Lakland 44-66 ThunderJazz?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by wvbass, May 20, 2012.

  1. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I discovered this Lull for sale at Rocket Music:


    It is, very simply, the most exciting bass I've seen in quite a while. It also tips the scale at a little over three grand, so its not likely I will ever own one like it. But, that got me thinking. I've been working with my jazz bass to get more of a humbucker sound out of it. Maybe I can do something similar pickup-wise to my Jazz bass? I used a couple different t-birds for reference:


    Comparing these to a jazz bass, I think I can pretty much nail the bridge pickup position. But, the neck position seems to move around depending on the era of t-bird in question. (The Lull I used for reference looks like it uses an early sixties neck pickup position.) I am thinking of positioning the rear coil of the neck pickup to match the position of the neck j pickup. More info about t-bird pickup placement would be appreciated!

    The mockup looks like this:


    I would probably eventually put OBP-1 in it (that is going to happen anyway) and wire the controls either vol/vol-passive tone-bass/treble. I've already got it routed for one battery; making room for two is a minor event.

    As for pickups, I'm looking at Thunderbuckers. (I have not contacted Steve at Thunderbucker yet.) I'm not sure if I want the '63 or the '66 version yet. I like aspects of both, but since the bass tends to be a little light on bottom and heavy on the top end, I am leaning towards the '66. The Lull pickups are also an option.

    These pickups aren't cheap, and the rout to make them fit is a one-way street, so this is not an exercise to do on a whim.

    Mikaelbass likes this.
  2. dedpool1052


    Jan 10, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    i've played a few of mike's t-birds and the pickups are pretty full sounding. i believe i played that bass in the first pic last year at some point when i went to his shop. i dont think you'd have any problem getting enough bottom out of those pickups.
  3. basspraiser

    basspraiser Jammin for the Lamb! Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Chicago - NW Burbs
    That looks very interesting!

    Ever think of putting humbucker chis or even humbucker hansons?

    Would love to hear clips of the results regardless
  4. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I went with the '66 Thunderbuckers. First, let me say that Steve at Thunderbucker Ranch was a pleasure to work with. He patiently answered questions and went out of his way to provide me with additional information. His pricing is reasonable, and he completed his work within the time frame he said he would.

    The pickups themselves are breathtaking. If you appreciate craftsmanship, you need to see these in person. In addition to making the pickup coils, Steve also makes the cases they go in. I think he even designed and built the press he uses to do this. He uses fully shielded, cloth-wrapped wire, and the pickup model and serial numbers are hand engraved on the bottom of the pickup.

    Steve sent me a scrap pickup ring, and I used that to fashion a routing template out of MDF. I've never worked with the stuff before, and I don't know if I will again. It is messy - I had to wear safety glasses and a mask because of what cutting MDF throws into the air. At any rate, below is the rig I used to cut the template. Since the bit I used to cut the holes for the pickups is pretty long, and I wanted a pretty shallow rout, I made a fairly thick template:


    After tweaking the template a bit, I got my Lakland ready to go under the knife:


    When I dropped the pickups and rings in, I realized that the original neck rout presented a problem. I had to fill the original hole somewhat so that I would have something to screw the bridge side of the ring into.


    Here's a couple progress pics:



    My work wasn't perfect, but I didn't expect it to be. The pickup rings hide both my imperfections and the difference in size between the jazz rout and the Thunderbucker rout. I wired it with a traditional jazz bass wiring diagram, except I used 500K volume pots. Cafe Press helped me ice the cake with a nice Thunderbird logo, and the Gibson reflector knobs were a last minute decision.

    Here's a few shots of the finished product:





    And a couple shots of Steve's craftsmanship:



    With these pickups, I get a nice fat humbucker sound out of this bass. It is too early to be sure, but I think that bridge pickup is really something special. The neck pickup isn't half bad either, and I think my choice of placement here is going to work out nicely.

    All in all, not a bad way to spend my birthday!
  5. JimB52

    JimB52 User Supporting Member

    May 24, 2007
    East Coast
    That is extremely cool.
  6. Philonius

    Philonius Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2009
    2k W of the Duwamsh
    Nice! Now convert it to a fiver, and you've got it nailed. :bag:
  7. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Joking aside, it is as close as I can make it with a jazz neck. It has a hipshot with a double drop lever. I have the drop tuned D available, but I can also drop it to a low B. The B string is a little floppy due to string gauge, but it is workable. I also installed USA straight-shaft Hipshot ultralites when I added the Extender.
  8. stingray56funk

    stingray56funk Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2005
    Holy Cazow!!! Looks fantastic! Get us some sound clips!
  9. Philonius

    Philonius Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2009
    2k W of the Duwamsh
    I was just being silly. That's a fairly bold mod to undertake on an already fantastic bass, and it seems to have worked out really well. Kudos.
  10. BulbofPassion


    Mar 25, 2012
    Savage, MD
    That's awesome
  11. funk generator

    funk generator Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2009
    Johnson City, TN
    absolutely fantastic! I think lakland should offer this bass. I would play the crap out of that thing! <-- This coming from a Tunderbird hater.
  12. GregC

    GregC Questlove, Black Thought, Hamilton Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    Whoa, I love that! Major congrats. I'm a Lakland guy and I've been lusting for the early T-bird sound myself. I hope you're able to post sound clips. If not, maybe a longer description of the tone? I want the fatness, but also the bite that I hear in the Lullbird soundclips.
  13. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    Nice Bass! Steve developed ThunderBuckers for my JAEbird FenderBirds. ThunderBuckers, especially the '66 and Max versions, are more aggressive than Lull pups. That's what we were going for, the original TBird sound. Lull chose an early (63-65) Tbird version. Steve cloned both my '63 and hotter '66 sets. Here are some ThunderBucker sound clips (Honduras Mahogany bodies/maple necks):
  14. Stranger Danger

    Stranger Danger Feel Like A Stranger Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    Dibs if you ever sell it. Suhweet bays!
  15. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I will see about clips. I'm not really equipped to do that, but i do have a friend nearby with a home studio, so maybe in the next few days...

