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Fixing up my first bass - Squier P

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Phil Mailloux, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    I’ve been seriously slack with my practicing in the last couple of years. I miss playing a 4 string big time. So I decided to fix up my first bass in the hopes I pick it up more often to practice. :D

    This is my first bass. I bought it around ’96 in a used shop.I was a guitarist before that. It was supposed to be an early 90’s Japan Squier but a few things on it have obviously been switched, it wasn’t the original body or tuners when I got it. The neck was also crap and the action was really high. It was not a nice bass to play at all.

    About a year ago I decided to pull out the fretboard and fix the neck problem, I discovered a build-up of wood under the f’board and shaved it away. At the same time I made a new bone nut and shaved the sides of the neck to give it a Jazz bass width as I don’t like P-bass width. Here’s the original thread showing what I did


    The final result wasn’t that great as the truss rod was shot anyway. It wasn’t that bad but the action was still higher than what I prefer to have so never used it much after that. So a couple of days ago I decided to fix it for good and get a decent playing instrument.

    The first thing was to change the truss rod. The original rod was a compression truss rod fit from the back of the neck. Removing it from the back is a lot more complicated than from under the fretboard as would have to rout out the skunk stripe very neatly, switch the rod and fit another skunk stripe that fits *perfectly* into the back of the neck. That wasn’t worth the trouble, so I did a “down and dirty” job. I wanted to get in and get out fast and have a decent playing bass without spending too much time in this. So I went after the truss rod from under the fretboard.

    First step was to unglue the fretboard. Lots of steam, a knife and about 5 minutes of work and it was out.


    You can see from the second pic how much the truss rod had sunk inside the neck. I then grabbed my chisel and mallet and started knocking some wood away from the truss rod to take it out. It took about 5 minutes for me to think “screw that” and reach for the trusty ol’ laminate trimmer. I had a good idea how deep the rod was by then so I could rout in very light passes to reach the rod.


    Spare truss rod anyone?


    I installed a two-way rod with adjustment at the body end so I drilled a new hole at the bottom of the neck and got a 2nd grade Cocobolo fingerboard blank that was lying in my shop for some time. I wasn’t going to use it for a customer’s bass because of the sap wood in it so figured I might as well use it in this one. I also decided to leave as much sap wood in it just for the hell of it to give it a particular look. At the same time I added a 21st fret to the bass.


    I then did a decent fret job on it and set it up. That part probably took longer than anything else as it’s the most important for the playability.


    I oiled the fretboard and put the bass together to verify it. I’m pretty happy with the result, the fingerboard looks a lot nicer than what I was imagining it would be and certainly gives a different look from a stock P bass. :) The second pic shows the 12” radius, the new shiny frets and how cool the grain of the wood is. :D


    The next step is to now wind a new P pickup for it and wire in my Aguilar OBP-1 for kick ass sounds to go with the kick ass looks. ;) That one is for tomorrow or the day after.
  2. Lookin good Phil! You should route out that J at the bridge and install one of your humbuckers there or something. P+Bucker sounds killer!
  3. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    That's not a bad idea at all, I didn't even think of that!

    I might do that soonish. I actually just finished installing the new P pickup and the preamp in the bass and I'm really enjoying it right now :D (pics will come soon of the pup and pre)
  4. You mean, pics will come now :D
  5. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Yes ;)
  6. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Ok, so this is the pickup I've built the fastest in my life. The bobbin looks like crap but the pickup sounds great. Don't let the looks fool you :D

    Here's a few pics of the pickup being built.

    Squier035. Squier036.
    Squier039. Squier041.

    Pickups being potted in wax.


    Wiring the Aguilar.


    and last pic, the new rout for the battery :rolleyes: Strangely enough, a woodchuck must have sneaked in my house and did this rout when I wasn't watching :bag:

  7. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    The obligatory last finished pic on a timber floor. :p

  8. OliverH


    Aug 2, 2008
    You're my new bass building hero! That's exactly the sort of stuff I want to do. At the moment I've just taken a VERY crappy made in China Squier P-Bass (the ones with only the single P pickup), stripped and sanded it down to the bare wood which I will stain. Routed out spaces for an EMG active J-set, and a huge cavity for a double battery pack. I'll be changing the bridge to a much bigger one and tuners to something decent, maybe Schallers and possible a Hipshot extender on the E string.

