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Rickenbacker Bass


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The folks at my new church are needing me to fill in on bass before too long. This is all the excuse I need to finally make the Rickenbacker 4003 bass I've been wanting to do for several years, I've had nearly all the non-wood parts for prolly 6-8 years now, so the out of pocket on this one will be minimal.

My plan for all this time is to make a set of twins: guitar & bass, identical construction, same body. Both white limba neck-through, walnut wings, birdseye maple veneer top, cream binding. I've had the limba blank set aside fro several years, as well as the walnut for the wings. In the first attempt a few weeks ago, the limba moved after I had the bass neck all set up and ready to route the truss rod. It developed a serious bow. I was pretty pissed. I decided that, as plans clearly changed on me, I might as well go with an all walnut bass. The guitar will be cherry with ash wings.

So the rundown on the bass looks like this: 4-piece walnut neck-through, walnut wings, 34" scale jatoba fretboard, burdseye maple veneer top, cream binding, Rockfield bass humbuckers, Allparts (Gotoh?) Ric tailpiece, Allparts (gotoh?) "elephant ear" tuners, and I'll have to make the pickguard.

We start with the appropriate image...

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...which I blow up to life size. I use several pieces of paper to trace the body and headstock to make the template from. Is it exact? Obviously not. If it good enough for me? Yes. And that's all that matters.

5 minutes of research tells me that Ric makes it 1,25" thick, neck-through. I re-cut the lumber for the neck for proper grain orientation, glue it up, and plane all the pieces down to 1.25".  I don't remember the name of the technique for building up the headstock thickness - not a scarf joint - but I went with this style so that I could route for the truss rod without waiting another day for the scarf to dry.

The truss rod is a "wagon wheel " style. I've never done this style before, so the wheel spot is a little sloppy. Fortunately, most of it will be covered up with the end of the fretboard and the veneer.

basic mockup using the template

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headstock template with tuners

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another body mockup

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This is the wiring harness that came with the pickups. I have no idea what it does anymore. I THINK it's a 3-band EQ and master volume with a blade switch. It might or might not be active. There's no battery plug attached, but for all I remember it was supposed to come with one but didn't. Many years ago, I got the wiring schematic from Rockfield. I have since lost the schematic, and Rockfield is out of business. Hamer used to use this setup some years ago, but they won't get back with me. Unless one of y'all can help me out with this, I'll end up having to take it to a killer place in St Louis (J Gravity Strings) and have them figure it out for me. 

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These are most of the parts that came off the Ric 300-series guitar I made many years ago. This is what will be used on the 4000-series guitar, though I'll prolly get a hardtail tailpiece.

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Being a cheapskate, and not wanting to mess with making and routing the sharkfin inlays, I just make some huge maple dots.

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So again, if anyone has any input or information on the Rockfield wiring harness, I'd really appreciate it.

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I know almost nothing so transfering that info to you is going to be easy/fast...

clearly that's an active preamp.  I can't imagine a passive setup that would take up that much space.  also, I'm not sure you would need to epoxy a passive circuit.  So with that in mind... looks like the one attached to the jack is your volume(left most in pic).  looks like you have two stubs there from former pickups... so that's where the pickups go... looks like a superswitch and it's hard to tell (without a lot of work) what's going on but it is a 5-way so likely some splitting action.  the preamp you could figure out what the 3 eq pots are doing by hooking it up and testing... so the only question to answer is where is the 9v in.  my guess is it's red... is there a red wire going into the pre block that is left unconnected.  Perhaps some more detailed pics and we could zero in on it.

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I detest sanding the radius into the fretboard. I hate it almost as much as I hate my 1st ex-wife. It's not even satisfying when it's over because of how labor intensive it is.  The worst part is where I'm at right now - it's almost there, but the fat end of the board doesn't wanna sand down one more micron, so ya just keep doing it without seeing ANY more progress.

I HATE sanding the radius into the fretboard. 

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How are you doing it? I've noticed that using a radiused block gets the more tedious the closer you get. A good hand plane would be ideal for shaping but if you don't have one, a good long leveling beam loaded with some 80 grit should take the bulk out of the board pretty fast too.

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1 hour ago, Bizman62 said:

How are you doing it? I've noticed that using a radiused block gets the more tedious the closer you get. A good hand plane would be ideal for shaping but if you don't have one, a good long leveling beam loaded with some 80 grit should take the bulk out of the board pretty fast too.

Radius block.

I tend to cry like a bitch about radiusing the f/b. 

Prolly because it absolutely blows, and I'm not willing to invest the time/resources into making a jig to rout the radius for me.

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Some more detailed pics of the wiring harness...

Here it is spread out a bit. I'm pretty sure the 3 knobs are a 3-band EQ. I agree about some funky tapping going on with the double-blade switch. There's no reason to think otherwise, because there's no reason to use it if not for the extra options.

