Build A Frankenbass Yes Or No

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by PJ Bassthumper, Nov 15, 2016.

  1. Hi there,

    I have recently been inspired by my guitarist/singer. He basically bought a cheap used Epiphone Firebird for $200 and customized to his liking and created a really great sounding guitar. If your interested you can read about it in Premier Guitar Magazine here. Reader Guitar of the Month: The Grassfire Phoenix | Premier Guitar
    Anyhow I would like to do something similar actually I have been wanting to build a cheap custom bass for a while ( years ) I realize I will never get the money back that I put into it but at the same time I think it would be great fun to create something truly unique to me.
    Whatever bass I decide to mod I want to sand it and get it custom painted put a quality bridge and tuners and put some high end pick ups.
    So I found 4 basses for $100 - $125 that I thought would be a good platform to start from.

    Bass #1 A Matsumoku Vantage Avenger Vantage Avenger Bass 1982 | guitars | Ottawa | Kijiji

    Bass #2 A Yamaha N89 Yamaha 4 String Bass - Model N89 | guitars | Ottawa | Kijiji

    Bass #3 A Samick Corsair 5 String 5 string Samick corsair bass and strings. | guitars | Ottawa | Kijiji

    Bass #4 A Mako Bass from the 90's MAKO BASS | guitars | Ottawa | Kijiji

    My question is would any of these make a good platform to build off of or is there a better cheap bass alternative in the $100 - $150 range? I also know a lot of people build off of SX basses but not a lot of them here in Canada.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
    pudge likes this.
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Shop the classifieds here and pick parts.

    So far I'm at less than $200 and I have....

    A Mighty Might P bass body (with bridge)
    An MIJ P bass copy neck (made at the same place MIJ Fender basses were made) with tuners
    A DiMarzio PAF era P bass pickup

    All I need is a guard and wiring. Should be a good player and sound great.

    The only thing that didn't come from Talk Bass is the neck, which I yanked from a bass I paid $40 for from a CL add.

  3. Hey two fingers that sounds like a sweet set up. I hope you post pics when it's completed.
    two fingers likes this.
  4. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    Sure. Why not?
    bholder and PJ Bassthumper like this.
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Best bet is a used Fender/Squier - more options and parts.
    MVE, PJ Bassthumper and Nev375 like this.
  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Will do. I'm kind of going for this look, only on a P bass format. I haven't decided if it will wear flats or BEAD rounds.
  7. I love it.
    Ghastly and two fingers like this.
  8. Aelfwine


    Jul 21, 2016
    To provide an answer to your question regarding building a frankenbass, Yes.
    JIO, Rapisme, AltGrendel and 2 others like this.
  9. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    For a long time I never saw a point in modding and especially not in creating a complete Frankenstein. It always seemed to make more sense to me to just buy a bass that I liked. But, when I had a fretless SX Jazz lying around unplayed, I figured that selling it and then having to pack it and ship it might actually COST me money, so I decided to give the Frankenstein thing a try. When all was said and done, the only remaining original parts are the body wood (just the wood itself, as in unloaded) and the neck plate. Here are all the replacement parts :

    - A replacement, fretted SX neck, bought used on
    - Nordstrand NJS5 split coil pickups, bought used on
    - A Hipshot "A" style bridge, bought used on
    - Hipshot lightweight tuners, 4 bought used on and one bought new
    - An Audere 4-band preamp - Volume, Blend, Stacked Lo Mid / Bass, Stacked Hi Mid / Treble and the Z-mode switch. All the used Auderes I found had stacked Treble/Bass and Stacked Hi Mid / Low Mid. However, I thought it would be more useful to have the two mids on the top of the stacks where they were easy to access, so I bought new to get what I wanted. Having played this bass for a couple of years since I had all this work done, I like this EQ knob layout a lot.
    - Because the new preamp uses all four holes of the control plate, I could no longer use one of the holes for the jack. So I had to have a side jack cut onto it and a new jack plate installed.
    - A 4-ply aged white, black, aged white, tortoise shell pickguard bought new from WD Music (had to buy new to get the exact screw pattern)
    - Music Man strap locks, bought new
    - It's not in this picture, but I later replaced the Lakland-style string tree on the head with a "roller" string tree for the A and D strings. The original string tree would sometimes grab the grooves between the windings on the strings and make it difficult to tune well/properly. This new string tree solved that problem.
    - All the work to assemble the parts was done by a professional luthier.

