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View Full Version : Refinishing a Flea top?



itsme
09-06-2011, 05:20 PM
My husband (bless his heart!) bought me a soprano Flea for my b-day. This is the pic he showed me before bidding on it. Looked like a "natural" wood finish to me.

http://images.dr3vil.com/files/11/sageflea.jpg

It arrived today in basically pristine condition. Except... well... it's green. I hadn't looked at the comments where someone asked the color and the seller said it was a "light sage green."

Now, it's not like it's really hideous looking and I could live with it, but the color just doesn't do it for me. Otherwise, like I said, it's in perfect condition.

So, I wondering how much work it would take to re-finish the top. I'm guessing three steps here:

1) Strip the top/finish. Is there some type of chemical wipe on/off remover or would I have to sand it? If the latter, once the strings are off, I presume it would be sufficient to sand it by hand? What grit sandpaper?

2) The top is supposedly some type of laminate pine. What type of stain or finish could I use on it? I'm not really picky, basically want something/anything that would make it look like wood. I like the orangish/mango look. Would a stain do on the pine, or am I going to need to paint it?

3) Finishing the top. After 1 and 2, I presume I need to put some sort of finish back on. What and how?

Thanks for any advice. I've never done anything to any of my instruments except change strings, so I'm a complete novice here. :)

Chap
09-06-2011, 05:35 PM
Well, I know you can order a complete new top over the phone from the Flea folks. I think that would be easier and cheaper than trying to refinish the existing one. Not sure how you'd actually go about doing the replacement though.

Ingrate
09-07-2011, 01:37 PM
I don't know how to refinish it, but you could put interesting stickers all over it instead. :)

It's only green on the front.

RyanMFT
09-07-2011, 01:54 PM
How about taking the strings off, carefully sanding with fine sandpaper just to rough up the surface and then spray paint it with a good spray paint? If you take your time to do good prep and carefully mask off the bridge, the fretboard, and the black plastic back, then lay on light coats of paint, I bet you could make it look pretty darn nice.

Oh, and put some bunched up newspaper in the soundhole as well. I might even rub it down with steel wool to prep rather than sandpaper. If you try to get all the paint off so you could stain, you may never get the stain out of the pores of the wood and I don't know if the hoop pine has a pretty grain pattern.

Frankie2blue
09-09-2011, 11:28 AM
I refinished a fluke that had abstract designs on it. I masked off the plastic (important) and the bridge and then carefully stripped it. I then lightly sanded the top to clean it and rubbed it with 0000 steel wool. Blow off any debris and then I sprayed a light coat of into lacquer from a spray can on the wood, then rubbed with steel wool again. I then airbrushed a little toner mixed with lacquer (optional) into a light sunburst and then finished with about 6 coats of lacquer. After a week I wet sanded with very fine paper and hand buffed. Looks way better and the cool thing is that it sounds way better with the thinner finish.

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/Frankie2blue/uke.jpg

itsme
09-09-2011, 12:50 PM
I refinished a fluke that had abstract designs on it. I masked off the plastic (important) and the bridge and then carefully stripped it. I then lightly sanded the top to clean it and rubbed it with 0000 steel wool. Blow off any debris and then I sprayed a light coat of into lacquer from a spray can on the wood, then rubbed with steel wool again. I then airbrushed a little toner mixed with lacquer (optional) into a light sunburst and then finished with about 6 coats of lacquer. After a week I wet sanded with very fine paper and hand buffed. Looks way better and the cool thing is that it sounds way better with the thinner finish.
Wow, that looks absolutely gorgeous! I have a Fluke with leopard print top, that might have to be another project at some point. Right now, for the Flea, I'm just interested in something/anything other than "sage green."

So, if I might pick your brain...

Is regular blue painter's tape adequate for masking?

Did you use any special product to do the "stripping"?

What grit sandpaper?

What type/brand of spray lacquer?

What type of toner and what proportion of mix to lacquer?

What did you use to buff?

(If you couldn't tell, I'm a total newbie when it comes to stuff like this. :p)

Frankie2blue
09-10-2011, 05:16 AM
Blue painters tape is fine. Any kind of stripper like Zip, etc available in Home Depot is fine. Once stripper is cleaned off, clean with steel wool then lightly sand with about a 400 grit Wet/dry sandpaper also available at HD. Clear spray, you can get in a spray can at HD, however if you want to do a toner and or a burst like I did it can get more complicated. Then you need to buy a quart of clear lacer and some stain toy add to the lacquer and it it probably best to order that from Stewart McDonald co. You can mix up the lacquer and put it into a Pre Val spray container ( cost about 5.00 or so) that you can buy at a hardware store or HD. You can just rub a stain on also if you like but the danger here is that it can become uneven in appearance. It's going down a slippery slope though as each step you take it end up with you buying more and more stuff to get the job done. It is much easier if you have all the equipment.
So that said, I would probably just strip the top if I were you, then buy a water based or alcohol based stain (preferably in a spray can) or put the stain in a Pre Val sprayer to get even coverage) and stain the top to what ever shade you want then just spray with clear lacquer from a spray can available at any HD. That keeps it simple with little to buy.
Pre Val sprayers by the way are just a glass jar with a aerosol unit on top so that you can mix your own things and spray them on. Very useful to have them around.
After finishing, I would lightly wet sand with about a 400-600 wet sand paper with water and jut a touch of dish soap for a lube. Be careful here though as you can go through the clear! Keep your sanding even from side to side and organized and sand less than you think you have to.Cover that sound hole also>
Any sort of auto polishing compound will buff a small job like that good.
If you still decide to go ahead, good luck. It's not hard but you have to be careful. If not, just bay it and get a color you like if you are not confident.

Frankie2blue
09-10-2011, 05:48 AM
Here is my latest project. I bought a Gold tone uke banjo but hated the finishing and the dime store resonator they put on it. So I bought a nice unfinished arch back banjo resonator from Stew Mac and cut the center out of it the same diameter as the original flat resonator. Now it is a flat type resonator with a nice gentle arch which makes it not only look better, but sound better also and makes it resistance to warping like the original did. That one was already warped when I bought it. Then I glued the binding on in Ivoroid and proceeded to finish it in a sunburst as shown. Then I pull the uke rim completely apart and refinished the rim from the horrible cheap looking stain finish with glue marks under the stain to a nice satin black ebony look. I did this by spraying black lacquer first, then coating with a clear satin lacquer after and finally rubbing with a 0000 steel wool in one direction. I did the peg head also in a sunburst to match the resonator. After putting it all back together I could not be happier. !And believe it or not the arched resonator really made a difference in the sound. I A/B tested several times to be sure. Now I really love this Uke!!! Just had to make it right.
First pic here is the original resonator, which is the same finish they had on the rim also, even including the same glues marks under the stain!
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/Frankie2blue/reso.jpg
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/Frankie2blue/uke3.jpg
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/Frankie2blue/uke2.jpg
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/Frankie2blue/uke4.jpg