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Thread: ES4-B 1st Build

  1. #171
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    Thanks, TD. Still going slowly... Put the pups in last night. I will do the tuners next... Still thinking about how to get them perfectly straight since they have no flat surfaces...

  2. #172
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    It's a bass again!

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    Not completely done. I still need to put on the pickup rings and the trim piece for the tailpiece. Waiting for the clearcoat over brown paint to dry... Also need to modify and install a truss rod access cover. Final coat of block oil on the fretoard....

    The wiring harness is ready to go in but it's a real pain to install in this bass. The last time I did it, I broke a connection putting it in, and had to solder through the F-hole. Also need to adjust the string height at the bridge, and pickup height when I do the final outboard test of the wiring harness... so, lots left to do...

    But it is playable as of this morning, and actually felt pretty good to my uneducated hands. First fretless I have ever had. It was nice to finally see it as a bass, rather than just a collection of bass parts as it has been for the last year! And very fun to get a few notes out of it ;-)

  3. #173
    Looks great!
    #001 (LP-1S) [finished - co-runner up Nov 2018 GOTM]
    #002 (WL-1)
    #003 (MPL Megacaster - semi scratch build) [finished]
    #004 (ST-1 JR - Arachnoid Superhero build) [finished]
    #005 (LP jr)
    #006 (TL-1A)

    Junk shop acoustic refurbs (various)
    'The TGS Special'

  4. #174
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    Thanks, John, I see you have done some two-tones as well! I only aspire to get mine as shiny and flat as yours!

    I hooked up the wiring harness, and found an issue that I didn't anticipate. On the neck pickup the low E is somewhat faint. At first I thought it might be because when I flipped the coil I might have pushed the assembly too far "north"... That cannot be the issue, I soon realized, because I flipped the coil in the bridge pickup, not the neck pickup... After a quick head slap, I observed that neck pickup is about 4.5mm south of where it should be to be centered properly. Hoping that by moving it a little north, I'll hear the E string better.

    I initially got the lipstick tubes because they would fit in the pickup cavity with very little modification. What I did not know at the time is that the way modern lipstick tubes are made is with a plastic bobbin with a bar magnet in the middle that is also used in Firebird or T-bird pickups. (two in the Gibson humbuckers, one in a lipstick tube). A bit different than the originals that used an bar magnet, no bobbin, and lots of black tape. The new version still sounds pretty good, particularly with Alnico V magnets, but it's a little narrower than the originals...so my error in placement may be causing the drop in volume on the E string. The bobbin should not be too narrow to produce good sound, but placement could be an issue. It's not terrible, particularly in the old configuration I mostly used the both-on setting and the E sounds pretty good that way. But hoping I can get it to be a little better...
    Last edited by fender3x; 13-02-2024 at 12:13 AM.

  5. #175
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    On re-examining, I think the neck pickup is pretty much where it should be, so I raised it up to be as close to the strings as possible. The lipstick tubes are very low output, so need to be pretty close to the strings. The only bad thing about doing that is that if I go much above the high F# on the E string the string hits the pickup cover. Only happens on the E string. I have decided I'll worry about that if I ever think of a reason why I would need to go that high on the E string.

    So, I am slowly approaching installing the wiring harness. The F holes have very small openings, and I have big fat fingers, so I have been watching a lot of youtube. Finally settled on this approach:



    I have tying string around the pot shafts with pretty mixed results. I have heard about using surgical tubing, but thought that it would be a pain...and I don't have any. I do have shrink wrap. I have changed a couple of things.

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    I used a big sewing needle to make holes in the shrink-wrap. I used a heat gun instead of a torch. I will be using very thin wires instead of string. One thing I added was a way to pull the jack into place. I took apart an old crappy plastic plug, and stripped away everything larger than the shaft. Then I soldered a thin wire to it, which I covered with shrinkwrap make it a bit stronger.

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    In my tests it works great. I can pull the jack into place, and put the washers and nut in place without removing the plug.

  6. #176
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    It's an electric bass I successfully installed the wring harness. Everything works. No shorts, and it's relatively quiet. I don't think this is so much because of the humbucking mod. It's pretty much just as quiet in single-coil mode. I am guessing that is due to the fact that the pickup is shielded all the way round due to the lipstick tubes.

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    I wish I could tell you that the approach went without a hitch and that I have found the world's easiest way to install the wiring harness. It took around 2 hours, and I really feel there should be a simpler way.

    One thing not to do. Don't run all the pull wires to the holes before you put the harness through the F-holes. The pull-wires got all tangled up with everything. Finally I figured out to pull all of the guiding wires back out of the holes and just do one at a time.

