What My Builders Are Up To: Fretless ’51 P-Bass
We are having a great run of very nice instruments coming out of the building classes, but this one really stands out. It’s the second completed bass (mine was the first), but the first fretless bass. That’s cool enough, but what is unique is how well worked-out the builder’s design for this instrument was.
When she approached me, I was not completely encouraging about what she wanted to do. It was a great plan, but I anticipated some problems with the execution. Nicely finished black parts can be really tough to locate, and a lot of items that look fine in website photos really don’t cut it when you have them in hand. She also had a very specific sense of the overall black-and-blonde color scheme, right down to which parts should be matte and which glossy. And she wanted arm and belly cuts on the slab ’51 body!
So, a tall order. Well, it turns out she has a great eye and mad skills with coping saws and such. She drew up and patterned the control plate, pickup surround, and the trim plate at the neck pocket, and made them from matte pickguard material. Really clean work, and they contribute a lot of visual interest and unity. The piece at the neck heel was necessitated by the fact that the body’s neck pocket is square at the heel, but the modern P-Bass neck from Allparts has a rounded heel. It fits fine, but leaves small gaps at the corners. Nobody manufactures that part, so she made it herself. She figured out how to sand in the body cuts. The Hipshot bridge and tuners are beautifully finished and work great. Even the lustre we got on the nut was a topic of discussion. As I said, she knew what she wanted!
The pickup is a Joe Barden. The body, as always, came from Larry Robinson at Clearfork Designs. The whole instrument is lightweight, resonant, and a real pleasure to look at and to play. This time, my role was to get it assembled and working right, but the visual concept was entirely hers, and she nailed it!