NBD (Sort of) Squier Vintage Aerodyne Precision V...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by steve_rolfeca, Sep 30, 2017.

  1. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Due to chronic back pain, I have to stick to basses that are around 8 to 8.5lb. Hipshot licensed Ultralites got my Vintage Modified Precision V under the limit- 8lb 6oz, to be precise.

    Unfortunately, I just installed a Hipshot Kickass bridge. It's a nice piece, but it's 6oz heavier than the OEM bridge.

    The obvious solution would have been to re-install the stock bridge, since I had it shimmed out for correct string spacing anyway...

    ...So of course, I immediately started carving the body down instead.

    My idea was to give the VMP5 the Aerodyne treatment- keep the overall P-bass outline, but thin the body. Carve the top, deepen the tummy cut, etc., to see if I could get 6oz out of the already light basswood body.
  2. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Believe it or not, this project is not as daft as it sounds. I once took a homemade Maple/Bubinga singlecut from a little over 12lb, down to 9lb 11oz by giving the slab-cut body the Spector treatment.

    I don't expect the same gains in this case, because the Squier already has a much lighter Basswood body. Still, I was bored, and it seemed like an interesting project.

    Over the last couple of days, I roughed in the cuts I wanted, fading the bass side of the body thinner, tapering the thickness of the horns, and opening up the cutaway on the treble side.

    Here are a couple of pictures of the work in progress:

    Aerodyne Precision V - 1.jpg Aerodyne Precision V - 2.jpg
    Gord_oh and mech like this.
  3. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    Interesting idea. Did you weight the body before you began? I'd love to find out how much you have taken off.
  4. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Another reason for this folly, was that the Squier has always struck me as a little "dead"- not as lively and resonant as I would like.

    The Olympic white finish was very thick, and rather soft. I wanted to see if taking the poly straightjacket off would wake it up.

    That goal was definitely achieved- I slapped it back together, and it sounds throatier- more the way I remember the '64 Precision I had in College.

    It also feels noticeably lighter.

    However, I can't find my fishing scale, so I'm not sure if I'm finished removing material yet. As a result, I have decided to leave it as-is for a few days.

    Once I'm sure that I don't want to make any further changes, I'll take it apart and finish the final shaping.

    I doubt that you can tell from these bad 'phone pictures (and the rough state of the shaping/sanding at this point), but I was surprised to find that the body is a decently-matched three-piece, with some nice figure in it.

    I might paint it Oly White again, but I might finish stripping the rest of the paint and factory sealer before doing a rubbed-poly natural finish over an amber tint...

    Here it is assembled, before I adjusted the pickup height:
    Aerodyne Precision V - 3.jpg

    As intended, the "face" looks like a regular Precision, until you look at it from other angles:

    Aerodyne Precision V - 4.jpg
    Aerodyne Precision V - 5.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
    Dec1975, mech and wmmj like this.
  5. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Me too. Can't find my fishing scale at the moment, though. :roflmao:
  6. Mark76


    Dec 1, 2015
    Good Lord! Does basswood have no grain at all?
  7. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Basswood has a fine grain- similar to maple, but not quite as distinct. There's actuallly some flame action, and some almost birds-eye areas.

    You can't see much in these photos for a few reasons:
    • The tiny sensor in my phone doesn't like low light.
    • The palest areas are bare basswood, but the orange areas are an opaque sealer that Squier had under the Oly white.
    • To get the grain to "pop", you need to sand it well and apply some oil.
    • In it's current rough-cut version, this guy has neither.
  8. bobba66


    May 18, 2006
    Arlington, Texas
    Very nice. Is the new profile comfortable?
  9. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member


    On the treble side, I kept the stock edge contours on the treble side under the control cavity. When I play it seated, it still sits on my leg like a stock P-bass.

    On a strap, it kind of disappears-if you've ever played an Aerodyne jazz, you know what I mean. It's a combination of the carved top fading away from your forearm, and the lighter weight.

    Because most of the weight I removed is toward the horns (and because of the relocated rear strap pin, Hipshot tuners and heavy bridge,) it still balances perfectly. No neck dive at all.
    bobba66 likes this.
  10. jchrisk1

    jchrisk1 Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    I've got an 84 peavey foundation that I've been considering doing this same thing. It plays and sounds great, but weighs over 10 lbs. My shoulders can't handle that kind of weight. Interested to see how much weight you've reduced.
  11. Basswood is so light that you'd have to remove a lot
    to make a real difference.
    The poly finish however might make a difference.
    I'd be curious to know how much it weighed.
    bolophonic likes this.
  12. Finsih it natural Steve! You've given me an idea about my current 11-12lb bass :)
  13. tedsalt

    tedsalt Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2010
    Kansas City
    Dang, that's pretty drastic. I've finished an unfinished Warmoth neck, but haven't tackled a body. If, after you get where you're headed with that, you can refinish it lightly, while somehow keeping the throaty mids, would be awesome!
  14. I purchased my Aerodyne P-Bass precisely because of its light weight, have never been happier with a bass purchasing decision! It has become such a go-to that I recently sold all my other fretted basses. Good luck with this project!
    neal davis likes this.
  15. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    The lighter the bass is to start with, the harder it is to get a significant weight reduction. Weight loss from reshaping a Basswood or poplar body is going to be down in the ounces, unless you're going to make it look like a toothpick.

