Like most musicians, I don’t have near the the budget I’d like to cover my “want’s list”. Consequently, I have become quite the guitar tinkerer or DIYer if you prefer. I have realized that with a little knowledge, soldering skills, and a lot of patience, I can turn unwanted, difficult-to-play instruments into gig-worthy players. On top of that, I can generally find them cheap. As you can probably imagine, I spend more time than I’d like to admit browsing classified ads for that rare gem.
Recently, I came across a $45 bass that I couldn’t pass up. Sure I’d never heard of the brand before, but I figured that as long as the neck and body were in decent condition, I could take care of the rest. I have been looking for a cheap bass intentionally since I have a tendency to sell off my basses whenever I find something I want. You see, my “career” as a bassist started in high school because it was much easier to join local bands as a bassist than it was as a guitarist. Hence the goal to find a nice playing bass with zero (okay $45) resale value, so that I won’t be tempted to sell it off next time I want something.
Back to the story, prior to seeing the bass,the only thing I knew about the brand Series 10 was what I found in a 5 minutes Google search. To my surprise, not only was the neck straight, the body was also in pretty decent condition.
As you can see from the picture below, at some point the pickups were swapped out, and whoever did it wasn’t too precise on their routing. I have no clue what the year is, there weren’t any markings under the pickguard or in the neck pocket. The headstock is a straight up Fender copy. I have found mixed sources about this online, some claim these were made in the 70’s, pre-lawsuits. Others claim they’re from the mid-80’s when Fender was in a decline and couldn’t afford to take legal action. Based on the condition, I’m guessing it’s newer rather than older, but who knows?
While the bass technically worked when I got it home, I could tell right off the bat that it needed a serious tune up. For example, the tone knob, which had been replaced with a rubber skull, never stopped spinning. It didn’t really work either, no matter how much you turned it. The input jack had short in it, and the bass made a constant humming sound.
Upon removing the pickguard I found out that the wiring issues were probably due to the fact that when the pickup was replaced, nothing had been soldered, instead it had been taped together. I’m so sad I didn’t take a picture. On the plus side, I found out that the replacement pickup happens to be a genuine Fender.
Once everything was opened up, I replaced the pots and soldered everything together properly. Thank you to my trusty copy of The Guitar Player Repair Guide, it’s totally worth the $24 on Amazon. I then put on a new set of strings, made some minor tweaks to the saddles and plugged it in. Not only did it play nice, but it sounded great!
I then went about removing stickers. You have to love the Misfits sticker on the neck. There is still a slight “shadow” where it used to be. I then cleaned and polished the body, and oilded the fretboard. While the routing job on the pickguard was horrible, I loved how the pickguard had naturally started to yellow from age, so instead of replacing the it, I pulled out a set of 50’s style Fender P-bass covers I happened to have for another project. A few quick screw holes, a set of new knobs, a thumb rest, and skinny Beatles style strap later, and I had a pretty nice looking bass. All in under an hour.
The final test for this $45 beauty was taking it to a gig. The next thing I had coming up was playing a few cover songs at an outdoor party. I took the bass, played the set and then afterwards got to explain to all my friends that no, I didn’t just buy a new Fender p-bass. I was actually playing an amazing no-name.
All in all, this has been an incredibly fun and inexpensive project, and it has left me with a great bass in my studio that I’m not likely to every even think about selling.