    I have played it through my RH750 and a BA112 so far. It brings out that fake tube grindy/growly thing that the RH750 like to do - you know, some slight midrange distortion that translates as growl. The neck pickup has a big, warm bottom, and I can get a nice snap in my fingerstyle attack if I want - a very pleasing, punch (almost a pop) to the attack. With a little technique, I can smooth out the attack for a nice, round, smooth attack. The bridge pickup is just plain burpy with the slight mid scoop that lets you know it is a humbucker. It has more of the traditional jazz bridge pickup sound than the original Lakland-Hanson pickups (which sound great by themselves but were fairly lame with a band, IMO), and is on par or even a little burpier than the EMG-JAX pickup that I had in there. (BTW, I am not a huge EMG fan, but the JAX set was nice and worked for me a whole lot better than the original pickups.). I noticed that letting more than one note ring at a time brings out a thickness that I don't think I can quite reproduce with jazz pickups.

    Through my BA112, the slight mid distortion is gone and I get a no-nonsense, sits-in-the-mix range of warm tones to work with. I like to simulate how a bass works in a mix by playing along with music on my computer, and this test had a positive result. Just by playing around with the individul pickup volumes I got a three or o good band-friendly tones. If I were to compare it to something or someone, I would call on some old Tesla and Brian Wheat's (is my memory correct there?) recorded tone.

    As for "fat," it struck me that these pickups are thick enough that the passive tone controls from a G&L L-series might be interesting. The bottom is thick and big enough that I think I will take the possibility of adding a preamp off the table. There is a natural, vintage thing going on here that I'm not sure I want to mess with.

    Finally, I don't remember the Lull clips specifically, but I wouldn't say I have a ton of bite. There are reasons for that though. It is strung with nickel loriders, and they are 1) nickel instead of steel and 2) starting to get a little old. My RH750 is voiced without an overwhelming amount of bite, and the BA112's lack of a tweeter makes it a smooth, classic sounding amp as well. Si, I am running with the tone knob wide open right now. I'm sure that playing through my Redhead, or running/recording direct would give me plenty of bite.
  16. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I went with the 66 over the 63 because of Steve's clips. I just thought the 63s were a little thin in comparison. You did a good thing getting him to develop and build these. I am going to guess there aren't tons and tons of these pickups out there, since 1) he wound mine after I ordered them, and 2) the serial numbers on both pickups are <100. If word ever really gets out about what he is building on the "ranch," he could have trouble keeping up with demand.
  17. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    ThunderBuckers are definitely 'Boutique' pickups, completely manufactured in house by Steve including the rings, and tailored to the player's preference. I think Steve is OK with the number of sales, he does a lot of other stuff. I had him clone the G&L passive tone circuit from my '81 L-1000 but we decided it didn't work that well with the ThunderBucker.

    The '66s have the hotter output of the Non Reverse 'bird. I prefer the '63 for a studio type sound, I mostly play a '64 Thunderbird II. The MAX is just that, hottest Alnico magnets and as much wire you can put on the coil (over 2 miles per pickup), great for a 3 piece. EX5 is the Fiver version. Here's a proto JazzBird from a while ago with vintage Thunderbird pup spacing.
  18. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Interesting that I preferred the 66 pickups based on the sound clips. I also prefer the cosmetics of the non-reverse bird. There is something unique and exciting about the nr body shape - not that the original tbird shape isn't unique.

    I like the looks of your jazz bass too. If I do any tweaks, it would probably be to get a vintage positioning of the neck pickup. That won't happen anytime soon, if at all though. I want to live with this for a while and see what works for me and what doesn't.

    Really, this move was a gamble. The EMG-JAX set was working for me, and I don't have any experience with vintage thunderbirds. I love the look of the Lull, though, and Steve's clips sound great, so I took the chance. It was a big gamble, too. I am not a master craftsman by any means, and Murphy makes his presence known in everything I do. In this case, the guide bearing on my Home Depot router bit came loose during testing. It made a mess of a test rout in a piece of scrap wood and destroyed my original template. There were other hiccups in the process, but that bearing slippage almost convinced me to put the breaks on the whole project. Then I realized that I could reposition the bit in the router and minimize the risk of a repeat of the problem.

    I also ended up almost melting the pickguard instead of cutting it. I think maybe I had too many rpm's at first and was generating too much heat. I also made a mistake with my bit placement while cutting the guard, and this probably also contributed to the melting. In the end, I used files to finish up the pickguard, so none of the issues with the original cut made much difference. Any problems with the guard under the pickup ring are a function of my ineptitude in working with hand tools.
  19. Dadagoboi

    Dadagoboi CATALDO BASSES Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Florida Swamp
    CataldoBasses: Designer/Builder ThunderBuckerPickups:Consultant
    Steve's clips weren't done with a Honduras Mahogany bodied bass, that does make a slight difference in the sound as does the through neck design of the Reverse TBird. The NR is a more traditional body with easier upper fret access than the Reverse. It's easier for players of Fender type basses to relate to IMO. Unfortunately, the NR Gibson design is the poster child for neck dive. A smaller headstock and Ultralites eliminates it.

    You got great results and I'm sure you learned a lot that will transfer to future projects.
  20. That control plate is fabulous.
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