4003 finish woes

Vintage, Modern, V & C series, Fretless, Signature & Special Editions

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4003 finish woes

Postby (ibal) » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:17 pm

The finish on my fireglo 2009 4003 has starting flaking off around the tailpiece, exposing the bare maple underneath. I noticed this around a month ago after using the bass at a gig for the first time. I took the tailpiece off this weekend to take a closer look, and it's even worse than I thought. When I ran my fingers over one of the areas where the finish was damaged, little bits of the finish just flaked right off. Bare maple is now visible on the sides and top of the area covered by the tailpiece.

Chips in the finish have also appeared during the last month or so in two locations on the front of the bass near the binding. I have no idea how they got there. I've known that the finish on this bass was problematic for a few years, ever since hairline cracks began appearing in the clearcoat on several areas of the binding on the body on the neck. I could live with those cracks, but I can't live with the flaking finish on the front of the bass. I'm not sure what the root of the problem is. The bass has lived most of its life in its case. It seems likely that something went wrong at the Ric factory in 2009. If memory serves, 2009 is around the time that Ric changed over to UV-cured finishes. Perhaps they hadn't yet perfected the process when my bass was manufactured.

I've more or less decided that I will remove the existing finish and convert the bass to mapleglo, perhaps with just a sealer and no clearcoat. Does anyone have any recommendations about I should go about removing the current fireglo finish? Should I just sand it off, or will I need to use some sort of chemical stripper? Any tips would be appreciated. I don't want to spend the next several years watching the fireglo finish on this bass slowly chip and flake away.

I have two other Rick basses -- a 1973 4001 and a 2009 C64. If a finish problem like this occurred with either of those basses I would hire someone to do a professional refin. This bass is not as special to me. I'm willing to take some risk in dealing with the problem.
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (Gilmourisgod) » Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:32 pm

The finish flaking around the bridge has become a common problem on basses since the 2009-2010 era, unfortunately continues into current production. Either the clearoat isn't fully cured before they attach the bridge, or the slightly rough and sharp bridge casting edges are biting through the finish due to over-zealous bridge screw tightening, or a combination of both. When my local GC was still stocking Rics (2016) I saw three brand new, fresh out of the case Jetglo 4003, one perfect, two with the identical kind of finish "bubbling" at the bridge you show. It shows up on dark finish basses as a whitish area in the clearcoat, and seems to get worse over time. A number of people in the Rickenbacker Club on Talkbass have documented this on recent production basses, so it's been happening for nearly 10 years. Ric corporate certainly is aware of it over that time period, but doesn't seem to have addressed it successfully. Any bass still under the one year (since date of manufacture, not sale) finish warranty can make a claim on it, but are required to pay for shipping one way to California to have it repaired. That policy sucks for a known and well documented finish flaw, not Ric's finest CS achievement. There is no known intermediate "cure" that I'm aware of, once the UV clearcoat is cured, nothing overcoated will bond to it. I've read about people injecting CA glue under the bubbles to try to stabilize it, sounds janky at best.
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (teeder) » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:37 pm

That's how you know it's a genuine Rickenbacker and not one of those cheap Chinese knock-offs.

Congratulations? :roll:
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (ibal) » Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:52 pm

My 2009 C64 (jetglo) has indentations from the tailpiece in the finish, but thankfully there is no cracking or flaking. The bass has another finish issue though -- it becomes very dull and sort of cloudy looking when left in its case for very long. I usually spritz a little water on the finish and polish it up with a microfiber towel, and it more or less shines right up. I've used Zymol to polish the bass in the past. I've also used Scratch-X or some such product to try to remove some scratches to the finish. I don't know if the cloudiness is a factory flow or the product of my own unskilled efforts to polish and remove scratches in this past.

On my fireglo 4003, in addition to the problems mentioned in my original post, the finish actually cracking in several places where the binding meets the body on the front of the bass. The cracks follow the contour of the binding. The chip you see near the binding in one of the pictures in my original post has a crack like that running through it. I expect that similar chips may form in the other areas that have started to crack. I think I'd be much happier removing the finish now than watching the whole thing continue to deteriorate over time. It's so depressing!
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (ibal) » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:23 pm

Does anyone have any advice about the method I should employ to strip the finish down to bare wood?
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (teeder) » Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:17 pm

ibal wrote:Does anyone have any advice about the method I should employ to strip the finish down to bare wood?


I recommend Larry Davis.
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (doctorwho) » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:24 am

I recommend that you cross-post your questions on do-it-yourself refinishing in the Vibrola section of this Forum.

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It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing. - Seneca
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (Gilmourisgod) » Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:54 pm

I'd try one of the commercial strippers like Stripeeze first, someplace unobtrusive like a Pup route. I've tried the citrus based strippers, they work..... eventually, like all day in some cases. I haven't tried stripping this UV cure stuff on anything yet, but it can't be any worse than poly. Most strippers won't touch poly, which leaves you with a heat gun or sanding it off. I wouldn't use a heat gun on anything you intend to refinish in a transparent color. It's really easy to linger too long someplace and scorch the wood, and really hard to sand the scorch marks out. Sanding is safe, but you have to be careful about keeping everything flat, and not change change any rounded profiles.
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Re: 4003 finish woes

Postby (CatHead) » Fri May 17, 2019 3:57 pm

My 2015 4003s did exactly the same thing. I noticed it at the dealers and they did a very impressive "mini-refin" on the area and it did the job, you can only tell if you look very closely now and in the right light.
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