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NBD - Bruno(?) Conqueror Project (EB-2-ish MIJ copy)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ATLbassist, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. Recently I got the bug of finding oddball basses and guitars on shopgoodwill.com. I also like MIJ lawsuit era basses and have been learning more about doing my own setups and repair. Well, a perfect storm happened and this ended up on my doorstep:

    37249985311_b51048fbe9. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    The only badge on this is Conqueror, which research shows was a line from C. Bruno & Son, a music distributor right here in Georgia. (The bass came from Oregon.) However, most of the Conqueror basses online look more like Teiso Del Reys or Eko violin basses. This looks more like like a Gibson EB-2 or Epiphone Rivoli, except the pickup is moved away from the neck. If you have more info, please add it here!

    Let's dive in... Overall, not too bad. Dusty as all get-out and lots of nicks and marks, but I think it will clean up pretty well. The biggest risks were the electronics and neck, but they seem to be okay.

    36580523133_5cf969a098. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    36994530030_d9d4edf2bc. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    36580517583_ca82015645. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    The grain pattern showing through the neck finish is pretty nice.

    36994526710_e3e5900dda. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Some buckle rash, but that might buff out.

    36540211844_bd97908daf. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Interesting neck plate shape.

    36580519383_8a77c76b10. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    I'm curious if that's an actual humbucker. The bass didn't sound as boomy as I was expecting and the screws on the plate are pretty loose. Also, this thing is thin - the body is only 1.5 in. thick. You can see more here - and some finish cracking (I hope) around the neck pocket.

    36994527810_b199ceb505. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    37392525155_31a0176c75. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    It's also very light. I don't have a scale handy, but it feels about the same weight as a Hofner 500/1 or Danelectro Longhorn. Looking closer, I'm wondering if the body is nicely finished balsa.

    37220842912_70255c6bb6. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    36994533180_c69a5ee39b. Inside the Conqueror bass by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    On top of that, the tuners are really heavy. Needless to say, the Conqueror neck-dives like crazy. Oh yeah, back to the headstock:

    37392524925_61c1651bd2. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    The A tuning key was snapped off, so that needs to be replaced. Also, the nut needs re-gluing.

    36995794240_580acb837f. Conqueror bass nut by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Other oddities:

    37392526465_e7749635e3. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    37249948631_d9870e3d13. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Someone put roundwound strings on at some point (there's telltale wear on the fingerboard) that chewed slots into the wood bridge. It doesn't seem to affect anything. Also, the angle seems a bit extreme to me - I'll have to see if I can lower it any.

    37249985581_94ecae97b7. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    The frets are the lowest I've ever seen on a bass - practically even with the fingerboard. However, I tuned the E and G strings to pitch and they seem to work okay up the neck. We'll see what happens. Oh yes, the neck:

    36994526230_4a529c579c. Conqueror Bass MIJ by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Surprisingly good! If anything there's some back-bow. No side dots, but I have some stick-on ones from another project that will work great.

    So, next steps:
    1. Test the truss rod. If that fails, then this is wall art.
    2. Clean up - pretty standard approach a la Dave's World of Fun Stuff. I want to try some polish to get the scuffs off the back.
    3. Tuner replacement. I was thinking of finding period-correct tuners as this was to be a restore-and-sell kind of project. But the neck dive is so bad that I fear the bass would be unusable live - and who wants that? So, maybe some modern Gotohs or - if I can find 'em cheap - Hipshot Ultralites. (I have a couple spares from another project.)
    4. Straaaaangs. I've never used tapewounds before, so why not here? I figure medium-scale as it's 30.5 in. from the zero fret to the bridge but I'll need more to get to the tailpiece.
    Outside of that, I may replace the pickup. I suspect a single-coil pickup is hiding under that humbucker cover. I'd also like to see what the pots are, but getting into a hollowbody is a little intimidating. But hey, that's where the fun happens, amirite?

