1962 Fender Jazz Bass Redemption: Refret & Refinish

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 6/27/2009 11:36:00 AM -

Another challenging project - a very rough 1962 Fender Jazz Bass - a rare and potentially valuable instrument that's been put through the wringer over its 47 years of existence. The bass had been defretted many years ago - had the neck stripped and stained - and the body refinished.

This project came to me through my friend Shai in Israel, who purchased it on Ebay and had it sent directly to me, primarily for a refret. The bass appeared to have a nice finish on the body in the Ebay listing, even though the headstock was stained very dark - so we thought the work would be limited to refinishing the face of the headstock and refretting the neck - a fairly easy project.

When the bass arrived, the true magnitude of the work required became apparent.

The headstock was simply ugly - and the back of the neck looked even worse - an untalented 5th grader could have done a better staining job that this.

The body was in very rough shape - though the paint had been applied nicely, the wood underneath had not been prepped in anyway - and had been very roughly stripped.

The fretboard had also been heavily sanded down after defretting - and was very very thin at the butt of the neck. It appeared that someone had actually tried to paint a line to make the fretboard look more substantial at some point. And there was a nice divot out of the corner of the neck.

The 1 and a half missing clay dot markers had actually been SANDED THROUGH - to give an indication of how much rosewood was removed at some point.

However ... on the good side - ALL the parts of the bass appeared original - including the pickups, bridge, tuners, covers, pickguard, pots, knobs, etc., etc. In my assessment, the value of the original 1962 parts probably equaled or exceeded the price paid for the bass.

John Mouradian of Mouradian Guitar Repair pointed out that the bridge pickup was in exceptional shape, with the lacquer still present on the ends of the pole pieces - meaning the bass had probably always been played with the bridge cover on.

After many emails back and forth with Shai, I convinced him that a total make-over was the best idea and probably a good investment considering the vintage of the bass. After much consideration, we decided to refinish the bass in an aged Olympic White, with a natural headstock - a classic look with the tortoise guard.

The first order of business beyond general disassembly - was to strip the headstock face to see if it was in fact possible to get the finish AND stain off the wood. I wasn't very optimistic, since it appeared that the neck had been roughly sanded and then stained, so that the stain was in the scratches.

I used the relatively gentle Citristrip product to soften the finish - leaving it on for a few hours - and then scraping with a plastic scraper. The finish did peel off, but a lot of the stain remained on the wood.

I then used fine steel wool, dipped into Citristrip, to gently work the stain out of the wood - wiping the wood clean with denatured alcohol between passes. I worked in the direction of the grain, except for a few spots where there were scratches diagonally across the grain. In these areas I carefully, gently used the steel wool to pull the stain/finish out of the scratches, without making the scratches any deeper. All of this got the wood fairly clean.

After letting the wood dry out over night - I then switched to sanding - first using a random orbital sander with a 220 grit pad - and then switching to a sanding block and small piece of 220 folded over. I was trying to minimize how much wood was removed and just get the headstock to an even color and not round off any edges. I worked down to 400 grit paper, and the headstock was looking very clean now - surprisingly so!

I gave the wood a good scrubbing with a clean rag soaked in naptha - and this is what I had - far better than I could have imagined!

I went on to use the same approach on the rest of the neck - masking off the fretboard and neck date stamp to protect them - and the results are pretty remarkable - this will be a nice looking neck with an ambered finish on it.

After spraying a protective clear coat of lacquer on the neck, I turned my attention to the sad sad fretboard.

After consulting again with the Mouradians - I decided to use a type of epoxy-putty to replace the two missing clay dots.

The dots are exactly 1/4 inch in diameter, so I used a 1/4 brad-point bit in a drill press to get accurately placed flat-bottomed holes for the inlays.

The epoxy putty is kneaded together to start the hardening reaction - you have about 10 minutes of work time after that. Its a great material to work with as it doesn't shrink and is strong enough to actually be drillable. Available in most hardware stores.

I formed two small balls of putty - and then pressed them forcefully into the holes I'd drilled - leaving them as blobs above the fretboard.

About 45 minutes later, I used a razor blade to cut the inlays roughly even with the fretboard surface. I waited an additional hour before I sanded the inlays completely flush with the fretboard.

