The Relic

And so it happened, that while I was surfin on a big european online musicstore, I stumbled upon this do-it-yourself Precision Bass Kit. The kit contains everything that's needed to put together a complete P-style bass. And the best part of the story? All they asked for it was 88€! (Thats about $120 for you on the other side of the Atlantic). Needless to say, it didn't took me long before I found myself opening up a cardbox that was delivered a week later.

The wood parts (neck and body) weren't painted, only treated with a thin layer of sealer of some sort, so I got this idea of painting the body cream white and switch out the white pickguard to dark brown tortoise one. All in the favour of trying to match the rosewood fretboard. All-in-all the craftmanship on the body and neck was impressive, even though they aren't exactly "hand-made". Everything is more or less done by CNC-machines and robots these days. The frets were very well leveled, I only found 2 fret ends being a bit high, and the trussrod worked like a charm.

The head shape was yet to be cut out and sanded. The manufacturer probably leaves this for the customer to decide what kind of shape he/she wants.

Bolt-on neck construction, basswood body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard , 20frets, 864mm scale, 42mm nut-width, 2 x singlecoil pickups, 1-volume, 1-tone, chrome hardware, diecast tuners, 045-105 strings.

The necks backside and head were surpricingly light in color, almost milk white. So I got this idea to make a mixture of red and yellow paint dying paste plus some wax. Not as easy to get that old aged amber tint as I thought it would be. Applied 3 coats to get the desired tint, and that was it.

For the body I bought som ordinary acryl spraypaint, a can of primer and one cream colored. However, when I sprayed the first coat of the cream color I wasn't satisfied with the color. It was too light to resemble an old patined, sunlight darkened tint. Back to the store the next day to get a can with a slightly darker color.

To get the metal parts look worn and aged, there is a simple trick to get the chrome look worn and old. First the surface has to be treated with some steel-wool to get some very small scratches on the chrome surface. After that all the metal parts are put in a plastic bag, along with all the small screwes and all the parts that you want to look old and worn, and shake, twist, turn and simply just make the parts hit against eachother inside the bag. This creates dents, cracks and worn edges on the metal parts. Next is to let the parts soak in some ferric chloride diluted in water. Ferric chloride is a traditional home-use circuit board etchant. It's easy enough to come by, and the ferric by itself is no big environmental problem.
As an hobby electrician (I used to make my own circuit boards) I had some in the closet. However, the trick to get the etchant solution just right, is to NOT let the metal parts to be soaked in the solution for too long. If you leave it soaking for too long, all the chrome will be etched away and the copper underneath will become visible. Not exactly a bad thing if this happends, but the desired effect of the etching will not look authentic.

Note that the ferric chloride solution is corrosive. Protect your hands with rubber gloves and store/use the solution only in glass or plastic containers.

When the paint on the body had dried for a week, it was time to make the dents and the worn-outs on strategic places. The most exposed edges (like the upper horn on the body) is obvious places where natural wear-and tear occurs. A dull knife, some screwdrivers and a small electric sander was used. Perhaps the most fun part of this build was this part. How often do you get a oppurtunity to deliberately cause flaws and defects on a instrument?

To create some "dirt" on all the metal parts I got this idea of using both black and brown shoe polish. The liquid type is easy to apply with some cotton swabs and pieces of cloth. The brown color also makes the metal parts look a bit rusty, while the black polish resembles ordinary dirt. A best of all, the polish protects the surfaces from future wear-and -tear.



"Try as you will, you cannot annihilate
that eternal relic of the human heart, love."
- Victor Hugo