Sunday, September 1, 2013

Building a Bass Guitar Kit, Part 2

(You'll find Part 1 here: (click here))

OK -- Problems with the body have been fixed, now it's time to paint the body!

First, what paint to use?

Do I go with lacquer rattle can paint from the local hardware store?  Or how about a Nitrocellulose finish?  Or perhaps auto paint?  Or normal house paint?  And can I use one type of paint and another manufacturer's clear coat?

I started researching the web and I was soon confused with conflicting recommendations and advice -- a true plethora, and not in a good sense.

Fortunately, I came across a book that was a huge help in winnowing out the useful information from the noise:  "How to Create a Factory Finish with Just a Couple of Spray Cans!", by John Gleneicki.

For me, a neophyte painter with little experience, this book was GREAT!  John explains the different types of paints (enamels, acrylic lacquers, and urethanes), their pluses and minuses, and gives some simple rules of what not to do.  For me, this information was well worth the price of the book.

He also spends quite a bit of time discussing the steps and techniques that should be followed when painting with spray cans.  Again, for me, this was all valuable information.

I decided to go with an auto-body polyurethane paint and clear coat, rather than, say, nitrocellulose (although that is a more classic finish), because I was worried about the nitro's durability and also its tendency (or so it seemed to me) to yellow with age.  Although auto paint was more expensive, it also dried much more quickly (days compared to a month or two).  That convenience, and the fact that many guitars are now finished with polyurethane, pushed me in that direction.

 As for colors?  For me there was no doubt:  Sonic Blue!

So off to the auto paint store (I went to one in Sacramento) to purchase my materials, shown below in the order in which they were applied:
  • The first can is Spray Max 2K Glamour High Gloss Clear Coat, used to seal the body of the bass guitar before primer or paint are applied.
  • The next can is white primer.  I used Transtar 4633 White Primer (the auto-paint store clerk told me there would be no issue using this with my color coat or with the Spray Max clear coat).
  • Then the can of the urethane base color:  Sonic Blue, mixed at the store.  Sonic Blue originally was a 1956 Cadillac color, and I gave the man at the counter the Du Pont Color Code for that color (code: 2295).  Interestingly, when he printed the label for the can, it said "Fender Guitar Company," not Cadillac!
  • Followed by two additional cans of the Spray Max 2K Glamour High Gloss Clear Coat.
Eye protection and a respirator are shown, too:

(Click on image to view in its entirety)

Here are two more pictures of the Sonic Blue label on the can:
(Click on image to view in its entirety)

(Click on image to view in its entirety)

The body, drying, after being sprayed with the first can of clear coat (sealer/fill coat):

This layer is meant to seal the body and fill the pores (needed, because of prior sanding).  It was then sanded down to a smooth surface and the primer applied:

The primer was then sanded and the color coat applied.  Note the respirator.  Use one!

The Latest in Summer Fashion

When painting, do NOT hold the can over the body as I'm doing here if trying to get to the bottom of the guitar, because...

...a paint blob might fall on it!!!  Look for the dark streak in the center of the photo.  Don't worry, I and the paint job recovered (after my heart restarted).

(Click on image to view in its entirety)

Base coat applied and drying:

One of the problems when painting outdoors, especially under tall pine trees, when the wind is blowing!  Fortunately, I was able to flick these two pieces off with a needle.  But another hear-stopper.

This I couldn't flick off.  Oh well!

Following the color coat, the first can of two cans of clear coat was applied.  Note:  the color coat was not sanded before the clear coat was applied.

A run following application of the first can of clear coat.  Fortunately, following the steps in Gleneicki's book, this is very easy to fix.

(Click on image to view in its entirety)

While sanding the first clear coat, I accidentally sanded through it, the base coat, and down to the primer.  No way to recover, as I had no more base color paint.  Fortunately, the areas were all very small and the white primer was similar in color and luminosity to the Sonic Blue.  But I decided to apply a third can of clear coat, because, clearly, I had not applied enough along the bottom of the bass with the first can -- this area is the most difficult to reach if holding the body by the stick attached to the neck pocket, and so careful attention must be paid, as I discovered!

(Click on image to view in its entirety)

Although, difficult to see in the photo below, the last can of clear coat left little lumps in the paint under the pickup pocket.  This is better seen in the next picture...

(Click on image to view in its entirety) (below).  Look closely -- you can see the little zit-like lumps left by the last can of clear coat, brought to relief as I started sanding.  I believe their appearance was because I was determined to use everything in that last can, and this "stuff" came out at the very end.  Next time, I'll stop a bit sooner.

(Click on image to view in its entirety)

Fortunately, they weren't a problem, as they sanded out (and with three cans applied, there was plenty of clear coat on the body, so no worries about sanding down (and through) the color coat).

And here's the body, awaiting sanding and polishing.

By the way, I strongly recommend that you first plan out your steps and then make a checklist so that you are sure to follow them.  The checklist will also help you remember what you had done if you decide to paint another body in the future.

Here's mine.  From it you can get an idea of the steps I took with each can of paint, and how long I waited between each.

(Click on photo to enlarge)


This was my first time doing any of this:  fret leveling, painting, etc.  Before you tackle your own project, do your research!  Don't depend solely upon my experiences.

Next Installment:  Sanding, Polishing, and Assembly! (click here!)

Links to Bass posts of mine...

Sonic Blue Bass (part 1 of a 3 part series)

Mellow Yellow Bass

Short-scale Telecaster Bass

Bass Guitar Painting Jig

Repairing a G&L Butterscotch Blonde Paint Chip

G&L ASAT Bass Strap-button Extender


Anonymous said...


great info and nice build (one of my fav colors, too).
Just one question: Why did you not sand after the color coat before applying the clear? Would that be wrong?



Jeff said...

Hi Chris,

If I recall, I didn't sand the color coat because the book I used as my reference (see the blog post for its title) didn't mention it as one of the steps.

It probably wouldn't hurt to sand it, but as a neophyte, I really can't say one way or another. But I didn't have any issues not sanding it -- adhesion of the clear coat seemed just fine in the 2 bodies I've painted so far.

- Jeff