So, I decided to knock two things off my bucket list. I’ve never owned a jazz bass, and I’ve never built a bass. Plenty of project guitars have come and gone from my care, but I’ve never really built a bass guitar. Time to correct this oversight. The unfinished body was purchased on eBay from a builder in Brazil. It is an alder body with a Brazilian burl walnut top.
One of the hardest parts of working on this bass was teaching myself a decent method to do a finish on it. I used to have access to tools to spray a finish, but that was in high school. (My dad had an air compressor and air tools to do car finishes. So I did guitar finishes here and there). This time, I was going to learn how to do a nice tung oil finish. After a few botched attempts, I came across a method that involved wet sanding a tung oil finish. This was fairly intuitive as I had already been doing wet sanded car finishes since my teens.
I’m going to start with some pics of this bass early on in the build. Unfortunately, I did not document many of my early attempts, largely because I was frustrated that my finishes were not coming out as nice as I would have hoped. As I find pictures, I’ll add them to this blog.
This is early on in the build. I’ve probably started sanding out the unfinished body, going to finer and finer grit paper with each pass. That’s why it’s got a “sheen” but there’s no shine and the grain doesn’t pop. I wanted to figure out how to get a glassy tung oil finish where the grain patterns would just pop out, so I was taking my time and doing research on how to get what I wanted.
The back of the bass, “in the white”.
This is when I was just starting with a wet sanded tung oil finish for this bass. You can see how the back is becoming darker as it absorbs the oil. The figures in the top are starting to pop more as well.
This is after I got the last coat on and it had hardened/dried.
Testing the fit of the neck in the neck pocket for the first time;
The neck is a Warmoth neck made from birdseye maple with a rosewood fingerboard, Schaller tuners. The neck was harvested from another bass that had a pretty hard life from the looks of it. I got lucky and I was able to sell the body (with electronics installed) on eBay for what I had paid for the whole bass. Hopefully someone else’s project bass is coming along as well, and that bass body is headed for a better life that what the previous owner had given it.
Neck bolted on;
I strung it up to get an idea of what I was dealing with (intonation, action, setup needs). The strings will come off when the electronics get installed…but I wanted a preview of what this thing will look like and feel like.
The next step was getting a control plate for this. eBay yielded a very interesting control plate and knob set from China for $7.99. That being said, the pre-wired electronics on this unit are pretty much garbage. All the solder joints are cold or just poorly done that I could see. And my preference was to have better quality pots. BUT…I figured that would be the case going in at this price point for a metal control plate AND knobs. So I ordered a better set of electronics to swap out when I ordered the plate. I’m also going to have to shield the plate…but, at $7.99, I still felt that was reasonable. Plus the plate feels like it is right for this bass build.
While I waited for the plate to arrive, I did a setup on the bass just to see “where the lay of the land” was, so to speak. I did need to do a neck shim, and I got the intonation taken care of. I usually use D’Addario Chromes on my fretless basses, but this one is currently strung with GHS Boomers. Someone gave me a free set to try, so why not?
Here’s where the bass is at now;>
Next up, I’m selecting and ordering the pickups. I’m considering the Seymour Duncan Hot Jazz Stack neck and bridge pickups for this bass. Not sure if that is my final decision, but I am thinking that these pups will be what I end up loading in this instrument.
6/5/2017 – I had a run in with an Ibanez Soundgear at Sam Ash last week that made the decision for me. The Nordstrand Pickups in that bass served as great passive advertising for that company, reminding me how awesome their product is.
After an email chat with Nordstrand pickup sherpa Stewart McKinsey, we came to the conclusion that the new Big J Blades in clean and clear would be a good choice. I placed my order last week and I’m looking forward to getting them installed.
Oddly enough, the timing of this whole thing…trying out the Ibanez that came into Sam Ash RVA/the follow up conversation with Stewart….all of this happened around the anniversary of a house concert in Reading PA a few years back. Stewart and I had a blast doing that event. We rather unexpectedly ended up jamming all afternoon after we did our sound check. Here’s an audio clip from that show. It’s a little fried at points, but it’s the only audio I’ve got from that event. I’ve been told by folks that the musicality of the performance makes it worth a listen.
So the pickups are under construction right now. I’ve started re-wiring the control plate. I’ve also applied copper shielding to the plate. I’m also replacing some parts (like the capacitors) with better quality ones.
Here’s all the pics from various stages of this build. Click on the blue text to enlarge the photos;
Stop by this page for updates. I’ll keep them coming until the bass is completed.