Monday, 28 July 2003


Guitbass - Part 2

I mentioned last week that I had put together a "guitbass" (three-stringed guitar) from an old Fender Stratocaster copy and various spare parts, but that I was having some problem with the electrics and that only the middle pickup was working.

Yesterday, I decided to sort this out and give the guitar a single humbucking pickup in the lead position (an idea that suddenly seems to be credited to the guy out of Blink 182, although people had been using single-humbucker Strats for years - witness Earl Slick on David Bowie's "Serious Moonlight" tour).

First of all, the bridge pickup cavity needed enlarging to accommodate the bigger humbucking pickup. I used a router to do this, and it all went very smoothly despite being only the second time I had used that particular variety of power tool.

The next job was to cut out a humbucker-sized hole in the scratchplate. I had the idea that I'd cover the whole plate in sticky-backed plastic ("Get down, Shep!") and thus cover up unwanted holes for the neck and middle pickup.

Then I changed my mind, and decided to make a new scratchplate from, errrrm, scratch. Having a sheet of black/white/black ply scratchplate material helped, obviously, and I set out first drawing the outline using another plate as a template, and then went to work cutting it out using a fretsaw. It all went surprisingly well. It wasn't the greatest piece of cutting in the world, but some work with a sander around the edges soon smoothed out any inconsistencies in the cutting.

Cutting the pickup hole was a bit trickier, especially as I managed to break the fret saw blade mid-way through. The resultant hole wasn't as straight as it could have been, and was very slightly lopsided, but hey we're talking about using a black pickup in a black scratchplate, so unless you look up close it's not really obviously wonkily cut. Also, a slightly lopsided pickup in the bridge position of a Strat would most likely look like a design feature!

Next I had to wire it all up. Now I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, parts-wise, as I could only find a few short pieces of wire, and could not find any spare 500k pots for the volume control, so I had to resort to using a 250k pot which would have been far more suitable for a single-coil pickup equipped guitar. When I get the chance, or rather a 500k pot, I shall rectify this.

I didn't install a tone control as I dislike them intensely, and chose to keep things simple and have just the single volume control between the pickup and the output jack. I topped off the volume pot with a black metal domed-knob, which fitted in with the black scheme of the scratchplate beautifully.

The pickup itself, by the way, was one from an Epiphone guitar. I was originally going to use a DiMarzio humbucker, but it had one of those surrounds for a guitar with an angled-back neck and I couldn't figure out how to mount it.

And yeah, it's quite neat. As I already said, I'd still like to tinker around a bit under the hood, and depending on whether or not I decide to sell it, I may replace the machine heads and bridge saddles and make it into a six-string guitar again. The back of the neck could probably do with some attention where there are one or two deep scratches. These aren't really a problem for one-finger guitbass playing, but for regular playing they would be annoying.

So, still some work to do, but a good fun project.

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