1956 Fender Precision Bass – Restoration

I get so excited every time a great restoration project comes my way, especially of the vintage Fender variety. So, imagine my delight in this one: a 1956 Fender Precision Bass, in need of a complete refinish. As was the case with the Fender Jazz Bass in an earlier post, the condition and sad state of this previous refinish makes it cry out to be re-refinished. Here’s the way it came to me:

The old refinish was done so long ago that it had been damaged by many years of play wear and further modification, including huge holes drilled into the back for “who knows what?”, chewed up contours and enlarging of the pickup cavity. OUCH!

Sometimes this kind of wear and tear is nostalgic and even desirable, but the biggest problem with this one is the color. Lake Placid Blue is not normally associated with Fenders form the 50’s, but from the 60’s. So, the owner decided to have it restored to something more period-correct. We could tell from the worn-through areas that the body was made of swamp ash, so the only correct finish would be either sunburst or blonde. Historically, solid colors were sprayed over alder: a wood with much less prominent grain pattern that requires less prep. The ash was reserved for finishes that showed off it’s natural beauty. It was left up to me and I decided to not make the call until after I removed the finish. Here’s what it looked like as the layers came off:

What I found underneath this mess was a one-piece example of the most beautifully figured swamp ash I have ever seen on any Fender, or any other guitar for that matter.

It was clear, at this point that the new finish would have to be blonde, in order to show as much of the grain as possible. Here are a couple of pics after I repaired the holes, restored the original shape of the pickup cavity and body contours and applied the initial blonde coats:

I’ll soon be posting images of the finished products that will be much more yellow in color. We’re not refinishing the neck, so I need to make this look like it pairs well with it. Stay tuned…


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