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Stripping and Refinishing

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Pacman, Mar 1, 2003.


  1. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Greetings all. You may or may not know that I've just purchased a Christopher carved bass, rendering my Englehart useless.

    I'd like to keep this bass as a backup, and I've heard that basses like this do very well once the ultra-thick coat of poly finish is stripped off the bass. (In addition, I think it's as ugly as a batch of homemade sin!) So I want to attempt this, but having the whole thing refinished by a violin shop is cost prohibitive.

    My question: Is there a recommended way of removing the crap that's on my bass that won't melt the glue holding it together? (I mean, I like to 'do it myself', but I don't want a "make your own upright" kit when I'm done. The plan is for me to remove the old finish, refinish the bass (I'll be asking more questions later) and then have a new soundpost, tailpiece hanger and setup done by a professional.

    Are those "orange" strippers the way to go? What type of varnish should I use to refinish? Am I crazy for trying this?

    Anyone have any suggestions?
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
  3. You shouldn't have any trouble with the glue on the instrument as long as you don't let get carried away with "water cleanup". I've had better luck with solvent type strippers rather than the water cleanup type, but if you find a water cleanup type that works - go for it.

    Be aware that you are taking on a very big, messy, dirty and hard (work) job. The stripping is probably the easiest part of preparing for revarnishing. The hard part is the scraping and sanding necessary to get the wood prepared. (This is why the violin shop want so much to do the job). The end result will only be as good as the wood surface before the varnish is applied. The better the job you do of preparing the wood, the better the instrument will look after the varnish has dried. The best varnish in the world won't hide poor preparation.
     
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Start with the shoes...proceed to socks...off with the overalls...shirt next...aww, you get it, dontcha?
     
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Jon, log on and register over at mimf.com, if you haven't already. Their library is full of stuff on violin family finishing.
    My friend did this very thing to his #1 bass, with excellent results.
     
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Thanks for the responses, guys! This is exactly the stuff I was looking for. Bob, thanks for the 'reality check'. I plan on taking my time with this, as it is a backup bass and therefore I'm not in a hurry to get it "up and running" again.

    Marcus, thanks, I'll check mimf.
     
  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    some ideas...
    it's very easy to sand through veneers/plys. remove as much of the original varnish as you can with strippers. 3M makes a user friendly KleenStrip product, I think, and I've used the orange-based strippers with great success. It's not to cold in San Antonio, so you should be able to do most of this outdoors. (I would, anyway. this is going to be messy) Wood prep is very important, but remember that 180 grit paper on a random-orbit sander can eat through the outer layer of ply pretty quick. the refinishing won't be as hard as you think. there's great information at MIMF; be patient!
     
  8. Good point Nick. Actually there's not a lot of places on a roundback bass where any power sander is appropriate. Do a good job with the stripping and then you can finish up by hand. A wood scraper is one of the best methods of working on the ribs. It takes a while to learn how to use a scraper, but once you do, you can eliminate a lot of sandpaper. Many master instrument makers pride themselves on not using any sandpaper at all when they make a new instrument - only scrapers.

    Remember, you don't want your bass to look like it was refinished at home (even if it was). The goal should always be to meet the standards of the professional finisher. On a plywood bass, the purfling is usually painted on. When you strip the finish, the purfling goes with it. To get a truly professional look, you need to replace that purfling. And No..that's not easy.
     
  9. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    The Safe Stripper stuff will probably do the best job of removing the finish without destroying the ply. I've noticed it removes synthetic finishes that caustic strippers have a hard time tith.

    I would suggest a method I've used on cheap Korean electric guitars: Use a heat gun, keeping it FAR away, and constantly moving. As the finish softens you can peel it with a scraper cleanly away from the wood.
     
  10. Thats funny because I saw the title of Jon's thread and was kind of scared to open it.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Exactly. How much help I was prepared to offer was going to be definitely related to exactly who he planned on stripping.
     
  12. K-PAC ,

    Keep us posted on your progress. I'm going to do the exact same thing to my Englehardt this summer.

    Hopefully, I can benefit from your mistakes...er,...EXPERIENCE.
     
  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Will do. I will use my crappy digital camera to document my progress. Right now I'm also trying to decide on a color.... any suggestions? I'm leaning towards dark...
     
  14. Good point, if that was the case my answer would always be a good pair of scissors.
    :D
     
  15. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    The best tool I have found for these projects is a cabinet scraper. It is one of the safest ways to strip the bass.
     
  16. EXPERIENCE:n; What you get when you were expecting something else.
     
  17. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    As promised.

    The bass is just about completely in the white now. I used Zip Strip, and the thick, goopy orange crap came off fairly easily. My biggest worry, that seams would loosen or open up due to the chemicals, did not come true. I found a scraper originally intended for cleaning a grill that has the scraper and a soft metal brush on it and it works wonders! The brush gets the goop out of the crevices nicely, and the scraper is more precise than the finish scraper I had been using. The brush also does a nice job at removing the stripper residue.

    The scroll is all that remains to strip. I'll take some pics today, and post them soon.

    Thanks to everyone, especially Arnold, for your help. And if I'm making anyone cringe, remember it's just a cheap backup.
     
  18. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    I'm really anxious To see the back of your bass when you get it stripped.

    I did the same thing to my old Englehardt several years ago. I was really surprised to find that the back was a very nicely figured maple veneer. Really pretty with a very light stain (golden oak) and a clear coat of poly.

    I also have put a very old ebony FB on her along with a tailpiece cord in place of the coat hanger. It sounds as good as any Englehardt that I've heard.

    I'm looking forward to seeing pix of your bass.

    I've considered refinishing mine again cause the ribs are getting pretty scratched up.

    I wish I had the ambition to french polish it.

    Pkr2
     
  19. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I forgot to mention this. Through all the stripping, scraping and brushing the soudpost hasn't fallen yet!
     
  20. YES!