The color of the inlays was lighter than the other inlays - though probably very close to what the factory color was - so to add in 47 years of aging and staining, I used a tiny bit of Old English scratch polish on a cloth to tint the dots and blend them.

At least all the markers look right now !

As I was working on the neck, I began to also work on the body.

I sanded the front and rear of the body with a random orbital sander rather than stripping it since I wanted to leave the the finish in any low spots since I'd have to fill those areas anyway before refinishing. I used the Citristrip for the edges and relief scoop.

The areas that remain bluish are low spots and will have to be built up to get an even finish on the body.

Some of the scars left from previous rough treatment can be seen on the inside of the horns.

And a little trace of the original sunburst finish remains under the control ground plate.

I used an acrylic automotive grey primer, unthinned, to build up the low areas - spreading a thick coat on the low areas on the front of the body. The lowspots on the back of the bass weren't as deep, so I figured they'd get filled in by the sealer coat and the thinner white primer coat I'd spray on later.

Once the filler dried, the body was sanded again. Note the features that identify this body as being a pre-1963 Jazz Bass - the lack of a drilled ground-wire path from the bridge, the four holes for mounting the mute assembly, and the two small filled pin marks on the back, from where the routing template was attached to the body.

At this point the body still needed some dabs of glazing putting to fill in some chips and dings and some of the deeper scratches on the body edges.

Once the glazing putty was sanded, the body was ready for yellow dye - which is actually a blend of lemon yellow and vintage amber in a base of denatured alcohol. Despite the filled areas, I still wanted as much of the body to wear like an original 60s finish - which means exposing the underlying yellow-dyed wood when a chip happens.

Once dyed, the body is mounted on a paint stick that will leave an outline in teh neck pocket similar to the one on Fenders from mid-62 on.

The next step is to apply a heavy sealer coat and then move onto white primer so I can really see if this body is starting to look better!

( UPDATE 7/2/2009)
The finishing has moved along quickly !

I had to apply two coats of primer - with some spots of glazing putty and lots of wet sanding after the first coat.

But after the second coat of primer, the body only required a minimal amount of sanding and really was starting to look good. There are a few areas - on the edges - where a contour line has a little wobble or dip - not really obvious, but holding the body up to a light will reveal it - but all in all the body has turned out exceptionally well!

Once the body was primed, I applied two coats of Gloss White - which was hard to distinguish from the primer other than the glossier finish.

A light sanding of the second coat and the a clear gloss coat was applied to seal the finish prior to the application of tinted clear coats.

The tinting was done in two stages - first the entire body was lightly tinted with an amber clear coat. In this picture I've sprayed about 2/3rds of the front and the edges - you can see the untinted portion of the white base color.

Then the areas that would be covered by the bridge, pickguard, control plate and neckplate were masked off - and a second tinted coat was sprayed over the entire body to darken it further.

When the masking was removed - this is what the body looked like. The color balance is a bit off in the first picture - the finish is actually about half way between the two images.

The final step will be two clear gloss top coats, which I will spray with a non-plasticized nitrocellulose lacquer, so that the just top coat should check sometime in the next year or so.

(UPDATE 7/20/09)

As planned - the Jazz bass did receive a few more coats of clear gloss lacquer before a final wet sanding and buff out. There were no issues - and the body came out exceptionally nice considering the rough shape it had been in.

But now came the challenge of setting up the heavily reworked neck so that the bass not only looked good, but also played the way a 1962 Fender should.

I expected to have to do a fair amount of fret filing and dressing to get the neck to play evenly and allow for a set-up with low action, but there was no real way to tell until the neck was under tension from both the strings and the truss rod.

I turned out that there were two areas that needed a fair amount of dressing - the 3rd and 4th frets - and then the highest frets on the neck. The unevenness in these areas was due to the heavy sanding the fretboard had received in the past. Usually - I would have leveled the fretboard prior to installation of the frets, but since I didnt have much rosewood left to work with, I primarily focused on getting the fretboard cosmetically even.

In the end, I actually ended up pulling the lowest frets and leveling the board around the 3rd and 4th frets - and then reinstalling them.

I was also able to recycle the old original nut - the fretboard had been lowered so much that the nut was more than tall enough to allow for it to be filed and cleaned up.

