Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Making stuff look better
Recently, I had a customer bring a bass to me with some seriously bad varnish issues. The bass had obviously been part of a school inventory in the past and had some major problems. Now I've seen my share of trashed school instruments. Initials carved into the body... candy wrappers stuffed into the bass through the f holes... boogers stuck to the the neck and fingerboard... You name it, I've seen it. This particular instrument had, at some point, been rescued from this abusive lifestyle and ended up in a shop in Connecticut. Being a smaller scale bass, my petite customer snatched it up and had it shipped directly to my front door.
Upon cracking open the shipping container, I hate to say, I was horrified. It looked as if someone had dumped a can of stain all over the instrument without bothering to clean up their mess. Although the bass was playable I absolutely COULD NOT allow my customer to play on a bass looking the way it did. Cosmetically speaking, this went way beyond an enjoyable patina and into the world of "Burn it, burn it, burn it!". I had to do something.
Unfortunately this "something" meant losing a few brain cells.
Fully outfitted in protective gear (respirator, latex, etc.) I went to work. Underneath the pitiful stain on the back of the bass, I uncovered the beautiful, original varnish underneath. Lovely, golden, European flamed maple began to show. A little bit of elbow grease went a long way. The top of the bass was a whole different story. After years of abuse to the varnish, the only thing I could do was strip it. Now usually this IS NOT the answer, but, in this case, we had to do it. After even more elbow grease (and some serious "light-headedness") we have a bass that's real pretty to look at. It sounds FANTASTIC too.
All in all, a really satisfying project.