    The thing I made to pull the jack through broke. Solder to thin wire just won't hold up to much pulling. I had better luck when I tied it on to the plug. That worked, but I had to be careful not to pull any harder than I needed to. Except on the very last pot that I pulled into place. That one I pulled too hard. I pulled the shrinkwrap off. Fortunately it was close enough that I was able to pull it up with a finger through the F-hole and some very thin needle-nose pliers.

    It will take another week at least before I can do final sanding and polishing on the trim pieces that are all that's left to put in.

    I may be able to put the time to good use. I have spent quite a while today adjusting and readjusting the bridge and the pickup height trying to get the action where it belongs without the E string hitting the neck pickup housing and without buzzing. I'll need at least a week to be sure things are as well adjusted as I can get them. Once the pickup covers go in, I won't be able to adjust the pickup height anymore, so a little time for experimentation can't hurt.

    What worked the best with all the parts was run one pull wire to one component, get it through the hole and put a nut on it, and then repeating. It took a while. Although not an unqualified success, it still worked better than any other way I have done it.

    I am very new to this fretless thing, but it's fun to play and sounds pretty good. Really nice to be able to play it again, and see why I thought it would be worth the trouble of refinishing ;-)

  7. #177
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    I haven't adjusted the pickup or bridge height for a few days, but I did have enough zoom meetings to polish up the pickup rings and tailpiece trim. Assembled it all yesterday. I think I began work on this in 2018--my first build. Several builds later, this one is done!

    Not the greatest light, but I took a few pics last night in the garage:

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    A few mods:

    * Bone nut
    * Tailpiece is made from pieces of a short flying tailpiece, a trimmed Fender J/P bridge plate and a chunk of maple.
    * Holes plugged and re-drilled for bridge
    * Piece of poplar added to the side of the center-piece
    * Maple fillet added to the side of the neck to compensate for neck skew
    * Alnico lipstick tube pickups added
    * Modded lipstick tube mounting plates to fit in humbucking rout
    * Made lipstick tube pickup rings out of maple
    * Humbucking mod to pickups
    * Modded and swapped wafers in CTS mini pots to get proper Dano resistance values
    * Swapped switch for C&K on-off-on Dano style switch
    * Raytheon knobs with brass inserts to adapt splined CTS shafts to set screws.
    * Pulled frets, and filled slots with anigre veneer and sanded to 12" radius
    * Switchcraft jack
    * Flatwound strings
    * Hipshot ultralite tuners

    I have always liked and used clover-leaf tuners on basses, but I switched this time to the Y tuners. The inspiration for this was in Jim C's ESB-4 bass. He thought his looked ridiculously wide with the cloverleafs. I also realized that the current build would not fit in the case that I got for my other ES style bass if I used the wide tuners. I did not want to buy a new case for two basses so similar in shape. But, it was nearly impossible to find a case that was long enough for the blue ES bass. Cases that were wide enough to accommodate this build's headstock with the cloverleafs were not long enough for the blue bass with the long headstock...but the Y tuners on this build allowed the long narrow-necked case to accommodate both basses...

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    So, with that I am christening this base: ESB-4FL

    The FL is for "fretless" and "lipstick tube". Also, it's the postal designation for Florida, where it was made ;-)
    Last edited by fender3x; 25-02-2024 at 11:53 PM.

  8. #178
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    In all that, I forgot to mention, that it lost a little weight. It was 7.6 lbs before. It has dropped to 6.9 lbs (3.1 kg). I think it's mostly (maybe entirely) from the lighter tuners.

  9. #179
    Mentor Trevor Davies's Avatar
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    Great work fender3x. She looks wonderful and very unique! I love the colour combo (and the inspiration for the combo). A long build, but hopefully you ended up with the guitar that you wanted (and a keeper).
    PitBull Builds: FVB-4, LP-1SS, FBM-1, AG-2, TB-4, SSCM-1, TLA-1, TL-1TB, STA-1HT, DSCM-1 Truckster, ST-1, STA-1, MBM-1.

    Scratch Builds: Pine Explorer, Axe Bass, Mr Scary, Scratchy Tele's.

    The little voices in my head keep telling me "build more guitars"

  10. #180
    Overlord of Music fender3x's Avatar
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    Thanks, TD. It's been a very organic feeling build. In the beginning all I wanted was a bass that I could hear without plugging in, but that I could also plug in. The idea was not much firmer than that. I built other basses I liked better and filled the niche I thought it occupied. A friend was looking for someone to sit in with a fretless...and suddenly there was a new niche. That inspired taking the frets off, refinish resulted from how well I liked the way it sounded and felt once they were off. I am really enjoying learning to play it and hearing the "bwaaa." Pretty sure I'll be keeping it ;-)

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