Ever since I started playing, I have been dreaming about building my own basses. Although I’m not particularly good with tools – and never was – I still kept dreaming about it! My grandfather was a carpenter and I remember asking him to help me out when I was 15, but his response was that building an instrument was impossible for him, since he didn’t have the tools, templates, and knowledge to do it.
I bought Bass Player Magazine whenever I could find an issue, and I soon learnt about Warmoth, Chandler and AllParts. There used to be postcards included with the magazine that you could fill out and send to the manufacturer, and get a paper copy of their catalog. I remember sending for the Warmoth catalog and receiving it a few weeks later. Having started playing the bass in 1982, this must probably have been around 84/85, I guess. I was already GASing for a 5-string, and I’m pretty sure that a 5-string Warmoth was the object of desire.
I grew fond of the Warmoth Turtle, by the way! I even made a turtle in playdough when my girlfriend insisted we had a Christmas workshop that year (must have been in 1986). I still have it at my parents place! Here is a nice blog post from Warmoth about the origin of the turtle!
Anyway, it was too expensive for me at the time to go through with my dreams, and it was put away on the list of unrealistic dreams. The catalog was read so many times that I’m surprised there was any ink left on the pages!
It must have been almost twenty years later that I put together my first bass. It was built using cheap import parts, and was a Precision bass. I got it unfinished, and applied some brown pickling finish on it. The neck was a cheap maple/rosewood affair. The most exclusive parts were probably the anodized gold pickguard and the Gotoh bridge! I remember it was terrible to stroke my fingernails on the pickguard, and the body felt somewhat rough, as it wasn’t a gloss finish, just the pickling stain. I put a preamp in there, too, and routed a room for the battery underneath the pickguard. It played OK, but nothing more, to be honest. The quality of the neck and the fretwork was pretty poor, and I didn’t have the knowledge or tools to do anything about the fretwork. I bought the parts in 2004, and I kept adjusting and finish it until I sold it in 2009. It was a fun project, but it didn’t quite get me where I wanted in terms of quality and fit and finish!
Later I bought a pink (no less) Yamaha Attitude bass that lacked all the electronics. I kept hunting for years on eBay to find pickups for it, as it didn’t feature standard PJ pickup sizes. Finally I came across someone who sold those pickups, and I managed to finish my restoration project. I put a preamp in it, used copper tape to shield the control cavity, and it turned out quite nice, I think!
A few years later I purchased two Squier bass bodies on the Internet. The first was a black VM Jaguar, and the other was a white VM Precision bass. The Precision got an Asian no-name maple/maple neck, and the Jaguar got a Mighty Mite fretless neck with an ebonol fingerboard. Both turned out great, and were both sold soon after and even though they didn’t bring a huge profit, I had fun building them and a slight overhead after covering my expenses.
The first real top quality bass that I have put together was built last year, in 2016. It is a wonderful Status Graphite fretted Jazz bass neck, matched with an aged sunburst precision body from MJT Vintage Finishes. It is a tribute to my old and trusted ’78 Fender Precision bass, and maybe mine would have looked almost like this today if I had kept it through all these years? The aging is very well done and very authentic, and the neck is simply fantastic! It plays like butter! The bass has a passive EMG Geezer Butler PJ pickup set. It’s a great bass!
And now that I have been bitten by the bug, it is hard to stop hunting down parts and putting together basses. Currently, I have no less than 8 instruments that are waiting to be put together. One is a purple Warmoth Jazz bass, which will feature passive Jazz pickups from Edmire Pickups. Another is an insane dragon burst Warmoth PJ body that will get a Status Graphite fretless Jazz neck. Then there is a Mighty Mite Jazz bass on the docks, which will have Fender Noiseless pickups and an Aguilar preamp (if I can fit it in there). There are also a couple cheaper builds in my inventory, where all the parts haven’t been totally sorted out, yet.
I also have a swamp ash Tele Cabronita that is getting a short-scale bass conversion neck on it. I am really anxious to see how that bass will turn out in the end! So I guess there is food for quite a few blog posts on my DIY projects in the near (or far) future!