The Fender Bass VI is just plain cool. Think “The Lonely Surfer“ and vintage Jet Harris. Or if you prefer, Jack Bruce or Robert Smith. Manufactured from 1962 to 1975, Fender supposedly made less than 1000 over that time. Accordingly, vintage Bass VIs command premium prices.
So, what if you have a Surf band and want a Bass VI? Vintage is out. Fender Custom Shop models are also out of reach for most. Fender Japan models are less expensive (relatively so, at ~$1600USD) but, hard to come by. Then there are non-Fender options. Burns Barracuda? Also difficult to find. Schecter Hellcat VI and Ultra VI? Kind of cool. Not really Surf and no tremolo but, reasonably priced and well regarded. Danelectro and Jerry Jones models are no longer made. Eastwood has the Sidejack VI. Budget priced. Has a tremolo. But, the Eastwood was not available when The Mighty Landshark! began our Bass VI quest in the Winter of 2011.
What to do? Both Warmoth and USA Custom Guitars offer Bass VI bodies and necks. We already had pickups, tuners and assorted other parts lying around screaming to be put to good use. Answer – Build a Bass VI from parts. Ultimately, we opted for USACG body and neck for this project.
Why USACG? The upside of Warmoth is that they also offer compatible pickguards and switch plates. But, even though we’ve been very happy with Warmoth parts in the past for several Strat and Tele builds, their Bass VI body uses a swimming pool route in order to accommodate multiple pickup configurations. Not what we wanted. Also, the Warmoth headstock for the Bass VI neck is of their own design. Nothing wrong with that but, aesthetically, not to our taste. We really wanted a Fender-like headstock and Warmoth could not offer other design options.
The USACG parts are based closely on a 1962 (first generation) Fender Bass VI. There are some notable differences (pickup route, for one) but, that was not an issue for our build. Their Bass VI body is routed for Strat pickups and a 3 switch plate. Which, if you’re looking for a 2nd generation Bass VI with Jaguar-like pickups and a 4 switch plate, creates more work. But, we already had Strat pickups and a 3 switch plate. No issue.
Also, the USACG headstock offers enough material to modify to a Fender-like shape if you are so inclined. But, in the end, we opted not to alter the headstock - if for no other reason, our Bass VI is not intended to be an exact Fender copy. The USACG headstock was close enough and, we really didn’t want to risk ruining a perfectly good neck. It also didn’t hurt that Tommy at USACG was very helpful in selecting the specs and since we caught him on the first day in business after the January 2012 blizzard, gave us a great deal for the the parts.
As for the build, a Bass VI is not as straight forward as a Strat or Tele. Not even close. And, there is a lot of misinformation around the web (what else is new?). While Offset Guitars proved to be an invaluable resource, keep in mind that everyone’s projects are different and not all choices are compatible. How do we know that? Trial and and a lot of error. Some things worked and some didn’t. Anyone want an extra Jaguar control plate and mute? We also had to enlarge the tremolo route to accommodate the reissue 62 Jag tremolo.
But, rather than provide a blow-by-blow summary of the build process and all of the missteps along the way (since our Bass VI was completed before The Mighty Landshark! had a website), here is a listing of the parts and sources we ultimately used.
- Body: Standard Baritone VI body in alder from USA Custom Guitars
- Neck: 30″ scale Baritone VI neck in maple with a 10 degree radius, C contour and US-3 headstock from USA Custom Guitars
- Tremolo: Fender 62 Reissue Jaguar Tremolo from eBay seller
- Bridge: Mastery M1 offset bridge from Mastery
- Pickups: Muy Grande matched Strat set with pearloid covers from Rio Grande Pickups
- Pickguard: Pearloid Bass VI pickguard for USACG body from Tony at Pickguardian
- Control Plate: Bass VI control plate from Paul Rhoney Guitars. Originally cut from mirrored plexi by Pickguardian (a great low cost option if you can’t find one in chrome)
- Switch plate: 3 switch Jaguar plate from eBay seller
- Tuners: Gotoh Kluson style tuners from Warmoth
- Nut: Custom bone nut from Dave at Guitar Resurrection
- Hardware: Assorted buttons, knobs, screws, and plates from a 1987 Fender Stratocaster and various eBay sellers
- Electronics: Assorted cloth wires, shielding plates, shielding paint and caps from various eBay sellers
- Schematics: Seymour Duncan schematic for 3 single coils, 1 volume, 1 tone and 3 on/off switches
- Headstock decal: “Landshark VI” waterslide decal in gold Fender style lettering from samsmom0_1, ebay seller
- Strings: D’Addario XL156 Bass VI string set. Low A replaced with .075. Low E replaced with .095. From Juststrings.
So, there you have it. We now have a Bass VI in Chartreuse sparkle. Look for future posts on a Fender AVRI Jaguar refinish project with more details and pictures. But until then, The Mighty Landshark! Bass VI…
- Recorded using a Sennheiser e609 silver into an Audio Kontrol 1 interface and Audacity. No additional mixing.
- Demos 1 and 2 were recorded with a Fender Bassman 100T and 2 1×15 Fender Neo cabinets with pickups bridge, middle & neck in order. The amp was set on 25W and the vintage channel. Bass, Mid and Treble set at 6. Master volume set at 4. Volume set at 6.
- Demo 3 was recorded on the neck pickup and a modified Fender Excelsior. The amp has an Eminence Legend 1518 and JJ tubes in place of stock, v1 has a JJ 5751 instead of the stock 12AX7. Volume set at noon. Tone switch set to dark.