Building a Jazz Bass

Builder/Blogger: Steve Eubanks

Josh, the guitarist and co-builder on the Purple Haze guitar build was making noise about wanting to learn to play bass as well, and since Christmas was coming up... well, who needs a better reason to build a bass? I ornginally went looking for a rescue project at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, but just couldn't find anything that was good quality, and cheap (like me!). What I did find was this knock-off Jazz Bass that was basically trash in every way except the surprisingly nice maple and rosewood neck. So I decided to just use that neck and build a new instrument around it.

I started by surrounding a 3/16" layer of mahogany with two layers of clear northern pine. I cut it to a pretty standard Jazz Bass shape, and laid in both a belly relief on the back and arm relief on the front. The key detail in this build, of course, is the neck pocket. Some pre-drilling with the forstner bit, and routing with straight edges provided a perfect fit.

Next step is to cut out the pickup and control cavities. Both of these were done by drilling out the bulk of the material, and then finishing up the shapes with chisels and sandpaper. The bridge pickup cavity also got a route for the ground wire to run back to the bridge, and I went ahead and pre-installed that wire.

I went with an oil finish for a couple reasons. One, I didn't have enough time to let nitro cure for 4 weeks before Christmas, and I wanted to give Josh his gift on Christmas morning. And two, I just really like the look of an oil finish on a natural wood design. Obviously you'd put nitro over paint, and usually over a stained or burst finsish, but on unstained wood, I just love the look of oil. I did probably 7 or 8 coats of Tru-Oil on the body so it would build up to a nice shine, and more like 3 or 4 on the neck so it would still have that soft, natural feel.

Bridge, pickups and controls went in next. I should mention that the pickups and pots are from a genuine Fender Jazz Bass. I picked them up from a bassist who was replacing his oem hardware with a custom setup. Sorry, no pics of the wiring process this time. Then a new bone nut to replace the old plastic one, and a custom Caltone logo to top it off. The tree on this logo is a California Sequoia (gotta keep the Cal connection in there somewhere!).

Strings are on, and all that's left are the beauty shots. Had to take these after he opened this up on Christmas morning. Do you have any idea how hard it is to wrap an electric bass and put it under the tree?