Electra longnecker + thunderbucker = Electra Longbucker

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by webelo, Jul 16, 2012.


  1. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    This story starts way back (like, 2 years ago) when I was looking to drop some new pups in my Univox Hi-flier. I stumbled across Thunderbucker pickups and immediately fell in love with them. They were deep and a little growly... perfect. They weren't meant to be for the Univox, but I filed them away in the back. Someday they would find a home in a bass of mine.

    Fast foward...

    My brother (whom I play in a band with) comes across a Gibson Ripper on CL (actually... someone on this forum sold it to him). It was a good deal, but had some electronic issues. We came to the agreement that he would buy the bass, I would pay for the pups and if/when we parted ways he'd take the bass and I'd take the pups.

    Aha! The perfect vehicle for the Thunderbuckers! So, I emailed Steve and ordered them up.

    Time went by, I got busy, and was finally about to route the Ripper for the pup when I mentioned to my brother that I'd like to buy him out of the Ripper... to which he replied that he wasn't interested in being bought out (he plays guitar, btw). Anyway... it was probably for the better that we don't co-own an instrument.

    Now the poor Thunderbuckers were sitting on my desk with no home. Sitting in their beautiful packaging... silent. I did some thinking about the right home for them and decided it was a jazz bass. Curvy, classic, beautiful. It would just be a simple route of the pickup cavities and I'd drop those babies in there.

    So, some more time goes by. Until a couple of weeks ago when I happen to scope out the classifieds on the forum only to find that there is a beautiful, '81 Matsumoku factory Electra 2271 "Longnecker" for sale. This would satisfy three of my favorite things:
    - jazz bass body
    - vintage
    - cheap japanese
    So, I coordinated the deal with FunkGenerator (who was super awesome to deal with, btw)... and a week later this was in my possession:

    [​IMG]

    I played around with it for a bit and first realized the nut wasn't glued... which normally wouldn't be a problem except that it was not sitting flush on the neck. Did some searching on the forum... couple drops of glue later... baddabing.

    Next, I noticed some fret buzz when I played the higher frets. I adjusted the truss rod, but things still weren't playing right. I noticed there was a shim under the heal of the neck at the body. So, I pulled the neck off, pulled the shim out, and set her up again. After cranking the truss rod down all the, the fret buzz went away, but I just had too much relief in the neck. So, after not sleeping well for a couple nights... I finally decided to re-shim the neck, but a little more cleanly. Neck off, traced a shim, lubed the truss rod nut, put her all back together... and now she's playing like a dream!

    So, I finally feel like I have a feel for this bass... now it's time for her to go under the knife. I've coordinated with a fellow TB'er to do some routing on Wednesday night.

    The plans:
    - new pickups... '63 Thunderbuckers (with rings)
    - new Fender high mass bridge... I originally wanted to do the through body, but I just can't bring myself to drill through the body for no benefit
    - wiring will most likely be master/blend/tone

    Without the ashtray and pup cover:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Awesome inlayed logo on headstock:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    '63 Thunderbucker pups. These are all handmade. These guys do amazing work!
    [​IMG]

    A quick mockup:
    [​IMG]

    :bassist:
  2. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    I recommend this! I put '66 Thunderbuckers in my Jazz bass.
  3. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    nice! How are the '66s? What did you put them in?
  4. hover

    hover

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    Yeah man, let's rout that bad boy.
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  6. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    I realized that this thread is probably better suited for the Luthier's Corner... mods maybe you deem it worthy to be moved?

    * * *

    Let's continue, shall we?

    With the Electra all taken apart, I headed over to Hover's place with a bag full of bass parts and a hand full of beer.

    He marked up the area to be routed and to both of our surprises, we didn't have to hog out nearly as much material as we both thought we would. In order to ensure the route was straight, Hover decided to take a piece of wood and put double-sided tape on the back. Pretty trick makeshift jig.

    [​IMG]

    Let the routing begin!

    [​IMG]

    Neck pickup is routed. We were a bit on the conservative side when it came to the routing, so we had to go back and take just a tad more off.

    [​IMG]

    Beers number 1 and 2, led to beers number 3 and 4... tee hee.
    [​IMG]

    Pick up routs are complete! Super big thanks to Hover for helping me out with this. :bassist: Next up... the pick guard.
    [​IMG]

    I got the body home and started mocking up where the pickup ring was going to go.

