Introduction: Restoring a Bass Guitar
This is a MIM Fender Jazz bass I bought for a hundred dollars at a pawn shop. I thought it was a pretty good deal but it was easy to see its problems. Most problems were with the body of the bass. It had multiple cracks, dings, chips and discoloration. I thought it would be the perfect candidate to try to restore a guitar with a cool new paint job and I think I was right. Repainting it took a lot of time but it was totally worth it.
Disclaimer-I'm not an expert by any means on how to do this. This is the way I did it and I hope this instructable has useful information. Before attempting this I highly recommend reading as much as you can and finding out as much information on how to before you start.
Step 1: Take Apart the Bass
Taking apart the instrument is one of the easiest steps. Start with the strings by turning the tuners until the strings come out of the tuners then pull them through the bridge. Then flip the bass over and unscrew the bolts holding the neck onto the body. Once the neck is off, you can take the hardware off the body. Just unscrew everything but be careful and remember where they all belong. For electronics, I taped parts to the pickguard and labeled them where they belonged.
Step 2: Take Off the Paint and Fixing Cracks
Taking off the paint in my opinion is the most tedious step of this whole process and takes a lot of patience. I tried a few different things on the body but what seemed to work best was using a heat gun. The top finish on the guitar seemed to be plastic like and was hard to sand off but with heat it would get to be a darker color then flake off with some assistance of something to scrape with. Be careful with this method, you can burn your bass fairly easily as you can see in the photos above. Heating the paint worked great for taking off the top layer of paint but something else had to be done for what was left over so I sanded it. I started with a heavy grit sandpaper and as there became little paint left switched to a lighter grit. Be careful with this too and take your time. If you rush you could sand off certain parts off the body more than others and you'll feel all the bumps when your done.
Now if you're lucky or used a nicer body you won't have to do this next step too much. The body I used had a few cracks and had to be filled. To fill the cracks I used a two part wood epoxy. Then I pushed it into the crack to fill it and before it dried I scraped off the excess epoxy. Once the epoxy dried I sanded the extra epoxy until it was smooth with the rest of the body.
Step 3: Priming
Priming is very important because it will help the paint stay on the bass and help make the paint job smooth if you do it right. I recommend hanging the bass in a well ventilated area using a cloths hanger or some other thick wire that fits through the neck holes on the bass. For this I used automotive filler primer to help fill any small dents and fallowed the directions on the can. Unfortunately, I decided there were too many noticeable dents so I filled them with the epoxy from the last step and sanded it off. After I did this I put another coat of primer on and finished it by using a very light grit sand paper to make it smooth.
Step 4: Painting
The paint I used was auto paint that I got mixed at an auto parts store. I used auto paint because I had read that is what Fender uses and I figured it wood be durable. I was sure to be careful and use light coats and was nervous about the paint running. For best results take your time and fallow the directions on the can. When painting make a full motion from one side of the bass to the other being sure not to stop in the middle of the body. While painting don't forget the top, bottom and sides of the instrument.
Step 5: Adding a Design
If you don't want a design skip to the second paragraph of the next step. Unfortunately, I'm not a great artist otherwise I would have tried this myself, so I had a friend do it. This is how he did it though. He began by sketching out his design with pencil all around the instrument. Afterwards acrylic paints were used to paint on the design and it took a couple coats to be dark enough. I suggest using a practice piece of wood to test out your paints, it is possible that the outcome is not what you want.
Step 6: Finishing the Design
To finish off this design a few different shades of green were mixed. Then the paint was flicked onto the body using a small brush. He began on one side, then waited a few hours for it to dry before starting the next side. After the design is all dry be careful because it could begin to chip.
To protect the new paint job and design I put on a clear coat of paint. I chose a glossy clear coat to try to emulate the finish that was originally on the bass. I applied it the same way i did as when I put on the primer and base coat of paint. Again, be patient with this. Even though it is clear you can still see globs.
Step 7: Cleaning the Fretboard
This is an optional step but I think it really helped the instrument aesthetically (for rosewood fretboards). To do this you will need rubbing alcohol and lemon oil. Begin by putting some alcohol on a paper towel and go over each fret individually until your paper towel isn't really dirty when you try to clean it. After that put some lemon oil on the fretboard and spread it out. Then rub with paper towels until dry. If you don't get it all off your fretboard may end up being oily feeling when playing.
Step 8: Putting the Bass Back Together
Now, this is finally getting close to the end result. If you took careful note of where all your parts go this wont be so bad. You will want to start by putting electronics back first. For my bass that meant only having to soldier two wires back to where they were. Then the pickguard goes back on and it should fit back nicely. After that put the rest of the hardware back on the bass. The neck should then also bolt back on fairly easily. If you don't know how to restring your bass there are many tutorials out there and you can probably find them with the model you painted.
Step 9: Finished
After many hours of work you are finished! Hopefully if you do this you are as pleased with your instrument as I am with mine. Thank you for reading this instructable and I hope the information in it is valuable to those of you who want to paint your own instrument.