Ibanez Soundgear SR500 bass refinish

I’ve had this bass for many years and played loads of gigs with it. It is the go-to bass for any gig, any style, an active bass with Bartolini pickups, soundwise it can do it all. It’s great for slapping or deep bass and anything in between. Compared to a Fender it’s light and ergonomically refined. The action is low and fast. The body is mahogany and the neck is unfinished (silky) jatoba and bubinga fretboard. I have not played a better bass than this.

Look at any well-used SR500 with the mahogany body and they all have the same problem – the finish (a very thin tinted varnish) comes off wherever your thumb rests and leaves an unsightly mess.

So as a Christmas-week project I decided to patch it up. I tried sanding the edges thinking I could get away with blending in a new finish, but it was soon evident that this would look worse. So I decided to strip it down and refinish the whole body with something more hard-wearing and easier to repair. Rather than use lacquer I decided to use something that would soak in.

I removed the neck and disconnected the pickups, battery lead and jack socket, removed these and the electronics and all hardware.

I then commenced sanding. As I was working at the kitchen table late into the evening it didn’t seem right to use a power sander, and the shed was cold and uninviting. With it being boxing day, it seemed a sad thing to do, being an old man alone in a cold shed. It didn’t matter, this old man alone in a warm kitchen took only an hour or so to sand off every bit of finish then smooth the mahogany.

Once I had sanded down to 1000 grit paper I used a rag to apply a coat of Colron wood dye (Deep Mahogany). I left it there, pleased that all this was achieved in one evening. It was one of the best boxing days I’ve had since my childhood.

Next evening I began the oiling process using Colron Danish Oil (natural). This is so easy, you apply with a rag, wipe off the excess, then leave for a few hours. Each evening I followed up with a light rubdown with a very worn-down Scotchbrite pad and a further coat of Danish Oil until it had received 5 coats.

To finish off I waxed it with Colron finishing wax and buffed it to the sheen pictured here.

I refitted the hardware and neck, soldered the electronics and fitted a new set of Rotosound RS66L strings and set it up.

A sudden interruption!

Just as I was in the middle of this last job, on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, the phone rang. It was Clive. Unusually, we had no gig booked but the band booked to play at Fakenham Academy’s annual bash had let them down – could we do it? Yes of course we could! I left the bass in pieces and got my gear together, ready for the long drive to the venue (half a mile!). More on this in a future post…

Summary

All-in-all I probably spent 4 or 5 hours on the whole job, ending up with a smart-looking bass that feels as soft and smooth as a woman’s thighs (if my memory serves me well).

I think this finish will be hard-wearing and will last me out, I am very pleased with it. I highly recommend Danish Oil for this purpose, expensive stuff but well worth it.

There are a few people asking advice on this topic in various forums so 10 months on I thought I’d write up my experience for future Googlers to find.

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