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Nocaster - To Refin or Not to Refin

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by bienteveo, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. Revv23

    Revv23 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 9, 2009
    No way you could pull a decal and put it back on.

  2. John Owen

    John Owen Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Jan 29, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    Joe Riggio - Service Guitar Repair

    If you are still considering a refin, you should check out Joe Riggio at Service Guitar Repair. He has done some museum quality restorations on really abused vintage teles, strats, etc. Here's a link:

    What ever you decide, have fun playing that wonderful guitar. I bet it sounds great.

  3. tonyj

    tonyj Tele-Afflicted

    May 23, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    Just remember that whatever you do to the guitar in its current condition, you are probably taking it even further away from what it originally was - a rare, highly collectible and valuable guitar. From a financial point of view this could be a bad move. Nocasters are iconic .... a "used to be a Nocaster" would be less so.

    Maybe what you have now, with as many of the original parts put back where they belong, is as good as it's going to be.

    Removing body mass for a further refin is going deeper in the hole.

    Perhaps selling it to a collector, will bring you enough money to buy a Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition 1951 RI Nocaster. This arguably might be closer to the original Nocaster spec, than what you have now, and certainly would be more playable than where some of the options may take you.

    Just a thought ....

    I am really very envious of what you have, but would I trade you my '51 RI Nocaster for it? I'm honestly not sure I would.

    Thank goodness I don't have to make that decision.

    Thinking about it from your perspective, I'd probably keep it, as is. If it's a player - fine. If not, I'd keep it anyway, and just enjoy owning it.

    Meanwhile? Perhaps lookout for a Nocaster RI.

    Good luck, with whatever your decision might eventually be.

  4. cjp60

    cjp60 TDPRI Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    Chandler, Arizona
    Gord Miller of GM Restorations
    Or Scott Lentz would get a call from me if it were my guitar.
    They both do amazing restorations. Not sure if Scott is still doing it or not.
    Good luck with you decision.

  5. christhebrit

    christhebrit Tele-Holic

    Mar 12, 2013
    Perhaps selling it would give him enough to buy a custom shop?
    I think he'd had enough to buy 3 masterbuilts, even in the guitars current condition!

  6. tonyj

    tonyj Tele-Afflicted

    May 23, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    Good point Chris, however we haven't seen the guitar in question - at least I haven't. Your point is valid though.

    An original 'Nocaster' in excellent original condition can bring big money, however once original hardware is modified, replaced or refin'ed, or the guitar has been otherwise tampered with, the price generally will tend to plummet. To where? ...... who knows?.

    From my vantage point, it certainly doesn't appear that this guitar was simply played at church each Sunday, by that little old lady....... rather, it seems to have had a hard life. Without seeing or handling the guitar in question, I for one, can only make broad and sometimes irrational statements.

    Having said that, I would love to own this genuine, iconic, vintage Fender guitar at any time - even a totally knackered one - as this may or may not be. It could still be worth a whole lot of money or it may be just a wall hanger. That, I don't know, and I can't even guess from where I am standing.

    Please do not take this post as being irreverant. I am envious of bienteveo and would love to own this guitar. Over the years I have had a few vintage guitars in varying condition. Sadly, not all of them were worth the time and effort needed to bring them back to their heyday. None made me any money. All brought me pleasure.

    Whatever ..... I'm sure that our friend bienteveo will make the right decision. I wish him all the very best and hopefully it will all come good for him.
    Last edited: May 2, 2014

  7. bienteveo

    bienteveo TDPRI Member

    Dec 4, 2012
    Buenos Aires
    Bienteveo doesn't really roll off the tongue does it? Richard's the name.

    Thanks for the thoughtful replies Tonyj.

    No irreverence perceived. Everything you say is quite reasonable. The guitar is both a player and iconic. I want to do justice to both aspects, neither detracting further from its originality nor rendering it unusable musically. Also, I have no need of selling in order to buy something else. I've got a 69 tele that covers all bases.

    My reason for considering a refinish have to do with bringing the guitar closer to its original state, not further away. This is why I'd never do it if refinishing were to involve reducing body mass due to sanding. Assuming an expert could return it to butterscothch without sanding, wouldn't this be an improvement?

  8. tonyj

    tonyj Tele-Afflicted

    May 23, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    Hi Richard,

    You have obviously given a lot of thought to what you wish to do and why you are doing it. You and you alone will know exactly what to do when the time comes. I wish you all the best and I'm sure you will be happy with your decision.

    I see you in the postion of the gem cutter facing the job of cutting a large carat high grade diamond. Easy does it!

    My other concern came from the fact that I have handled quite a number of 'older' guitars since I retired a few years ago - Les Paul Juniors and Specials, as an example - and have seen many guitars which quite frankly would have been better left alone.

    It seems to my old head that 'patina' and genuine 'road wear' are very much a positive thing, however when my mind begins to conjure up images of 'sanders' and in some cases 'dremels', etc, my mind sees lots of negative things. Not always a bad thing I know - but very much dependant on who does it, how its done and why it is done.

    I know also that you didn't even imply that this is the route you might take - its where my mind went however. Scary ....