    [​IMG]

    Hover and I bounced some ideas back and forth as to the best way to cut the pickguard. I tried scoring it with a razor. That didn't really work. Then tried the conical grinding bit on the dremel. That just melted it. Then the cut off wheel... that sorta worked, but also melted it. Not to mention the awesome burning plastic fumes it produced. So, next up... my mini wires snips. It wasn't pretty, but it seemed to work. I got the hole roughed in and then finished finessing it with the file (which, by the way, girlfriends do not appreciate while you're on the phone with them).

    After measuring and measuring and double checking again, I got everything lined up and straight and started drilling the screw holes for the rings.
    [​IMG]

    I decided to use the mousepad trick I picked up from somewhere (TV Jones, maybe?) for the pads underneath the pickups. They provide compression for adjusting hight and are a super sturdy platform for the pick up. Pickups and rings are all mounted!
    [​IMG]

    Oh! Correction: Apparently it had been so long since I ordered the pickups, I had forgotten I decided to go with the '66 instead of the '63. This thing is going to be thunderous!

    Next up... mounting the new Fender HMV bridge.
  7. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    Part III...

    Since I had the whole bass apart, I figured it was as good of a time as ever to clean it all up and make her nice. So, did a bunch of reading up on cleaning up the fretboard and polishing up the frets.

    [​IMG]

    I started with masking off the fretboard. I polished the frets starting with 600 grit and then finished them off with some 1000 or 1500, whatever I had lying around.

    The before shot:
    [​IMG]

    It's kinda a crappy picture, but the fret on the right has been polished and the fret on the left still needs to be done. I swear you could actually see a difference in person.
    [​IMG]

    The after shot... all polished up:
    [​IMG]

    Next up was to clean up all that grime on the fretboard (honestly, it wasn't that bad... I just figured I should clean it while the string were off). I stumbled across Dave's World of Stuff on youtube and have been watching is videos non-stop for the last week or so (i think my girlfriend is ready to kill me). His vids are both informative, funny, and Canadian. Anyway... he swears by simple green to clean a grimmy fretboard and I believe him (it's also what I had lying around). So, I sprayed it up, brushed the board, and wiped her down. I've also heard from a few sources that lemon oil is the work on the devil on a fretboard, so conditioned it using what you should actually be using, which is linseed oil. Check out the neck... all spiffyed up:
    [​IMG]

    With the neck all shiny and mounted, it was time to tackle the Fender high mass vintage bridge. Luckily, the center bolt on the old bridge matched up with the new bridge. Unluckily, none of the others did. I made a trip to the hardware store to get a 1/8" dowel to plug the old holes. With those plugged up, and the center screw in, I used the pickup ring as a guide for mounting the bridge. When I got it in place, it still didn't look right, so I loosely strung up the E and G strings to see if things lined up right...
    [​IMG]
    And they do! :hyper:

    I then drilled some pilot holes and finally drilled the final holes. All said and done I came pretty damn close to it being perfectly straight. I think the drill moved a tad when I drilled one of the holes, so the bridge is like a 1/32 crooked. If nothing else, I'm doing at least as good as some of the builders at Lakland.

    Bridge is mounted:
    [​IMG]

    With the bridge mounted, it was time to string her up with a new set of GHS Pressurewounds and do a set up. I'm still waiting on the Volume, Tone, and Blend on the pots to come in the mail, so I wired it up quickly with the stock Jazz controls. Something's not wired correctly, but it makes noise, so that's all I really care for now.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Some initial reactions:
    - The strings. I play GHS Pressurewounds on my short scale and love them. As I was stringing these up and when I started playing them they just seemed... blah. I have since realized I bought light gage strings. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do at this point. The E string just seems weak/blah compared to the flatwound that was on there before.

    - The bridge. Wow... just wow. Saddle height was very easy to dial in and I have never, ever played an instrument where the intonation was so spot on. I will absolutely attest this the bridge. The intonation was not nearly as accurate with the old bridge. I'm not really able to comment on sustain or tone. There have been too many other changes to notice the effect the bridge played on sustain and tone.

