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A tale of two basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jbybj, Mar 9, 2011.

  1. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    So a few months back I saw this body for sale on TB. You either love it or hate it. I wanted it.


    I set about putting together the parts to make a killer jazz bass. I researched and settled on some DiMarzio Area J pups, I found a P Bass sized neck on the USACG web specials page, (really like their stuff), and got new hipshot vintage bridge and tuners.

    Put it all together, and it was a complete failure. The body is one piece of oak burl. Ever wonder why you never see bodies made out of only burl? The body flexed under string tension. There was some sort of structural oddity that created a dead zone, on the ENTIRE D string. The whole D string sounded like poo. I experimented with different strings, shimming the neck, nothing helped. So instead of leaving all these awesome parts on a useless body, I set out on another search. Once again TB supplied me with this very stylish, wholly functional, Fernandes Jazz body.


    Put it all together last night, and it is an unqualified success. Love the Area J's, and the neck has it's voice back. While it was dissappointing to never rock that Oak burl coffee table in front of an audience, if it hadn't been for that fiasco, I'd never have ended up with this beauty.


    It also gets along nicely with my Birthday Japanese P Bass.

  2. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I don't know what YOU think, but if that was my hunk of Oak burl, I'd never give up so easily. Hey great Fender-style basses are a dime a dozen. Event he Chinese make them! But that Burl!

    I'd be doing some really hard thinking of how to save it. Ideas that come to mind would be to slice it into two lengthwise and laminate it to something strong and make TWO basses out of it! Or leave it as is but cut a strip out of the center and make it into wings for a neck-through. Or maybe there is a way to embed graphite rods in the back to stiffen the whole thing up. SOMEHOW that magnificent piece of wood MUST be saved!
  3. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Great minds think alike, or simple minds seldom differ.
    For weeks, in my twilight sleep, I would contemplate my options. All three things you mention cycled in my mind repeatedly.

    There are already some sort of 1/2" rods in each side of the body, put there long ago. I don't know what they are made of, but you can see the plugs in the front of the body. I just don't think reinforcement is very likely to succeed. I am keeping it, and will consider attaching the outsides to a Carvin neck through blank. I have also considered shaving off a top layer, to laminate to another piece of wood, but I would likely loose the natural rough edges. Any subsequent build would require some investment in tools and space, which I don't have yet. Still, If after some time, I am unable to utilize to burl, I will make every effort to get it into the hands of a craftsman who will. For now, it's stashed in the closet.

    Yes, Fender style basses are common, but not in my collection. These are my second and third Fender style basses, out of 22 total. My very first bass was, and still is, a Jazz.
  4. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    And I notice that they sell finished necks, for neck through construction. So I bought a maple neck with an ebony board. Fretted, 34" scale, with a very slim profile and a 1.5" nut. I chose one with an uncut headstock, just a square paddle.

    Instead of cutting off the wings of the oak burl, I decided to route out a channel, leaving the back of the body intact.

    The Oak Burl bass will live again!

    The routing jig.

    The routed channel. The old neck pocket is a little wider than the new neck.

    Not in possession of a planer, I used the router to thin down the neck.

    The rough fit.

    Trimmed the neck pocket to better fit the new neck.

    Rounded the back corners of the neck for a smoother fit.

    Since the burl grew in the shape of a Jazz bass, I wanted to stick to the Fender motif. The blank paddle of a headstock was too small to make an accurate copy of a Fender, and I wouldn't be able to make it all that precisely anyway. So I made a slightly shrunken, approximation of a Fender headstock.

    Installation with Titebond.

    I will be filling the gaps with some wood epoxy, sanding, Tru-oiling, then seeking out appropriate hardware and electronics. I would like to go all used, honestly reliced, so I will take my time and be particular.

    One of the reasons why I love this body.

    Peace, JBY
  5. alembicguy

    alembicguy Lone Wolf Miner of iron ore Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
  6. Holy crud! That would have never occurred to me. Way to go on saving that thing! PLEASE KEEP POSTING PICS!

    This thread has been subbed!
  7. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    I found a pair of Bartolini hum canceling Jazz pups, and the seller, at my request, threw in a Badass II bridge and some 70's Japanese open gear cloverleaf tuners. The tuners have a smaller than usual mounting surface, which will be good for my smaller than usual headstock. They arrive next Tuesday. In the meantime.........

    First round of filling and sanding.


    At my local hardware for lightbulbs, and I saw some Minwax water based satin wipe on Poly finish. Tried a test coat on the back. I will do a few coats on the back, and then decide how to proceed.


    Happy new year folks.

  8. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    I took the bass to work to use the drill press.


    Then used a small vise to press in the bushings.


    The headstock, in it's uncut rectangle form, was too small to make a proper Fender type headstock, so the smaller version made a tight fit for the tuners.


