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Ambition + $$ + Sweat + Swearing =

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jive1, Aug 7, 2005.

  1. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Here's a couple of SX basses I tweaked up to my liking.

    This is a SX SJB75 that I bought last year. I loved the way it looked, but there were other things left to be desired. I thought about selling it, or getting some Warmoth stuff, or whatever. In the end I figured, I'd never get a neck with block inlays and binding for the price of the SX. So I got to thinking and here's what I came up with.

    I like the grain on the ash body, even though it's a little heavy. And cosmetically the neck and body looked fine. The three bolt neck was indeed a cool thing. I added a BadAss II bridge to give it a little more sustain, and a tortoise shell PG to give it a look I liked. Added some straplocks for improved functionality.

    The goal was to make a Sadowkyish sounding bass, so I threw in an Aguilar OBP-3 and some DiMarzio Ultra Jazz pickups. Before I get flamed, it's not a Sadowsky by any stretch of the imagination. I wanted a bass with nice lows and sparkling highs. Also, since I'm a tone tweaker, I added a 4th knob to the control plate and gave her a side mounted jack.

    The controls are vol/vol on a stacked pot, bass/treb on a stacked pot, mid boost, and mid sweep. The sweep varies between 250hz-800Hz. The OBP comes with a switch that lets you choose between 400Hz and 800Hz. I replaced the switch with a 500K blend pot, and wired some capacitors to give it a lower range. I love the sound of boosting 250K, and I wanted it on this bass. There's also a bypass switch, and I have holes for two other switches if I want to put them in there. I'm still deciding to whether to put switches in for series/parallel or phase reversal.

    In my previous OBP-3 installation, I routed a battery cavity under the pickguard. This time I wanted easier access, so I routed out a battery cavity in the back.

    I liked the way the bass looked, but didn't care for the way it played. The neck felt a little chunky to me. With a lot of sweat and mucho helpful knowledge from Hambone, I shaved down the neck and threw on a tung oil finish. I took off the finish using 000 steel wool, and then sanded it down using 220 grit and then finished it up with 400 grit. During that time I used straight edges to find any bumps. In the end I took it down from .87" to .77" at the 1st fret. Now I love the profile, and the smooth tung oil finish gives it a nice fast feel.

    As far as the fingerboard, I used 0000 steel wool to give it more of a satiny feel. I also went over the entire fretboard with a smaller straight edge to find any uneven frets. When they were found, I tapped them in lightly with a 7 oz hammer and/or filed them down using a fret dressing file. Pretty much eliminated dead spots.

    I replaced the stock tuners with Hipshot HB-2s. They have to be the smoothest tuners I've run across. The SXs have notoriously crappy nuts, so I replaced it with a TUSQ nut. I could have carved my own, but considering the time it takes to cut one and the cost of a pre-cut one, I went with the TUSQ. I drew on a cheesy logo. One day I'll sand it down and have someone who can actually draw throw one on there.
    jHeadBack.jpg jHead.jpg
    After I got everything put back together, I gave her a proper setup. There's a small amount of relief, but the neck is relatively straight (.02"). The action is right where at I like it at around .07" at the 12th, .03" at the 1st. Neck pup is 3/16" from the strings, and the bridge is 5/32".
    In the end, I have a bass that I'm quite pleased with. Mad props to Hambone for his great advice.
  2. Very cool! SX makes some cool basses (color combos, blocks, etc) but replacing the fundamental parts (pickups, electronics etc) could make them into very capable basses. I know their playability is nothing to complain about, especially since they're a great deal.
  3. CaracasBass


    Jun 16, 2001
    Madrid, Spain
    Nice bro!!!!!!!!
  4. 4x4Given


    Jul 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Outstanding job and writeup! A real inspiration! :bassist:
  5. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    Makes me want to embark on a similar project. That bass looks awesome, and with all those upgrades and tweaks, I'm sure it plays awesome, too.
  6. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    wowwwwww hey i send my SX Jazz to you and you upgrade mine like yours,$$$$$$ :D
  7. Starbucker

    Starbucker Guest

    Jun 29, 2005
    Billings, MT
    Wow. That is bad ass. Well done.
  8. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Now THAT is an awesome Essex.
  9. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    Please jive1 pimp my SX Jazz Ride :D
  10. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Thanks for the comments folks.

    Here's my second completed project. I bought a SX SPB57 with the photo finish flame top, with an eye toward making it a Donald Duck style bass. Well a SD quarter pounder came up on E-bay, so it became a Steve Harris style bass. I threw on a BadAss II and some TI flats on it. Well, I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I vintaged it up and golded it out. Here's what I came up with

    I added a tortiose pickguard and gold hardware to give it a classy vintage look. The BAII was replaced with a gold Gotoh bridge for a more traditional look and sound. I added a Fender thumbrest that I found in the parts bin. And just for kicks and grins, I added gold pickguard screws.

