My First International Job! 1966 Fender Jazz Bass, Dakota Red refinish

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 11/20/2008 12:47:00 AM -
Here is an interesting project, not just because its a vintage 60s Fender, but also because of the logistics involved - this Fender Jazz Bass body is from my first international client, all the way from the Holy Land - Israel !!!

The bass in question was originally a Dakota Red 1966 Fender Jazz Bass, which like many custom color instruments had its body modified, stripped and refinished - but not very well. Fortunately, the headstock and most of the original hardware remains.

This bass is owned by Lior Koren of Tel aviv (check out his myspace page here!) - who purchased his Jazz Bass in Israel and then was able to find a second mid-60s Jazz bass body, though this one had been stripped down to a natural finish during the granola-eating, earth-shoe wearing 1970s.

Lior and I talked a bit over Skype (a great FREE way to talk overseas) and decided that what made sense was to refinish the second body to an aged Dakota Red finish that would match the original weathered and darkened headstock.

After discussing the job, Lior decided to send me the body alone, since postage is not trivial between Israel and the US - and we worked out a scheme to coordinate the color of the refinished body with the original headstock.

I sprayed two test panels with Dakota Red lacquer - from ReRanch - and then aged one with an ambered out topcoat - making one end of the test panel slightly ambered and fading to a heavily aged and darkened finish. I figured if I cut the test panels in half - and mailed one set to Israel and kept one set, the owner and I would have common color references to work off of when deciding how "aged" to make the Dakota Red finish.

The panel on the right is straight Dakota Red with a clear gloss coat; the panel on the left has a progressively aged topcoat - a pretty dramatic difference in color!

Meanwhile, the bass body arrived from Israel and it showed a bit of wear and tear the usual bonehead touches - for example - the word "Precious" carved into the wood with a ballpoint pen apparently. Probably the same DOLT decided to outline the pickguard and control panel with the same ball point pen ... over and over and over ... leaving a nice groove in the wood. The body also had a thick uneven coat of some sort of shellac or lacquer. But no extra routes or big chips or any cracks - and fairly lightweight body too. Notice the remnants of the original sunburst finish under the control panel.

The first step was to remove the finish - which I tried sanding with an orbital sander but soon realized it was thicker than I thought and switched to chemical stripper, which took the finish right off. A benefit of the thick ugly clear coat was that it had protected the back of the bass quite well - and what I thought was unevenness in the wood turned out to simply be the uneven finish.

I decided to steam out a few edge dings on the body, which is described in this post on how to steam out dents. I also used a small amount of cellulose filler on some of the deepest gouges - the "P" in precious and a few spots on the back.

After a sanding of the filled areas, the body was ready for staining yellow (as would have been done for all Fender Jazz bass bodies in that era) and a coat of vinyl sealer.

The sealer coat went on very smoothly and just required a light wet sanding with 400 grit paper and the body was ready for priming, with flat white nitrocellulose primer (from Camger Products).

When the primer coat dried, it revealed a number of small chips and dings around the body - as well as the ballpoint pen damage on the front. I used red glazing putty to fill these areas - the majority of what I spread on would be sanded off later before the application of a second coat of primer - don't be alarmed by how large some of the areas are !! The red glazing putty that remains after wet sanding is minimal, but it does result in a nice defect free surface.

After some sanding and one more primer coat, this body will be ready for some COLOR !!

(Update 11/23/08)
Once the glazing putty was dry, the entire body was wet sanded. Note how only a small amount of the red scratch filler is left on the body, and how on the edges the white primer was sanded through.

A final primer coat was applied - and then the body was ready for a color coat.

The color coats are being applied with ReRanch spray cans in this case, as I don't have sufficient demand for Dakota Red paint jobs to justify having a gallon custom mixed for me.

The ReRanch cans are very high quality and apply the color quite evenly.

As you can see, I started by doing the edges of the body - to build up a slightly thicker finish there - and then moved onto the front and back - gradually building up the color.

Finally - the entire body had one coat on it - though it was not yet an even solid color (the finish is actually quite translucent until several coats are built up).

(Update November 28, 2008)
Another color was applied - then after some wet sanding, a few spots were touched up before the base color coat was sealed with a single clear coat. The bass was now a bright fire engine red - but as was explained at the beginning of this post, the goal was to match the original Dakota Red headstock, which had darkened considerably over the past 42 years.

Once the clear coat had dried, it was time to start applying an "aged" clear coat. As with the 1968 Telecaster and 1966 Jazzmaster this meant mixing a tinted clear coat to replicate the browning and ambering effect of time on clear nitro.

The tinting was done using Stewart-MacDonald "Vintage Amber" dye and a "Medium Brown" dye - roughly 3 drops of amber to one drop of medium brown. A fairly strong mix was used - such that spraying a single pass on newspaper gave it a very aged look. The nitro was thinned with acetone fairly thin so it would flow well and dry in a thin coat.

Since OVERDOING it was what I was worried about - I gradually built up the color with 3 thin coats - checking against the "aged" test panel (see above) until I had a much darker color on the Jazz bass.

Due to lighting differences, its tough to get an accurate read on the color of the Jazz bass with my digital camera - but the picture below shows a panel of Dakota Red with just a thin clear coat and no aging - sitting on the "aged" Dakota Red Jazz bass - you can see the color difference is actually pretty dramatic!

(Update Dec.1st)
The Jazz Bass body is on its way back to Lior - to be assembled with the other 66 Jazz bass parts and matching neck.

The final step was to wet sand the refinish with 600 grit wet and dry paper, then working down through 800, 1000 and 1500 grit, before buffing out with two different grits of compound. A final polishing with Scratch-X prepped the body for shipping.

Here are a few pics before I packed it up for shipping - some of the body by itself - and a few of it with hardware from my 66 Jazz Bass.

When Lior gets it all together, he promises to send me some more pics, which I'll post here.

(Update 1/10/09)
A final update on this project - the body was safely shipped back to Lior Koren in Israel - and he was able to quickly assemble the bass with the matching neck and original parts. He then departed on tour - to the US - three days later - with the bass!!

The pictures below show the body assembled with the hardware - including a nicely aged guard, bridge and pickups - and then a separate shot of the matching Dakota Red headstock - with the original finish, original decal and original oval-button Fender tuners.

The final picture is the one and only Lior with his resurrected 66 Jazz bass - ready to rock !! Note that the colors of the body and headstock seem to match pretty well - though the body appears a little shinier since it doesn't have 43 years of accumulated grime on it !!

Nothing a little aggressive and sweaty playing won't fix !!


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