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For the 2 leads coming from the pickups - things are a little jacked. Both have a free red wire. The gray sheath has the white lead going to the switch, while the black sheath has a free white lead. I'm presuming the white leads are both supposed to be on the switch, meaning the free lead broke off at some point. But that leaves the question of what the red leads are for. 

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Over at the end of the last pot in line, we have a black wire. That appears to be the ground.

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The last mystery is this red wire coming from the harness box. It's been spliced into another red wire which has been cut.

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So....... what could all these unidentified red wires be for? The battery?

 

 

 

In other news, here's the afore mentioned sloppy truss rod end, and headstock joint & cant name properly.

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And the afore mentioned f/b in the process of being radiused, and after I was done cussing at it

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Lastly, the 2-piece cherry blank for the guitar, and the piece of ash the wings will be made from

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30 minutes ago, avengers63 said:

Some more detailed pics of the wiring harness...

Here it is spread out a bit. I'm pretty sure the 3 knobs are a 3-band EQ. I agree about some funky tapping going on with the double-blade switch. There's no reason to think otherwise, because there's no reason to use it if not for the extra options.

007.thumb.jpg.28df98a7e2bfb5fa7e629e33effe4eda.jpg

For the 2 leads coming from the pickups - things are a little jacked. Both have a free red wire. The gray sheath has the white lead going to the switch, while the black sheath has a free white lead. I'm presuming the white leads are both supposed to be on the switch, meaning the free lead broke off at some point. But that leaves the question of what the red leads are for. 

008.thumb.jpg.8053c6564f5b3d1d0d0c494d017fff9e.jpg

Over at the end of the last pot in line, we have a black wire. That appears to be the ground.

010.thumb.jpg.5306b5a8beb94920f3ab9fa69e9c376b.jpg

The last mystery is this red wire coming from the harness box. It's been spliced into another red wire which has been cut.

011.thumb.jpg.0515012ed93b03390ac6612b168e76e2.jpg

So....... what could all these unidentified red wires be for? The battery?

 

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well the red wire from the preamp is more than likely the battery.  I'd bet your next paycheck on it.  red to 9v + and black from battery to ring/ground on the output jack. 

the pickups wires... looks like the super switch was being under-utilized.  i'd bet the red and white were series link and were being sent to ground by that second half they are attached to.  nothing appears to be connected to the common on the halves they are connected to. 

From what I can see pickups go to the 5 way, 5 way goes to preamp, preamp goes to vol, vol goes to output. 

You might want to start over afa the 5 way goes... just desolder everything... then on the side that's connected to the red out wire... connect neck pickup to lugs 543 on one and the bridge pickup to the other side at lugs 123.  then the other half of the switch you can wire the two common lugs to ground and wire up the series link from neck to posts 34 and series link from bridge to 23.  this will give you bridge humbucker, bridge split, bridge and neck split, neck split, neck humbucker. 

I may be going too fast, or too slow... please forgive.

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49 minutes ago, mistermikev said:

 

well the red wire from the preamp is more than likely the battery.  I'd bet your next paycheck on it.  red to 9v + and black from battery to ring/ground on the output jack. 

the pickups wires... looks like the super switch was being under-utilized.  i'd bet the red and white were series link and were being sent to ground by that second half they are attached to.  nothing appears to be connected to the common on the halves they are connected to. 

From what I can see pickups go to the 5 way, 5 way goes to preamp, preamp goes to vol, vol goes to output. 

You might want to start over afa the 5 way goes... just desolder everything... then on the side that's connected to the red out wire... connect neck pickup to lugs 543 on one and the bridge pickup to the other side at lugs 123.  then the other half of the switch you can wire the two common lugs to ground and wire up the series link from neck to posts 34 and series link from bridge to 23.  this will give you bridge humbucker, bridge split, bridge and neck split, neck split, neck humbucker. 

I may be going too fast, or too slow... please forgive.

Too fast. Wiring is always a stumbling block for me. 

Honestly, I really wouldn't care if I got rid of the pre-amp altogether. I'd be more than OK with just a 3-way,1V, 1T. But it does seem like a shame to not utilize what I already have. And for all I know, the pups might require a battery, whoch would defeat some of the purpose in ditching the pre-amp.

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19 minutes ago, avengers63 said:

Too fast. Wiring is always a stumbling block for me. 

Honestly, I really wouldn't care if I got rid of the pre-amp altogether. I'd be more than OK with just a 3-way,1V, 1T. But it does seem like a shame to not utilize what I already have. And for all I know, the pups might require a battery, whoch would defeat some of the purpose in ditching the pre-amp.

roger that... I really think you should keep the pre... it's 90% wired up.  go get a battery clip from ebay and you can mount it in the existing cavity with just a single screw. 

afa wireup... if I drew a wireup of your 5 way is it something you'd use?  if so... tell me what pickups you will use so I can setup the correct wire colors. 

