KM exclusive | Switchback’s Dejan Nikolin’s enthralling account on constructing his “Blue Beauty”
Published on October 8th, 2011 | by Caesar (Kuwait Music)
Blue Beauty – 2003
By Dejan Nikolin, Bassist for Switchback
I have always been fascinated by Jaco Pastorius and fretless basses. After much deliberation, I decided to take a plunge and put together my own Warmoth ‘Jaco-ish’ Bass.
Back in 2002, I got a ’75 Jazz, and in the process of restoring it ended up with a pair of good sounding, but unknown pickups and few other bits and pieces that were just begging for a nice body and a neck.
This 5lbs Alder Body with Quilted Maple top dyed in Warmoth’s ‘Bright Blue’ finish was purchased from Warmoth’s Thrift Shop. According to the experts at www. FenderForum.com, alder is a good match for an all wenge neck in terms of tone, and this is what I wanted. They were right. This is the pic from Warmoth’s web site, before they routed Control Plate rout for me.
Back of the body. Body was routed for rear-mounted controls, but I wanted to use the Control Plate, so I asked Warmoth to make a top route for it.
I saw this nice, all-wenge J fretless neck in Warmoth’s Thrift shop and went for it.
Front of the neck before I got it. Neck was already slotted for frets, so I asked Warmoth to place thin strips of maple instead of the frets.
I bought Hipshot Tuners and mounted them on the headstock. They are very high quality and lighter weight than Fender’s traditional tuners, thus giving this bass better balance.
Gotoh 206 bridge fit in perfectly and was easy to adjust. My biggest concern was the nut. I read all I could on the subject, and everyone said that it is a tricky operation, especially on a fretless. I used a triangle file to start the groves, then a Dremel with 1mm cutting disc to shape them to size. Strangely enough – it worked!
I had some trouble with the pups, because they were a bit too big for the routes. When I bought the ’75 Jazz, these pups were installed without the covers for the same reason.
I had a couple of original Fender J pickup covers, so I ‘shaved‘ them all around (the invisible part) until they fit. I was a bit concerned with the balance of the bass, as wenge neck is fairly heavy, and Warmoth uses steel bars in the neck to stiffen it up and eliminate any dead spots. That is why I mounted the straplock a bit higher.
I did not install the Cover Plate, just the metal (original Fender) Control Plate
View of the Jimmy Hendrix Fender Limited Edition Neckplate. Not many people know, but Jimmy also played bass.
I also got pots and jack, string retainer and some screws from Warmoth. I had a Fender Limited Edition neck plate with screws already, and a set of HipShot Ultralights for a Jazz.
And there you have it – after a few evenings, I have a great sounding, very playable fretless Jazz.
Neck pickup (wish I knew what it was) is very punchy and full-sounding, while the bridge pickup gives that typical Jaco sound. There are tons of mwah, probably thanks to that lovely all-wenge neck and the roundwood strings.
In terms of looks, initially I thought that blue quilted maple top and dark brown wenge would not match too well, but after I completed the bass, I changed my mind – it looks great!
It took me about 8 hours of total work time to put this bass together. All parts fitted PERFECTLY – a testament to Warmoth’s fantastic quality. Neck pocket was absolutely perfect, all holes were drilled where they were supposed to be. Biggest jobs were shielding and cutting the nut, something I did for the first time, and without having proper tools.
View of the Blue Beauty after I finished assembly and setup…she turned out real pretty, and sounds even better!