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MIJ Squier Bullet bass restoration / Nitro respray

Manton Customs

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Thought this may be of some help for anyone restoring/respraying a bass, or at least be interesting. I was taking pictures throughout for the customer so thought I’d share them here.

The victim is this Squier Bullet bass. These were made in Japan and are reasonably rare, this ones from 1984. Unfortunately some complete tool had tried to refinish this one and did way more damage than good. Still can’t figure out how it was possible to end up doing this, but we came to the conclusion the guy must have had a lot of anger in him! 

The neck was pretty battered but nothing you wouldn’t expect on an abused 36 year old bass. The body though had obviously been completely stripped with deep grooves on the flat surfaces and the rounded edges had been completely destroyed and flattened off (and very wavy also). Then they decided to give it a thick coat of off white paint over the top of all the damage. Here are some pics.




I should've got some more pics of the edges, as pretty much every one was like the pic above...but you get the idea. Someone had attacked them with a big file and either didn't know how (or couldn't be bothered!?) to make them round again.

Over to the neck -


The frets weren’t too bad, but to address this damage and refinish, it needed to be refretted. There would be no way to remove the necessary material and keep a level plane without doing so.




Someone had also tried to remove the nut at one point and shattered the wood above the nut, so the nut is twice the size it would’ve originally been. A previous owner didn’t seem to have access to a blank of the right size, so he glued two together...one of them brass for some reason.

So here's the list of all the work which needed doing 

Body stripping and refinishing (Nitro)    
Neck refinish and new decal                         
New pickguard                                             
Pickup rewind                                              
Rewire with CTS pots                                  
Shielding of pickup cavities                          
New Truss rod nut                                       
New string nut (bone)                                 
Threaded inserts in neck                          
New control knobs                                         

Pics coming of the process.


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Time to start rectifying these issues, the first stage was to strip all the finish off. Fortunately it wasn’t 2k paint so came off easily enough with acetone. Then lots of sanding to get rid of those huge grooves, also discovered it'd been burnt when the paint came off...poor bass! After this I re cut the roundover (the rounded edge) using the router to ensure accuracy all the way round.




Edges re cut


This was previously one of the worst areas (which I pictured in the previous post) now it’s all nice and smooth again!

Over to the neck. Below I’ve defretted it and started sanding out the damage using a long sanding beam checking often with a radius gauge.


Defretted and stripped.


This was another issue - the chewed up truss rod nut. A replacement was ordered. This pic also shows the date of manufacture. This was kept and lacquered over


Refretted! I hadn’t stripped the headstock face at this point as was waiting for the new decal to arrive...that way I can compare before committing to using it.


New nut made and headstock now stripped. The nut slot also needed considerable chiselling to bring it back square on the bottom and sides.


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Time for some finish on the neck, I'll be using Nitrocellulose for both body and neck. I'll be spraying gloss to start with then finishing off with a few coats of Satin. This way you get a better depth of finish rather than just spraying satin. 


I spray a few coats to create a good base for the decal, then apply the decal to the correct spot - I traced the original location, so it ends up in the right place! After this the decal is buried in clear coat.


Fretboard sprayed, there are till some traces of discolouration from the damage if you look very closely, but it blends nicely now and just looks like figure in the wood if you didn’t already know the story.


Over to the body. I sprayed a coat of clear nitro to see what the state of things are, I could’ve skipped this step, but if I remember correctly I was thinking about using clear as the sanding sealer at this point. After the clear went on I decided to instead use a primer as there were still some bits which needed evening out and the grain was a bit more porous than I expected. It’s always a good idea to use primer really, it highlights areas which need attention, fills the grain in tight grained woods (Alder, Poplar, Maple etc) reasonably well and sands easily. It will usually result in fewer coats of colour and clear and a better finish. I used a grey primer, but didn't get a pic of this stage.



Here the colour coats have been sprayed. You can't buy this colour, so I mixed it up using pigments. It was a colour used on the Squier Bullet basses and I believe they called it 'off white', but it's really more of an opaque butterscotch with a lot more yellow in it that any Olympic whites.

I'll follow up with several coats of gloss clear - 3 passes = 1 coat, 3 coats a day for 3 days is the fool proof method for using aerosols. But I tend to lay it on a bit thicker with my gun setup, so I usually go for around 6 or 7 coats. Keep in mind Nitro is evaporative, so it will shrink dramatically after the first week as the thinners evaporate. After which you'll end up with a much thinner finish than it previously was. People think the vintage Fenders and Gibsons were sprayed very thin because that's how they are now...the reality is 50 years of off gassing and shrinking. In the first place they would've been much thicker.


Back to the body after giving the lacquer 4 weeks of hardening up. I got a pretty decent final coat straight from the gun but in the right light you’ll see spray texture, so this needs to be wet sanded out. This is unavoidable, however the better your final coats the higher grit you can start with. I’m starting with 1000 grit for this one, I don’t ever go below 800... if I needed to go coarser than that I’d spray a better final coat.  I’ve had to play with the lighting of the pic above as I wasn’t getting an accurate representation. The final pics show it more accurately. Looks pretty good from this angle, but with reflective light (below) you can see the texture mentioned above which will need flattening.


The spray texture is deliberately exaggerated with the lighting here, so you can see it. 




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Here it is after wet sanding from 1000 grit to 2000 (1000, 1200, 1500, 2000) and then buffed using a DA buffer and compound, Menzerna is my preferred compound. You can buff by hand but you won’t get as good results on the large flat surfaces and some scratches always seem to remain visible in certain light. Whereas a buffer will completely remove them. I buff inside the cutaway and the smaller hard to reach surfaces by hand where you won’t have this problem.



The workshop! A clear reflection with no haze, swirls or scratches it what you're going for.




Here the finished neck after having some satin sprayed and new truss rod nut fitted.




Edited by Manton Customs
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