Unveiling ~ Part Two: Projekt Blue II

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Malak the Mad, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    Greetings once again and welcome to the second half of my "not new enough for an 'NBD-post' so I'm calling it an 'unveiling'"! Like my previous post, it'll be pics first, reporting second and then story-time.

    Oh, and for anyone who wants to remind me that it's spelled "P-R-O-J-E-C-T", I've intentionally named it so as a reference to two different literary sources.

    What I'm unveiling today is the culmination of many months of researching, tracking down, purchasing and assembling various parts into a bass I am quite proud of. But first, pics;






    Here's a list of the parts I've assembled and what I've subjected some of them to. Updated parts are in BOLD-type;
    • Mighty Mite BlueBurst Jazz body. I had it routed into a P/J configuration using as a guide a…
    • Fender Blacktop Jazz pickguard (+black screws). Originally, it was black/white/black. That blue/purple scarab effect along the edge comes from a trick I developed using a simple Sharpie permanent marker, same as I did to my Blacktop Jazz bass.
    • Black Allparts Control Plate (+Fender Jazz Knobs).
    • Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar neck (love the painted headstock+rosewood+blocks!). Fender Aerodyne neck (one of my favorites!).
    • Fender "F-Style" neck plate.
    • Seymour Duncan SPB-3 Quarter Pounder pickup. MIJ Precision pickup.
    • Fender Super 55's Split-Coil Jazz pickup.
    • Stellartone Tonestyler Bass TEN Replaced the whole harness with an Elek-Trix circuit (see below)
    • Black Hipshot aluminum bridge and Ultralite tuners. Fender American Standard Bridge
    • Hipshot Drop-D tuner. (BT10 for Fender Japan necks)
    • Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings (45 to 100). Ernie Ball Cobalt FLATWOUNDS (.45-.100)
    • Black Planet Waves Elliptical End Pin strap buttons.
    • Black vintage style string retainer.

    Once I had all the parts, I assembled what I could on my own. Then I handed it off to the tech at my local Guitar Center who did the routing, wiring and installed the last of the pieces I didn't trust myself to get right. As always, he did a great job!

    Speaking of electronics, I love P/J configurations, but what makes this stand apart from the others I own is the wiring. I decided I wanted to try out a Volume/Blend/Tone(styler) config. So far, it, along with my choice of pickups and strings, have yielded some interesting results. But in the long run, I got what I wanted; a sound that's "beefy" with the extra "bite" from the extra bridge pickup. As an extra, unforeseen bonus, the whole package weighs in at exactly eight pounds.

    Projekt Blue I
    My first attempt at a parts-bass was using a Mighty Mite Precision body (also in BlueBurst) with the neck harvested from a Squier Deluxe Jazz IV Active. The Quarter Pounders and Tonestyler were also part of the project. Unfortunately, I didn't care much for the sound nor the too-flat neck radius. To put it simply, it was too monochromatic for my tastes. So, I disassembled it, sold off what I didn't need and used the money towards the next project.

    That's all for now. I'll report more as I get more and more familiarized with this creation o' mine. :bassist:
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2015
  2. Kick Ass! Details on the sharpie mod?
  3. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    It's pretty easy, but it does take a little care and patience. Not the "lay down a layer and wait a week" kind of patience, but it still takes a few hours.

    A pickguard that still has it's protective sticker is ideal. Otherwise, you'll have to work very carefully. A "Fine Point" marker is preferable over an "Ultra Fine" point. I've never used anything bigger than a "Fine", so I don't know how well you could control the amount of ink hitting the edge and the front face. One other thing, this technique assumes you're using a black/white/black pickguard.
    • Remove the pickguard. (I know…"DUH", but it's still important)
    • Grip the guard through the pickup slots so you don't get ink all over your fingers and end up smudging it all over the front face.
    • Trace the angled edge of the marker point around the beveled edge of the guard. Make sure the white portion is completely covered, but don't over-saturate it. One layer is just fine.
    • Let dry for an hour or so. Make sure you rest it on something clean and dry, like a sheet of white paper. (You don't want to get stray ink on anything)
    • Take a paper towel and fold it up until you have a burnishing surface. Hold the guard down flat onto a hard surface with the white paper under it and start rubbing/burnishing the beveled edge. This is to remove excess ink that hasn't bonded with the guard. The paper underneath is to keep smudges off your work surface.
    • Apply a second coat, wait another hour and burnish again. Make sure the coat is even and doesn't look runny.
    • If you like the color you've achieved and it's consistency, you're done.
    • The Blacktop Jazz took two coats, but the blue guard took three to get that blue-to-purple scarab-effect. The cool thing about it is that, like a scarab it shifts depending on the angle and intensity of the light hitting it.
    One very important point; stray ink may come off if you rub a polishing cloth over the coloring-job. Not a lot, if you burnished enough off, but just be careful when polishing around it. I noticed some red streaking on my polishing cloth when I was cleaning off my Blacktop Jazz. Not too much, but just a little. Also, I don't know how it'll react if it gets wet, so be careful, especially if you tend to sweat all over your bass.