After a few iterations of string up the bass - marking buzzing frets with a sharpie - and then unstring the bass to file the high frets, the bass finally played across the whole neck with no buzzing and low action.

A final fret polishing followed by cleaning and oiling of the board meant I was ready for final assembly!

The trickiest part of the re-assembly was the installation of the original tortoise guard - which had shrunken somewhat over the past 47 years. I installed the center screw first as an anchor - firmly but carefully pushing the guard over the neck pickup - it appears that it had been filed slightly in the past for reassembly - certainly a better option than cracking the guard!

I then worked outwards - carefully installing the screws about 2/3rd of the way in - angling them so that they would gradually pull the guard flat and into alignment with the screwholes in the body.

The edge of the guard did slightly overhang the neck pocket and I had to remove a tiny tiny amount of material to fit the neck onto the body.

The control panel ground plate was reinstalled - using the original window glazing points and some new solder - and then a few solder joints later, the bass was ready for its trial run !!

Not surprisingly - the bass sounded terrific - a little bit of crackle in the neck volume pot disappeared after a little back and forth with the control.

I took a number of pictures with the covers off ...

but the bass looks SO cool with the covers installed - even if I really prefer playing without any covers or thumbrest.


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  1. wow, i really wish i had a bass like that!

  2. That's a beautiful restoration of a great bass but I have to ask:
    Why don't you put the string ends down the center of the tuning machine posts when restringing the bass?
    Those string ends will dig into the face of the headstock when that bass is put into a case.

  3. The bass was just being put together for a few hours to take the pictures - it was shipped with the neck and strings off because a fender "coffin" case is not shippable by USPS to Israel. So it was faster to string and tension as you see it and not risk breaking off the end of one of the strings.

    But in general, I agree with you.

  4. Hi. I got the Bass last week. i must say that ive seen many restoration throughout the years but this restoration is the best!!! ive never seen such an exact and acurate work. the feeling of the neck and body , the vintage look which i doubt if someone can tell its a refinish or not and the sound... i bought this bass and i had a thought of refreting it only maybe re-decal . after a few Emails i was convinced to have it refinish. that was probably the best decision i took regarding any of my basses. the guidness i received from Krishna Jain and the everyday update of the proces was a big benefit . the knoweldege he shared is priceless . this is a man who knows what he's doing. 2 days ago ive played this bass for the first time. i received many complements on my "AMAZINGLY LOOKING 62) I must say that i had fears at first but once ive spoked with Krishna jain they were all gone. thank you very much for your super proffesional work, for your advice and for the time and love you put into this project. i will definatly send my 65 Jbass Bodyy to you to have it refinished in Sunburst.
    will upload pics's soon
    Shai Zrihan

  5. I am constantly looking for some seventies jazzbass - in case it will need the refurbishing, you are the man.
    Amazing job!

  6. Thank you -
    I will be doing a fairly ambitious restoration of a '73 Jazz bass soon - watch for future posts!

    last word I had from Shai on the '62 was that he had used the bass for recording and it sounded as good as it looked in the studio!

  7. Howdy! Just found this blog through the Guitarz blog, so I'm perusing old posts.

    I, and I'm sure many others, really appreciate your descriptions of your process and concerns when restoring and repairing these instruments. It really offers a lot to readers who want to better understand the design, construction, care, maintenance, repair, and restoration of our favorite instruments.

    Please continue your blog and give us as much of your insight as you can.

    I suppose I should also mention that your restorations look incredible, of course!

  8. Thank you for your kind words - very glad you find the blog of interest and to be helpful.

    I have slipped a bit the last two months on posting - I actually have a number of projects documented that I will be posting in the near term - so check back !!

  9. Great looking Bass. What was originally used to ground the bridge. What type of "wire" and where can I get it?

  10. About grounding the bridge. Please E-mail me at

  11. Thanks Marc - the grounding wire is a flat brass strip - I think you could cut it from a sheet of thin metal stock that you could buy in a hobby or arts supply shop. This bass had the original wire included.

  12. complimenti ! un ottimo lavoro..
    Dovrei fare qualcosa di simile con il mio body made in Mex. e con un manico Allparts.
    Avete usato vernici alla Nitro ?