Rookie build - advice welcomed!

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by MrBohjangles, Mar 24, 2020.

  1. Been lurking on TB for a number of years and decided to jump in. Big thanks to many folks for the opinions, guidance and sarcasm I've read on here. Almost always my first stop when looking for bass related info. Hope I can give something back at some point.

    So as I'm cooped up here at home due to the pandemic, I've decided to revamp an old Ibanez GAXB150 I bought at Goodwill for $40. Pickup is dead and needs some fretwork, but generally in good shape. I slapped a jazz bridge coil into it that I had on hand to give it a go. I actually like the feel of it and it sounded pretty good to be honest. So I decided to hot rod this thing. So the goal is to build something fun and decent on a budget. I'll be doing all the work. It's going to passive with 3 pups with multiple switching options. I'm going to bathtub rout the pu area so I'll be able to move stuff around as needed. I'll make a pick guard later when I'm happy with it.

    Initial stab at wiring is in the enclosed pic. If you are bored at home and want to pass a few minutes, please take a look. I've never done this before, so feel free to tell me things make no sense or any ideas for tweaks. All is appreciated. Full disclosure, I'm an engineer by trade so if it looks overly complicated... guilty as charged. I can solder and do the work, its the finer points of design/implications I'm not as familiar with. Big thanks to Ken Baker at whom I managed to plagiarize the switching ideas from. Everyone stay well!

    Attached Files:

  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Ummmm - yeah, wow, that's complicated!

    I understand the thrill of doing those sort of "Swiss Army knife" wirings; I was there myself years ago. These days I prefer something a lot simpler though.

    Every time somebody posts about a three-pickup bass, I feel compelled to share my personal favorite wiring - Master volume, (optional) master tone, and a Freeway Switch. Super simple, compact, and intuitive.

  3. Thanks for taking a look CT. I will investigate the FS further - I am not familiar with them at all. My initial plans for the humbuckers was a 5-way switch that followed the Musicman wiring for one of their HH's where you could select all the split-coil combinations. Problem was I then couldn't figure out how to go serial/parallel and use that 5-way switch. That's when I came across the BassesByLeo website and found the wiring diagram for some of the old passive G&L basses. They had the switch configuration I copied. Thanks again for taking the time and the suggestion.
  4. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Yep, that’s kinda my point. Coil splitting options are fun, but not always useful. For instance, the first time I wired a P pickup to a series/parallel switch, my initial impression was “Oh, that’s disappointing”. Never bothered with it again.
  5. Totally agree with what you are saying CT. I might very well get to the end of this and be totally unimpressed. But I like the challenge of designing and doing the work and learning new stuff, so I wouldn't consider it a failure. I can always try something else if I don't like it. I do appreciate your input though. Always good to get perspective from those who have done it before. And apologies for the delay in responding. Still learning the ins and outs of using this forum too I guess.
    ctmullins likes this.
  6. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    You are right of course - if the itch is there, you should scratch it! That’s the only way to know if it will work for you. Otherwise you’ll always wonder, right? :thumbsup:
  7. Step 0: Before Anything
    I'm going to post progress reports along the way in case anyone is really bored and stumbles across this thread. I neglected to take before photos, but this is a stock photo. Mine looks exactly like this. It was an entry level Ibanez 32" scale, single pickup, one volume and one three position tone toggle. Can't speak to original sound because my pu was dead, but I find it a really easy player. Hence the decision to hot rod it.
  8. Step 1: Breakdown and Prep
    Took it totally apart. Keeping the bridge and tuning machines. They aren't top of the line, but they are perfectly functional. Only real issue I noticed was that the fret ends were poorly done and a bit sharp. So I leveled the neck and checked the frets. Everything is level and in good shape thankfully. So I filed the fret ends smooth, cleaned and oiled the fretboard, and removed the Ibanez logo. Very pleased with results, especially since it was my first time doing this. Going to attempt to keep the red finish. It actually is in good shape and looks nice.

