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A day with the SX (Lots of pics!) LONG

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dave120, Jan 22, 2006.

  1. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Before I make you wade through this whole post I'll list what's here so you can see if you want to continue! Included in this post are my experiences in dealing with adding the following items to an SX P/J bass:

    • CTS 250k pots
    • SD Basslines Hot Stack and Hot for P bass pickups
    • Mighty Mite open gear tuners
    • Switchcraft jack, new jack plate and neck plate
    • Copper foil cavity shielding
    • New misc hardware
    • Pickguard and screws

    Well first a little back story here. I originally got this SX P/J to replace my other SX P because I wanted something I could use as a good backup for my band, and the SX P was really just a venture into the SX world and wasn't really useful to me since I already had what was essentially a P bass with one of my Washburns. So I sold the P to a fellow TB'er after I got this SX P/J as a gift.

    It started out life looking like this after a good cleaning (fret board oiling, etc) and setup after I got it out of the box.


    Besides the vintage tint on the neck, that's about as generic a look as you can get for a bass right? I played it as is for a while, even played a show with it once, but like with everything I own, I wanted to make it the way I like it. I didn't like the white pickguard look very much so I e-mailed Kurt and bought a black one (3 ply BWB) for $10 shipped. Not bad, and I won't have to make any new holes. I did have to trim it slightly around the neck to make it fit though. Probably not as much as you would have to trim one made for a Fender, however. I also decided to throw in a SD Hot for P bass pickup that I had laying around in there to see how it sounded. It sounded great with the SD in the P spot. Very punchy and lots of growl like P/Js usually are. The single coil SX J pickup still hummed though and I still got lots of background noise. Not to mention it looked kinda funny with a SD P in there and a cheap looking block J pickup! But I left it like that for a while and kept playing it. It looked like this after these mods:


    Better, but still not quite the look I was going for. Round 3 with this thing involved changing the pots out for some CTS 250k pots. The tone pot didn't fit in the stock routing so I had to sand down one of the sides to make it fit right. Not that big of a deal but something to note I guess. Gave it a new cap, Switchcraft input jack (with a new black football jack plate), changed to some new (and better) black strap buttons, black pickguard screws, and added black knobs to the new pots. The look was getting there now, but still too much chrome.

    Fast forward about a month to today and it was round 4 which was a pretty big one! I apologize for some of these pics because all I had with me at my dad's house where I did this was my camera phone. Not great but better than nothing I guess.

    New parts list:
    1) SD Hot Stack Jazz pickup for the bridge position
    2) Mighty Mite black open gear style tuners
    3) Black neck plate
    4) Copper cavity shielding foil

    I took the neck off to make life easier for installing the tuners since they required a little bit of work to get them on. I was afraid to look at the neck pocket since I have seen stories on here of wavy and ruffled pockets so I didn't know what I'd find in there. But what I found was a nice smooth pocket with a pretty good fit for the neck on there. The wood for the body seems to be solid and is very resonant when unplugged, so I don't feel I'm wasting money on something that won't ever sound good, because it does sound good! If you don't believe me then ask my band or the bass players from other bands that we play with that compliment me on it :)


    The stock SX tuners were ok and worked fine, but they had to go since I was changing all the hardware to black. First issue came pretty fast. The new tuner bushings didn't fit the holes. Easily fixed with a small file and some sandpaper though. Tapped the new ones in and they were on. However, only one of the back tuner mounting screws on one of the tuners lined up. I used that one screw to get one tuner in position and lined the rest of them up off of it and drilled small pilot holes for the new screws since these screws are tiny and will strip easily if you have to force them too much. The new tuners covered all the old holes so the installation looks nice and clean. The Mighty Mite tuners aren't the best but they're better than the SX ones. They're also better than the ones my old Fender had so they're more than adequate and hold tune great. I also got a black string guide button, but since the SX headstock is at a sharper break angle than the Fender that this guide was made for, the guide was too low on this bass and created some major tension that I didn't like on those 2 strings. So I took the old chrome one, sanded it down a bit and painted it black and put it back on. Looks just as good as the black one I bought too! These tuners also aren't as hourglass shaped as the stock ones, so it enables you to put the strings lower, at a sharper break angle (usually an annoying issue on the A string sometimes), which works great for keeping uniform tension across the nut. Here's a shot of the tuners installed:


    After I got those all set I took a look at the new neck plate. It was kind of dull and required some polishing with a cloth to get it's deep shine to come out. But one thing I noticed was that the new screws were quite a bit skinnier than the old ones. Not gonna work because the new ones didn't grab the wood and all and just fell into the holes. Rather than trying to fill the holes and make these work I just re-used the stock screws and painted the heads black, and it looks great. I used the toothpick trick in the holes just to make sure I get a good tight neck joint in case they loosened up a little when taking them out. So far so good!