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too late... now you owe me your soul... mhoo hoo haa haa haa ho hee hee (sinister laugh).  The red wire at the bottom is your red wire on your pics.  Take a look and make sure it is hitting both of these lugs as it's hard to see in the photo but it should be. 

the black wire at the top goes to the top of a tone pot.   for each pickup you'll notice two wires aren't listed... the black and the bare... those all go to the back of a vol pot. 

this will yield Bridge Humbucker, Bridge single coil, neck and bridge humbucker, neck single coil, neck humbucker.  IMO it's simple but about the best combos you could have from a bass for variety.

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could be either.  this would be one part. 

once you have this wired up as drawn... you get a 9v battery clip.  it will have red/black wires.  red to the red on the preamp.  black will go to your output jack. 

looks like you have a stereo jack there.  if you give me a better pic of the lugs I could tell you better.  there is going to be 3 connections on a stereo jack.  two of them are there already wired to your vol pot.  the third lug is going to get the black wire from the battery. 

this enables the active circuit to stop draining power from the battery when you disconnect your cable from the guitar. 

 

 

so two wires total... one for the red battery lead, one for the black battery lead. 

 

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I got the wings for the headstock glued on, as well as the "under-thickness" extension for the guitar headstock. Neither is picture-worthy.

For the guitar, I'm seriously considering 2 things. 1) drilling a crapload of holes in the bass side with a big forstner bit to drop some weight. Not a full chambering, just weight loss. Northern ash has a great tone, but it's heavy. 2) using a redwood burl drop top I've had for about 10-12 years. 

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2 minutes ago, avengers63 said:

I got the wings for the headstock glued on, as well as the "under-thickness" extension for the guitar headstock. Neither is picture-worthy.

For the guitar, I'm seriously considering 2 things. 1) drilling a crapload of holes in the bass side with a big forstner bit to drop some weight. Not a full chambering, just weight loss. Northern ash has a great tone, but it's heavy. 2) using a redwood burl drop top I've had for about 10-12 years. 

I did forstner weight relief on a p bass build... brought it all the way down to 10 lbs!  Unless you do it really aggressively I don't think it's worth it... just my opinion.  I have a bad back and wish I had gone full semihollow on that build.

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A large chamber was my first thought. Then I started giving serious consideration to the burl top. Burls are delicate. A full chamber would require a backing for the burl. That's a little more than I really want to do, so a ton of holes is the next best thing. It's still all just "under consideration". I also have some lightly flamed maple that's an option. Or the original birdseye veneer to match the bass.  Hell... I have some spruce acoustic tops that might fit. Options are fun. 😄

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right on.  in that case perhaps forstner is the way to go.  or you could just use a straight edge to do 'lines' with the router.  leaving a 3/8" barrier between each 'line' for strength.  or... what I did on my delta lectric... is just cut some 1/8" mahog into strips and used it to strengthen the top in critical areas.  that was a 3/32 maple top over an almost full hollow body.  I imagine any of those solutions would work great.

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Short work, but significant progress today

The headstock came out of the veneer process. I managed to get it in the clamps last night.

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The guitar neck came put of the clamps, only to go right back into them. Also - this is why I almost never throw away my scraps & cutoffs. I needed MAYBE 1/4" more width on both sides of the headstock. The wings came from a scrap I had lying around in the "cherry pile". As a woodworker, you never know what you're going to need, so if you have the storage space, never throw anything away.

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Headstock & neck rough-thicknessed in the bandsaw. I left about an extra 1/16" on the neck to allow for loss thorugh shaping & sanding.

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Lastly, the body wings in the clamps. Maybe later tonight I'll go back and veneer the body. If not, tomorrow looks to be the day for that. What i REALLY need to to later is put the side dots in the fretboard, maybe even fret it.

BTW: That knot is right where the control cavity will be. It doesn't go all the way through, so it SHOULD all be eliminated later. If not, life goes on.

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14 hours ago, ScottR said:

My guitar building sandals

A friend once got a job at a guitar building workshop far away but while moving he left his steel toes at home. Long story short, he soon had a bruised toe and couldn't go to work for several days.

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ooh... that's chilly!  poor you.  it's going to be a breezy 112 in phoenix today.  I know, I'm so spoiled.  In my garage, aka my sauna, it reg hits 120+.  I complain but truth be told it is the perfect place to dry wood out!

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44 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

Poor Mike. I would never insult anyone by making them sit in a sauna that cold! 150-160 is nice if its moist, 175-200 if it's dry. Depending on the sauna even 250 can be nice but only for short periods.

just one question... how often do you do woodworking in your sauna?

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