    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  9. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Not relevant, but that reminds me of an old Lotus bolt-neck Les Paul copy I had many many moons ago. The color mostly, and the general body shape. Occasionally my nostalgia flares up and I make a half-hearted attempt to find another.
  10. Cool. I’ve got one of those that I got for the 32” scale. Modified he neck and put it on another body. I like it. It has the usual Ibanez tuneritis but everything else is fine.
  11. I'm with you Matt. It's all personal taste of course, but I really liked the feel of the neck and the 32" scale. I'm not as familiar with the reputation of tuneritis with Ibanez. My Ibby SRA500 is the one bass I have that I almost never have to tune or adjust. We'll see if I am as lucky with this one.
  12. Step 2: Templates
    No great progress since last update. Am deviating slightly from my original plan of a bathtub rout for the pickups. I'll take my best stab at a spot for the humbuckers. If it doesn't work out, I can always revert to the tub approach. So obviously I needed a template for them. I'll say up front, don't be shy about buying a template if it works for you. At less than $20, its worth every penny unless you are familiar with the techniques to make one and have the tools. I, on the other hand, am simply a jackass who needs to find ways to spend his COVID stay at home time. I'll spare the long story and just say that after 4 attempts, and half a day at making a template of different materials, I finally made one that was marginally ok. The previous 3 were varying levels of disaster. It's made from 3/8" plywood and would have worked I guess. But it was far from great.


    So I came across an idea on YouTube to build a template around the pu rather than cut one from a single piece of material. So I took a stab at it, and all I can say is why didn't I try this first? Only took 12" scrap of 1x3, a table saw, some wood glue, some clamps, and a couple hours. I had to order a router bit, so I haven't tried it yet. But the square corners shouldn't be an issue I don't think. We'll see.


    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  13. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Good job! May have to try that myself. I usually do soapbars, so my templates are easy, but I think I’m doing double reverse P this time, and I need a template....

    The corners are not a problem, since your router bit is (hopefully??) round. :cool::thumbsup:
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  14. The router bit is round so it is going to cut a round “ear” in those square spots. The size of the round “ear” will depend on the size of the router bit. I think you’re ok if you ordered the typical 1/2” pattern follower bit but definitely try on a test board first. You might have to do most of it with Forstner bits to hog out the route, clean up to the pattern with the 1/2” bit and then do the corners and mounting ears with a 1/4” bit. It’s been a while since I’ve routed for that style of pickup so I don’t remember.

    By “tuneritis” I meant that the sealed tuners like that on Ibanez basses are the only bass tuners I’ve ever had break. The stock ones on that neck, one other that I had and a “house bass” at a church we used to go to. Search Ibanez tuners or tuning keys in hardware, setup and repair and you’ll find a couple of threads about it.
  15. Thanks guys for the feedback and advice. I can assure you there will be much practice on scrap wood before I attempt anything on the bass. I did also buy a Forstner bit to do exactly what you are describing Matt. Once the router bit arrives I'll give things a go. Also thanks for the insight on the tuners. I'll probably stick with the stock ones for now. They would be easy to replace down the road if needed.
  16. Keep us posted. If you like, start a thread in the Luthiers Corner. Lots of helpful, experienced builders there who will happily encourage you to go deeper into this building thing! A few pickup routs and wiring mods are the gateway!

    That’s what I typically do on those tuners. Run it till it breaks. I just have a backup in case. Although when that church bass tuner broke I had to finish a practice with no D string. It was “interesting.”
  17. Step 2: Electronics Layout
    Decided to finalize the layout for control cavity and drill some holes. I traced the outline of the cavity with pencil and paper and then scanned it so I could lay things out different ways on paper and see what worked. A good idea, but in the end I needed to physically lay it out and see it. You can see in the pic below the "final" design on the paper and the physical arrangement decided upon aren't the same.


