DIY P-Bass Build

emptyminded42

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Hi all - I don't think a build thread belongs over in the Tele Home Depot since it's a non-Tele bass so I'm going to post in here since you all might have some interest and advice.

Anyway, I've always wanted a split coil 4-string Precision Bass. I have a Warwick Rockbass Corvette Classic 5-string that I absolutely love and decided that while I'm waiting 3-4 months for the finished body of my Jazzcaster to arrive from Warmoth, I'll try my hand at building and finishing a bass. What could possibly go wrong?

Here's my parts list as of today:
DescriptionSelected PartSourceCost
P Bass bodyWoodtech Routing 2 pc Alder P Bass body (unfinished)Woodtech Routing (reverb)$ 200.00
PrimerMontana Cans TECH Primer UniversalLowe's$ 15.87
Body Color CoatMontana Cans GOLD Malachite Light (closest I could find to Surf Green)Lowe's$ 12.43
Clear CoatMontana Cans TECH Varnish - GlossLowe's$ 17.08
Sand paper120 to 3000 assorted grit sandpaper - MiadyAmazon$ 7.99
Bass neckAllparts licensed Fender Jazz bass neck, black block inlay, vintage tintStratosphere Parts$ 280.00
Bass neck nutFender slotted 1-1/2" nut for jazz basseBay - guitar parts factory$ 9.99
Neck Mounting PlateVintage 70's F neck mounting plateeBay - guitaraudio$ 10.32
P-Bass PickguardFender Modern P-Bass Pickguard, TortiseeBay - guitaraudio$ 43.64
Control KnobsFender flat top chrome knobs (set of 2)eBay - guitaraudio$ 12.10
Strap button/lockFender strap lockeBay - guitaraudio$ 10.65
String retainer on headstockFender J/P Bass retainereBay - guitaraudio$ 8.02
Bass bridgeFender HiMasseBay - guitaraudio$ 35.99
Electronics920D Custom PB Pre-Wired Wiring Harness Kit for P-Style BasseBay - guitaraudio$ 62.99
Wirein kit$ -
Volume Potin kit$ -
Tone Potin kit$ -
Output Jackin kit$ -
P Bass split PickupsSeymour Duncan Quarter PoundeBay - guitaraudio$ 89.10
pickup grounding plateFendereBay - no discount$ 7.99
Tuning machines (4 in-line)Fender MIM tunerseBay - guitaraudio$ 28.96
Strap2" modern tweed black and whiteeBay - guitaraudio$ 13.58
Grand Total$866.70

Alright, so I already regret adding everything up but I'm very excited - parts should be here by the end of this week aside from the paint which is supposed to get here early next week. I figure I can get the body ready for finishing, install the nut and tuners on the neck, mount the pots and output jack to the pickguard, and pray that I can spray paint halfway decently.

You might be wondering why on earth I have a Jazz neck on a Precision body and the answer is - I really wanted a one-piece maple neck with black block inlays because they look freakin' cool. The cheapest finished one I could find was this Allparts '75 Jazz neck on Stratosphere Parts. My backup plan was to buy the MIM Fender neck but I'm hoping the Allparts neck is good enough. It has a vintage gloss finish which is exactly what I'm looking for. As for the body, I, for whatever reason, really dislike the Jazz bass body. Which is weird considering I love the offset Mustang body on my Cyclone but whatever. And I have active jazz pickups on the 5-string so I was really looking for split-coil P-bass pickups. So it's 100% aesthetic and I really hope I like the jazz neck :D

Anyway, finishing: the Montana Cans spray paint says it's a nitrocellulose acrylic. I've read up on finishing on ReRanch and a bunch of other places and here's my plan (feel free to throw rocks at it!)

Scuff the body at 320 grit, spray 2 super light passes of primer, let cure a few minutes, and then spray a wet coat (3 passes). Second coat of primer 1.5 hours later and let cure overnight. Maybe a third if I don't get good coverage.
Block sand again at 320. Then, spray a light coat of the color using 3 horizontal and 3 vertical passes as "one coat". 1.5 hours between coats and a max of 3 coats per day.
Let cure overnight and sand again with 320. Do another 3 coats of color and cure overnight.
Sand again and spray 4 coats of gloss, same 1.5 hours apart with an overnight cure.
Sand again and do another 4 coats of clear, let cure overnight.
Then repeat for the last 4 coats of clear.

It'll end up being 2 coats of primer, 6 color coats, and 12 clear coats. And then wait 2 weeks before doing the fine sanding/buffing.

Some questions: ReRanch says 3 hours between coats. One site said 30 minutes with nitros. Another said 1.5 hours.
Same with sanding before each new day of coats - several sites say 320, ReRanch wants wet sanding 400, 600, and 800!

Any finishing advice for a newbie would be appreciated (and so are general comments/questions/suggestions!

Thank you to anybody who managed to reach through this novel - sorry for being long-winded!
 