    I haven't had a chance to work on something to seal it up. I'm thinking of using some spray-on glossy clear coat, like the kind artists use to protect their paintings. But that would probably only work if the guard still has it's protective plastic film. I don't know what would happen if I used a brush-on coating. It's solvents might cause the ink start to run. But I'll be sure to let people know if I find a technique to pull it off.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2015
    Dark Horse and Rapisme like this.
  4. Nice looking bass!

    Were the Ultralites a good fit, other than drilling the new holes? I assume they're the 1/2" model?
  5. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    They were half-inch pegs (HB6-1/2C's, I believe) and are a pretty decent fit. On the previous project, the gold "Y-shaped" Ultralites had some a bit of play in the peg-holes, so I cut up pieces of a business card, made them into little tubular shims to take up the extra space. The fit on these were fairly snug so I forgot to install them. However, I might slip them in anyway…not just to take up the extra space, but as a little bit of post-theft identification, should such an unlikely event ever occur. I mean, who's gonna think to open up the peg-holes to see if a piece of my business card is inside?
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2015
  6. saintborn


    Mar 29, 2014
    What a beautiful bass!!
    Donavan12 likes this.
  7. Gorgeous looking bass, well-executed project.

    Re-ignites the fire in me to get on with my own project(s). Thanks.

    MarkoYYZ likes this.
  8. MTM, nice looking bass. It looks like a Fender Custom Shop release!:)
  9. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    Wow! That's high praise indeed!

    Thanks for all the feedback, Guys and (I'm presuming) Gals!

    Heir; It's funny you mentioned the Custom Shop. When Fender announced their "American Design Experience", I jokingly brought up the idea of a "Squier Custom Shop". Basically, imagine being able to create unique, but still affordable, customized Squier basses without the hassle of buying several to cannibalize for parts. It would also spare one the agony of scouring the internet for "that last damned piece!"
    madjazzbass likes this.
  10. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    I just performed some electronic mods yesterday. Ultimately, I wasn't very thrilled with the Volume/Blend/Tone configuration. To be honest, I originally did it for two reasons; I was curious about this setup AND I wanted to put the Stellartone Tonestyler (configured for only one pickup or a V/B/T config) I'd purchased for "Projekt Blue I" to some use. So, I brought it back to my guitar tech of choice) and had him re-configure it. (By the way, Mad Love for Mike B. at Guitar Center-Wilmington! :thumbsup:)

    After much trial-and-error and experimenting, it seems I prefer my P/Js in a V/V/T suite with the neck pickup running at 100% with the bridge at somewhere between 60% to 90%, depending on the bass (I have three now). But, never let it be said that my spirit of experimentation has been dampened. I decided to try something different that I had planned for another project I'd abandoned. Specifically, I wanted to see how a TBX circuit, like the one in the Duff McKagan sig bass, would sound.

    I (or Mike, actually) swapped out the blend pot for a volume pot and replaced the Tonestyler with a TBX pot. To be a little more specific, and in deference to the nuts-and-bolts electronics junkies, I used the included .022 capacitor and a Paper-In-Oil .047 cap in lieu of the included .1 cap. It was explained to me that the .047 would be more suitable for a bass' output frequencies. So far, I'm liking what I hear. I'll report back when I've had more time to give it a proper shakedown.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
  11. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    Well, the TBX circuit turned out to be merely "Okay". Not bad by any stretch, and maybe I'm just getting a little picky, but I feel I should be hearing something more out of it…like it's missing a little bit of "the magic" or something.

    To that effect, I recently started this thread in the Pickups & Electronics board, but I wanted to reach a wider audience and get more opinions, suggestions, options and real-life scenarios. Please feel free to weigh in on this topic, but do take note of the caveats mentioned within.


    Many thanks for all your help!
  12. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    I'm late!
    I'm late!
    For a very important update!

