DIY Bass Kit build woes - No Sound at all - Frustrated - LONG

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Crusher47, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Hello everyone.... Long story if you want to share my misery. Otherwise I will put a TL/DR at the bottom.

    I purchased an Albatross style DIY bass kit from Ebay. It came complete with pickups, pots, wiring, etc. To say that this kit has fought me every step of the way would be an understatement! I'm using a lefty Fender style headstock neck to have a reverse headstock so I'm not using the neck that came with the kit.

    This neck didn't fit the neck pocket so I had to sand, sand, then sand some more to make it fit. Then the tuner bushings wouldn't fit the holes, so I had to sand those as well. Once that was done, the backs of the tuners were too wide so they wouldn't sit flush against the headstock, so I had to use a dremel and shave those down slightly.

    My drill was stolen last month along with some other items (including 2 of my Fender Jazz basses) so I had to use a hammer & nail to make pilot holes, so ofcourse those tiny little screws behind the tuners stripped on a couple, good thing I had extras. Then trying to put the neck plate on, that took forever since it would not screw in by hand once it got to about halfway, so I had to remove, use a nail again, over and over.

    Once the neck was finally on, ready to install the bridge, I had to go with a 32" scale, otherwise the bridge wouldn't fit on the body itself. No biggie, I don't own a medium scale bass, so something different for my collection. Then I string it up to be sure the bridge is in the right spot, I put the "A" string where the "E" should go, no worries, I fix it but this is the type of stupid stuff I've been dealing with since Day 1 and just compounding the aggravation of what should be a very easy build.

    Anyway, to wrap up this long story, I go to install the pots and electronics, I wire it exactly like the Seymour Duncan diagram. I get no sound at all. Nothing. I have soldered before but would not consider myself an expert. The only thing I can think of is on a couple of the wires, you know how you solder it but it doesn't take, the wire still moves around, so you have to hit it again.. there were a couple of times where I had to hit it like 5 or 6 times at least. I don't know why sometimes I would get a connection on the very first try, 2 seconds and done. Other times it would take over a minute or two. Because of that, I'm thinking I fried the pot(s).

    At this point, I'm ready to throw this thing in the trash! But before I do that, I'm willing to give it one more try.

    So, with that in mind, how do I test the pots and output jack? I do own a multi-meter.

    TL/DR - Bought cheap bass kit, wired it exactly like diagram, NO sound. Suspect I fried the pots so how do I test/confirm?

    Thanks in advance!
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  2. Zoobiedood

    Zoobiedood Commercial User

    Sep 1, 2015
    Writer/Ambassador/Artist/Resident Bass Expert for Seymour Duncan
    Buy some spare pots, and keep them around. I wouldn't even try to revive the ones you have. Test the pickups by wiring them directly to the jack. As far as our diagrams go, they use our wire colors, but there are no such standards in the industry, though there should be. So you may have the wires in the wrong places because the colors are not the same.
    cool breeze and Crusher47 like this.
  3. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
    I know this is not the question you asked, but is it fretless or did you buy a 32" scale neck? Just asking since it was not clear in your post and you moved the bridge 2".
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  4. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Thanks, I will do that
  5. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    It's a 21 fret neck.
  6. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    -were you using a heat sink? check your heat settings too. if it takes more then 5 mississippi's to make the joint there is an issue. also clean the contact areas, terminals, stripped wire, etc.. with some alcohol to remove finger grease. it's the little things that matter.
    -you can test pots with a multimeter.
    -a good idea is to "dry-wire" everything up before you solder and check with a battery powered amp like those plastic marshall knock offs they sell at guitar center for $10
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
    Crusher47 likes this.
  7. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
    32" or 34" scale neck?
  8. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    I was NOT using a heat sink.... rookie mistake :(
    How do you test the pots? What do I set the meter to?
  9. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    32 I think
  10. you can temporarily wire one pickup directly to the jack, then add the pots one at a time to figure out where the problem is. It would be a bit time consuming, but it would be easy to figure out from there.
    Crusher47 likes this.
  11. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    Resistance (Ohms) (Ω) and if it's not autoranging, 1 meg will do for a range (expect 250-500K for values, but that will show up fine on the 1 meg scale) Resistance should be unvarying between the outer contacts, and vary between the center contact and either end as you turn things.

