Striping a Guitar down to the wood?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by MypartnerStinks, Aug 12, 2001.

  1. MypartnerStinks


    Jun 19, 2001
    I just defreted an old Celebrity bass guitar, and it sounds rather good now. This saved me a huge amount of money considering i was going to buy a fretless. The ugly red paint on it is not my style. So am thinking about Striping it down to the wood and giving it a finish. I have a power sander, is this the best way to strip it? Any other suggestions would be helpful. I want to totally remove the name and put my own tag on there considering I have brought this guitar back from the dead.
  2. Striping it? What colours were you gonna stripe it? ;)

    I take it you mean stripping it?
  3. Please someone reply because I really wanted to do this too, getting sick of my British Racing Green. I want to take off random places, to give it that "well-loved" look.
  4. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Use a tool called a 'Heat Gun'...It's kind of like a blow dryer on steroids. Dis-assemble your bass, removing all hardware, neck, everything down to the body. Clamp the body to the workbench and hold the heat gun about four inches away from it. You'll want to direct the heat at the same place on the body until you see the finish begin to blister. Take a putty knife and work it under the finish at this point. From here on out, apply the heat to the edge of where the finish is being removed, slide the putty knife under and remove the finish. This works best if you start at a sharp corner, say a pickup route, and work from there. Patience is also key.

    Sanding can accomplish the task also. Do this in a well ventilated area, to avoid breathing all of the nasty dust you'll raise. On cheaper guitars, I've had luck with finish strippers... They're kinda like a jelly that you apply, wait for them to bubble, then use a putty knife to remove. This type of product didn't even touch the finish on my MIM J Bass though. Heat gun was the only way to go there...

    Good Luck!
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I would avoid a power sander at all costs. Chemical strippers or heat is the way to go. If you try to sand it, do it by hand. It'll take longer, but with a power sander, you can very easily destroy the contour of the body.

  6. I used a heat gun and scraper on my Rickenbacker, and this worked really well. The wood is really nice underneath - on some basses it isn't, which may be why they are painted. Then sanded using progressively finer grades - I started at 100 to get some scratches out. A local guitar maker advised I use 150 and 320 grit to finish.
    Avoid chemical strippers like cancer, 'cause they're carcinogenic.
    Now my dilemma is: varnish or oil? The neck is SOOOO FAST without varnish now.
  7. Oh, and watch out - little bits of peeled varnish ignite easily!!!
  8. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Hey TPFTF... Oil and Lacquer (varnish) both have pros and cons. A good way to maintain that fast feeling on a lacquered neck without stripping is to sand the back lightly with 400 to 600 grit wet-or-dry paper. This will take the sheen off, while still leaving the wood protected. IME, your thumb, sweat, funk, whatever will eventually buff the neck back to glossy after a few months. Just repeat the process.

    Just a tip...

  9. I have heard oiled basses can get quite dirty. Mine is maple and may be a bit soft with oil rather than varnish. It would be really cool if more people who have oiled or varnished their basses could chip in to this thread!
  10. steinbergerxp2

    steinbergerxp2 Guest

    Jul 11, 2001
    I have used "Tru Oil" (a Birchwood Casey product available in the gun cleaning section of sporting goods stores) a number of times with good results. It is technically of the class of varnishes; it is a Linseed Oil base with drying additives. It dries to a hard, clear, finish in 2-8 hours depending upon temperature. It's designed for refinishing wood rifle stocks, which need a hard finish like instruments.

    Normally, I apply it by wetting my finger tip and rubbing in a circular motion until a 2"x2" area is getting "dry", then move over an inch and start again; end grain will soak up quite a bit. About 2 tablespoons coats the whole instrument and a bottle will do 1-4 basses depending on what you like in a finish (for $5).

    I usually do about 4 thin coats with 4-24 hours between them and between coats I smooth it lightly with 0000 steel wool. This will create a very thin, hard, sealed finish, with a satin appearance. If you don't like it or screw up, press harder with the steel wool before the next coat. If you want it shinier, use more coats. It will darken the wood but only slightly; it's a light amber color.

    After the final coat I use steel wool again and let it sit for 48 hours or so to harden fully. I have a box with a 75w light bulb in the bottom, that keeps the inside about 120 degrees F; this allows coats as quickly as 2 hours after hanging the part there.

    I've probably finished 4 basses and dozens of rifles this way. It looks very nice on clean, unstained maple, and is a good "subtle" finish. As with anything, use at your own risk; so far I have not developed "finger cancer" but it could happen.
  11. Thanks for the info!
    I had set my mind on Linseed Oil until now. Now I'll just have to see if I can find that stuff in this corner of the world.

    Got any pics?
  12. steinbergerxp2

    steinbergerxp2 Guest

    Jul 11, 2001
    Sorry, no decent pics; all distant shots (looks like a bass made of wood).

    I'd really avoid Linseed; it was marginal at the turn of the last century. It never really dries, it can sustain some mold growth, it can seep back out in hot weather.

    Tung Oil gets a lot of airplay, but if you check carefully, most of what people call Tung Oil only has that as a component. Straight Tung Oil is not terribly sturdy as a finish, but at least it's better than linseed (so is toilet water in my book).

    Ideally, you want the thinnest, hardest, finish you can find for good tone. If you don't like Tru Oil, some of the Minwax products (polyurethane base I think) seem pretty nice and dry hard if you let them sit.
  13. Oh, but if you could only see Rimu finished with Linseed Oil...
    ...but my bass isn't made of Rimu...
  14. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I use 100% Tung Oil when I do use oil. Never tried the 'Tru Oil' but it looks like I'm gonna have to give it a go.

    When I apply the Tung oil, I mix it half and half with paint thinner for the first two coats. This thins it significantly and allows the oil to penetrate pretty deeply in the early stages. The first two coats, I apply heavily, let stand for 1/2 hour or 45 min. then wipe with a clean cloth, with a day between coats. I let it sit for a few days after the second coat, then apply straight oil, using much the same technique as steinbergerxp2.

    I am in the process of building an EURB and will be treating the fingerboard, (and possibly the whole bass), using this method. If you want, I can send you a URL to the site I am putting together for the project that will have pix and descriptions.

    Have fun,
  15. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I would avoid using a sander until your ready for the final sanding....I am currently refinishing a Hamer, and was imformed by a few local luthiers and my good ol dad, to use a chemical wood stripper and a new razor blade or putty knife. Or you can take the body of the bass and submerse it in the stripper, then when you get all the paint off the body, take the power sander and a very fine grade sandpaper and go over the body with it untill its nice and smooth.
  16. Does Tru Oil penetrate the wood like oil does, or sit on top like varnish does? (ie if I stuff it up, can I take it off and start again?)
  17. steinbergerxp2

    steinbergerxp2 Guest

    Jul 11, 2001
    It will fill the open grain, but doesn't seem to penetrate very deeply; it's about the consistency of pancake syrup. If you want more penetration, get the bass warm first (leave it in the sun will do).
  18. steinbergerxp2

    steinbergerxp2 Guest

    Jul 11, 2001
  19. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Look in the yellow pages under furniture strippers.

    They have a vat that they can put the whole body in (stripped of hardware ) and when they finish, the wood is as clean as new without accidental gouges and scratches.

    Compared to the price of buying stripper and sandpaper or a heat gun, it is usually cheaper if your time is worth anything and a whole lot cleaner.

    Pro furniture refinishers are a great way to get those chips and dings repaired too. They have laquer sticks that they melt and fill the chips using a hot knife and the results are practically invisible.

    Much cheaper than a luthiers rates is the big bonus.

  20. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    you could stripe it like those gay pride flags, the rainbow striped ones.