First post on my blog – 1978 Musicmaster Bass Project

October 8th, 2007

Hi there,

I decided that a blog would be a more flexible forum for me to not only share info and pictures covering guitar projects I’m working on, but also just generally discuss topics related to musical instruments and even recording. This was I can keep my “business” website more focused on just that – whereas here the topics can be more free ranging and I can go into more detail on my projects.

At any given time, I have a number of projects underway – some long term, some shorter term. I just recently restarted work on a 1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass.

I have a fondness for the Fender Musicmaster – especially the earlier ones, which have very lightweight alder or poplar bodies and slimmer necks. However the later ones are also good playing instruments, and I have found the single-coil pickups (which are strat pickups with 6 flat polepieces) to be very powerful – with a less compressed sound than a P-bass for example. I have used a Dakota Red ’74 Musicmaster bass with flat wounds for both recording and gigging on many occasions – it sounds great through a high gain amp or my Big Muff Pi pedal !

This particular Musicmaster bass is being assembled from parts, mostly found on Ebay over the years, with the remained purchased new or made by me. I started with a badly defretted but otherwise solid neck and an oversprayed black late 70’s body.

The fretboard of the neck required repair of some major chips when the frets were brutally removed (not by me!), which was accomplished with rosewood saw dust and “crazy glue”. The neck was refretted with Stewart-Macdonald jumbo fretwire, and should be a nice playing neck.

The body was largely undamaged, but the original black finish had been oversprayed with more black – and also had some kind of symbol scratched into the back surface of the upper horn. I decided to sand off the polyurethane finish, and it surprisingly came off very nicely and evenly and revealed a very nice ash body under the finish – a 3-piece body, but with the grain matched so that it looks almost like a single piece of nicely grained wood. The only problem was the scratched in design on the back and a little divot out of the butt end of the body.

I scratched out the black paint left in the design on the back and the small divot, and then filled them with crazy glue – which I then sanded down flush. I did contemplate spraying the body an ambered clear, since much of the clear sealer coat was still on the wood, but I decided to go for the more interesting transparent red finish that Fender used for a few years during the late 70’s.

To my eye, the color has a slightly browned and ambered tint – something that takes the edge off a pure cherry red color. I first sprayed a clear coat of sanding sealer, which required very little sanding (see first picture), and then mixed a lightly tinted finish of red and yellow stew-mac dye, with some powdered burnt umber pigment mixed in, and sprayed an initial color coat (second picture). The result looked cool , but not what I was going for.

Clear coated with sanding sealerFirst color coat, orange tint

After letting the first coat dry for a few days – I mixed up another batch of lacquer, this time going very heavy on the red dye and adding a little more burnt sienna. I sprayed this on in several coats – I unfortunately got one run on the upper horn (which I’ll wet sand out), but now the color is really what I wanted. For comparison purposes, check out the 1978 Musicmaster that Brian Goff recently had for sale in Bizarre Guitars Ebay store.

First red color coat, unsanded

After wet sanding the whole body, I’ll apply one more lightly tinted color coat and then several clear coats, before a final wet sanding and buffing out. Look for another post on this project in a week or two.

(Update Nov. 9th, 2007)

Finally I got around to finishing up the Musicmaster Bass – I tried out my new Sears 6 inch Buffer to buff out the finish and it worked great – will make my life much easier !

I also had to scrounge up the rest of the parts, wire up the bass and do a little fret work on the refretted neck – one lose fret and a few high spots here and there, plus then setting up the entire instrument once it was altogether. Its turned out to be a really nice looking bass and it plays well, though I dont like it as much as my 74 Musicmaster, which has a smaller neck in general and is lighter.

The parts I used with the refretted neck and refinished body are as follows:

– original bridge, neckplate and pickup cover

– replica 3-ply pickguard, reissue Fender thumbrest and knobs, aftermarket strap buttons, string retainer

– Dimarzio strat pickup, Stew-Mac 250K pots, modified Ping tuners and string ferrules

The completed product below – and a snapshot with its big brother 78 Jazz bass.

Completed 78 Musicmaster Bass