    Edit, add: Readings will be odd if the pot is connected to the rest of the circuit. You pretty much have to isolate/disconnect it to test.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
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  12. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Thanks guys, I will try that when I get home from work.
  13. ..and you should check the scale of the neck per what SC says above, if you moved the bridge 2" then put a 34" scale neck on you've got an intonation problem. If it's a 32" scale neck it should measure 16" from nut to 12th fret.
    Crusher47 and Spidey2112 like this.
  14. tbplayer59


    Jan 20, 2013
    Yes, but no buzz! no hum! Always look on the bright side of life.
  15. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I agree with Jisch and @smithcreek This is a much bigger problem than temporarily not having sound. To clarify on what Jisch said, the measurement is the fretboard edge of the nut to the centre of the 12th fret. If that is 17", then it's a 34" scale neck. If it's 16", then it's a 32" scale neck. You'll definitely want to look this over. :)

    A point of note on the wiring - you can just hold the pickup wires against the jack terminals to test it. They don't need to be soldered first. Once you've tested it, you'll know right away if the pots are shot. In the end, not to worry, we've got your back and we'll help you solve this thing once and for all and get it into a solid playing condition. This community is pretty amazing... :D
    Crusher47, Spidey2112 and cool breeze like this.
  16. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest

    Oct 5, 2009
    Verde Valley, AZ
    RIP Dark Horse strings
    If I were you I'd take a deep breath and do nothing for a few days. It sounds like rushing and modding has dug you in deeper and deeper.

    I'd first do some soldering practice on wire and component scraps - NOT THE BASS - until I could get at least a decent connection on the first try. It sounds like you could have as many no-connects as connects whether or not the pots are bad. You have to get the connection hot enough to melt and flow solder; there's no way to shrink that time further w/o getting a suspect connection. You actually avoid damage by heating the connection enough to flow it right the first time.
    Crusher47 and Spidey2112 like this.
  17. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    This may help...

    Crusher47 likes this.
  18. As suggested, practice soldering on scrap parts / wires before. Also, make sure your soldering iron tip is properly tinned (otherwise it'll never solder!) and use flux to better distribute heat! The surface of your solder joints should be nice and smooth and uniform in colour - if it is discoloured or clumpy-looking, you most likely have a cold solder - it will be prone to failing and/or give bad or intermittent contact.

    Leads Direct | The Perfect Solder Joint

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  19. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Thanks again everyone, I really do appreciate all the help!

    Good news: It was the input jack. When I checked wiring, I saw that one of the connections came loose. I re-soldered but still got no sound. I did have some spare pots and input jack left over from when I modded my other bass, it was already pre-wired to the control plate, so I hooked up the pickups only and it worked! So I tried the original input jack into the pots that worked and got nothing, then tried the spare input jack and it worked.

    Bad news: As was mentioned above, the new neck is not going to work. I get 32" from the nut to the bridge, but from the 12th. fret, I only get 15" so it will never intonate. I'm going to have to use the original neck the kit came with, which gives me 34" from the nut to the bridge and 17" from the 12th. fret to the bridge. Build will take longer to complete.

    Again, thanks!! This community is very helpful.
  20. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Find some youtube vids explaining the process. Here's a few things I find useful when soldering.

    Rosin paste flux is your friend when solder refuses to flow as it should. Tinning wires should be pretty simple and straightforward, and while the wire is still warm, dip the tinned piece in some flux, then put a dab of solder on your tip and hold the wire where you want it and put the tip, blob side down, against the wire and it should melt quickly and flow out nice. Hold the wire still and remove your heat as soon as you get a shiny puddle of solder with wire(s) in it.

    The cleaner the tip the quicker the heat transfer so keep that in mind. I use a sponge and a cup of shredded foil to keep my tip clean. Use the smallest tip you can get away with and still get a quick heat, and use small rosin core solder. I've got a couple of Hakko soldering stations but these days I mostly use a 60W iron I gave seven bucks for. It came with three tips and a set of three replacement tips can be had for not much money. You can spend more but a simple hobby grade iron is plenty, and since I don't leave an iron out on my bench all the time any more, it's easier to just break out the 60W pencil and have at it.

    Last of all, some simple tools. I've got some old dental picks bent to hold wire down to the back of a pot so I can add a smidge more solder if needed, a pair of normally closed tweezers, some small side and end nippers and a pair of slip joint pliers and a largish rubber band. The tweezers allow you to hold wires without getting your fingers scorched and also act as a heatsink, The slip joints and rubber band make a nice little vice for your tabletop. Wrap the band around the handle of your pliers, then put the shaft of a pot in the jaws with the bottom facing up and you have a nice little holder that works anywhere and is plenty enough to hold a pot to allow a good clean solder joint. The nippers are self explanatory. A lot of folks use strippers and I've tried a lot of different kinds over the years. I've had the best luck with the simple yellow handle stripper/crimper, but these days I mostly use an xacto knife or single edge razor blade and just roll the wire under the blade then pull the insulation off with my fingers.
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