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Wetness damaged my varnish, urrrg!!

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Carl Johnson, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. Somehow my bass bag got wet while my axe was in it for a couple of days and there’s a spot on the back where the varnish has turned opaque and milky.

    Anyone knows if there is any fix short of striping and re-varnishing?

    Does this type of damage usually go all the way through the finish to the wood?

    Thank god all the glue seams seem intact so the damage is just cosmetic. No idea how the bag got wet, definite bummer…
    Short of striping the area and re-varnishing?

    Does this type of damage usually go all the way through the finish to the wood?

    Thank god all the glue seams seem intact so the damage is just cosmetic. No idea how the bag got wet, definite bummer but again seems just a finish problem that can wait…
  2. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I quickly flipped to your profile to see what kind of bass you had - if I know what the finish is I can maybe make a suggestion - but... no information. :(
  3. Thanks for the interest Jake -

    It's a 60's student Pollmann with that brittle spirit varnish that I don't see much on later basses.
    The color is (was) a clear golden brown. Now there's a 12" x 8" patch of yuck on the back.
  4. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    You could try using Mohawk Rapid Pad with a French Polishing technique. I've had some good successes using it to release old trapped moisture from the repaired lacquer of vintage Martins.

    Your shellac finish isn't so different really...
  5. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    I know you are tempted to do something now to get that ugly off your bass, but try waiting a few days with the instrument out of the case and see if the spot gets smaller.

    I know there is a product to remove moisture rings out there that furniture restorers use... I am not saying that I would advise you to use it on your bass, but it might be worth checking into... I think you can find it at woodcraft.

  6. vejesse


    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    The French polish technique would probably help here. The Mohawk stuff is great but you could get your own home made setup going easily. Check out the internet for French polish techniques. Stop as soon as you see any lightening of the color - you'll know right away if it's working.

    A lot of times the damaged varnish is just the very outside layer. You could try 2000 grit sandpaper lubed with a little water or oil. Sand very carefully and polish it up afterward with the finest rubbing compound or rottenstone. I know some people don't sand with water as a lubricant on shellac but it only takes a drop. To form the sandpaper I use various hard and soft squeegees cut into different shapes. This is important if you want to avoid flattening the wood grain peaks and valleys in the spruce top.

    Obviously these techniques can remove varnish real quick if you don't know what your doing.
  7. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    I've worked on varnish issues similar to yours in the past and I found that, on the particular bass I was working on, that if I scrubbed the top layer of varnish off with a mixture of pummice and virgin olive oil on a paper towel, it took out the white and there was still varnish underneath that was unaffected. I then used rottenstone with olive oil to smooth it out further followed by a coat of french polish. The bass didn't even look like it had been damaged when I was done with all the elbow grease. This was all after I had let it air for a few days of course..

    If you're not in the position to french polish, I might just suggest more elbow grease and some "master's own" or similar polish.
  8. Thanks all for the advice, I’m letting it dry now and I see quite a bit of the discoloration disappear. I’ll let it dry for a couple of weeks then take the least impact approach and see how that goes.
    Again thanks.
  9. I had a milky white spot about the size of my hand on the back of my '34 Jaeger, and French polishing a small area at a time did the trick.
  10. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    as is the case with any finish problem, it is imperative to test what you want to do in an inconspicuous area first as computability of chemicals or materials is quite critical. that being said, there are " blush eliminators" available on the market. it is essentially a solvent with a higher affinity for water than your basses finish. depending on the finish it may dissolve and redeposit the finish, these products are sprayed on as a fine mist and just enough is put on to draw off the water. use of them is however flirting with disaster if the wrong one is used or if applied too heavily etc.
  11. juuzek


    May 7, 2007
    Same thing happened to me last summer to the top of my Juzek ply. This is an old working bass, and it has it's share of scratches, chips and blemishes, but the milky-stains on the top had to go.

    After fielding tons of suggestions, I ended up buffing the stains out with a paste of cigar ash and water. It worked.

    I can put up before and after pics later, if you're interested.
  12. ...Definitely, you think any ash would work?
  13. juuzek


    May 7, 2007
    Okay, so here is the 'before pic. I got stuck in a thunderstorm at a festival and the tent I was in leaked badly. I was kicking myself because I took the bass out and dryed it off, but [like and idiot] put it back in the soaked bag for the night. This is what I woke up to:


    This blemish did not diminish over time.

    After the ash rub:


    The ash is definately abrasive, and I could practically see the finish coming off. I think tobacco ash is suggested because it burns well and into a fine, light ash; ash from say a fireplace would most likely not be suitable. There are probably other abrasives that can be utilized with more control.

    It worked for me, but I am not quick to recommend this to anyone dealing with a finer bass.

    Good luck,
  14. smg_luthier


    May 13, 2009
    hey carl,
    the last thing you want to do is use anything abrasive.
    th emilky white spot is an air bubble where the finish has separated from the wood.
    this can be easily repaired by anyone who is confident in their finishing skills.
    if you are not, i recomend you take it to someone who is.
    if you must do it yourself, and i can't stress enough how a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. you will need a high quality natural bristle brush, and some alcohol.
    don't expect to pay less than $35 bucks for the brush.
    you will need to dip the brush in alcohol, shake it off (somewhere where it won't splatter on the bass), wipe it on a paper towel so that it is almost completely dry, then "paint" over the spot.
    when you feel the varnish "pulling", wet the brush again, as above. (maybe just a little wetter, it's a judgment thing.)
    when the varnish adheres to the wood, it will look like new.
    let it dry at least overnight before you move the bass.
    at least 2 days before you put it in a bag or case.
    after about a month, you can start thinking about fine pumice or rottenstone, but i would just let it go..
  15. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    You can also use ciggerete ash. Make a paste with water. Use a rag. Rub, rub.
    Use a nice polish after or French polish if you know how.

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