Friday, 30 September 2011

Project Weekend!

Due to minor injuries (not mine) I will not be having my planned weekend of running around some woods with a rubber sword pretending to be an elf... so this weekend becomes Project Weekend! Yay!

I plan to have both the Swift LP and Columbus EB-3 in working order by Sunday night. Whether this actually happens probably depends on how hot the weather is, but I full intend to at least have a go at it.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Columbus EB-3 Copy - First Impressions

Well, I had a bit of a play with the bass before I started taking bits off for clean up.

First impressions are good. The finish is translucent (and pretty bashed about, but it is 40-odd years old), which means obvious plywood is obvious, but overall the quality of the materials and workmanship isn't at all bad and the neck appears to have been carved from a single piece rather than two as is common on cheaper necks with angled headstocks. The fretboard is nice and smooth, all the (quite small, considering I'm used to medium jumbos) frets are in good nick and the binding is very well done. The bridge is some weird floating thingy that seems to be a hybrid of the old Gibson 2-point bridges and the original Danelectro bridges and the strings are bent almost at right angles between the bit where the ball ends anchor (which is quite sturdily fixed to the body) and the bridge itself. Oh, and it turns out the 'saddle' isn't fixed to the bridge and has been stamped out of some cheap, thin metal.

It's pretty comfortable to play sat on my knee (the guy kept the strap buttons, so I presume they must've been expensive ones for strap locks or something) and despite the deeeeeep neck pocket upper fret access isn't too much of a pain (though keeping this once I've put new strap buttons on it will necessitate relocating the one that was on the neck). Plugged in it gives a good sound... with the neck pickup. The bridge pickup is, frankly, useless on its own and sucks a lot of tone out of the thing when both are on. Don't know if this is because it's a rubbish pickup or if it just needs bringing closer to the strings, I'll find out when I've cleaned it up and put the strings back on! The volume and tone pots are not at all scratchy and all seem to work fine. Might replace the caps though, they've got those cheapo green ones at the moment. The switch is on its last legs, it has a lot of side-to-side movement and no longer 'clicks' when used so that'll need replacing too.

Next week I'll be doing the full clean up and replacing the nut as the current one is seriously damaged and I just happen to have a brass one lying around because of a parts order where I first got the wrong stuff, but then got the right stuff but was allowed to keep the wrong stuff. Win.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Swift Les Paul Copy - Bits n' Pieces

The new electronics for the Swift LP copy arrived this morning. I probably won't be able to actually install them until next week, but I'll list them here anyway.

I have bought, from Axes R Us, the following:
  • 2x CTS 250K linear pots (tone)
  • 2x CTS 250K logarithmic pots (volume)
  • 1 .47uf Sprague "Orange Drop" capacitor for the bridge tone control
  • 1 .33uf Sprague "Orange Drop" capacitor for the neck tone control
  • 1 three-way toggle switch
  • 1 mono jack socket
  • Various bits of wire

Basically the aim here is to replicate the actually not-too-bad sound of the original setup using better quality parts. I've also taken the decision to use a lower value cap for the neck tone control just to reduce the amount of mud a bit.

ETA: I've just taken measurement of the DC resistance of the stock pickups... the neck came in at 9.9Kohm and the bridge at 10.1Kohm. Not as much of a difference as expectations nor conventional wisdom demanded, but no biggie... I mean, twin P90s are often the same value the difference being made in how close they are to the strings.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Late 60s Columbus EB-3 copy

So... the early 70s Jazz copy I reported on yesterday turned out to be a late 60s EB-3 copy. Which, frankly is a bit more of a win as I've wanted an EB-3 style bass for ages and as it's a freebie I don't lose anything if it turns out I don't like playing it.

Strings are new, but will probably get some new ones anyway because it's short scale and the nut is in dire need of replacing.

And I reckon I could get a better bridge too.

Columbus EB-3 copy headstock

Columbus EB-3 copy body

Columbus EB-3 copy guts

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Early 70s Columbus Jazz Bass

Tomorrow I'm picking up a freebie Jazz Bass copy by Columbus.

Edit: turned out to be a 60s EB-3 copy... see next post for more details.

Columbus were a brand that ran from the late 60s to the early 80s and were put together in the Ibanez factory a Japanese factory that may or may not have been one of the ones also used by Ibanez. Not seen many pics of them, but with any luck it'll be a tobacco burst with bound fretboard and block inlays. Because that looks nice.

Will probably do the 'usual' mods on this... so swapping out the electronics, and possibly the pickups as well.

I'll post pictures tomorrow evening.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Quickie - Danelectro Fabtone

My first ever pedal was a Danelectro Fabtone, and I still have it. When I was 19 it was the best thing ever. At 30 it was a horrible hissy gain monster I never used. I took out the diodes D4 & D5 and capacitor C2 and the gain became a bit more controllable but the pedal was still very noisy.

Recently though I found this video which suggests putting an LED in the place of the D5. I've just done this and the extraneous noise is all gone!