Short-scale Warmoth J-Bass Build

March 26, 2017

I’ve been itching for a new guitar project lately. One thing that is missing from my collection is a short-scale bass. I decided that I wanted one to make bass-playing a little easier and more fun.

I ordered a Warmoth short-scale Jazz body in unfinished alder, and a Warmoth Warhead 30″ short-scale neck in roasted maple and rosewood from the showcase. I didn’t feel like paying and waiting for a custom order, and these were the specs that I would have ordered anyway. I decided to do the finishing on this project, which I have not done yet on a Warmoth build.

Body Specs

Model: Short Scale J-Style
Wood: Alder solid construction
Weight: 4 lb., 10oz.
Control Rout: Top Rout
Pickup Rout: J Bass® (Neck, 3 5/8″), J Bass® (Bridge, 3 3/4″)
Bridge: Gotoh 201(standard vintage Fender 5-hole)

Short-scale J-Bass Body

Neck Specs

Style: Short Scale Warhead
Scale: 30″
Neck Wood: Roasted Maple
Fingerboard Wood: Indian Rosewood
Nut Width: 1-1/2″ (38mm)
Fret Size: 6150
Tuner Ream: BML Lite (17mm)
Radius: Straight 10″
Fret #: 20
Fret size: 6150 Jumbo
Inlays: Cream Face Dots
Side Dots: White Side Dots
String Nut: White Corian – Standard Nut

Short-scale 30″ Warhead neck

Finish and Design

I plan on painting the body and headstock with Sherwood Green nitro and finishing with clear gloss nitro. Since the neck is roasted maple and the fretboard is rosewood, I won’t be applying any finish other than the headstock paint and some fretboard oil. I really like the feel of unfinished roasted maple.

I ordered a tortoise pickguard that Warmoth makes custom to fit the short-scale J-Bass.

I expect the final build to look something like this:

Sherwood Green 5-string Jazz

1964 Sherwood Green Jazz head

Paint

March 27, 2017

I received the finish that I ordered. This is a first-time order from madisonsmusicstore.com

Competition Stripes?

Since this is a short-scale bass project and I will be doing the finishing, I’m considering adding “competition” stripes like they used to put on 60s Fender Mustang basses like Dino’s. Depending on how the green color comes out, I might put metallic copper stripes on it, or possibly gold, or white, or maybe seafoam.

Headstock Adjustments?

Warmoth only offers two styles of headstocks on their short-scale basses – Warhead (4 inline) and Warmoth (2R-2L). They do not offer standard Fender shapes on short-scale bass necks. I am not crazy about the Warhead shape. It’s a little pointy and kinda metally for me. I am thinking about re-shaping the headstock to look more like a Fender, perhaps even a Fender Tele bass. This person made similar adjustments to his headstock:

 

I found a link to a PDF of Fender headstock plans on this page:

http://www.tdpri.com/threads/p-bass-headstock-template.252557/

Direct PDF Link: http://www.tdpri.com/attachments/bass-heads-1-pdf.66934/

Headstock Label?

I will probably get a label from Rothko & Frost like the ’64 model pictured above. I haven’t decided on wording yet. I’m thinking of calling this bass “LITTLE GREEN” as a nod to Joni.

Hardware

I will be putting on a chrome Gotoh 203B-4 vintage style bridge, chrome control plate with standard black Jazz knobs and orientation (Neck Volume, Bridge Volume, Tone, Jack). I got a plain chrome neck plate. I have a chrome vintage-style string retainer from an old instrument that is still in good shape.

Tuners

I ordered a set of Schaller BM Lite tuners, but I am returning those and getting the Grover version, which has more traditional clover shaped knobs instead of the modern “Y-shaped” knobs on the Schallers. Both have index pins that will fit into the holes that are drilled into the headstock.

Schaller

Grover

 

Strings

Dino turned me on to flat-wound bass strings, and I’m a big fan of D’Addario, so I ordered a set of flat-wound short-scale strings. They are D’Addario XL Chromes, ECB81S.

