1968 Fender Jazz Bass: Sonic Blue Regret and Restoration

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 1/22/2010 04:36:00 PM -
  • 3 comments


This project represents an unfortunately common scenario from the 1970s, where an instrument's owner decided that the "natural" look was preferable to the original factory custom color.  Guess the attitude was that "wood was good" - during this era a substantial part of Fender's instruments came in clear finish from the factory.

This 1968 Jazz Bass was purchased new in Madrid, Spain during 1969, with a factory Sonic Blue finish - a very rare finish for the late 60s. The owner later moved to the US and sometime later decided to strip the bass to a natural finish.  Later on, the bass was also modified to have an active P-bass pickup and a battery compartment. The matching headstock was also stripped - and had a rectangular sticker on it for many years prior that a repro Fender decal being applied.  Unfortunately the sticker left a lighter colored area on the headstock.

The owner decided to restore the bass to its original finish and mailed the bass to me last fall from his current home in Florida.  After some discussion and research online, we decided to go back to the original Sonic Blue finish, with a matching headstock - with some mild yellowing of the finish to make it look slightly aged.


Traces of the original Sonic Blue were visible in the control cavity, pickup routings and neck pocket - notice how deeply yellowed the finish in pickup routings is - probably because the clear coat collected in those openings and was thicker and therefore yellowed more.



In the neck pocket, the finish was covered up by what almost looked like Lake Placid Blue paint. After being puzzled by this, I believe that what I was actually looking at is residue from the paint stripper that was used in the 1970s - since the Sonic Blue is UNDER the darker blue. The factory numbers - the black 3 and the red 2 - are actually UNDER the residue - which is probably a combination of stripper and sonic blue lacquer that has aged for the past 30 years.

Note the reddish plastic neck shim - this later popped loose after my refinish - revealing a patch of unyellowed Sonic Blue underneath !


The first step was to plug the additional routings that had been done - which meant cleaning them up and squaring them off for alder wood plugs.


The plugs were fitted with any gaps being filled with plasticine-like plumber's epoxy.



After some sanding and a few coats of clear nitro to seal the body, especially the wood plugs - the body was primed with flat white nitro primer.  Note that I skipped dyeing the wood yellow, since as far as I know, by the late 60s Fender had stopped this practice on non-sunburst instruments.



The body required a number of touchups with some Bondo glazing putty - various dings and some filled extra screw holes. But then after some wet sanding, as second coat of white primer was applied and the body was ready for the color coats.




The headstock fadce was sanded bare - clear coated and then also primed with white nitro primer.




Here are the body and headstock after several coats of Sonic Blue lacquer and a few clear coats.




Now came the time to age the color coats slightly - and as I have done in the past, I masked off areas that would have been covered so that they would not be yellowed - namely the bridge, control plate, pickguard and neckplate area.


Though these pictures aren't very well lit - you can see the difference between the aged and unaged clear coat areas.

A similar treatment was given to the headstock - taking care to match the aging as close as possible for an even color.  Several final clear coats were then applied over both the body and headstock prior to wet sanding and buffing.



The final step was the application of the repro decal - which is a water slide decal - and which was applied ONTOP of the finish - as would have been the case in 1968.  Later on Fender started clearcoating over the decals - which made them much more robust.


The darker color here is due to me not using a flash for this picture - Sonic Blue looks radically different in pictures depending on the light source used.  As an example, the two pictures below were taken at the same time - one without a flash - and one with a flash.





Perhaps I'll need to get a better camera and lights !!

The neck and body were shipped back to the owner - who will be assembling it - and sending me pictures of the complete instrument in the near future.  Check back soon !!

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3 comments:

  1. Where do you get a water slide decal like that?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hellow!

    I love your site, It is a pleasure to visit.

    I have added your site to my site.

    Please link my site to your site.

    Thank you!

    http://guitar-center0.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love Sonic Blue!
    Did you reseve some new pictures yet?

    ReplyDelete