    Thanks for sticking around through all this. Feedback and ideas welcomed and encouraged.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
    RobertUI and reddog like this.
  2. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Nice project!
    Ask Allparts how much these machines weigh: 2x2 Import Bass Keys | Allparts.com
    Single coil pickups often did appear in housing that would lead you to believe that it was a humbucker. You can't tell from the outside.
    Tie string to any pots or switches that you plan to remove so that you can pull them back into place.
  3. Still haven't dug into it much, but a fellow guitar-geek friend said that the Conqueror is probably made by Aria and possibly by Matsumoku.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Cool score either way!
  5. That neck is a higher grade than normal for basses of that caliber. Usually they are one piece maple, not stained tri-laminate. Never seen this before.

    Authentic period tuners of this sort show up on the 'bay every so often, usually for cheap.

    The holes look too large for the bridge screws. You may have to dowel and re-drill.

    With its offset polepieces, that pickup suggests a copy of the first-generation Gibson black plastic single-coil from the early 1950s (later pickups had centered 'pieces). Also never seen that on a Japa-copy bass.
    ATLbassist likes this.
  6. Last night I took off the truss cover to look at the nut. It seemed okay at first; the 5mm hex key fit just right. But then it started slipping...

    37363014271_fb28a6f781. Conqueror truss rod nut by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    After a quick read on stripped nuts, I wrapped the key in some foil and was able to back it all the way off:

    37363014541_f52aa81765. Conqueror truss rod nut by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Yep, half of it's stripped. So, it looks like I'm in the market for a new nut. I'm hoping a standard Fender or Squier nut would fit, but I need to determine the pitch of the threads (which look okay).
  7. Take the nut to a hardware store to determine the thread pitch. They may even have a suitable replacement. I did something similar yesterday. Had to find a correct-sized bolt to replace a bridge foot on a 1966 Supro black violin bass (I had the other foot as a reference).
    ATLbassist likes this.
  8. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    Nice looking bass. The neck plate is one I have most often encountered on Tiesco and Kawi made instruments. I have never seen one like it on a Matsumoku bass. Keep an eye on the neck joint a few people I know have had problems with the guitar version.
    ATLbassist likes this.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    looks like a project...but a nice one! congrats on your new instrument! :thumbsup:
    ATLbassist likes this.
  10. I had time to dig into the pickup a little. No major revelations, though.

    36761934833_e0af66df3f. Top of Conqueror bass pickup by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    I took the pole screws out, but I think they're just for show. It looks like there's just a bar underneath and not much on the sides.

    36761544823_c7c76f8b90. Underside of Conqueror bass pickup by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    The underside appears sealed, so I'd rather not mess with it too much. Any thoughts?

    I ordered a set of medium-scale D'Addario tapewounds off of Reverb. I also put in an offer for some used Wilkinson tuners that look like Hipshot Ultralites. I might need to drill out the holes slightly, but if it takes some weight out of the neck, I'm all for it.
  11. Not much activity on this project over the past month due to life, but I made some great headway last weekend. My setup guy thought he might have replacement truss rod nut, so I took the Conqueror over for a look-see. He had a few replacements and we found one that fit:

    26343308659_87086dde97. Conqueror bass parts by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    We did some more research and were unable to find any other examples of a bass exactly like mine. Some are much closer copies of an EB-2 with the pickup right on the neck; others have more pointed horns that look more Tesico-like. It seems like this is a bit of a rare bird, so I decided not to replace the tuners with more modern versions. (I'll encourage the next owner to get a wide strap.)

    I'd been looking online, but couldn't find a set with the exact same key style. Fortunately for me, my friend's friend has a pawn shop nearby with a cache of old tuners. We went over, and lo and behold - a perfect match!

    38065408836_e21b364112. Conqueror bass parts by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    So that's where we are now. I got the neck off, polished the frets and cleaned up the fretboard a bit. Reglued the nut, too.

    24265441218_882d19b42d. Conqueror bass parts by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Bonus: On a whim, I did some searching for Conqueror guitars and found a C. Bruno & Sons 1971 catalog page with my bass on it. So now it has a name: Conqueror CE-200.

    38119667871_7cbce25a28. j5igwzbiwfkzm6qz9it3 by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Now to practice wet-sanding (on a junky Teisco guitar) to see if I can clean up the buckle rash. I'm also hoping the tapewounds I bought will fit through the tailpiece - I'd rather not drill it.
  12. Due to life, this project fell by the wayside for a long time. Now that I have a new one in, I really need to finish this.