    I measured three times but the G string tuner was a little close to the D, I had to take it down by about a millimeter to fit.


    The E tuner actually hangs over a tiny bit, but I will leave that for now. I don't really notice it from the front.


    Installed the bridge.


    Routed for the pups.


    I have since filled in the too deep drill holes with some wood epoxy. Then filled the one big crevasse with some gorilla glue, and strung it up. It played like crap.


    Today I, filed the nut, the D and G were way too high, adjusted the truss rod, filed some grooves in the bridge saddles, and all of a sudden it plays quite nicely. The fretwork on the Carvin neck is very clean. It tunes easily and holds tune well. I think I'm ready to strip it back down and finish it. The wipe on satin poly that I tested on the back dries quickly and covered well in three coats. I will start with that all around, and if it looks good, might finish with some glossy truoil. We'll see.

  9. FrednBass


    Feb 24, 2012
    When you finish, we want a vid to see/hear it in action.
  10. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    and I am pleasantly surprised by it's feel and facile playability.

    I stuck with the Min Wax wipe on Satin poly, 4-6 coats, depending on what part of the bass we're talking about. When I first wired it up last night, I was underwhelmed by the tone and output, and quickly realized the pups were too far from the strings. Moving the pups from about 8 mm away, down to 4 mm made a huge difference. These Barts make it sound like a jazz bass, with no hum, and a little extension on the very low freqs. The one piece maple neck through might be contributing to that low end as well. Now that I have it mostly set up, I can tell that the fret work on this Carvin neck is excellent, very low action with no buzz. I think this is the slimmest neck I have ever owned. While the nut is 1 5/8", the neck is only 17mm front to back at the first fret, while my 69 Jazz is 21mm front to back.

    Due to the nature of the headstock size, there is an angle on the E string from the nut to the tuner. Much less than some of the Hamer hockey stick headstocks, and with no apparent effect on the tuning. It looks a little funny, but then, so does the whole bass.

    I am really grateful I was able to salvage this wholly unique and quirky bass, and that fact that it sounds and plays so well is like icing on the burl.

    I will post some clips as soon as I can get the time.

    Peace, JBY

  11. You know judging from the early pictures of that bass I was gonna say that's the most depressing thing I've ever seen but you did a pretty good job fixing that thing up.
  12. I've got to ask, what does it weigh?

    (I am not normally obsessed with weights in fact I don't think I have ever weighed a bass in my life, but my first bass (built in woodwork class) was all oak and it weighed a ton.)
  13. Sni77


    Aug 23, 2012
    Vienna, Austria
    Wow. The look is definitely not my thing, but VERY interesting nonetheless. I really like the story you are telling here and how fast you fixed that thing up, once you found the new neck. Very impressive. I'm also curious about the weight though.
  14. rubbadubdub


    May 8, 2012
    I love your bass. It reminds me of a table we had when I was a nipper. I'm impressed by your perseverence and skill and glad it worked out in the end. I did like the original darker red finish but hey ho. Truly awesome... well done.
  15. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    I haven't weighed it yet, but it's light, probably around 8 lbs. Oak burl is much less dense than oak wood. That was the whole problem with the body flexing. If it had the same density and stiffness as oak wood, there would have been no problem. Even with the upper horn extending to the 13th fret, there is still some minor neck dive.
  16. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    I have severe impatience. When I am refinishing a bass, I look past the cosmetic issues and think to myself, "I could be playing this now". The only way I can provide a nice glossy finish with my set up is to apply 10-12 coats of Tru-oil. My local gun store was out of stock this weekend, I just couldn't wait. I agree, the glossy finish brought out the grain nicely. Though with a body like this, maybe taking the subtle path isn't such a bad thing.
  17. Doodaddy


    Jan 11, 2005
    West Monroe, LA
    Well that took a turn for the pleasant. :)
  18. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    At my company's holiday party in December, my Traynor YBA-1A was in use as part of a backline. We had a nice open jam on the foley stage. About 3.5 hours into the night, it went silent. No smoke, no loss of power, just no sound.

    I opened it up last night to take a quick look before dropping it off at the techs, and found an obvious disconnected wire. Not from the original build but from some work I had done a few years ago. Re-soldered the wire and that was it. Back to life.

    It occurred to me that with the Traynor in the house, I was in a prime position to make a video. Like to see it? Here it is...........

    While there is nothing MIND BLOWING about the sound, it is sweet to my ears. Having spent more than 25 years with a Jazz as my one and only bass, it just sounds like home.

    Peace, JBY
  19. Zombierockstar


    Jul 23, 2005
    Boise, ID
    Awesome work on the video JBY!
  20. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    I'm in the hate it camp, but I'm glad you like it. :bassist: