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The Gear: Bass #3 - Copper Craziness

*** Warning - this is a very image heavy post. Lots to show about how this bass happened.***

This bass was quite an adventure to build. Like so many ideas I've had over the years, this one came out of nowhere and I had to file it away in the back of my brain til the time was right to get into actually doing it. That time came when I found myself in a punk pop trio and I decided that my fancy flamed maple exotic looking NJ5 that I made myself years ago did't really look the part. Solution - build a bass that looks right and sounds right.

So the first thing was to decide what woods to make it out of. I knew it needed to be a four string because none of the parts I had written for the music used a low B. Also, it's pop punk. 5 Strings would look a bit weird. I decided to use a kind of mahogany called Okumé for the body. It's nice and light and I had a piece that was wide enough for a one piece body, which in my experience always sound killer. For the neck I ended up using bubinga. But it's not the typical ruddy reddish brown bubinga that you're probably used to seeing. I had a big old plank of sapwood and it's dirty creamy color was very interesting and seemed right for this project. I carved out a chunk big enough for a neck and got on with deciding what to use for the fingerboard. Again, I decided to go a little into left field and went with wenge for the fingerboard. Love wenge because it's nice and dark and it has wonderful punchy immediate sonic characteristics. And I wanted this bass to be aggressive sounding for sure.

Here we go with the first sheet of foil. I really had no idea how this was going to go at this point.

Got the front and back covered and the had to figure out how to do the sides.

I ended up centering the foil on the sides and then decided to slit and fold it over.

This was a tricky process.

Looked pretty cool. But I was worried about it coming undone.

So I soldered all the seams. That took a while.

Next I wanted to get a sweet patina going.

This process involves applying a vinegar solution that had salt dissolved in it. Then you suspend the bass over a tub of ammonia (YUK!) and cover it to concentrate the fumes. Then you get this:

Crazy cool blue colors!

Took me several applications to get where I was happy with the look.

Then after all the patina work I sprayed three coats of rattle can satin lacquer on it to seal it up and keep a very raw feel.

It was a lot of experimentation and learning but the result was really exciting. I was super happy with the results.

I decided to shield the control cavity and keep the foil super clean. The contrast is really great.

Here we go with the covers. I just stuck the foil right on the standard plastic covers we use.

Then the salt and vinegar thing over a stanky ammonia puddle. That's the worst part of this whole process. It still stinks really bad in my memory. Sheesh.

But wow, the results can be stunning!

For the neck I ended up rubbing in a reddish colored Minwax stain and filler mix. The color totally worked with the whole copper aesthetic. Sweet! Then more satin lacquer to seal it all up.

I used copper rod for the face dots. Here the bass has a temporary chrome bridge.

Ahh, that's better. I had Hipshot make me copper plated hardware. It really helps bring the whole thing to the next level. Also, check the awesome custom knobs from Devin Cline. Super cool!

Copper machines and string retainer. Rad! And the logo is hand cut out of a piece of copper sheet and then treated for patina again. Then I used little brass nails to fix it in place.

Gotta have the Hipshot xTender for the E string. That came in handy on the Moba Jones tunes I ended up using this bass on.

Here it is completed. Almost.

Devin also made me these totally awesome stuffs. Neck plates and strap buttons, again out of solid copper.

And here's the bass in repose on a nice leather couch. The strap is from Dog Days Vintage Straps in Santa Cruz and it just really finishes the whole look off to the highest level. Fun, fun project!

So, now to the music. I used this bass on 2 tracks for the Moba Jones record, Soul Fish and Birdless. The Big Blade pickups and passive controls provided an amazing textural deep growl that just worked perfect for both tracks.

Here's the music:

Soul Fish


The full album is available on the Moba Jones Bandcamp page in Hi Res at 24/48.

The full album is also available on all digital music services including iTunes.

I do hope you enjoy the music. And please, if you do like it, share it with others that have similarly good taste. :-)


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