Saturday, January 30, 2010

SX Bass Project Complete

Complete bass. I am happy with the results. Looks good and sounds great. A couple issues came up along the way, but were easily resolved. For one, the stock bridge holes were too small for Thomastik Infeld strings, so I switched with an old Carvin/Hipshot bridge from my spares. Another minor issue is the stock control knobs do not fit the CTS knurled shafts. They only fit the stock odd-shaped pots. The knurling count and shaft diameter differed from the pot typically seen on instruments. Here is a complete list of mods:
1. new black acrylic pickguard drawn by me and laser cut at Ponoko, w/ copper sheilding
2. Dimarzio DP 122 pickups (cream!)
3. CTS pots and orange drop capacitor
4. strat style knobs from spares
5. Carvin/Hipshot bridge from spares
6. t-shaped string tree from spares
7. reshaped headstock
8. Thomastik Infeld JF344 flatwound

Some day I may remove the orange tint on the neck. Citrus Strip awaits under the kitchen sink.

A crude comparison. When I got the bass I took it apart before taking photos, so here is a perspective-corrected photo from the Rondo website. Unfortunately it does not give a true sense of the sunburst.

SX Bass Project Part 7 - shielding

Likely the easiest part of this project is the shielding.

It helps to have an Exacto.

Peel away...

Cut out the holes...

SX Bass Project Part 6 - test fitting the pickguard

The pickguard as it arrived from Ponoko. Ponoko always packs parts carefully.

Here is the test fit. The neck shape is perfect. Some of the screw holes are slightly off - enough to skew the screws. I will deal with this later.

SX Bass Project Part 5 - Wiring

Soldering the wiring, pickups, and pots. I used a piece of plywood to make soldering a bit easier. The CTS pots and orange drop .047 mfd capacitor were purchased from Guitar Parts Resource. The pickups are Dimarzio DP122 (cream!).

Saturday, January 9, 2010

SX Bass Project Part 4 - reshaping the headstock

First step is to mark the tuner. I used a Sharpie, which is not all that permanent on shiny surfaces. Just enough to do the work.

Pre surgery. Don't be scared little guy.

Sketching the shape before working is VERY helpful.

Difficult to see here, but I chopped off the shark nose with a dovetail saw.

Progress shot. I sanded the gradually. I used 80 grit to shape. Yes, it took a long time. Then 100 to work out the kinks in the curve. Finally I sanded with 320 to removed sanding marks and to ease the edges.

I saved the tip for testing the finish.

I used Watco danish oil to match the vintage tint of the stock finish. It is still a bit too light. I may buy "oak" tinted polyurethane. For now, I will work with what I have around the garage. I may decide to just spray a coat of clear gloss polyurethane over the oil if I can get the tone right.

Wake up. It's all over for now.

SX Bass Project Part 3 - headstock mock up

I started by photographing the headstock.

I took an additional photo using the x-ray function on my camera so I could see the back of the G tuner to prevent designing a shape that encroaches into the tuner plate area. What, your camera doesn't have an x-ray funtion?

Next I used Photoshop to mock up my idea. I was going for a design similar to the old G&L headstock. Only a little thinner given the amount of meat to work with. Note how I avoided the tuner.

The final mock up.

SX Bass Project Part 2 - make a new pickguard

I considered ordering a new pickguard from Stew Mac, but but thought I'd try making my own first. First I traced the stock guard...

... and then scanned using my letter-size scanner. I took the images into AutoCAD and traced again digitally.

I sent the file to Ponoko for making. For $20 shipped I get one black acrylic guard. Let's hope the dimensions are accurate. Once I confirm the size is correct, I will make the SVG and DWG files available online.

SX Bass Project Part 1 - introduction

Given the current economic times, I have decided to take on an economical project. I have fantasized about getting a big bonus and paying off credit cards and buying a new Nordstrand vP, which I hope to check out at NAMM next weekend. But... OK. Back to reality.

Here is the bass as it arrived. Or rather, as it looked a few hours after it arrived. The sunburst is much nicer than what is seen on the Rondo site. I think I'll leave it.

When I did the plugged-in out-of-box test, I noticed the bass side pickup was weak and hollow - and sensitive to touch noises like tapping the body. At first I thought there was a short between coils and magnet, but then I realized there must be movement allowed between the magnet and coil - thus creating a microphone. Sure enough, the magnet had popped off the back of the pickup. Oh well. Wasn't planning to keep the stock PUs.

Anyway, here is a short list of the modifications planned (at the moment):
1. replace pickguard w/ black - see part 2
2. re-shape the headstock - see part 3
3. replace the pickups with Dimarzio DP122
4. replace the electronics (sans tone?)