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Refurbishing and upgrading my first bass!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by CarbonTom, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Hello everyone. This is my first post in the luthier forum. I have been lurking for quite a while. My name is Tom and I usually build partial composite longboard skateboards. I have been a bassist for almost 14 years, and have been wanting to get into building, so I figured this would be a good project to break ground with.

    My first bass was a Squier II P bass, something that I thought was pretty crappy when I was 10. So when I got my Spector, I decided to decorate it (horribly). I wanted to do something like Flea's stickered up modulus. Not so shortly after I fell in love with Jaco's playing, and decided I really wanted to have a fretless. So I grabbed a set of pliers and ripped all the frets out of the bass (very surprisingly clean for such a barbaric method.). Well fast forward 13 or so years, I have a full workshop and spray booth for my skateboards, I figured I would fix this bass up again.

    Since I have access to an abundance of carbon fiber I am thinking about wrapping the neck in carbon, or maybe just the fingerboard.

    Before doing this, should I have the truss rod set up a certain way? Completely flat? or relieved to how I want it to be when I play it? Since I plan on doing only a single lamination, it shouldn't offer too much resistance to not be able to adjust it down the road I assume.

    I have the hunch that the carbon fingerboard would give some interesting fretless tone, probably pretty punchy.

    I also plan to sand everything down and paint her up nice again (maybe red micra to match my car?).

    Anyways, nice to meet you all, I look forward to input and criticism.

    And now the starting pics:




    Beginning of sticker removal

    When my strap lock fell off, I did a quick fix with a poopon of duct tape, which, while heinous, proved to be effective.


    The full mat of tape removed.


    Looking a bit cleaner.

    End of the neck with some sort of makers mark? No idea what it means. Anyone know?



    I will post more progress pics as progress is made!
  2. I'm looking forward to seeing how your project turns out! Coincidentally, I just started a refurb project on my first bass last night, an old Ibanez GSR200. I wish I'd thought to take pictures and chronicle the process.
  3. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Thanks man, good luck with yours as well. Anything special planned to add on to it?
  4. Sounds rather cool! Subscribed!
  5. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Good evening! Update time.

    Tonight, I sanded down the body down to bare wood. This wood was as I had anticipated, pretty meh, and paper thin. You will notice that I burned through it in a couple places. I also Carved a silly groove to make my hand more comfortable, seemed like a good idea, but who knows, it will probably do nothing.

    The iffy wood situation has lead me to a new dilemma, one which I would absolutely love suggestions on. What to do with the body?

    I have a spray booth so I could paint it, or I could wrap the body in carbon fiber. Or finally, I could laminate a pretty veneer on top of it. Although I am slightly leaning towards the latter, I am unsure as to how it would look with the carbon neck, especially if I did a crazy burl of sorts. I am also thinking about hitting the neck with an extra fine scotch bright pad to make it matte, this should keep it extra fast!

    On to the composite menu!!

    Here is what I currently have to work with:

    0,90 Plain weave carbon. Small checkerboard style, pretty run of the mill, but can look pretty sharp.


    Twill weave carbon, a bit slicker looking. The stuff I usually use on the bottom of my race skateboards. You will find this type of carbon brilliantly displayed on hypercars such as the Pagani Zonda F.


    Texallium. This is essentially aluminum (Aluminium) dusted fiberglass. This stuff is brilliantly shiny and silver. Unfinished, it is very hard to capture a good picture of:


    And finally, a gem that I have been clinging on to. A custom multicolor kevlar/carbon fiber hybrid twill. This fabric was a sample woven for me by my good friends at TEAM INC. This is a special fabric that is not in production, and they were kind enough to give me some to play around with. It is SO SO cool.


    So what do you guys think? I am thinking about doing a composite fingerboard, pickguard and back of the neck (the two laminations on the neck would be done sepparately, so they could be different fabrics.

    Lastly. On to the actual progress pictures!!!!

    The primer took FOREVER to get through.


    Wood isn't that pretty.


    Same goes for the back, note the burn through in the dead f%&$ing center becuase I started by trying to sand out a chip.

    More burn through


    She's looking nice and clean!! After about 2 hrs of sanding


    Close up of the stupid "carve-away" I tried to make. I doubt it will make it much more comfortable...



    The back is nice and clean now. So many burn throughs. I also made the tummy cut a bit deeper and more sculpted instead of straight with lots of edges.


    I sanded the neck nice and smooth for filling.


    Jaco allegedly used a butter knife...I used pliers when I was 10. Surprisingly clean pulls in most places.


