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Project: Over-upgrading a Squier

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rojo412, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Here's one that I've been doing in my spare time to learn some skills, as well as make one hell of an upgraded Squier Jazz.

    Starting bass: This run-of-the-mill Squier VM Jazz


    I bought it off a friend. He got a Marcus, so he didn't need this anymore. And I happened to make a good buy on another guy's parts drawer, so I ended up with a lot of parts that I wanted to use for upgrades.
    Nordy Big Splits, Hipshot bridge, Nordy Preamp. All things that could make this better and require a bit of work to make happen.

    Starting off, I took it apart.

    (the circle is just dust on the lens)

    Then I made some measurements for center lines and such


    I traced the pickups and plotted where I'd have to excavate. At this point in time, I just had a Dremel, some clamps and a dream.


    I had hoped that using a guide fence and taking my time with the Dremel would work... but you know what they say:
    "Hope in one and and [poop] in the other and see which fills up first".

    In other words, using the Dremel was a HUGE mistake. Working without templates, also a big mistake. As a pure beginner in this game, I'll gladly admit that being in a hurry to start with the wrong tools is stupid.

    Here's where I stopped using the dremel...


    It actually burrowed its way too far around the edges, due to the flex in the bit (yes, I was using the router attachment, too).
    That caused me to have to alter my plans a bit...
    I decided to man up:


    Since I over-routed the side, I opted to use the P2 sized covers (5 string) for the 4 string Big Splits. I've had to order them from Nordy and they'll be plain, no-holes P2 width covers and I'll just fit the pickups into them. Those are on order, stay tuned for that.

    IN THE MEAN TIME, I prepped for everything else.
    I got the template for the P2 size from BestBassGear (best $9 I could spend) and I made a copy of it, so I could screw up the copy, if I had to.


    It was also wider material, so I could do more work without taping it down.
    Here's how it looks cleaned up with the right tools


    Following that, I had 3 more large tasks to accomplish: Battery box, jack hole and preamp cavity.

    The preamp cavity wasn't bad. I actually used the P2 shape and clamped it so it would give me a little "cove" next to the pickup rout and under the guard.


    I ended up making the whole cavity area the same depth


    And shielding it


    The battery box was SCARY! The one I ordered was 1-1/4" deep and the body on this is 1-1/2" thick. If the bit caught in, I worried about punching right through the top. :eek:
    I marked the line on the bit where the depth needed to stop and went to town.


    I guess the pics I shot of the process didn't save on this damn camera... but I did this:



    Battery box: Done!
    Preamp cavity: Done!

    The Jack hole, also scary as hell. I'm using a Jacksocket, so the process involved was to drill a 1" shoulder for the top, then 7/8" and in about 1.5".
    The shoulder was easy, but going in actually had a hiccup. The bit crawled a little and took a chunk out of the shoulder. I'll be fixing that soon, but here's a shot of the hole


    Not much room to spare for this thickness of body.
    I used a long drill bit to meet the cavity and make a place for the wires to go. No pics of that, but it'll come out.

    One thing I did early on, I plugged the old bridge holes and drilled for the Hipshot A style brass (my fave bridge ever!)


    I used saw dust and a drill bit. I packed the holes as tight as I could with sawdust, tamping it down with the bit and tapping with a hammer and finally finished it off with super glue.
    I figure it's easy as effective as wood filler, if not better.

    So currently, the project is waiting for shielding to be finished and pickup covers to arrive.
    Stay tuned!

    Preamp preview pic

  2. DannyBob


    Aug 28, 2013
    Wow...that is one kick-ass squier right there!
  3. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    I love the sound of a bright bass darkened up by electronics. With all that maple and the electronics you're putting in, that should be a very fat and tight sounding axe.

    I wouldn't say it's over upgraded either. You started with a good core. Soft maple is a good tonewood and these necks are surprisingly decent in quality and feel and overall Squier fit and finish has come such a long way. This will be a quality workhorse.
  4. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    The Splits are pretty beefy and bright, but not as bright as the Singles. I've never had a Nordy pre, but I hear good things.
    The bridge will DEFINITELY increase sustain, as well as the neck inserts I did (more on that later), but this is NOT going to sound like a stock Squier by a FAR SIGHT!

