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Fender P-Bass Body Rework

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by awilkie84, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. So, I'm working on stripping & refinishing a 96 MIM P-bass body.
    This bass is rather heavy, and I want to reduce the weight.
    I thought about bringing the sides in some, and realized I would run into issues with the control cavity poking through the side if I took too much off, and a pickguard wouldn't fit right without being custom cut. I'm also replacing the pickups with EMG-HZ, as I will be pulling them out of my Spector and like the sound of them.

    I was driving home from the pizza joint last night & started thinking about planing the top down & putting a solid top on it, so that the neck pocket wouldn't be too deep. This would allow me to remove material from the back of the bass to reduce weight. I could do a larger rear route cavity with more space for a pre-amp and new knob configuration and I wouldn't need a pickguard. I could also go with a figured top for looks.

    Having very little woodworking experience, is this something that I could do with good results? I'm willing to take my time on this project.

    If so, what would be a good wood to use for the top?
    Where's a good place in Canada to look for top blanks?
    How thick should the new top be?
    I don't have a proper workshop, but I do have a good-sized bench & a decent work space.

    What tools will I need to do this?
    I assume a plunge router will be needed for the pickup route & control cavity. Clamps & glue for the top (how many & what kind, I'm not sure). A band saw or reciprocating saw to cut the top to fit. Chisels for cleaning up the cavities.
    Should I glue the top blank to the body first, or rough cut it before gluing?
  2. johnson79


    Jan 8, 2010
    Lancaster, PA
    What about using a forstner bit and removing most of the material behing the PG? Could probably do that with a drill press pretty easily.
  3. abemo


    Feb 27, 2012
    Arvada, co
    I have a frankenP that I wanted to reduce weight on, and I completely removed the lower horn and reduced the upper horn and bout. The other option would be to chamber the body under the pickguard.
  4. I thought about this, but I don't really want to chamber the body or drill holes that will be hidden under a pickguard. I've had this bass since I was 14 & I want something that's going to look well done & can be passed down proudly to my kid when he's older. I may reduce the size of the horns, though.
  5. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    With little to no woodworking experience, you are in a very bad position. Adding a top to an existing body takes some very specific tooling to be done right. I would avoid it, until you have enough experience with at least a good and very sharp bench plane or you find a friend with a 15" or larger planer/drum sander. You can make a jig with a router to remove material from the top, and there is a thread here with that type of set up for it if you search.

    As for tops, in Canada, Check out Fraser Valley Fine Woods. Good source for Maple and some other top sets

    As for lightening the weight, wouldn't it be more effective to purchase a body from Ebay or parts dealer like GFS to get a light pine, poplar, basswood, or paulownia body instead of butchering a Fender body that has real resale value? Selling the body could pay for the GFS body with some left over.

    On topic, I also vote *chambering*- maybe a little bit of visible body reduction if we're not talking vintage piece here. I'm not religious about modding basses but I have my limits. :)
  7. johnson79


    Jan 8, 2010
    Lancaster, PA
    How exactly would removing material from behind the pickguard not look good?

    No offense, but hacking up a perfectly good body is bonkers.
  8. Thanks for the info on the HowTo and wood supplier!

    I want to keep the original body. It's only a 1996 MIM, and it has a bad J-pickup route (wasn't centered properly by the luthier who did it, so it had to be redone. It's been covered by a fat pickguard, but it bothers me to know it's there. The same would be said for holes under the pickguard.
    The body's not worth very much to anyone other than me, I'm sure.
  9. I took a look at Fraser Valley Fine Woods, and they don't have full tops that are big enough for a bass, just wings.
    Any Canadian suppliers in/near BC that have wood the right dimension for bass tops?
  10. just buy a lighter body
  11. Gonna requote myself:

    I've had this bass since I was 14 & I want something that's going to look well done & can be passed down proudly to my kid when he's older.
  12. davens


    Jan 24, 2005
    Stoney Creek, ON
    I've done a few basses with bookmatched tops from Fraser Valley. The ones I see up now can give a body width of 14"+ which should be plenty for a P-Bass if I'm not mistaken.
  13. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Grow up and route under the pickguard. Anything else you do will most likely look awful.

    I had a monsterously heavy pbass once. I took a router and took out everything from under the pickguard and then recessed the pickguard into the body. Its not too hard and it looked great. Even better it cut the weight of the bass in half. It didn't noticeably affect the sound either.

    Normally I just don't buy boat anchors but if I do, I make sure to sell them quickly. Since you want to give this to your kid, why not swap out the body and put the older clunker back on in 20 years?

    Also, for what its worth, I got a ton of instruments from my father and grandfather. Some of them are museum pieces worth 10s of thousands of dollars, some are modifed to hell instruments. The sentimental ones are the ones that they played while we played together and one of my dad's prewar martins that he used to play before he'd go to bed every night. I rock out on my dad's heavily modified 64 SG all the time.
  14. Ah, I was reading the dimensions wrong. The dimensions are for halves. Thanks for the clarification.

    Great sentimental story, but what does growing up have to do with wanting a quality piece? The bass holds a lot of value to me, I don't want to ruin it by hollowing out the body. I want it to be a solid body, and maybe look nicer than it does. It also allows me to use it as a project piece.

    I'm not looking for "Should I do this?" answers. I asked if it's something that could be done. I've made up my mind as to what I'd like to do with the bass. Whether it fits your bill doesn't matter. I just want as much advice on HOW to do it as possible.
  15. Hey buddy just been reading thru these posts, the answer is yes it can be done, however to get it to look good you will need some skill, and access to some good tools.

    TBH I wouldnt attempt this with a fender of any ilk, but if you are determined then I might suggest you have a practice run on a cheap body you have made yourself. This way you see the pitfalls on your practice piece and dont make the same mistakes with the fender.

    Kent has pine planks on sale atm for $5 per piece, if you cut a few of these to size, glue and clamp together you could make a very cheap body blank to practice with. Trace the body of your Fender onto the pine blank. Bandsaw a rough outline and route the rest, there are loads of examples on this site which will run you through that process.

    I am assuming that you have access to a workshop and these tools? It may help us to help you if you can tell us your tool capabilities, and if you have anyone with woodworking experience you can turn to for guidance.

    Once you have made a pine blank we could talk about how you would take the face off, Route out a cavity, and re cover the face with a piece of maple or mahogany or any wood of your choice, which is what I believe you wish to do with the fender?

    It can be done but have a practice piece to work on first.