Call Me Al

Tele-Meister
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Dec 10, 2020
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Ithaca, NY
Bump and Follow! Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

I did a similar parts build, (though my body was already finished, and my neck was preloaded.) Squier body, Duncan SPB1 pickup, Fender MIM neck. J neck P bass has become my favorite spec for a bass, and my #1 player.
 

emptyminded42

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Jul 31, 2022
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36
Location
Cleveland, OH
So, my parts basically all arrived yesterday and I was finally able to get started today. Good news and bad news.

Good news - the body I bought from Woodtech Routing is gorgeous and precisely cut, drilled, and routed. I'm very impressed. The Allparts neck needs a little encouragement to fit in the pocket but I'd much rather have a tight neck pocket than one that's loose.

Bad news - the top horn of the body got dented during shipping which really sucks.

Dent1.jpeg


But, the seller is a stand-up guy and gave me a return label last night after I messaged him with the photo and he's going to make me a new one next week with the next batch. Hopefully that will come in quickly.

Next up - the Allparts Licensed '75 Jazz Bass Neck (JMF-BB). It's absolutely stunning and I am so pleased with it! It has a vintage gloss urethane finish which is exactly what I wanted. The skunk stripe on the back is a nice piece of walnut? and the entire neck is super smooth - no finish defects that I've seen and the block inlays look great. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo before I put the tuner bushings and the lighting in my basement workbench leaves a lot to be desired but here she is:

Neck (2).jpeg


I spent this morning installing the tuning machines and dang, it took a lot longer than I thought. I also know understand why everyone says the Standard/Highway One tuners are heavy (P/N 003-640-0049) - they are! I also regret buying tuners that required locating and drilling the 4 mounting screws on the backside. If I had to do it over again, I'd definitely pay more money for a lighter set that doesn't require drilling the mounting holes. Oh well, live and learn.

Next post will be the detailed installation steps for the tuners...
 

emptyminded42

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Alright, so first up was the bushings. The tuners came with two bags of bushings that looked pretty much identical but one bag had a bunch of little screws in it, the other didn't. I found that the set with the screws fit so I pushed the bushings in by hand but quickly realized that wasn't going to get them fully seated. Also to note - the neck had counterbored holes for the tuners and I didn't expect that. Ended up not being a big deal - the bushings fit with no worries about bottoming out.

I have the Harbor Freight workbench that has a bunch of 3/4" or whatever size holes on the top which ended up being super helpful throughout this process. I used a screwdriver and a small hammer to seat the bushings - the screwdriver had a plastic handle and the end of it went into the hole in the benchtop. Really easy and no damage to the neck finish. I didn't even sand the holes at all.

Here's a close-up of the installed bushings:
image5.jpeg


Cool. Now for the hard part - locating and drilling the holes for the mounting screws on the backside. Fiddly and time consuming, but ultimately not difficult. I strongly recommend following the standard practices of 1) covering the finish with masking tape, 2) drilling backwards to start, and 3) only drilling your screw holes halfway to remove the wood from the hole and your bit. Long story short - I really didn't have any chipping of the urethane.

So you probably noticed my framing square and super fine Sharpie in the earlier pictures. I really recommend having some tool to make sure your tuners are perpendicular to the top edge of the headstock - the framing square worked great for three of the four ones (I'll explain later).

First, I installed a tuner in each hole, squared it with the framing square, and marked where the pilot holes needed to be. I ran into a problem with the furthest tuner - there's not enough headstock left to get it square so I basically had to eyeball it and check with a tape measure.
 

emptyminded42

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Next, drill time. I have a small 12V Craftsman drill from like 15 years ago that worked fine - you don't need anything fancy. But what you do need is some new, sharp drill bits. I marked how deep to drill with a piece of masking tape around the drill bit - worked great. I initially drilled the first set of pilot holes with too small of a bit (1/16") and found out when the first one cam'd out despite using a P00 screwdriver and Chapstick as lube (it's what I had laying around and worked great). So I re-drilled the pilots with the 5/64ths bit and the screws went in much easier while the threads had plenty of bite into the wood.

I drilled the pilot holes for the first tuner with the tuner removed and just using the marks on the masking tape. I don't recommend this and adjusted my approach to just install the tuner, square it up, and drill the first hole. Install the screw and then do the same thing, drilling the hole and installing the screw on the diagonal. Tighten them enough so the tuner doesn't shift around and now you can ditch the square and just drill. Remove the screws and move on to the next.

Here's the results of the first tuner:

image3.jpeg


Checking the finish to make sure I didn't chip it:

image2.jpeg


Not bad! Just a tiny bit of lifting near a couple of the holes but nothing I'm going to worry about.

So like I said, the first 3 were relatively easy. The last one I couldn't use my square to line it up so I had to eyeball it. Ultimately I did a good job but I'm sure someone had a trick up their sleeve to make sure that last one is square.
 

emptyminded42

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And the overall shots

NeckFront.jpeg


NeckBack.jpeg




I am absolutely over the moon with how awesome this neck is - for whatever reason, I've always wanted a maple neck with black block inlays and it's even got black binding. Perfection. Up next: installing the pots and jack on the pickguard.
 

emptyminded42

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I'm really happy with the Fender tortise pickguard - it's already got shielding on it so that's one less thing to do. I bought the pots and output jack pre-wired from 920D Custom - I really, really recommend it. It's not the cheapest thing at $70 but they use super quality parts (PureTone jack, custom CTS pots) and just look at those solder joints and wire routing!! I did fit-check the loaded pickguard on the body before I packed it up to mail back to Woodtech and it does fit - it's tight, but it drops in! Nice!