    Next I took the pickguard off and unsoldered all the wires necessary in order to completely remove the pickguard, input jack, and pickups from the bass. so I could shield the cavities. I had never done any shielding before but I read on here about people doing it so when I ordered my parts I decided what the hell. This is a project bass to get my feet wet on just about everything that has to do with working on a bass. I first cleaned out the cavities with a (very) slightly damp cloth to get rid of any remaining sawdust/powder in the cavities to make sure that the stuff would stick to it. Then I cut strips slightly taller than the cavity walls so they would fold down onto the bottom of the cavity where I would put another piece on top across the bottom to get a good connection. I decided not to solder every piece since the stuff is self adhesive and conductive, so I just made sure to keep testing each piece to make sure I had good connections everywhere and overlapped the pieces as much as I could. Here's the first part I did.


    The J cavity was the most tricky part since it had the indentations for the mounting screws and since it's not under the pickguard so I made it as pretty and neat as I could and it turned out nice. I followed that with the P cavity which was a lot easier.


    Finally I did the control cavity. I used a screwdriver to poke through where the holes for wires needed to go. I decided to use a wire to run between each cavity rather than try and mess with trying to get the foil through the holes. I was able to tuck them into the corners pretty easily so they aren't in the way at all and don't look bad (but you won't see them anyways, I just like to be neat about everything). This copper foil was very easy to work with for the most part so this was a fairly easy job, though slightly time consuming just because of the fit up work it takes. Here's what it looked like after I got all done.


    So with the cavity shielded it was time to put the jack, pots, and pickups back in. This was fairly routine I just had to modify the Hot Stack per SD's instructions since I didn't want to use any coil splitting. Easy enough. Getting close to finished now. After I put it all back together I looked at the white stripe that the BWB pickguard has around it and decided that I didn't like it. I was planning to send my old white pickguard off to have a solid black copy made of it, but today I decided to give painting the edge of it a shot. Since this pickguard was only $10 I figured what the hell. It actually came out really nice! Since I don't need to order a new one now I figure I saved myself $40 or so. It's about as close to the no pickguard look as I can get now. The only remaining piece to change to the black profile is the bridge, which I will be doing shortly as well.




    So after all that I oiled the fretboard, polished up the frets, strung it back up, and took it over to my amp to give it a test run. The sound? Let's just say it would probably bring people to their knees if I cranked up amp up! Very punch, very crisp and very defined. The Hot Stack is a lot better compliment to the Hot for P than the SX pickup was! No single coil hum anymore since the Hot Stack is a humbucker. Also a lot less string noise gets transmitted because these pickups are not microphonic like the SX ones can be sometimes.

    The cavity shielding did a lot more than I thought it would! This bass is dead quiet now with one or both pickups on, near or far from the amp, or under flourescent lighting. I thought something was wrong at first because I heard nothing when I turned my amp on before I hit the strings! There is no difference in the sound with your hand on or off the strings. Should help a lot in keeping unwanted noise out when recording and such. My brother was so impressed by it that he's going to buy the stuff and we're gonna shield his guitar soon! I highly recommend that job to anyone because it's not that hard to do, just takes about an hour or so. The hardest part is getting all the stuff out of the cavities so you can shield them!

    So that's where I'm at now with this bass. New bridge will be coming soon and then I'm just going to play the heck out of this thing. The action is good on it after the initial setup and I don't really have any buzzing with good medium action. If I wanted to get it really low it might need a fret job but since I play rock right now and often use a pick, I don't want it too low anyways.

    A couple pics I took when I got back here with my real camera:




    Thanks for reading! If anyone has any questions I haven't covered ehre feel free to PM me. This project is a lot of fun and playing it after working on it makes it even more fun!
  2. look great man, good job. thanks for all of that info too

    great read.
  3. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    Great job. What did the entire project cost you? I'm sure others would want to know.
  4. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Banned

    Nov 20, 2005
    Great work! Looks as good as it probably sounds. :bassist:
  5. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    Thanks for such a detailed description!! Many of us here are curious and considering doing the same type of thing. Your description gives me confidence that I could take a crack at modding an SX, too.
  6. SoulMaim


    Dec 1, 2005
    Nice job, you really made it look a whole lot snazzier! I'm sure it sounds great too!
    Good ideas, I've got an old 60's Epihpone that I got for $175 and I think I might fix it up/mod it a bit too.
  7. wow, thats more than i write in a week. good job. also, were the SD's you put on there SPB-2 and SJB-2's?
  8. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    needs black strings!

    looks nice, useful post. Thanks!
  9. Just one thing you gotta do, a black BadAss II brigde. That would not only complete the looks, but top off the perfection in your tone :bassist:
  10. ElBajista


    Dec 13, 2005
    Sebring, FL
    +1 on the extremely useful post comment. You've done pretty much what I have in mind with my SX '75 Jazz, meaning pickup swap, cavity shielding, etc. Great, you've made me even more impatient to get started on my project(s).

    I agree with Snake. A poster suggested black strings, but I'd recommend some Red Devils or Peacock blues, as the contrast in color would look amazing.