    To be honest, it's the definitive example of lipstick-on-a-pig, especially with the horribly matched body pieces and SX's hideously infamous vintage (in reality, orange) neck tint. But it sounds fantastic and it has tons of tonal versatility. So, yeah, I say go for it, at least once. It's kind of a fun project and, if you're patient, you can buy most if not all of the parts used here on TB and save yourself a lot of money. And, if nothing else, it will be a unique bass. Here's mine:


    EDIT - May as well show the "Before" picture, too:
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
    kkaarrll and PJ Bassthumper like this.
  10. dave64o That is really a really sweet looking bass. Thanks for sharing. I'm looking to have fun with this and I probably would never sell this thing weather it turns out good or not. If it turns out to be unplayable I'll just hang it on a wall Ha Ha.

    So buldog5151bass suggested trying to mod a Squire/Fender because of ease of finding parts, but I want something a little more unique looking to build off of. The Samick is at the bottom of my list just because it looks like a Fender bass but The Vantage has a nice body kind of like a P mashed with an SG. The Yamaha is a J body but I like that it has no pick guard as that is a look I'm going for and the Mako is so basic that it's cool in my opinion.

    As Dave said it's like putting lipstick on a pig but and I am aware of that but I am kind of wondering out of the 4 basses listed which would be the best bass to build off of. I suspect that maybe the Vantage and Mako may have a better quality wood over the Yamaha and Samick but this is just a hunch.

    I was kind of hoping that the TB community would help me pick a bass out of the four mentioned in the initial post.
  11. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    I couldn't tell you much about those four basses, but I have a friend who has a Yamaha guitar and bass and those are nice instruments for the money. And, this is strictly my opinion, the Yamaha is the nicest looking out of the bunch. YMMV.
    PJ Bassthumper likes this.
  12. jaybones

    jaybones Inactive

    Mar 4, 2015
    Kelleys Island, Ohio
    Also, a yes to building your own! And a second to a Fender/Squier, for the reason bulldog5151bass mentioned.
    PJ Bassthumper likes this.
  13. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    If I'm going the franken-bass route - I find a good Fender neck that I like then I order a beautiful Warmoth body.

    Makes me want to do that right now, as a matter of fact...
  14. I built a really good Warmoth fretless precision bass (though my soldiering skills weren't the best and electronically it was a bit iffy ). I found the research and actual putting the bass together was more fun than playing the finished article. It played really well mind you. But I kinda lost interest in it when it was complete. I learned A LOT during the whole project. But it wasnt a cheap project.
    PJ Bassthumper likes this.
  15. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Yes, do it. The cool thing about having a parts bass is it can evolve over time as you tinker and discover what you like/don't like.
    In the end you could have anywhere from $400 to $1200 or more invested, but it's not about cost. It's about building a custom tool that fits you to a tee. And if you have the best tool for you, the value becomes irrelevant as you'll never intend to sell it. also...

    ^^ this. It might be more expensive than the models you listed, but you'll have many more paths to customization open to you.

    You just need to decide on a 4 string or 5 string platform. Kinda hard to switch that down the road.
  16. wolfmancharlie


    Nov 28, 2009
    I've modded a few and built a couple, nothing quite like it. Always a learning experience . I think you have a good list to choose from. I would go for the Vantage, personally, but just because they were great basses to begin with. Enjoy the build \m/
    tbplayer59 and PJ Bassthumper like this.
  17. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I built a jalopy bass out of that exact same Mako bass. It is probably older than the 90's. I had one just like it in the mid-80's. Build quality is good, but you have to be able to embrace the headstock, which I was unable to do with my build.

    JIO, MrRubi04 and PJ Bassthumper like this.
  18. Go with either #1 or #2.
    PJ Bassthumper likes this.
  19. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Every Frankenbass worth keeping started out its life because I liked it enough as an instrument to keep modding it instead of trading it.

    Find something you like and then go to town. I've been on the lookout for some cheap weird basses to put even weirder parts on.
    RBrownBass and PJ Bassthumper like this.
  20. AndreasR


    Oct 23, 2012
    If your current instrument(s) do it for you, then no. If you have a bass that's close, but not close enough, or if you have an idea in your head that you can't acquire from a factory, then go for it.
    PJ Bassthumper likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 27, 2021

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