Tom Clement Kim with Nordstrand Bigman Pickups

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jharms80439, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. So, a while back I mentioned that Tom Clement and I weren't done. I started tuning in 5ths a while back and couldn't get on with my Clement 6'ers or my Conklin 7 tuned in 5ths. The low F didn't make sense to me and I couldn't get comfy with the high B string.

    I ended up rebuilding my arsenal of basses all oriented towards 5ths tuning and 4 string basses. Sold the 6's & 7's and started buying a few more 4's. Net-net was that I ended up calling Tom Clement to build a fairly unique Jazz style Kim.

    Below are the build picks. Of interest to some of you is that I went with 2 Nordstrand Bigmans. Tom says the output is pretty hot, but sounds devine. Bass should arrive on Monday or Tuesday. Once I have it in hand, I'll post my impressions....

    So below is the build process.

    BTW, this is the style of what I was looking to have Tom build.

    2016-11-02 14.02.16-1.jpg

    2016-11-02 14.01.59.jpg

    In talking with Tom, he had just the wood for me. Burl Maple for the top. Looking at Tom's body woods and knowing that I wanted something in the Ash / Maple arena, I chose Butternut. It's a bit harder than Swamp Ash, but not as hard as Maple. Weight is in between and from what I read, tone is in between too.

    2016-12-04 11.03.14.jpg

    Initially, I wanted a 20 fret fretboard and because Tom mainly builds 24 fret basses, it turned out to be easier and cheaper to build a 24 fret fretboard. Tom tried his best, but something on my end must have been lost in translation - so I ended up building a 24 fret bass.

    Here's the mockup with the 20 fret neck that Tom built and the roughed out body.

    2016-12-14 14.58.23.jpg

    After Tom remeasured everything, the bridge would have been hanging off the ass end of the bass, so the neck had to be a re-do...

    Here's the re-do of the neck.


    I knew that I wanted to have two Nordstrand Bigman pickups and no preamp. For switches, I wanted each switch to be 1) Front Coil, 2) Both Coils Parallel, and 3) Rear Coil. Switches in this manner would give me maximum versatility - a 60's Jazz, a 70's Jazz, and a Precision - all in the same bass. The Nordstrands are Alnico 5 for the bridge for bright punch and Alnico 3 for a warmer neck pickup.

    For those that are interested, below is the wiring instructions from (that I purchased) for the above wiring. Remember, that one Bigman needs to be oriented North and the other South. Be sure to talk with Nordstrand with any questions.


    I really struggled with the controls. Having owned a Roscoe Beck IV, I really loved the switching to go between coils on that bass. Also, Tom and I discussed many pickup positions but ended up with my original thinking and before being routed, below is the mockup.


    More to come!

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
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  2. Here's part two.

    Pretty soon thereafter, the choice was made and there was no turning back!


    Ready for first trial assembly.


    First assembly, but no finish. Tom played the unfinished bass at a gig (and says that he doesn't play many 4 stringers). Strung it initially with GHS Pressurewound strings. Asked a ton of questions after the gig - Tom was a peach and put up with my horses#|%. Can't wait for it to arrive!


    Even more excited when I received the below pics from Tom late last week.

    IMG_0062.jpg IMG_0066.jpg IMG_0060.jpg IMG_0065.jpg

    And the final pic of the bass in the soft case before shipping!
    FullSizeRender 2.jpg

    For those that aren't familiar with Tom Clement check out Tom is such a gentleman and builds some fine dang basses.

    Frankly, from the pics that Tom has already sent, I believe that he did a bang up job mirroring my original intentions of the bass build.

    Once it arrives, I'll post my overall impressions of the bass, switching and the Nordstrand Bigmans.

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  3. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Looks great!!
  4. Such good stuff! Tom was building mine right around the same time... I'm not sure how that man puts up with prima-donna bass players! :) Great looking instrument!!!
  5. Then I was watching your build on Tom's FB page! From your avatar, yours is the 6 string with the Madrone top. Terrific build and that top is to die for - I'm (just a bit) jealous!

    Of course, Tom's recent builds of the Anne and the Spalted Maple Burl are drop dead gorgeous too and I bet they play like butter too.

    Just terrific stuff that Tom does...

    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
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  6. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Thanks all for the compliments. I have awesome customers!!
  7. So, the bass arrived. All I can say is WOW!

    Workmanship is truly to die for. The top/back finish is very smooth and the holes in the burl are well filled. The satin finish is well applied with no drips/runs either. The asymmetrical (Fender Precision neck width) was spec'd at Fender Precision thickness is spot on and is really comfy. Fret work is well polished and has no fret sprout. Dry Colorado Winters may produce some but I'll need to wait until next Winter to confirm.

    While specifying this bass, I wanted a tone that was close to Ash, but was not as bright as Maple. I chose the Butternut that Tom had on hand as I had read that tone was in between Ash and Maple - so it seemed an appropriate choice. Most of my basses wear Rosewood or Ebony finger/fret boards and I've had some of the exotics too - Bubinga Sapwood, Wenge, Purpleheart, Ipe, etc. and for this one I chose Birdseye Maple. It's been a while since I've had a Maple fretboard on a Maple neck (3 piece) and because I wanted to mirror the bass (waaaay up above) it seemed appropriate too. I was REALLY worried that I had mucked up in specifying the woods - really worried that it would be too bright - and coupled with the passive dual Bigmans, I could be going in deep and aggressively. I should have known better - the woods are not only gorgeous, but produce that thick harmonically rich sound that I was hoping for.

