I am NOT a Luthier...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Metropolis_488, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. But I sometimes play one on weekends....

    Sooooo, I had this 50's style chambered P-bass body I got from USA Custom Guitars. It was very resonant and sounded damn good. I received it from USACG with a '51 single coil routed in the traditional location, and a J-bass p/u routed in a Rickenbacker 4003 "bridge" location.
    The pickups didn't work together... so I got Nordstrand to build me a pair of Soapbars, and one thing led to another and before I knew it, I had a body with 4 pickup routes in it. Experimentation.... I did learn a lot about pickup placement! :)
    I had WD create a custom pickguard and it ended up looking like this:

    Not terrible and the bass sounded pretty good. However, 2 things bugged me:
    1) I really did not like the feel of playing with the Soapbar sized p/us under my fingers
    2) I have come to realize I hate side-jacks. I don't like 'em... just go with it

    Here is the body nude:
    And here is that dastardly side jack:
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  2. So what to do...well, get some glue, wood and more Nitro, of course!

    First thing I did was plug that side jack - I needed a 7/8 dowel which was only available in a 34 inch length (funny, cause I only needed about an inch). Home Depot claimed it was a "Hardwood" online, but when I got to the store, it was clearly pine. No bother, I'll make due:

    Next, I needed to expand that control plate route. Remember, this is a fully chambered body - so I was only dealing with a 1/4 top.... I didn't want to take the router to it as I was afraid that would be like taking a chain-saw to a toothpick, so I use a drill and a dremel with a sanding barrel.

    The drill bit was working fine until this happened (doh!):

    This time I was lucky - the piece that chunked out would still be under the control plate I planned to use - so no need to break out the bondo (yet).

    Here I just reinforced it with some wood glue (there was an actual split in the wood that went all the way through the top):
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  3. Next - fill in a pickup routing.

    I ordered some Alder samples from woodworkersresource.com (the body is alder). They were 3x6 and 1/2 thick.
    The soapbar route I was filling was more than half and inch deep, but not a full inch. So, I luckily still had the routing template I used to create the route in the first place - I lined it up, taped it down, and made the existing route deeper to a depth of 1 inch.

    I then used the routing template to trace the pickup outline onto the Alder sample blocks, then cut them by hand with a small hack-saw (with a very thin blade). Next I stuck them in the cavity with some Titebond and some bondo around the edges because I knew the hand cut I made was not perfect (here it is clamped down):


    Here after some sanding to even out the edges, and with a new pickup route cut - you can also see I cleaned up the control cavity opening with the dremel tool - that friggin sanding wheel on the dremel almost lit the body on fire! It just spins so fast it almost sparked the sawdust:
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  4. Finally, after a week of sanding, spraying, gluing and cursing, I wrapped this up:

    One part I don't have pictures of: I removed the nitro finish I had applied to the neck. Replaced it with a Tru-oil and wax finish (ohhhh so nice). Removing the nitro finish from the neck was a PITA - I tried sanding as I didn't want to have to resort to any nasty chemicals, but I ultimately cried uncle and got some Citri-strip - it worked pretty well (though, not perfect) and did a WAY better job removing finish between the frets than I would have been able to do with sandpaper.

    If you are curious - the pickup is a Novak BSDS-1, I got the chrome control plate from guitarpartsresource.com

    bass sounds amazing and only weighs 7lbs 6oz!
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  5. Here is a close up of the filled cavity - there is a very slight outline, actually pretty hard to notice in person. Also, I got some orange peel in the finish (all those little pin-holes) because it was WAY to humid when I sprayed the clear coat. I wet sanded it and assembled the bass now, knowing that I will have to hit it with more clear coats when the weather is more compliant - likely not until late fall here in central Virginia. On a side note, I learned black may be the hardest finish to apply - it shows every little imperfection and it has the highest solid content of any color I have sprayed (using re-ranch nitro) - color coats of black dry to the texture of 100 grit sandpaper (though not as hard, obviously). Black is a real PITA to get right. There is a chance I hit this with a white primer and then spray lake placid blue or (my favorite) Sea Foam green:

    And here is the body again:
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
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  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Nice work! You'll shortly be receiving your Luthier merit badge and lapel pin.

    Here on this forum, we award points for:
    Solving problems with whatever tools you have.
    Recognizing mistakes and fixing them.
    Putting the time and effort into achieving a good level of quality.
    Showing originality in your projects.
    Documenting what you've done, in good readable form.
    You've done all those things, so we hereby declare you a Luthier. Welcome! Carry on.
    ICM, Novarocker, FenderTuni and 9 others like this.
  7. Looks good. I'd definitely play it. Either the blue or green could look pretty good on that also, if you decide to go that route.
  8. Mktrat

    Mktrat Seriously, are we not doing phrasing anymore?

    Apr 9, 2013
    The Mitten
    Nicely done. :thumbsup:
  9. I like P's a whole bunch, but I like 'em even better with a personal twist. Great project!
  10. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    Sylenthunter likes this.
  11. Very cool, nothing beats black and tort!
  12. Ha! Thanks! I'll add it to my other merit badges - hard earned awards of distinction such as "Drinks Beer" and "No One Else Showed Up..." :)

    Thanks, I do pretty much live by the axioms you have laid out, so I appreciate it. Funny thing - sometimes I think I enjoy these types of problem solving projects more than actually playing the bass!
  13. Black and tort PLUS Chrome - lots of chrome! I look at this bass and reminds me of a muscle car from the 1950's with all that ornamentation. :)
    Gyver likes this.
  14. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Well done! Very pretty bass you've created there! Welcome to the club.
  15. Picton


    Aug 16, 2017
    Reading, MA
    Looks good. What did you do with the old pups?
  16. Sold them on talkbass
  17. Glad to hear the USACG body worked out for you -- I plan to mate a hollow '50s Precision body to a '76 maple-fretboard Precision neck I've had set aside for about 20 years.