    Also, since I don't go for the all black/rosewood deal too much, I'd buy another SX '75 simply for the maple neck with binding and blocks. That would look amazing against the all-black body. All IMO, of course.
  11. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    What soldering is required for the copper shielding? I'm going to be modding some of the controls on my old beater and I'd like to shield the pickup cavity and control cavity as well but don't really know what needs to be done and wasn't 100% clear on your post.

  12. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I'd have a maple fingerboard on that with some black nylon tapewounds.
  13. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    you just need to make sure that the shielding is grounded to the back of a pot, and that there's good electrical connectivity between all the pieces of shielding.
  14. trumpeter


    Jan 23, 2006
    Amherst, MA
    I have heard that SX basses are quite good when they are modded, do you have any sound samples of it after all the mods, I would be very interested.
  15. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Just to follow up on those asking what this project cost me. Well since I got the bass for free and I had some of the parts I used laying around already from other things, it cost me less than it might to someone starting out, so I'll just got over everything and you can look at what you would need for your project.

    • SX SPJ-62 Bass ($119.99 + S/H)
    • SD Basslines Hot for P Pickup (~$60)
    • SD Basslines Hot Stack Jazz Pickup (~$65)
    • Black Pickguard from Rondo ($10)
    • Might Mite Tuning Machines ($30)
    • CTS Pots, Cap, Switchcraft Jack ($20-$25)
    • Black neck plate, Jack plate, knobs, strap buttons ($25)
    • Copper shielding foil ($7)
    • Bridge (coming soon, $35-$60 depending on what I get)

    So the cost of the bass would be $120 from Rondo
    Cost of all the mods would be about $250 (more if you need a pre-amp and all that, but I don't care much for active electronics)

    Of course this is a P/J bass. A regular P bass would be cheaper because you only need 1 pickup and 2 pots. A Jazz bass would probably be about the same cost as this.

    So for just over $350 one could replicate this bass with a little bit of time and effort. That's still a good bit less than a MIM Fender bass and this thing has all top quality components in it. The only thing that you could replace with better stuff after this (after I replace the bridge that is) would be the tuners, but these Mighty Mite ones I got, though requiring a little work to make them fit, work great and I don't see spending like $45 more for some other ones. And of course if you require super low action you might want to factor in the cost of a fret job which may or may not be necessary. If you can do your own setups and not have to pay for labor on any of this like me then you're much better off. Actually I might replace the nut too at some point because I think it's a weak spot. This bass really is going to have nothing stock left besides the body and neck before I get done with it! But seeing as you can buy this whole bass for less than the cost of a decent replacement body (with no neck) why not use one of these? The wood seems to be pretty decent and resonates well acoustically so it can't be that bad. With all the same parts, these will sound just like a MIM Fender will. I worked in a local music store for a few months and I saw some crappy guitars/basses come in and out of there and their construction was not even close to as good as this, and they cost a lot more. Compared to a lot of the other guitars I've opened up, these SX basses seem to be pretty solid necks and bodies. The finish work on them is usually great. The only thing I think Fender (MIM) does better on is fretwork sometimes. Some SX's need fretjobs, some don't, but it's much more rare to find a Fender that needs one when it's new. The pickups seem to be personal preference since some like Fender's pickups better and some like the SX's better. I don't really prefer one over the other, I prefer to swap either of them out with SD's :) As far as the Fender label goes, I don't care much about that. Locally almost everybody plays a Fender, so I enjoy being a little bit different, even if I am playing a cheap copy.

    Doing all these mods is quite fun, for me anyways. My Washburn T24 is a great bass but I can't modify anything on it due to oddball sized pickups and things so I just don't like it that much because it lacks my personal touch. It's just like the cars I own...I love working on them almost as much as driving them. For the people who don't want the hassle of dealing with things like sanding out tuner holes or body routings, by all means buy a bass that comes how you want it out of the box and enjoy it. I have to constantly be tweaking things to find what I like.

    Since I paid nothing for the SX bass itself, had the SD Hot for P pup already, and some of the hardware, I paid just over $170 overall for everything I think. This is one hell of a bass considering how much I have in it (besides my priceless labor of course :) ) But after seeing the result I would definately spend all $350 on it!

    Oh, and besides the parts I had already, everything I bought besides the black PG from Rondo was from guitarelectronics.com in case you're wondering where I sourced the parts from.
  16. trumpeter


    Jan 23, 2006
    Amherst, MA
    Congrats on having that thing, I am now seriously considering doing that same thing.
  17. Warwickluvr


    Dec 26, 2005
    Beauitful thread.....

    Nice work.
  18. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    How much was shipping on the bass?
  19. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works

    Just to join the chorus of admiration for this thread ..... :hyper:

    There have been lots of SX-related posts about mods, but this has been one of the most concise (if not the most concise) threads I've read here. Also a very non-biased post, as well, just stating the facts as they are ...

    Nicely done .... SX guys should save this info for future reference ............. :cool:
  20. doc540


    Jul 28, 2003
    Beaumont, Texas
    Don't forget to factor in the added satisfaction of just carving into a cheap guitar!

    My old SX under the knife!:hyper: