For one reason or another, I fancied creating a short-scale bass with a Telecaster body. Above you can see my original Photoshop mock-up. I’m not entirely sure why, my other basses work well for me - I just thought it would look pretty good. One afternoon whilst browsing the Chase music store in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, I spotted a fairly decent Telecaster copy in a colour that I fancied - not quite the lovely vintage Butterscotch we know and love, but close enough for me to think ‘yeah, I’ll try that’. Funnily enough, they actually do their own Telecaster style bass. Check it out here. Several weeks later I came across a Squire Bronco short-scale bass which, thanks to its maple neck, I thought would make an excellent match for the Telecaster body. So, I now had the bits I needed to start my build and promptly took them apart…
The first thing which needed doing was getting the neck onto the body. So that the bridge didn’t end up smack in the middle of the body, the heel of the neck would have to sit further in than the original Telecaster neck did. This meant I had to chisel out the bit of wood between the neck pocket and the neck pick-up cavity (which I wasn’t going to be using anyway).
I hadn’t used a chisel for years, but after investing in a decent set I was surprised at how well the wood behaved. With a bit of care, soon the wood was out of the way.
Because the neck pocket was ever so slightly narrower than the heel of the neck it also needed widening a bit. I did this with sandpaper, checking frequently to avoid going too far.
Okay, it isn’t CNC precision tight, but I’ve seen baggier fits on some Fenders! The original screw holes in the neck were filled and new ones drilled with the neck held (lightly) in place against the body with a G-clamp. Remember to use a bit of wood between the clamp and the frets when doing this.
Next came fitting the pickup. When it comes to the electrics, I reckon that it’s better to spend a bit more and go for something that little bit higher spec. My choices here were a bit limited, as I wanted to use a single-coil 51 P-Bass style pick-up - partly because it’s different to what’s on my other basses and partly because it would fit nicely (albeit at an angle) into the existing pick-up cavity without having to cut away too much wood from the body. Eventually I decided on the Bare Knuckle ‘51 Flat Pole P. It arrived promptly and I set about marking out what needed to be cut from the body in order to accommodate it.
I used a hole-saw mounted in my pillar drill to do the job and once again it went better than expected.
You can see how cleanly the semi-cylindrical pillars of wood simply sheared out with little more than a gentle tap of the chisel. Most satisfying!
Rather than mount the pick-up onto the (as yet non-existent) pick-guard, I’ve opted for the more conventional approach of screwing it directly to the body, but before mounting it I made a wooden spacer so that it wouldn’t sit deeper than it needed to down in the cavity. I used a bit of scrap wood that I had lying around, along with my Dremel, to round off the corners before glueing it in with a 2-pack epoxy.
It never hurts to shield the cavities…
In goes a bit of foam to do its job as the height adjustment spring. The copper strip you can see leaving the cavity will act as the bridge ground - drilling a hole at a flat angle from the new bridge position (while no big deal to accomplish) would have meant that the channel passed very close to the bridge mounting screws - not something I was keen on. Besides, I quite like the look of using a strip of copper to do the job. Vintage.
To make sure the pole-pieces lined up correctly, I re-strung the bass and positioned the pick-up before drilling in the pilot holes for the screws. That’s a reasonably accurate job, as I’m sure you’ll agree!
The electrics. Here’s the wiring diagram I used. I bought a 500K stacked Alpha pot from Axes ‘r’ Us along with the appropriate knobs. To add a bit of contrast to the look, I asked Axes if they’d be able to supply one black and one chrome knob (instead of the standard two of the same) which they very kindly did. You know, Allparts isn’t a bad place to get your gear from (when they have it in stock…!!!) but when I’ve dealt with Tony at Axes, he’s been really helpful. When you add that to the quality of their service, it just makes me want to use them again and again. Highly recommended!
The soldering went reasonably well - I say ‘reasonably’ because I always have trouble soldering the wires onto the sides/bottoms of the pots… I’m using a good quality iron. It’s hot. The tip’s good. The solder and flux are good, but it always seems to take ages for things to stick. If you have any tips for this bit please pass ‘em on!
UPDATE: Apparently the surfaces of most pots are coated. it’s a good idea to roughen up the area of the pot you want to solder with a bit of sandpaper.
If things are worth doing, then you may as well do them properly. I binned the original jack and flimsy surround and replaced them with a Switchcraft / Allparts combo. A huge improvement in looks, sturdiness and (hopefully!) signal quality.
I’ve always been a fan of the clover style tuning pegs and while the original Bronco hardware is more than adequate, I couldn’t resist these closed back mini clovers I found over at WD Music. Fitting them was a bit more problematic than I had originally expected (I thought they’d have identical mounts…) so a bit of filling (bamboo / epoxy style) was needed.
The new bushings were ever so slightly bigger than the originals, and only went in after a bit of persuasion from a G-clamp…
Because I’m using a stacked pot / concentric knobs, the control plate needs only to be a metal disc as opposed to the original Telecaster strip.
In the pictures you’re seeing what’s basically a drilled out zinc plated steel penny washer. Metal’s tricky to drill with cheap hobby equipment and it took me several goes to get things right.
Then disaster struck. I’m not sure whether it was whilst drilling / polishing or cleaning up afterwards, but somehow a tiny shard of steel managed to get into my eye. At first it felt like dust, but as my discomfort grew I began to realise that it must be something more serious. An early morning visit to the optician the next day confirmed my fears (it had begun to rust…) and off I went to the Eye A&E over at Manchester Royal Infirmary where they removed the shard with a needle and gave me a tube of anti-biotic eye ointment to apply before going back a couple of days later to have the rust removed. Scary stuff, guys. I wear glasses and thought I was pretty safe doing these little jobs on my hobby drill, needless to say - from now on I’ll be using safety goggles. It’s just not worth taking the risk!
So onto the final part. The pick-guard. I started with a standard Telecaster template (downloaded from Terrapin Island) which I modified so that it would cover up the old bridge holes along with the cavities. This was then printed out and cut accurately with a scalpel - the areas around the pick-up and the pocket were removed entirely as these parts wouldn’t be resembling the original Telecaster pick-guard at all. Next I scanned and traced the heel portion of the Bronco pick-guard, printed and cut that out too. This was then placed around the heel of the neck and stuck down to the main pick-guard shape. A similar thing was done with the pick-up area.
The whole lot was then lifted off, scanned back in and used as artwork to which I could align the vector pick-guard elements I’d traced and printed earlier. It pays to take your time here. You can get excellent magnification in Photoshop / Illustrator and there’s no excuse for not aligning things properly. The final vector art was printed off, cut and again checked against the body. Everything fits…!
So now I’m at the final stage. Somehow I’ve got to get this pick-guard made. It’s looking more and more likely that I’ll send the artwork over to Terrapin Island in the States and get it made there. A friend of mine has access to a laser cutter and it was always the plan to get it made over at his shop, but he’s away at the moment and I’m itching to get this done! I’ve looked into getting a blank cut by a couple of engineering firms local to me in Manchester, just the set-up’s around £100..! No way.