    I used marine epoxy and west system 407 fairing compound to fill the fret slots and chips (something I should have done 10 yrs ago). (Shameless self plug) I used TotalBoat Epoxy, which is the epoxy the company I work for developed last year. It works great, in my experience, out performs west system and system three and is much more affordable.



    Slots filled, and I spread it all out over the fret board. I plan to sand everything down smooth and nice before I put fabric over it. This will give me a nice, smooth surface that will let me do a nice hot coat of epoxy over to have a glassy, growly fingerboard.

    Thats it for tonight folks. I would love to hear input on my methods, and opinions of how I should use these fabrics! I cant make up my mind!
  6. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Oh yeah, I also used the thickened epoxy to fill the strap lock hole. No more duct tape for this guy!

  7. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    Quite honestly I like the way the grain looks. I just stripped and refinished my first bass, a squier P, a few weeks ago now. First time I did something like this, it was a blast! You'll notice my grain looks totally different than yours:
  8. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Wow yours came out great! Very true, totally different veneers. Interesting that yours is seemingly solid body too instead of laminated. I guess I underestimate how much the pickguard covers too.. Also I love that sticker on yours.
  9. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL

    Thank you, I'm very happy with it too. Someone days it's probably two or three piece body with a veneer on top and bottom. And yes, I kept forgetting how much the pg would cover as well. It looked awesome when I smashed it on. The flat black really set the natural tone off. The sticker can be ordered through darkglass. They're really nice stickers too, thick top quality. I believe you can get three for $5.
  10. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Looks fun and interesting! Sub'd!
  11. My kind of thread! Very cool and Sub'd as well.
  12. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Very sloppy and quick rendering of the options, Im horrible with photoshop. The body wouldnt be white, but you get the idea.



  13. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    I personally like the way the last two look the most.
  14. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Update time!

    Tonight I made a bunch of progress. Lots of trial and error.

    First I had to figure out what I wanted to use and the location to put it.


    Made the jump for the Harlequin kevlar fingerboard. And I will be doing a twill carbon pickguard and matching headstock!



    Since I want to do a carbon pickguard, I decided to try and make one out of wood, that would look better, as well as laminate properly, since epoxy usually does not bond well to plastic. I decided to make one out of a broken ply for my longboards, 1/16" so it wasn't too far off from orig pickguards thickness.


    And well.. it ended up being very hard to work with. I know I should have laminated the piece of wood with the carbon before trying to cut it out, but I wanted to be able to shape it easier without the worry of scuffing up the carbon.


    Got everything nice and sanded. I used foam earplugs to fill the tuning holes as well as fill the truss rod bit since they expand and will come out easily.

    Time for composites!
    20131029_201809. 20131029_201745.
    I scuffed up my pickguard and did a test epoxy spot to see if it would adhere, since that would make things much much easier.


    And finally I decided to try out a black burst on the body. Which I think came out pretty good. Except for those F&%^ing splotches where I filled holes with epoxy. I wish I had decided to stain before I filled last night. Oh well. If everything looks crappy when it all comes together, I will probably just paint it.



    Cut out looks pretty good with the laminates.

    Next step: sanding! Lots and lots of sanding before the neck gets clear coated. I'm still deciding if I want to Awl grip it, which will be a super hard, perfectly clear finish, or just plan nitro lacquer. Then, depending on how the pickguard test goes, I will figure out how to get the pickguard made. Lastly I am thinking about carbon or texallium faces for the pickups!
  15. Wow.
    This is gonna be one sweet bass!
  16. ddhm


    Mar 18, 2011
    Memphis Tn USA

    Got ahead of myself lol. I can't wait to see how this thing shapes up.
  17. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Looking good. Keep us posted!
  18. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Thanks guys! I wont be doing too much today, but I hope to get the pickguard situation figured out on my lunch break today (The perks of having a workshop in the spare warehouse at my work!). Then I can also trim down the fabric and see how it all looks.
  19. Not yet, still working on sanding down the body (about half done), which leaves plenty of time to decide how to paint it. The biggest upgrade will probably be new pots and cleaned up wiring.

    That carbon fiber look is slick, keep up the good work!
  20. CarbonTom


    Aug 23, 2013
    Success! The headstock and neck look pretty awesome. Although the kevlar is a total b!tch to cut. Im getting frayed ends, I am hoping I can either sand them off (unlikely) Or try and pull them down into the clear coat.




    Gotta clean this up a bit.. the kevlar pulled away from the nut while I was spreading. I tried to cover up the naked spot with some carbon strands but it looks like crap. I will have to figure up another cover up method. Also very rough cut out for the truss rod, plenty of cleaning up to do.

    Also the epoxy test was a success!! I will be able to put epoxy over the current pickguard and carbon it! Super pumped about this.

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