    Thanks for checking out the project, by the way.
  5. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Good news for me today! The pickup covers shipped out, so I should have those by the end of the week.

    I managed to do a little housekeeping and cleaned up the bench, post "woodchipping"


    Shielding paint dried and is conductive, so I peeled off the masking tape.



    With that, I decided to start running wires.


    Put the bridge on to keep the ground in place


    Wired up the jack, though I had to go deeper in the hole with the drill, then also use a 2-lead+ground wire to fit through the limited access.


    And test fit



    So with that, I could have ended the day. The pre and jack, in place. Just need the pickups....
    But I wanted to make sure everything was working... and covers don't NEED to be on for that...


    And all is well! It's making noises it should and none that it shouldn't.
    Covers, reassembly, string up, setup, rock out, all to come soon.
  6. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
  7. KF2B


    Jan 28, 2013

    This is beginning to look like a serious contender for my forthcoming paycheck ...


    Awesome! :bassist:
  8. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
  9. Buchada Azeda

    Buchada Azeda

    Mar 25, 2009
    Using the P2 covers for covering up the overrouting was an excellent idea. Are you going to make holes for the magnets on the new covers?
  10. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    No, but they were willing to make it that way if I'd wanted.
    This way, though, if I wanted to change the "underneath" pickups, I could do so. The P2 covers would hide regular J pickups easily.
  11. mrz2u


    May 10, 2012
    Totally not relevant to the thread but I notice the little things in pictures...like that dart board under the table top. I have one laying around my shop area too :) Great tool for "thinking" !
  12. marko138


    May 24, 2013
    Perry County PA
    Cool project.
  13. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Ah, the dart board! Good eye. It used to be in my kitchen, but we repainted and I had to do something with it. The ceiling in the shop is a little low, but I may try to put it up for gits and shiggles.

    I may do the fret crowning while I wait for the covers to show up. I just got the files yesterday. But I also got a bad cold, so I can barely stand up straight.
  14. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    This cold SUCKS!!! I had to waste my day off/band practice day, took a day off work, and generally wasn't doing well. I did go to work today, though I'm still sick, but not contagious.

    Well, good thing I did, because the covers showed up today!!!!


    They came with the nifty spacers that kindly hold the pole pieces, keeping the pickup centered in the oversized covers.


    They don't sit flush...


    But that part stays inside the bass, so I don't mind.


    They fit great!
    I drilled some pilot holes for the screws and installed the pickups into the cavities.


    I wired up the pan pot and grounds, then roughly threw on some strings, so I could make sure it was working before I got much further.



    It made noise! The good kind, so that was all I needed to get me going. Of course, I get all ramped up and forget to take progress shots. But in essence, I put the pickguard on, adjusted the saddles, neck, intonation, tuned it up and...







    I'm totally digging it! The oversized covers give it a sort of "LEJ knockoff" vibe. But they aren't distractingly large that you feel weird playing it. And actually, as a usual 5 string guy, they feel fantastic.

    The tone? Oh my! WAAAAAAAAAAY more oomph. Now I'm going to reserve full judgement for when I try it through a real amp with a band and the strings break in a little, but I can tell you this: It sounds so much nicer than stock.
    (As it should, for what equates to over $500 in upgrades, not counting labor costs :D)


    I just have to see what I want to do next...
  15. marko138


    May 24, 2013
    Perry County PA
    Man that looks great with the pups in it.
  16. Great job!! Would love to hear it. Audio clips please!!
  17. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Very nice results! Thanks for the details and pictorial.
  18. Looks great!
    Couple of questions though. What did you use to drill the wire between your battery box and the preamp channel? Also, did you put anything between the resistors of the preamp and your pickguard or is it held down somehow? I looks like they may hit the pickguard and cause issues over time as it bounces around in there.
  19. aRandomAggie


    Apr 5, 2011
    That looks great! I like how the pickup covers without the exposed pole pieces look like a continuation of the block inlays. Now I'm really gassing for a bass with big splits...
  20. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I put some foam around the preamp to keep it from bouncing around. I wouldn't mind finding something more elegant, but it works for now.
    I'll try and shoot a video, or get my interface back and record something...