This workshop breaks with tradition on two counts. Firstly, we’re assembling a bass for the first time in the magazine – and secondly, we’re actually finishing up a project that was started by somebody else.
Around six years ago my neighbour’s son decided to build his own J-style bass and bought all the necessary parts from Allparts UK. The Fender-licensed body was swamp ash and he decided on a transparent blue finish.
Our first-time builder got as far as grain-filling and dyeing the body, and flaking the stray finish off the frets; the front of the headstock was also stripped, dyed blue and refinished to match the body.
However, exam commitments and the even more serious business of being a teenager took precedence over the bass project, and all the bits and pieces spent the next few years gathering dust under his bed… until a few weeks ago, when his dad asked me to finish up the project for his son’s 21st birthday.
Clear grain filler
Plenty of 240 and 320 grit adhesive paper
72" of string
Cellulose base coat (optional)
2–3 aerosol tins of nitrocellulose lacquer
800, 1200 & 1500 grit wet and dry paper
Farecla G3 polish
3M Machine Polish
Cotton polishing cloths
Thanks to Shed Pickups for supplying the pickups and Manchester Guitar Tech for supplying the nitrocellulose lacquer. See
Taking over a half-completed project often means problems. Masking tape had been applied along the edge of each fret to protect the fingerboard when the unwanted lacquer was prised away from the frets but the tape was never removed, so after six years it was tough to take off. The paper layer peeled off easily enough, but the adhesive remained stuck to the varnish.
White spirit will remove the residue, but naphtha lighter fluid is more effective. Once the neck and fingerboard were clean, fresh masking tape was put in place and then the frets were given a buff up with 1200 grit wet and dry paper followed by some chrome polish.
The tuner bushings were a tight fit, so I carefully pushed them into position using a vice. Try to resist the temptation to hammer them home because it’s guaranteed that you will make a mess of your headstock (please don’t ask me how I learned that). A set square was used to line up the tuners before the pilot holes were drilled and the tuners installed.
1. Build A Bass