error. I do this aware of the risks. I've always been the type to take things apart to see how they work, and then try to put them back together better than they were.

    Having said all that, I'm deliberating on just having the bridge coated or electroplated to Black, putting it back together, and then starting on my first custom build from the ground up...
     

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    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  15. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    Ok... From all the feedback that people are giving me saying that they really think the bass is sharp-looking already, and that there's a lot of potential for things to go wrong on this... I decided to critically analyze what about this bass I wasntw happy with astheticly. Honest assessment is that my biggest problem with it is the way thethe sa aluminum finish in the bridge sits against the pale maple.

    Giving it further thought, considering that the saddles on this hipshot bridge are actually 2 moving parts, and changing their color could be complicated... One thing I think it's funky but looks good is this bass has 2-tone tuner pegs: the winding keys being black and the stem and gears being that same matte aluminum finish as the bridge.

    I'm thinking if I just did the baseplatec portion of the bridge black, and kept the saddles in that same finish it would match the two-tone look of the pegs, while at the same time changing up the aesthetic of the face of the base making it more to my liking. This is a fairly easy option to go with, but I think it will have big visual impact.

    ... I might still do the stain... I'll post results either way.

    But, now I need to buy a band saw... Probably should get a drill press too...
     
  16. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I think you are seeing the finish leaking over the edge in the control panel. Any clear coat will make the mahogany look darker and brighter like you see there.

    I think most maple tops you see are done using dyes..not stains. Which is good since stains are all dirt colors and dyes are the entire visual spectrum. Also most of the time they have a binding to separate two colored areas or use translucent dyed finishes instead of dying the actual wood. If you think of the wood as a sponge soaking up the dye, it will not absorb in a straight clean line even with glued wood.
     
  17. nice_hat

    nice_hat Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2017
    Puget Sound, WA
    Follow up: I really didn't care for the look of it as it was, but decided the stain was more than I wanted to do without getting in to a whole custom build... So i contacted Hipshot and got black saddles, and I used gun blu on the baseplate and the tuning peg nuts (flat clear over the blu).
    IMG_20190202_090851. IMG_20190202_090859.
     

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