Fender Bullet Bass Deluxe

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by wvbass, Mar 24, 2017.

  1. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    My daughter's trombone instructor mentioned one evening that he had a bass, but it didn't work. It belonged to his son, but was being stored at his house. Without knowing anything more, I said, "I can fix it." He went to a back bedroom and brought out an old gig bag. In the gig bag was a Bullet bass that was a little worse for wear.

    0815FD0E-80A1-4A04-A3A0-D9952A2D3A8B_zpsxxfsopiz.jpg 1F444332-9A9A-4ACF-9D0B-725FA8DD7BD0_zpsugr4sigo.jpg

    I took it home and took it apart. Aside from the broken pickguard that had been "fixed" with packing tape and a LOT of superglue, it didn't make any sound. As it turned out, the only thing wrong was that there was so much corrosion on the jack that no electrical contact was being made at all. I scraped it a little bit and the bass worked, but it hummed like crazy.

    After few text messages back and forth, he agreed that I should get the bass fully back into playing shape. I ordered a new pickguard, pots, a jack, capacitor, strings, and copper foil from WD. While I was at it, I ordered a bunch of screws - pickguard screws, pickup mounting screws, and strap button screws. Several of these had been lost and replaced with randomly sized screws from somebody's spare parts drawer. I was worried that the oversized screws in the pickups had damaged the pickups themselves.


    Once the parts arrived, I took everything apart. I bagged the original pickguard original controls and the old screws so they could be returned to the owner. I also used an x-acto knife to scrape away as much of the mountain of superglue as I could. I couldn't get it all, but I was at least able to clean it up and smooth it out a good bit of it. Then I started to work on the copper foil. It wasn't the neatest job I've ever done, but it should serve the purpose.

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    I always like to cover the foil around the jack with electrical tape so that if the jack twists a little, it doesn't short against the foil.


    Then I test fit the WD pickguard. The neck pocket wasn't even close, and the screw hole beside the neck pocket was missing. I marked up the new pickguard using the old one as a template, reshaped it with a dremel, and drilled and countersunk the missing screw hole. While I was at it, I cut that useless truss rod notch that the original pickguard had.

    After that, I used some leftover foil on the underside of the pickguard, fit the controls, and soldered everything together. I was happy to find that the threads in the pickup holes were fine, but I realized I didn't have springs for mounting the pickups. Fortunately, I had ballpoint pens!


    Next up was cleaning up the old bridge. It was showing its age.

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    I used my favorite bridge cleaning technique: water and aluminum foil. After some gentle buffing of all the bridge parts, it looked a lot better. (I also discovered when I went to string it up that I had reassemble the bridge with the G saddle upside down!)

    E0A487AB-BB37-4F65-B7F6-8CE222F66A69_zpshfxctvon.jpg 0225127A-76C8-44B1-A5F5-39E495A52580_zpshby4selg.jpg

    I polished the machine heads this way, too, but I have to admit I didn't do much here. For whatever reason, I like the look of tarnished tuners.


    After that, there wasn't much to do but string it up and give it a setup. The neck was ski-jump free, and the frets were in decent shape. I had already tweaked the truss rod, so I didn't really have to do much but some bridge adjustments. When I plugged it in, the hum was completely gone. It sounds like a thinner version of a P bass.


    I returned the bass to its owner this week. The neck stamp simply says 1 12 83, so I guess he now has a gig-ready 1983 Fender Bullet Bass Deluxe. I think he plans to surprise his son with it.

    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
  2. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I can't "like" this enough!! Well done!

    jumbodbassman and wvbass like this.
  3. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    Beautiful job!
    wvbass likes this.
  4. BadBobbyH


    Aug 27, 2015
    Omaha NE
    Really cool bass, I've been on the hunt for one of these to add to my collection
    Liam keane and wvbass like this.
  5. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    Wow! You did an amazing job here. I wouldnt want to give that bass back to that kid that trashed it so bad. Hopefully it will get the respect and play it deserves! :)
    Roberto Nunez and wvbass like this.
  6. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Well, I think the damage was done 20 years ago. Hopefully, a little wisdom comes with age. I am also not sure that the guy that did the damage is the guy it is going to. I think there may be a younger brother in the mix. And to be fair, I've probably done worse to nicer instruments when I was younger.

    As for not giving it back...it plays great, but it is a Fender CBS low point. It is an economy model. I've never seen a Fender body with knots before. The neck has a nice shape, but it also has the sharpest fretboard edges I have ever felt.

    I also just picked up a 1970 Precision that has had a rough life. I'm in the middle of a fretboard repair on it.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
    ERIC31 likes this.
  7. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I'm not sure I had ever seen a Bullet before about a month ago, and now I've seen two. About a month ago, I saw a red one at Sam Ash in Cincinnati that was in excellent condition.
  8. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    Very cool.
    You got the bridge shining there, aluminium foil and water? Interesting.
    Operation Ivy and wvbass like this.
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Nice job! Great read and good pics.
    wvbass likes this.
  10. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I cleaned up a bridge on a Foundation bass this way. I was sure that bridge was ready for the trash, but it ended up looking almost new. The only downside is that it is a messy process.

    Cleaning Chrome - Roberts Cycle
    Spectrum, macmanlou and REMBO like this.
  11. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    Brilliant. I am now going to go and search for some chrome to clean.
    wvbass likes this.
  12. avri62


    Jan 28, 2012
    Wow! This was a great read and thanks for sharing it.
    wvbass likes this.
  13. Panych


    Jun 30, 2014
    Great job!!! Nice looking bass.
    wvbass likes this.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    The poor mans wire wool, yeah.
    wvbass likes this.
  15. Beautiful!
    wvbass likes this.
  16. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    It's notable that this low end instrument was made right here in the States. Does anyone make student basses in the USA anymore?
    wvbass likes this.
  17. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Very true. I think Fender quickly shipped manufacturing of these overseas in fairly short order and started selling them as Squiers.

    The only thing comparable I can think of are the budget-line USA model guitars that Gibson released this year.
  18. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    nice. Those were good student basses - like the old Mustang. They did *not* sell well (I was at a store selling them) - but they are hidden gems.
    wvbass likes this.
  19. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I did some internet research on the Bullet bass, and I saw them commonly referred to as "student" basses. I think Fender even marketed it as such. I have to admit, I don't know what that means. If it were my bass, I would roll the fingerboard edges to make it a little better suited to my preferences, but at the end of the day, this bass is a pickup away from being a Precision bass. I don't commonly see a Precision called a "student" bass.

    I guess it is a synonym for "inexpensive."
  20. IIRC these Bullet basses were made in various countries and in at least two or even three different scale lengths. A 34" American model would obviously be top of the heap. If you put a conventional precision pup in it I bet it would upgrade it immensely. Alternatively, someone like Fralin or Lollar could probably rewind it with some positive effect.
    wvbass likes this.