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Douglas Pisces to '50's-style P-bass conversion

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Baron Von Vik, Jun 10, 2012.


  1. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    For all of you who like the styling of mid-to-late Fifties Precision basses (but not the price); a project thread for you.

    I'll be uploading project pics in separate posts.
     
  2. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    I started out with a Douglas Pisces 2TS (sunburst model) that I purchased new from Rondo Music for about $130 plus s&h.
    I was impressed with the overall fit and finish, the electronics were quiet, and the tuners were solid and meaty-feeling. The stock pickup even sounded good. The biggest upsets were the poorly-finished fret ends and the fact that the jack kept spitting my cable out no matter how I adjusted it. Both fixed, but first, let's see how it looked:

    pisces2ts1.jpg
     
  3. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    They got the body right, with the back nicely contoured like the '55 on model, but obviously the neck with the weirdy-beardy headstock has to go. So:

    20120101195814.jpg

    Allparts neck, new, about $120 from a private sale.
     
  4. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    I wanted a darker, more vintage color for the neck, but I didn't really want that tabby-cat-orange amber look. After a bit of research, I settled on Minwax #245 Golden Pecan wood stain, which I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed into the Allparts neck. With a rag. If you're planning on doing this, wear gloves, and remember to stir the can between applications.

    05136bbd.jpg
     
  5. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    I then finished the neck with spray poly. There were many, many coats; I don't remember how many actually. Spray; wait. Spray; wait. Took a couple days. I didn't take pics of the process, but heres the result. You can see the original wood color in the tuner holes.

    d7dadd1e.jpg
     
  6. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    As an example of how ideal this neck/body pairing is, here's the Allparts neck fitted into the Douglas neck pocket. Like a freaking glove... the rounded U fit the contours snugly and perfectly. No routing/sanding required.

    5103d5cc.jpg
    b44809b7.jpg
     
  7. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    However, all was not slick'n easy. I had decided to recycle the Douglas hardware into the project, and found that the tuner grommets were a little too big for the pre-drilled tuner holes. So- coarse sandpaper, my finger and a big-ol' tub of elbow grease are the order of the day.

    fc5af762.jpg

    I put that pic in so I could show you this one. During the process, I dropped a piece of sandpaper on the kitchen nook floor, and picked up this similar looking item:

    9028eecc.jpg

    It was a corn chip. If you have kids, you understand
     
  8. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    Ok. Grommets in, got the tuners held in place with the finest product of Scotland (I know, being tongue-in-cheek) I mark the screw locations with my precicion marking tool.

    48145f10.jpg

    Then my precision drilling tool (for which the bit diameter required a collet change... google "rotary tool collet" if you don't know what it is- and it's easy to do)

    d1748355.jpg

    Voila

    85cd6542.jpg

    and voila.

    5f50b513.jpg
     
  9. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    Then the fun part- attaching the neck. First fit the neck to the body, then marked the spots to drill through the neck-plate holes by tapping a phillips-head screwdriver. Sound confusing? here's a pic

    16e5e719.jpg
     
  10. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    Then, so I don't accidentally drill all the way through the neck, I put one of the neck screws in (through the body AND the neck plate) and marked it at the base with green sharpie.

    1ac21b1c.jpg

    then laid the bit and the screw side by side... and marked the bit as well. That way when I drill down, I can stop at the mark. Genius? Hardly. When I mentioned drilling through the neck earlier, I spoke from experience :(

    f28ef8b5.jpg
     
  11. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    With the neck in, the buzzy strings insisted, nay, clamored that I shim the neck. A piece of pasteboard approximately the thickness of a playing card works wonders; placed at the top of the pocket (where the neck emerges) pinioned lengthwise by the two top screws. Trimmed enough that it won't show around the edges, methinks the 2 of spades will do nicely. We won't even miss it at the next game-

    9f35d080.jpg
     
  12. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    Neck issue fixed- next photo covers two items, nut and string tree. You cannot reuse the Douglas nut on the P neck. It's too small. I started with a Fender bass nut blank, marked the string slots with a pencil and filed them in with my handy-dandy nut files from StewMac. You don't have to do this, though, just walk into your nearest music store and ask for a P nut. If they hand you cashews, say "gesundheit."

    The string tree by comparison is far easier. Loaded the strings, and floated the Douglas tree (which has handy string slots on the bottom) on the D and G strings. I went online for the proper placement, which is just past the lower curve. Marked, drilled, screwed, done.

    e44a09ad.jpg
     
  13. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    I don't like pickup covers, but I do like the look of the '50s bridge covers. So here it is, Fender direct replacement, about $12. Didn't come with mounting screws, so I finagled some. Your local hardware store will have adequate alternatives, under cabinetry hardware or the ilk.

    1ee8562d.jpg
     
  14. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    And at long last, here it is. The black Douglas scratchplate cleans up real nice, but you have to peel off not one but TWO layers of plastic film to get to the shiny part. FYI.

    4e334e52.jpg
    17ba95d4.jpg
    f23742de.jpg
    (gratuitous toe-shot for free)

    And the obligatory before and after pic.

    c0dbaa90.jpg

    Thanks, I know it's not perfect but here's hoping it inspires. Vik
     
  15. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    Other equipment- Big fat strap by Perri's Leathers, output jack by Switchcraft. Thanks
     
  16. Impressive. Makes me want to get one of the Douglas basses. Nice job.

    How's it sound?
     
  17. VerryBerry

    VerryBerry

    Mar 4, 2012
    Canada
    This is inspirational - thank you!

    I'm going to have to get my feet wet with a nice little project like this sometime soon.
     
  18. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    @Rip- sounds nice, the PU is a lot hotter than I expected from the price range though. I think flats and some muting foam will rein it in to Motown standards, we'll see.

    @Verry- other than staining and spraying in the garage, all the work was done at the kitchen table. I purposefully kept it simple, if not super easy, for us regular joes.
     
  19. Stealth

    Stealth

    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Looks really sweet. Nicely done. :D
     
  20. CnB77

    CnB77

    Jan 7, 2011
    NJ
    Amazing!
     

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