    When I left off, I found that the D'Addario tapewounds were too wide to fit through the tailpiece. I thought about drilling the holes out, but I have no drill press to keep the tools steady. Then I remembered: I have a round file! So, after working at the metal slowly and sparingly, I was able widen out the E and A holes.

    28565552948_dcfde4e3ac. Bruno Conqueror tailpiece widening by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Next step is deciding if I should try to buff out the buckle rash. I've been looking at some tutorials and it seems easy enough. However, the finish is not very thick - and I can feel some bare wood. It may not be worth doing, especially as it's only original once. What's everyone's thoughts?
  13. I just couldn't wait. The rash isn't that bad, so I decided to leave it and go ahead and put on the strings (D'Addario XL Nylon Medium Gauge Tapewounds - ETB92M). Thankfully, the ends were still thin enough to thread into the tuners and the wrapping stayed on the right side of the zero fret. With a little Simple Green, all of the really ground-in grime and paint scuffs came off.

    40649367050_fbab3aa090. Bruno Conqueror setup by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    There was a lot of back-bow on the neck at first, but it's straightening out nicely as the strings settle in. I should be able to do more fine-tuning tomorrow.

    40649363900_682a3e46e8. Bruno Conqueror setup by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    The action is about 4/32 at the 17th fret right now. Oddly enough, the bridge height is about where it was when the bass first arrived. The problem with taking so long on this project is that I can't remember if I left a shim in the neck pocket or not when I re-assembled the neck and body a few months ago. If I can't lower the action more without buzzing, I'll pop it back off and take a look.

    28584972678_abdb68b6ed. Bruno Conqueror setup by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    Still one oddity - I can't get the G string to line up over the pole piece. I could cut a new notch in the wood bridge (there's no actual saddle). However, it doesn't sound much softer than the other strings, so it may not be worth messing with.

    40649365320_af5ff17430. Bruno Conqueror setup by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    So, almost there! Just need to make the final action, intonation and height adjustments and put the truss cover and pickguard back on. I also need to find a net to secure the screw that attaches the underside of the pickguard to its slider / holder.
  14. I'm ready to call this project finished! After a few days with the tapewounds on, I ended up loosening the truss rod about another 1/2 - 3/4 of a turn to get to the proper relief. Once that was set and the intonation was correct, I could get the action to 3.5 / 32 with the bridge a bit lower - It's actually about as far as the bridge will go down on the bass side. As a bonus, the strings line up over the pole pieces a bit more evenly.

    These are some very low-tension tapewounds; it should make for less stress on an old neck. They're also surprisingly snappy! The sweet spot in the tone knob is around 1-4; higher than that and the bass seems to pick up the sound of my fingers hitting the dead strings. However, it gets a nice vintage clicky sound when palm-muting.

    Enough chit-chat - on with the pics! This is the final setup and a replacement screw and nut to hold the pickguard in place.

    41755437525_d044e53ea8. Bruno Conqueror bass by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    41935384274_b114ef6324. Bruno Conqueror bass by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    41753196175_99b5ce1c04. Bruno Conqueror bass by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    41753191675_7c1b709e8a. Bruno Conqueror bass by thaddeusthompson, on Flickr

    I think it turned out well! Now it's time to find it a forever home. Thanks for following along!

    Attached Files:

    creaturegods likes this.
  15. creaturegods


    Sep 23, 2017
    Wow, very cool! That cleaned up really nice!
    I've seen similar frets on an old semihollow "Conrad" bass that was literally unplayable. With any sort of bow in the neck on frets like that, you're probably gonna get LOTS of dead spots. BUT, it looks like everything is in ship shape on this one! Nice work.
  16. That was a concern when I started, but the neck is behaving nicely. There are some near-dead spots if you hold a string down too far away from the fret, but otherwise I can detect no issues. I was pleasantly surprised that the neck had forward bow after putting on the new nut; loosening the nut and relaxing the neck got it to the correct relief.
  17. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    I ike cool old basses like this one. You did a great job bringing it back to life!
    ATLbassist likes this.
  18. Random update on this bass. Over the summer I sold it a friend of a friend. This past week she took it to a workshop at the Fur Peace Ranch with Jack Casady!

    Needless to say, the Conqueror is now leading its best life.
    Thick McRunfast likes this.

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