 

Electronics

Tone Capacitor

I started digging around in boxes of leftover parts from previous projects, and I found this bad boy.

It’s a brand new Emerson paper-in-oil capacitor. I forgot that I even bought this. Apparently I got it with the tele pickups that I ordered from Lollar last year. I will probably use this, since it is a 0.047uF cap, and these aren’t cheap.

Pickups

I have not made a final decision about pickups yet. I am leaning towards Lollar J-Bass pickups, but I am also considering getting split-coil hum-canceling Lindy Fralins. I’ve used Lollars in my last two guitar builds, and I couldn’t be happier with the tone of them. I’ve never used Fralins, but I am attracted to the idea of noiseless pups. Then again, I’d like this to sound like a Jazz bass should. I expect some growl and brownness.

Lollar J-Bass: http://www.lollarguitars.com/lollar-j-bass-pickups

Fralin Split Jazz: http://www.fralinpickups.com/product/split-jazz/

 

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UPDATE 3/28/2017

I made a decision on the pickups. After much consideration, message board review, and youtube listening, I decided to get a set of Lindy Fralin single-coil Jazz Bass pickups with black covers. I’ve been wanting to try some Fralins for years. I’ve read a lot of good reviews of these, and I like what I’ve heard on the ‘tube. I’ve read a lot of comments about split-coil pickups not sounding the same as a vintage Fender would, so I decided against those. I’d like this to sounds like a vintage Jazz as much as possible. I’m not really worried about 60hz hum because A – it’s never bothered me before, and two – I will most likely have both pickups open most of the time, which ends up canceling the hum anyway.

Jazz Bass

Here is a well-recorded demo that someone made of these pickups:

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UPDATE 3/30/2017

I received the pickguard today. The stupid mailman curled it to fit into the mailbox, but fortunately did not bend or damage it.

As I suspected, the control plate profile does not perfectly match the cut in the pickguard. I will probably remove some of the pickguard so that it fits better. I marked the area that needs to be removed with silver sharpie. I am going to wait until I get the body so I can line up the parts on it before I make any adjustments.

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UPDATE 4/03/2017

I received the pickups today. Here is a pic of them unboxxed.

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UPDATE 4/05/2017

I received the Warmoth body and neck today! Here are some unboxing photos.

I checked the fit of one of the Grover tuners, and it fits perfectly.

I traced the headstock and started sketching the Tele bass redesign. I found that printing the Tele plans out at 96% was a closer scale to the Warhead.

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UPDATE 4/06/2017

Control Plate Fail

I noticed yesterday that the Jazz control plate that I got from tubesandmore doesn’t have 3/8″ holes for the pots. They’re probably 5/16″. So, in addition to not matching the pickguard shape, I can’t put normal pots in this without drilling it, so I am not using it. It was only like $6.50 – so not a big deal. I ordered a new control plate from Warmoth, so I doubt that I will need to modify the Warmoth pickguard at all. This is a good example of one of those cases where you’re not super careful about ordering parts, and you end up with bunk junk. It’s just part of the game.

Neck Prep

I wrapped the neck in preparation for re-shaping the headstock and finishing the front of the headstock. I used gaffer tape around the end near the nut. I drew some guide lines on the head with pencil. I plan on making some rough cuts with a coping saw and then cleaning it up with the robosander on my drill press.

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UPDATE 4/09/2017

New Control Plate

I got a new control plate from Warmoth. It is much thinner and lighter than the vintage style one that I accidentally bought. The shape fits the pickguard fine, as I expected it would and all four holes are 3/8″.

Headstock Re-shaping

After tracing my paper template onto the headstock, I roughly cut it out with a small hand saw. Then I trimmed it down with the robosander on the drill press. Then I used a small file, sanding blocks, sanding pads and micro-polishing cloths to clean up the surface. There are some minor imperfections, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Spray Prep

I made a new spray stick to bolt to the body. I taped the neck pocket and headstock edges and back.