TortiseTop.jpeg


TortiseBack.jpeg


920DCloseup.jpeg
 

emptyminded42

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I realize I never put a pic of what the body color is.... so here's Malachite Light from Montana Cans. It's as close to Surf Green as I could find without paying $20 a can. I think it'll look sweet with a tort pickguard and vintage tint neck.

MalachiteLight.jpg
 

emptyminded42

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Can’t wait to see it finished.
Me too! I hope I can do a half decent job at my first attempt at finishing a body!


You're going to have a very nice bass. But you've missed 4 rather important parts from your costings :) View attachment 1013399
Haha, true, but I’m still figuring out what strings I want. I figure I’ll just buy them from whoever I’m taking it to for set up - I think I’m just gonna have a pro install my nut and do all the action setup. I’ll probably end up with DR roundwounds of some variety.

If y’all have a recommendation, I’m all ears. I use Thomastik-Infeld flatwounds on my Warwick and I want a different (and cheaper!) playing experience on the P bass. I strongly prefer heavy gauge strings so the heavier the better. I can’t stand floppy B and E strings!
 

emptyminded42

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More parts inbound. I picked up a black TUSQ XL nut since I wasn’t sure I really wanted that Fender plastic nut. And I got a set of Fender taper rounds (.045-.110). They were cheap ($20) and helped me get a discount on a few of my Jazzcaster parts. I’m going to try dry fitting the Fender nut before I attempt the TUSQ. The binding makes the nut width 35 mm instead of 39 mm so I need to take away more material off the sides than is typical and I want to practice.
 

emptyminded42

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That’s going to be a supremely cool bass. Keep up the good work

Thank you!

So I tried my hand at sanding down and fitting the micarta Fender nut and it went pretty well, if time consuming. I had to remove a lot of material since the nut had to fit between the bindings which I did very slowly, checking frequently to prevent taking away too much. I used 220 grit sandpaper and then cleaned it up with 600 which I don’t necessarily think was needed. Only issue is the nut slot is cut pretty deep and so I think the action is going to be way too low. I hope the TUSQ XL nut is taller…

I also put on my custom headstock decal a couple days ago - I got it from guitar decadence on eBay. They have a ton of different formats, fonts, and colors and super fast turnaround so I bought a decal for this bass and the Jazzcaster. Here’s the headstock now:


Yes, I know it’s not a real Fender but I’m never going to sell it or play it in public. I’m happy with how it turned out but if I had a chance to do it again, I’d make the Fender a little bigger. Decal was super easy to install and the printing was high quality.

I also picked up the spray paint for the body today from Lowe’s so I’m just waiting on the replacement body to arrive.

More to come…
 

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FortyEight

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That is going to be beautiful. I totally get the desire to want a jazz bass on a P body. I've read other people do that. I think we had a member here do this just recently. Or I posted on a thread recently.

I will say this, the similarities between a mustang and a jazz body are about as much as the F-150 is to the Maverick. I really don't even see why a Mustang is considered an "offset" other than the top horn being a bit starting more forward than the bottom. But so does the Tele and Strat..... the bottom rear of the Mustang doesn't hang down nearly as much as a Jazzaster, Jagur or Jazz bass and just doesn't seem to be the same thing to me. I guess maybe the bridge on a Mustang is why it's in the category. IDK.... Seems like it's own thing to me....

Point being the body is going to feel so much different so I get that too.

I kind of want the opposite of what you're doing. Well sort of opposite in some ways... I want a p bass neck and body, with J bass electrics.

The color is gorgeous. Can't wait to see how it turns out.!!!
 

emptyminded42

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That is going to be beautiful….

The color is gorgeous. Can't wait to see how it turns out.!!!
Thank you!

I spent some time sanding the body down to 320 grit and it’s really looking good - nice and smooth!

After that it was time to get the neck to fit into the pocket. Right off the bat I knew I’d have to open it up a little bit but I didn’t consider how much time that would take. Granted, I stopped often to fit check and used 320 grit at the beginning and didn’t think to switch to 120 grit until near the end (duh). I got a nice fit eventually.

Then it was time to cut out the access scallop for the neck adjustment but I was kinda puzzled as to how to do it - a handheld drill was not going to work. Eventually I remembered that I have a dremel with a router bit and small diameter sanding head which worked really, really well. Maybe a little too well - after I checked with the pickguard I took a little too much off but maybe I’ll just sand the pickguard to fit 😆

The next big step is painting. I’m trying to decide if I should drill the pilots for the strap buttons before I start. I also need to rustle up a scrap piece of wood and an eyelet to use to hang the body while I paint.

I also got the new TUSQ nut and it’s just as short as the Fender nut but with even wider string spacing sooo that’s not going to work either. I had to order a taller one directly from Graph Tech since nobody stocks them.
 




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