    I feel more relaxed knowing this rare guitar is well loved and is in caring hands ...... and yes, I know that non of this is any of my business! ... :oops:

    Remember to keep us all up to date with your 'adventure', and of course a few photos would be nice ...... and thank you for sharing this project with us.

    Best wishes


  9. Twinkie

    Twinkie Tele-Meister

    Jun 4, 2010
    Hi there Richard!

    What to do, what to do?

    To my own history I have had three guitars refinished, a 66 Telecaster, a 60 Stratocaster, and a 51 L5. Of the three the L5, bar far was the best outcome.

    The Tele has a white polyurethane type finish, to the likeness of what you find on modern day Fenders. At first I didn't like it and almost had the guys at Steven's redo it. This is back in 1991. One positive thing about that finish, for sure is it will pick up any color of stage lighting. However, I will probably have it redone at some point to something more era appropriate.

    The Strat is more of a sad story. When I got it the body had been stripped and sanded. I later had it replaced with a 70s ash body refinish to a nice cream. The original body was used by the outfit who was working on said guitar to build another guitar all together without my permission. Thereafter I ended up with a free guitar and labor. Well I liked the color of the finish. Then one day I barely nicked the guitar body with a mic stand and a chip have the size of half a dime came flying off. That was like 20 years ago and the rest of said finish has stayed intact with this silly looking chip. What I suspect is the body was not properly prepped for refinishing by removing the old finish down to the wood. The chip revealed how much added thickness was done onto this body and to the point that it's doesn't fit the neck all that well. So just this past couple of weeks I have gotten around to doing something to resolve my issues with this guitar. I'm replacing the body. I made contact with MJT Aged Guitar Finishes to make a seriously relic looking 1960 spec, beat crap, burnt body to go with rest of what is a 1960 Stratocaster.

    My 51 L5 needed a complete restoration after someone did a really bad "Cherry Sunburst" to the poor thing. I took it Joe Vinikow of and he had someone do an amazing early 50s style sunburst, era correct that turned out beautiful.

    So in the world of those who refinish guitar there are those who do amazing work and those that fall below expectations. One thing that can be really hard to attain with having a guitar refinished is the Mojo. That is what I am looking for with these guy at MJT.

    So perhaps another option for you would be to consider doing a relic body and keep the old one as is. Otherwise, I think your original body could be restored through some kind of bleaching process and refinished with a 50s era Blonde the shows through some of the ash wood grain.

    God speed with whatever decision you make.

  10. London John

    London John Banned

    Mar 5, 2014
    I'd pass on Scott Lentz. Lovely guy, but there are much better restorers out there.

    Nacho is an obvious choice, if only for guidance.

    As said, Dave Johnson does astounding work.

    You might also think about Clive Brown, his finishes are very, very good.....and he does them so they blacklight correctly.

    Either way, good luck with it.

    Let me know if you want the correct colour temperature for an early Tele.

  11. bienteveo

    bienteveo TDPRI Member

    Dec 4, 2012
    Buenos Aires
    There's a lot of mojo in the existing patina and road wear. The finish may not original, but nor was it done yesterday. It's probably been that way for 30 or 40 years. So there's some history there. And it shows. There's something to be said for not messing with it.

    And there's another upside to not messing with it. Right now it does not look like something you really want to steal. People assume it's some kind of Frankenstein.

    I think I sort of made it your business (at least to some extent) when I posted here!

    I've got a particular '53 Esquire in mind.


    What do you all think? If this were possible (no sanding, true light relic butterscotch, done by the best possible person in the universe), would this be considered a further desecration, or a step back in the direction of originality?

  12. London John

    London John Banned

    Mar 5, 2014
    If you want the Esquire look, I'd talk to Nacho.

  13. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 23, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    I think it would indeed be an improvement to get a good refin, but I share your concern about not taking off any more material.

    You say it's down to 41-42mm; that's a loss of less than 3mm overall. The paint would add back at least one mm. Remember, the raw wood the guitar was made from was milled to 1.75" (44.45 mm); that was before the initial sanding, which was done by hand and resulted in some variation in body thickness. Nacho's book lists the thinnest Esquire body as 1.69" (42.926 mm) including the finish.

    I think you're within a safe range if you can subdue the darkness of the existing finish through some means other than sanding. No one can tell you whether or not that's possible without actually having the guitar in hand and determining exactly what's currently on there.

    Clive Brown is indeed the best in the world. If you're not willing to send the body to the UK, why not simply contact him and ask who he thinks is qualified? I'm not sure I would use Mark Jenny; he is very good, but this is a special case.

  14. 65 Champ Amp

    65 Champ Amp Tele-Holic

    If it were mine, and I wanted to use it the way it was made to be used, I'd focus on how it plays and sounds. Like you said, it's not such likely thief bait.

  15. bienteveo

    bienteveo TDPRI Member

    Dec 4, 2012
    Buenos Aires
    It plays and sounds great. You may be right. But it's just so tantalizing to imagine the thing restored to hallowed butterscotch, especially when it's staring me in the face:

    la foto 4.jpg

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