    I've made three important changes to my current build. In order…

    1. Wiring Harness
    Ultimately, I went with an Elek-Trix Series/Parallel Jazz wiring harness. It's solder-less circuit board is very convenient for someone who hasn't wielded on since high school. Also, you can vary the capacitance by messing around with the dip-pin switches. It really does work. I tried out all the different settings and there's a noticeable change with each configuration. Mine's currently set at the .047 level. However, despite the improvement in the tone-control I now had, it didn't quite completely tame the "harshness" of the overall sound. So, in keeping with a lesson I learned a couple years ago, I decided to also change…

    II. Strings
    Even with my love of an aggressive and bright tone, it appeared the Ernie Ball Cobalts were a little too harsh. Having just signed up for Guitar Center's String Club (yay, free offer!) and using it to grab a set of DR Marcus Miller sigs (105's…a little thicker than I prefer), I thought "What the Hell, why not?". Quite an improvement, I must say. The tone became much more mellow without sacrificing the "bite". And the strings, despite the higher gauge, still had enough flex for me not to dump them. But there was still something "NOT RIGHT" about the sound, so I made one last change…

    III. The Neck Pickup
    I finally had to face the fact that, despite all the little tweaks I've made over the year, the Duncan Quarter Pounder was probably the source of the problem. So after some further research, I spotted a pair of MIJ Precision pickups being sold by fellow TB'er DaveDeVille. (Thanks again, Dave!) One quick and easy purchase, a little shipping-time and a quick install later…BAM! Amazing sound! :hyper:

    So I finally got that balance of "mellow/aggressive" and "smooth/bite-y" I've been looking for. Later, I may put the Cobalts back on to see how they sound on this configuration, but for now, I'm very happy with the overall result. Suffice it to say, if this last measure didn't work, there's be a part-out sale going down in the Classifieds right about now. :blackeye:

    Thanks for all the feedback, Y'all! This long-and-bumpy-road wouldn't have been possible without all your input and encouragement. But don't let that stop you from adding more. I may yet decide to monkey around with it again, but this time it'll be out of curiosity, not dissatisfaction.

    Peace! :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  13. JIO

    JIO Be seeing you. Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Cool-mo-dee! I like your perseverance in the process. Getting what you want always starts with knowing what you want. You may not know exactly what until you arrive there, but also knowing what you don't want helps narrow things down. Did I just state the obvious? :rolleyes:

    I would definitely seal the pg edges. Markers are only ink, indelible yes but not permanent regardless of what they claim. It will eventually rub off over time. The easiest (but still needs a steady hand) is brushing on cyandacrylate/super-glue. Testing first on the back after scraping the shiny surface so it's raw like the edges. Crazy Glue sells a version w/a brush applicator. One pass is more than enough. Work quickly keeping the edge active and start at the neck-pocket so there's no overlap on dried glue. (not that it would matter much anyway if you keep the flow thin. Super glue is like duct-tape, it's multi-useful working on guitars.

    I have a Tone-styler pot on a fretless P/J bass (V/T only) and the nuanced clicks make for a nice variety of tone-dialing. May need to check the Elek-Trix harness out - sounds interesting.

    Oh, and that Squier blue-J, it was a $75 craigslist find. I put some money into it (nicer tuners, TBX tone pot, threaded bridge saddles, new strings and knobs) and set-up/lowered action and it's basic/nothing special but playable. It stays in Portland when visiting family.

    and lastly … 8lbs! nice!
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2014
  14. Ender_rpm


    Apr 18, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    Purdy, and thanks for the pointer to the wiring harness place.
  15. MarkoYYZ

    MarkoYYZ Commercial User

    Jan 31, 2012
    Hammersmith Music
    Beautiful work Malak. Reminds me of a fotoflame J that I put together using the same neck and blackout effect with the PG amd hardware.

    Interesting that you prefer the MIJ pup to the QP... probably since your first bass was an Aerodyne and that sound feels like home for you.

    I could put the QP to use if you want to work out a trade of some kind.
  16. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    I've thought about sealing it. The big question is "which specific brand/style should I get?". Some cyanoacrylates go on clear while others leave a white film behind. Are you certain it's "Crazy Glue" brand with the brush applicator?

    This whole experience has me wondering how it would sound if I'd kept the Tonestyler and the V/B/T configuration. Ain't gonna find out anytime soon though, but at least I'm happy with the Elek-Trix harness.

    I just showed it to my aforementioned guitar tech and even he was impressed with the design. He's a nice guy, but he doesn't impress easily.

    So you have a "Home Base Bass" at your "Home Away From Home"? (I know…that's awful :thumbsdown:)

    Eight pounds on the nosey! Those Mighty Mite bodies are light as all Hell, both the current one and it's Precision predecessor. If I ever do another build that's not from a pre-existing body, I might get a trans-black Jazz and mate it with an Aerodyne neck. I'm even thinking of having it routed for a pair of MusicMan pickups…because reasons! :angel:

    Gladly! I'm very impressed with it's versatility and ease-of-installation. Tell Larry Brian recommended it. (I still need to write him a nice review on his website. Shame on me!)