    I installed an Aguilar OBP-1 and put the treble/bass on a stacked 25K EMG pot. I put the volume and tone on another stacked 250K pot. The OBP-1 only boosts, and doesn't cut. Because of that, I added a passive tone control. Cutting the highs make for some cool sonic possibilities, and wanted that available on this bass. I added a bypass switch so that I can go passive if needed. Even with the preamp bypassed, I can still cut the tone. Gotta love a passive tone control.
    The OBP-1 did not fit without modification. I routed a hole under the pickguard to fit a battery. It's 9V config instead of the 18v. Not as much beef and headroom as with an 18V, but the 9V boosts enough for what I need. I wanted the bass to be active, but not too active. The preamp module required me to shave a little off the bottom of the control cavity in order for it to fit.

    I rubbed 0000 steel wool over the front and back of the neck to give it a satiny finish. The fingerboard and necks feels much smoother than the original laquer finish. The neck also had a ding in it that I filled with wood filler and went over with a dab of nail polish, buffed out with steel wool.

    The tuners were replaced with Schaller BMLs. I like em, but not as much as the Hipshots. The nut is a TUSQ nut, and it's the third nut on there. The first was the crappy SX nut, the next one was one that I cut out of Micarta, but messed up on the string spacing. I was able to fix it, but I decided to go with the TUSQ nut for aesthetic reasons. BTW, I prefer precut nuts since the small additional increase in price more than makes up for the amount of effort and time to cut one by hand using files.
    pHeadBack.jpg pHead.jpg

    The back still has some buckle rash, but that will be saved for another project another day.

    After everything was put back tgether, the bass got a proper setup. The action was still a little high for my tastes after adjustments, so I shimmed the neck to change the angle a little. Now, the action is at .02" at the 1st, and .06 at the 12th, with relief being about .02" at the 8th fret. Pickups are 5/32" from the strings. The tone on this bass is incredible. It's one of those "magic" basses that seem to sit perfectly with a band, and the tone inspires me to make some cool grooves. It's not a masterpiece, but helps to make masterpieces.
  11. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    jive1 are you interested in earn some money? :p seriously,when i have all the parts if you are interested in customizing my bass i go for send my Jazz for a special treatment by you,you ask $$$$ and i pay,you work is just fine for my taste,thank you,nice basses. :bag:
  12. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    PM sent
  13. wow! you put a lot of effort into those, but i bet it payed off. i hope you play the hell out of them.
  14. Hey Jive, nice work, Im with you in believing a little elbow grease and some TLC on any bass will make it not only play and sound significantly better, but will help you form a connection with the instrument in ways just playing can't.

    Quick questions though, what kind of fret file did you use, and could you go into a little more detail on the fret leveling process? Did you crown the frets afterwards or just leave them filed?
  15. syciprider

    syciprider Inactive

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Outstanding mods and finished products.
  16. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I'm sure it didn't do it completely the right way, but this is what I did. Also, mad props again to Hambone for his advice on this even though I didn't completely follow the letter of the law.

    1. Removed the neck and adjusted it until it was completely flat. I tested it with a professional straight edge to make sure it was flat.

    2. I took a 3" straight edge and laid it across three frets at a time. Then I would "rock" the straight-edge, and if it rocked it meant the middle of the three frets was uneven. If there was no play, then the frets were level. Because it is a radiused fingerboard, I did this for each fret at the middle and edges of the fret. I wrote down the fret and string area that was uneven on a piece of paper.

    3. Using the info I wrote down on paper, I went to the high frets and lightly tapped them with a 7oz hammer. If that didn't fix it, it was marked for filing with a blue permanent marker.

    4. Before I filed frets I used 3M painters tape to protect the fingerboard and binding. I like painters tape because it's flexible and doesn't leave residue. For filing the frets, I used a fret crowning file like this from Stewmac.
    I would file the area marked by the blue marker, until the blue disappeared. After that, I would put the little straight edge up to it again and see if it rocked. If so, I put some more blue marker on it and filed until the blue was gone, and measured again. I repeated this process until the frets were level.

    5. When all the frets were level, I took the fret crowning file and worked the frets until there was a small edge where the string made contact. Most of the time, I didn't have to do this since the frets were pretty much crowned when I filed them down in the previous step. This step was just for finishing touches.

    I don't think this the "right" way, but it worked for me with decent results. But, when I compare the fretwork on the SX to the Lakland, I see that I still have a long way to go in terms of fretwork. There's no comparison - it's coal to diamonds.
  17. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    mmmmm you are a semi luthier,a potential luthier for the near future :)
  18. niiiice. That rules dude! congrats!
  19. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    The more I look at these "Project basses" the more I think that customizing your own is the way to go for us "monetarily challenged" proles.

    I think I'll be doing an SX J soon. Is Rondo going to get any more of the sunburst SJB-75Cs? I'd take one of those if they were in stock.

  20. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    NICE JOB!!!!! I'd love to learn to work on a bass like that, and the SX is the perfect platform. So did you file down the frets so they are like the Lakland "vintage" small frets?

    I'm LOVIN' the small frets on my new Lakie!

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