    Fortunately the fingerboard is in pretty decent shape, completely straight (as far as I can see) and I won't be replacing it unless after all the work the bass still feels terrible, but I believe dropping the action will fix that.

    I'll be starting a thread and posting pictures myself. Next step after all of this is to build one from scratch but I think that'll be a much bigger challenge.
  9. Hi Phil, I seem to remember you used to use an electric drill to wind your pickups - how did you count the number of turns?

    EDIT: also, what happened to this one http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=286944

    btw, back to this thread, looks really cool! :cool:
  10. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - PerĂº
    I was wandering about that winder too whensee the pics.
  11. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Hi Oliver, if this is your first foray into lutherie/guitar repair I highly suggest you get yourself a copy of Dan Erlewine's "Guitar Player Repair Guide" if you don't already have it. It'll explain very well how to do most of the mods you want to do. This book is invaluable for instrument repairs and setups. When you start your scratch build make sure you get one of the good building books oout there.

    I normally wouldn't recommend that anyone spend outrageous amount of money to upgrade a very cheap bass. You'll never get back your investment when you end up selling it one day. In my case, I've got emotional attachment to it since its my first instrument and obviously won't ever sell it. I also already have the skills to do the job correctly. These mods cost me exactly *nothing*. The Aguilar and the fretboard were already lying around the shop for a while.

    I used a mandrill in the beginning. I knew each time I turned the lever one revolution, the bobbin would turn 3 revs, so I counted each of my hand turns in my head until I reached 100 then made a mark on paper and would do this process again until I reached the amount of turns I wanted to have. It was a pain in ass allright ;) but it works if you have no money at all to put into a winder.

    This winder has about $50 of parts in it and it's very easy to build too. The main electronics is a motor speed controller kit I got in an electronics shop (solder yourself kits) for about $12, the motor was about $10, all work on 10 volts so you only need to connect the motor to the speed controller and that to a 2.1mm power jack and on/off switch. Power is supplied through a 10 volt wall wart. The counter is a Red Lion CUB3 that works on one N-cell battery, I got that one for $10 on Ebay. It's activated by a reed switch and magnet, that's only a couple of dollars in electronics shops. Then there's two ball bearings and the box. I think the box was the most expensive part at $15 :D

    Ah yes, the slowest build I've ever done :D Soon to be in its third year of construction.

    The gods of lutherie have conspired to slow this one down. ;) In the beginning I was just plain lazy, then I kept getting custom orders so had no time to work on it. In my defense, its getting there. I'll probably update the thread in a few days as I've done more carving on it recently and routed out the pickup cavities. This bass will be definitely done at the same time as the fanned fret 6, so less than 3 months left.
  12. Phil,

    That's AWESOME!

    What that P needs now is a special top...

    You need to level the top and apply a sweet camphor burl top to that thing :hyper:...rear rout controls cavity, of course...

    and a matching lam for the headstock...that would be just fantastic!

    btw...since I did a fret job on my P and changed out the EMG for a passive (G&B, Co.) I've been playing it a LOT more...
    could use some finish work and a new PG, but it has "mojo" this way...;)
  13. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses

    It wouldn't be a bad idea if the body wasn't plywood lol not to fear, you'll be seeing a couple of Fender style builds from me soon enough, one of them should have a nice top too.

    The mojo is the best part! I did no cleaning at all of the body or hardware, the pickguard is full of fingerboard oil dirt on it now :D Its amazing what a good setup and pickups will do to a cheap bass.
  14. Cheers for the info!


    I'll hold you to that! :) Im really looking forward to seeing those basses finished for Christmas! :p
  15. I just got a junk epiphone neck for free i am going to pull the fingerboard off for fun now
  16. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Pulling the fingerboard isn't that hard, its putting it all back together that requires some skill ;) good luck

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