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UPDATE 4/12/2017

Sanding Sealer – Layer 1

I sprayed the entire 12oz of sanding sealer in one day. I should have tried a light coat and then let it dry over night. Instead, the body soaked up all of the sealer, especially in open-grain areas. I had a leftover can of clear gloss that was at least half full in the garage, so I applied it as a second coat over the sealer after a few hours. This also soaked right into the end grain.

After letting the body and head face dry for two days, I wet-sanded them with 800 grit sandpaper. You can see in the photos that there are still many areas where wood is showing, such as the butt. I ordered another can of sanding sealer from stewmac. It should arrive today, so that I can apply the next layer of sealer to fill the remaining open grain. I want a perfectly flat and even base layer so that the green coats will look smooth, and to minimize the amount of green paint so that I don’t run out. I only have one can.

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UPDATE 4/13/2017

Sanding Sealer – Layer 2

I wet-sanded layer two of the body today, which left a few small spots that looked like possible open grain, so I sprayed it with one more coat of sanding sealer.

I screwed up on the headstock by overspraying near the nut, which resulted in some sagging. I am going to have to sand it level after it hardens and possibly re-spray.

Electronics Wiring – Part 1

I started putting together the electronics. I wired the pots and jack, and added the capacitor. Originally I thought that the Emerson wouldn’t fit in the cavity, so I put a small cheap cap in that I had in my supplies. Then I realized that the cavity is about 1.5 inches deep, which is plenty of room to put the capacitor on top of the tone pot.

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UPDATE 4/14/2017

Time for a Little Green

I finally got the parts ready for the sherwood green metallic paint coats. I think I will use at least 95% of the can, if not all for a final touch-up tomorrow.

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UPDATE 4/24/2017

Headstock Label Application

I did a bit of a rush job on the final clear coats and headstock label application, since I was leaving for a week. I wanted to let the finish cure while I was gone, since I have to give it at least two weeks to harden before I do the final sanding and buffing.

These pictures show the label unpackaging, flat-sanding of the first coats of clear gloss in the label area, application of the label, and the dust coats of lacquer prior to flat sanding over the label and final clear coats.

 

Headstock Unmasked

It’s been one week since I applied the final clear coats. I should be waiting at least another week, but I wanted to get the blue tape off. I removed all the tape from the edges and tuner holes, and scraped most of the excess lacquer from the edges with a pocket knife. There are a couple spots where the finish chipped around the tuner holes, but that will be completely hidden by the tuners. I will try to wait at least another week before I do the final buffing.

 

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UPDATE 4/30/2017

Headstock Buffing

I started buffing the headstock after about 12 days of letting the finish cure. I think I should have given it another week. I started wet sanding at 800 grit, then 1000 grit, 1200, 1500 and 2000 grit. Then I buffed it with polishing pads, papers and polishing compounds. I used Fine and Swirl Remover with scraps of a t-shirt. I couldn’t quite get all the fine scratches out, but I stopped because I didn’t want to go too far into the clear coat.

Headstock Chip Fail

I used the worst tool I own – a shitty C-wrench, to install the tuners. That was a BAD idea. I ended up chipping the top edge of the headstock finish. I prepped it for filling the chip with green paint by folding some aluminum foil and taping it next to the chip as a mini wall. Fortunately, I still have a little bit of green lacquer left in the can.

Body Buffing

The day after buffing and chipping the headstock, I started sanding the body. Here are some shots before I started. Note the heavy amount of “orange peel” bumpiness that I have to sand down.

Body Sanding Fails

I discovered that the clear coat was pretty thin in some places. There was a bump on the front waist where I accidentally sanded through the green layer when I flat-sanded with 800 grit. I also sanded through the green on the inside of the upper horn and near the neck pocket on the thin edge. I should have been less aggressive, but I also should have used more clear gloss. Again, I have a little green leftover, so I will touch up those spots and order a new can of clear gloss. This will set me back several weeks, but I don’t want to just leave the defects.

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