    As above, I wanted the pickup switching to be front coil, both coils and rear coil for each pickup. Tom initially wired it as in the Nordstrand schematic as Series, Single, Parallel and changed it at my request once the schematic that I purchased arrived. Also remember this bass is totally passive - which was my preference too.

    Initially I plugged the bass into a Phil Jones Bass - Bass Cub that I keep at my office (one of the perks of being self employed). With tone controls wide open and both pickups all the way up and the switches set to parallel, it was still pretty mid heavy. Slap tone is good, but a bit compressed in the upper mid. Overall bass sound is very detailed and harmonically rich.

    Fortunately for me I needed to run home for a bit in order to deal with the clothes washer repairman. I then had the chance to plug in the bass to my (bigger) at home rig (Fender Bassman 300 pro & MAS 210 Flex). WOW, the tone is quite a bit different than my Bass Cub. Full rich tone all over the place. Tom had mentioned that the levels coming off of the Bigmans was pretty hot. Levels are a bit hotter than my other basses but it is not too hot that it farts out by overdriving the preamp input - and that is when it is set to about the same preamp input levels as my on my other basses.

    So on the bigger rig, here is how it sounds. Before that though, know that I fiddled with it for about an hour, then ran through ~10 songs. The neck is perfect!

    With the neck pickup volume off, the switching on the bridge pickup is exactly what I wanted. Because the bottom plate of the Babicz bridge extends a bit more forward than a standard Fender bridge so the rear coil on the bass is in (really, really close) the '70s position and the front coil is in the 60's position. Tone is as expected bright and punchy and with my switching (not the Nordstrand version) it acts exactly as I wanted it. Slap is full and rich in both individual coil settings, a bit brighter, with more punch and note definition/articulation in the '70s position. '60s position is a tad bit warmer but not by much - and as I had wanted there is a tonal difference when using each of the two coils. As I noticed on my Bass Cub, both coils in parallel is slightly compressed, but overall the Alnico V magnets in the bridge position are really tasty. Fingerstyle (which is mostly what I play) is bright, but not overly so. The GHS Pressure Wound strings that I selected for this bass have a reduced finger noise and a bit less treble - both of which I was hoping for too. With the '70s coil I can get that burpy sound and on the '60s the burp is there but just a bit warmer. Parallel is close to a MM Stingray sound too. Rolling off the tone warms up the sound but it is still very punchy and has a harmonically rich sound. Net-net, the Bigmans are really good.

    Turning the bridge pickup volume off and putting the neck pickup switch in parallel, rolling the tone down and turning up the volume, I was rewarded with solid warm tone - of course the Alnico III magnets help here too. Rolling the tone control up had solid and very aggressive finger style tone. Slap on the neck pickup is big and full (even better when turning up the bridge pickup a bit). I found the best tone is to turn the volume pickup down just a tad (10-15%?) and roll the tone down a bit more (~25%) - set like that the tone is outstanding. The parallel switch setting is worth it. However, I did find that there wasn't much of a difference in tone between the front coil and the rear coil v. the parallel setting. Yes, there is a difference in tone, but not much. Tone control is very wide - full and fat with the tone up, down and everywhere in between.

    With both pickups together, there is just more of all of the above. Bigmans are likely the most aggressive pickup I've ever owned in a bass. But they can be tamed with good tone control. They are full sounding, harmonically rich, articulate and detailed - read that is that good playing really shows, as does poor playing...

    Just before I spec'd the bass with Tom, my wife and I had been watching the new Eric Clapton DVD Slowhand at 70. I noticed how really good Nathan East's tone was (I know I'm a bass nerd...). Anyway, I also noticed that none of my basses (7 of them) really sounded as good as his did. Now, I also know that his sound was mastered and optimized for the DVD, but it was really that good. When I plugged in this bass into my setup, I had that tone that I was looking for. Deep and rich, with just a bit of top end brightness, but not overly so - and the ability to dial down the treble too.

    Finally, I do anticipate that I will change the neck pickup wiring to the Nordstrand schematic of series, single, parallel as I do want a bit more tonal variation with the neck pickup. Sure I could get to the point that I "set it and forget it" with the controls and likely will. But having the tone on tap to really vary the sound is a good thing too and I don't think that changing the wiring to the Nordstrand version for the neck pickup will eliminate the tone that I already have. Once I make the wiring changes, I report back my impressions.

    Be well all and thank you for taking the time to read my rantings. Also, Tom, you're the best - thanks for a terrific bass.

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  8. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
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  9. Glad it arrived safely, it's an awfully pretty instrument. Tom's neck work and profile are on POINT!!! People who've had the privilege of playing my bass, have consistently commented on how comfortable the neck is in their hands. Even for a 6 string. Kudos to you Tom!
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  10. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Thanks for making me smile.
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