    - The Thunderbuckers... it's still early for me to really comment on them because I've only played them through my cheapo practice amp and with the wrong pot values, but from what I can tell... they are going to be thunderous. I can't wait to get the new electronics in it!

    What are your thoughts on the strings? Should I pull the light gage strings and order up a set of heavy gage? Is there a big difference between gages?
  8. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Just checking in...you really put a lot of effort in on this. And have great results!

    I think you're better than Lakland - if that bridge is crooked, you can't tell in the photos. Lakland got my bridges right - maybe the guys in Cort's Indonesian factory do better after their first cup of coffee.
  9. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    I melted mine a little at first too, using a router. I don't have much experience cutting pickguards, but I found it important to slow down and let the blade (not brute strength) do the cutting.
  10. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    I originally started with a cut off wheel on the dremel. Even at the slow speed, it still melted the pick guard and put out some wicked fumes. In the end, I just used my small wire cutters/snips.

    I have to say, I'm a little bummed I'm not getting more love on this thread. I thought I had a cool little project here.
  11. Auguste

    Auguste

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Wow that is a lot of work

    How many hours so far?

    What are your next steps?

    When will you be finished?
  12. JacobWhaler

    JacobWhaler

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Location:
    Dallas Texas
  13. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Maybe you or I should have asked which Thunderbucker is best for metal. Or reliced you bass. I feel your pain. And it is a cool project.
  14. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    Thanks for the love Auguste :)

    I'd say I probably have 10 hours into it at this point. Everything always takes longer than you expect. I spent a lot of time on the pick guard making sure I didn't cut away too much material and making sure that everything is straight. I picked up a 6" ruler graduated in 1/32 and 1/64 and I can't believe how much I've used it.

    At this point I'm waiting to get the electronics in so I can wire it up as volume/blend/tone. After that, it should be pretty well done. Although, I have to say that I'm not thrilled with the light gage strings, so I think I'll be putting some medium-lights pressure wounds on there soon. Once all that's done.... You can expect some sound clips to follow :)
  15. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    :)
  16. Bobster

    Bobster

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2006
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Webelo,

    I think that's an awesome mod! I would love to hear her. I think you've really breathed new life into that Electra!

    Bob
  17. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Yonkers, NY
    This is awesome.

    I feel like we're in the very beginning of the "Thunderbird" phase here on TB. I remember the coffee table bass craze, the boutique Jazz craze, the flatwound craze, and I feel like Thunderbirds (or at least their pickups) are the next IT thing.

    Anyway, great looking bass, and nicely done mods.
  18. rickenbaker

    rickenbaker

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2007
    I agree and that's probably because we finally have options for pickups that actually sound like real, vintage thunderbird pickups. Now that there are actually some aftermarket options for pickups with real thunderbird tone like there have been for p and j pickups it's a lot easier to get the thunderbird sound
  19. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Yonkers, NY
    Yup, between Lull and Thunderbucker, we finally got some great looking, great sounding, 60's T-Bird pickups.

    Personally I think they look rad in Fender style instruments.

    Now if someone would just put out some 70's, 3 screw pickups so I can put them in my '79 bird, I'll be a happy man!
  20. webelo

    webelo

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Location:
    Douglas, MA
    It's funny sometimes when you think back on something and it all comes together. A few years back I used to run sound for a First Friday event. One night there was this band called Thinner. They were fronted by the bass player. I remember my brother telling me to check out the monstrous tubes in his head... His tone was absolutely huge! When I started playing bass and thinking back to his tone... it was a Thunderbird.


    I couldn't wait any longer to hear the thunderbuckers through my rig, so I took a drive down to the practice space. My initial impression of these pickups are that they are HUGE. I think WV is definitely going to be right about the proper pot values. While the tone is huge, the lows are a bit muddy and dark. I think once I put the 500k volume and blend in there, it should open it right up.

    I also noticed how sensitive the pickups are to string distance (PU height).

    So, I think I'm going to hold off on the heavier strings until I can assess the tone with the right pots. How will a heavier string affect the tone?

    The bass and rig:
    [​IMG]
  21. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    We are on the same page here. I may try a lighter gauge the next time around.

    My all-time favorite in-the-music-store bass tone came from a 90s Les Paul bass with barts. A Gibson. Go Figure.

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