    I was thinking much the same thing. It definitely informed my purchasing decision. That, and the price was plenty right.

    Sadly, the QP's are already sold, gone and installed elsewhere. But thanks for the generous offer.
  17. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    So, True Believers, stay tuned for my next Crime Against Bass-hood!

    I'm thinking of doing a similar P/J conversion to my travel/beater bass…a Squier Standard Jazz. I have a Blacktop bridge, pickguard, pickup set and wiring harness, along with a Classic Vibe Jazz neck pickup* waiting in the wings to have "something" done with them. But the big question is "Do I install a 3-way switch this time 'round?". I'd have to get a Reggie Hamilton control plate or something similar with a pre-drilled hole for the switch.

    Thanks again for all the feedback, praise, critiques and suggestions! Y'all rock!!

    *Squier Standard J's routes are identical and neck-sized…a problem I've encountered many times. Am I right, JIO? ;)
  18. JIO

    JIO Be seeing you. Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    this one is a bit frayed - usually straight bristles - and clear (Krazy w/a K)

    Last edited: Sep 13, 2014
  19. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    Much to my regret, I find I must put this creation of mine "up on the block". Just as long as I fall back on my old (very old!) art school training and mentally prepare myself to sell one of my pieces of work, I'm good.

    However, this doesn't mean I have no more ideas to act upon. Once I get back onto more stable economic terms, I'll likely buy another blueburst Mighty Mite body to tinker with. I'm thinking maybe another split-coil/noiseless Jazz pickup in the neck position and a MusicMan style pup near the bridge. Now I just need to figure out how far up from the bridge it has go to land in that MusicMan "sweet spot". Y'know…where the single pickup MM's place theirs. I guess I'll be off to GC, with tape measure in hand, to harass their guitar tech who helped me assemble this project. :D

    Stay tuned, True Believers, for the rather inevitable sequel, "Projekt Blue III: True Blue!!!", or some other nonsense like that. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: May 30, 2015
    Tbone76 and JIO like this.
  20. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    Well, that bout of madness (and not the fun kind) is done and over with! :facepalm:

    I suppose it was a good thing that it didn't sell. Not only have I made some serious changes, "improvements" even, but I'm even more determined to keep this puppy in the family for the foreseeable future.

    The two, main "improvements" are in regards to the neck and the bridge.

    The bridge is a Fender American Standard bridge…the kind they use on the 2007 and on models. I love the flow of the design and the threaded saddles are very helpful in getting the strings aligned properly over the pickup poles. As far as the chrome goes, I'd talked it out with my muse/artistic-director…you can call her "Malak's Girlfriend"…and we both agreed that it gives the "flow" of the strings a good visual anchor, rather than them "disappearing into black". Also, it sets up two visual flows…the straight lines of the neck and strings running between the bridge and the headstock, and the more curved "swoosh" of the body running independently of the neck.

    Some may like the black Hipshot bridge better, and it too looks quite nice, but I think this will stay for the time being.

    The big, BIG change is the neck. I bought a used Fender Aerodyne with the express purpose of harvesting the neck for my nefarious purposes. So the black, painted headstock like that of the Jaguar neck is still there, but there are no blocks. (I might buy some vinyl ones to see how they look…they were pretty "boss") Maybe because a 'Dyne was my first bass, but I love those necks to pieces…the smooth, thin gloss finish on the back, the curvy fretboard radius, the dark tint on the fretboard…what's not to love?! :cool:

    There are a couple of minor changes along the way as well. Just like on my original 'Dyne, I've also installed a "practically-mandatory-for-me" Hipshot BT10 Drop-D tuner. It's a shame they don't make them with a smoked-chrome finish, but it's such a subtle difference, it's almost unnoticeable.

    I've also used the neck-swap to try out a set of the new Ernie Ball Cobalt flatwound strings. So far, I'm quite impressed! These do not sound like your daddy's flats! While a bit "smoother" in overall sound when compared to the roundwound Cobalts, they have significantly more "bite" and "growl" than the D'Addario Chromes I started off with a few years ago. One other thing I dig about them is the silk ends. They used a purple color that is scarily similar to the blue/purple scarab-effect I achieved with the Sharpie-dye-job on my pickguard. Funny that! :smug:

    I don't have any pics yet, but hopefully the weather will be kind enough in the coming week, so stay tuned and thanks for watching! :snaphappy:
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016

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