    So I measured it all out, marked the top and headed for the drill press. I drilled from the top into the cavity for a cleaner cut. But not being a pro at this, we had a slight oh-s#!t moment. One of the switch holes ended up in the wrong spot in 2 dimensions. So I plugged it with some dowel and wood glue and will re-drill it. The mistake will be covered by the washer around the switch post in the end.

    Ah, much better... It may not look like it in the pics, but the misalignment was very noticeable to the eye and would have caused me grief every time I saw it.


    So while I had the drill press working, I created a soldering jig for the electronics out of some scrap. This way I can solder everything but the pickups and jack more easily.

    johndb and Matt Liebenau like this.
  18. Step 4: Routing PU Cavities
    So this is actually step 4 even though the last is named step 2 - last one was wrong and I guess editing at post after an hour is verboten from what I could gather. Anyway, time to start cutting into the body. As a newbie to routers, was a bit nervous. But all in all, not too bad. Final layout is a tub rout for the P with a customized rout for the two HB's on the top and bottom of the tub. The P is going in a different spot than the original cavity and didn't fit anyway. The bridge HB cavity lined up exactly with the edge of the original rout. So I figured I might as well just clear everything out between the two HB's. Gives me some options and I was going to need to make a pickguard no matter what.

    Started with the center cavity and then did the two HB cavities. Bridge HB is positioned same as MM HH (I think Bongo, but not sure). P will be in the standard Fender P position. Neck HB is same distance from P as bridge HB for no good reason other than why not. Started by hogging out as much material as possible with a drill press. The body is some sort of finger-joined wood. Strangest smelling stuff when drilling or routing. It's Chinese, so I probably don't want to know why - probably Soylent Green or something. I only have a 1/2" Forstner bit. For other beginner's reading this, a larger one might have been nice. But it worked.


    I won't bore you with pics of every little step as fascinating as they would be. But I used pieces of 1x3 as a "template" to rout the main tub section and the template above for the HB's. No sticky tape involved. I used painters tape and super glue. If you aren't familiar with this approach, it's fantastically easy. You can find plenty of info on the interwebs. May be the the most useful thing I learn on this project. I only have 2 router template bits: a 3/8"dia-1/4"depth and a 1/2"dia-1"depth. If by chance a fellow beginner reads this, a little better planning regarding template height and desired cut depth would have saved me some time. I had to use both bits to do what I did. Something in the middle and I probably could have gotten by with one bit and less passes. Still had to chisel the corners, but once again it all worked.


    Next step will be getting the electronics wired and installed.
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  19. Step 5: Pickups and Electronics
    So, long gap since the last post. Not because I wasn't working on it, but because this step was a huge pain in the butt. Thankfully I am posting summaries of the steps I went through. If this was a live stream you would have seen the rookie learning the errors of some of his choices. I neglected to take photos, but I did as much wiring as possible using the template shown above. All well and good there. But once I dropped everything in the cavity and had a bowl of spaghetti to wire in tight spaces, things went full goat rodeo. Any fellow rookies reading this, make sure you buy some nice push-back wire if you do something like this. It makes all the difference and its not expensive. Luckily I had, but a lot of the issues I had were with the pickup wires. It won't win any awards, but it all there and hooked up. You'll notice I shielded everything with aluminum foil and decided to install a grounding lug. Just seemed like too much to try and solder on the pot.


    Bigger pick of back, but nothing much new to see.


    Finally the top with all the gizmos installed. Next step will be put the bridge, neck and some strings on it and see if it makes noise... hopefully good noises because I hope not to replace any pots :). Layered the bottom of the cavity with aluminum foil that is grounded to the control cavity. Don't know if it will make a big difference, but couldn't hurt.


    Until next time...
    Chris76 and Matt Liebenau like this.
  20. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    You don't need a bridge or neck to test the electronics. Plug it in just as it is, with the amp on a lower volume setting, and gently tap a screwdriver blade against the polepieces of each pickup. Work the knobs and switches while you do this to hear/confirm they're doing what they're supposed to.
    Al Nichols likes this.
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