    You're in luck if your Peavey weighs over 10lb. That suggests northern ash or maple. Those are very dense woods, and you should be able to remove a pound or two with some reshaping.

    Some basic principles:
    1. Keep it full thickness over and under the control cavity. You can't remove much material there without weakening the area, or even worse, punching through. Since you can't accomplish much there anyway, why not leave it alone?
    2. Chambering a slab body is best left to the pros. The area under the pickguard is already mostly holes, so there's not a lot of potential. I swiss-cheesed a northern ash tele body in that area, and the difference was barely measurable.
    3. To lose real weight with chambering, you're going to have to shave the top off the body, and hollow it well out towards the rim of the body, including the horns. Most wood shops don't have planers or thickness sanders large enough to take a bass body, so you'll need some mad skills with your hand tools or router table. Fitting a cap and getting all the holes for the hardware in exactly the same places would be no picnic, either.
    4. Keep everything between the neck heel and bridge intact. Removing wood along the path of the strings could detract from sustain and tuning stability.
    5. Think in 3D. Tapering the body is where you can remove the most mass without spoiling function. I lost more than 2 lb off my maple-bodied singlecut, just by fading the top and back toward the outside of the body.
    6. Keep it functional. Shrinking the outline to a teardrop or other awkward shape will ruin the looks, make it hard to find a case that fits, and make it awkward to play on a strap and/or seated.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
    jchrisk1 likes this.
  16. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Should be possible with any thin-film finish- light coats of automotive paint, nitro lacquer, or a hand-rubbed oil or oil/poly mix.

    The real tone-killers are heavy canalyzed polyester finishes- the ones where the instrument looks like it's under glass.
  17. I'd rock it as is.
  18. boristhespider7


    Jan 27, 2008
    Looking good...i'd also be tempted to sand off the last bits of paint, and put a few coats of oil on it.

    If you're serious about that weight you got to get rid of that bridge though...6oz heavier is a serious weight gain
  19. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    I'm on the fence about the bridge.

    For melodic playing, I like lots of sustain. My old custom bass, and now the Dingwall, have that base covered. For that, I view high-mass bridges as a half-measure. I want to lock the saddles down to the bridge plate. Gotoh discontinued their locking bridges, so the next best thing is the Babicz Full Contact.

    That left the Precision for getting my Motown on. For that, I prefer the shorter sustain of a vintage P-bass. Gimme a simple bent-plate bridge with the saddles loose on the plate, with steel "threaded" saddles to fix any spacing issues.

    The trouble is, I haven't played a blues club or a Motown cover gig in years. Strung up with flats, it was just collecting dust.

    So now I'm aiming for somewhere in the middle- a big, ballsy Roger Glover/Entwhistle sound with rounds, decent sustain for slow songs, but still with some of that nice P-bass roundness in the upper register.

    I'm already committed to lightening the "chassis", so I'm going to continue with stripping, shaping and refinishing the body. If I can get below 8lb 8oz (8.5lb) with the Hipshot bridge, then I'll be happy either way.

    I didn't notice a big tonal change with the new bridge and the paint still on. But I did like the ease of setup. Plus, something seems to have evened out the very slight dead spot I used to have on the G string.

    Regardless, the sound of the bass is exactly where I want it right now. Not just a backup to the Dingwall, but a viable alternative voice.

    Of course, now I might notice a bigger difference between the two bridges. We'll have to see.

    Once she's finished, I'll do an A/B bridge test. Who knows, if the stock one turns out to be fine, I will save $100. I might also end up with sub-8lb 5-string P-bass. Now that would be an achievement...
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
  20. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Screw it.

    There's some sort of tinted poly sealer under the paint. It clogs sandpaper like nobody's business:

    View attachment 2771100

    It's sunk pretty deep into the wood, and I think I'd need a belt sander or heat to get rid of the last of it. Even then, if there's any trace of it in the wood, it will foil any attempts to get an even tint on a transparent finish.

    It will be cheaper to simply paint it. I want to keep the tort guard, and I'm leaning toward a cream finish, similar to this Vintage White G&L:

    GandL vintage white tort maple.JPG
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
    salcott, tedsalt and christle like this.
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