Ibanez Bass: 4 to 6 String Conversion Project

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by Kyle01, Sep 17, 2017.

  1. Kyle01

    Kyle01 SS.org Regular

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    Hey everyone, thought I would share my latest project with all of you.

    A little background on the project: My brother is a bassist (primarily 6 string), and he's had this old Ibanez Gio 4 string for quite a while now. It was his first instrument and he learned how to play on it so he's always kept it around. But since it's not of fantastic quality and missing the range that he prefers, he doesn't really play it. So after taking some measurements, we thought this bass might be a good candidate for some modifications.

    The string spacing always felt really wide, so I measured the nut width and found it to be right around 43 mm. With that wide of a nut and such a large headstock, we decided we would convert the bass into a long-scale 6 string guitar/bass hybrid using piccolo bass strings and guitar electronics. The scale length is shorter than usual at about 33", making this idea even more attractive. We plan on stringing it with a standard piccolo bass string set (20p - 52) then adding a low 65 and 75 for the lowest two strings, tuning it from F# to G (8 string tuning without the top 2 strings).

    Here is what the bass looked like before disassembly:

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    After stripping the finish and getting the bridge situated:

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    Here's the headstock after filling the top 2 tuner holes and re-drilling for 6 tuners. It's not an illusion that the spacing seems uneven. I had a hard time getting these in the exact position without filling the 2 bottom holes, which is what I should have done. Oh well, it doesn't really affect the function and this thing is super cheap anyway.

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    Here are the most updated pictures, all that's left is re-finishing and installing the new nut.

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    We are trying to keep this project as cheap as possible, and it's totaled about $40 so far before buying the clear and color finishes. I used spare parts when possible, and really cheap hardware. No point in spending a lot on a bass that was so cheap to being with.

    He's always hated the color on this thing, so he was pretty excited about the refinishing aspect. As of right now we are planning on going with a dark red satin finish. I still haven't quite decided which brand/type of finish I'm going to do, I was thinking Krylon color spray with Minwax Polycrylic clear. Any suggestions on which color and clear types you guys prefer would be welcome.
     
  2. Kyle01

    Kyle01 SS.org Regular

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    So I've gotten the color coats on the body and headstock.

    Here's the headstock with Krylon satin black:

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    The darkest red I could find was Krylon's burgundy spray. It's not quite as dark as my brother wanted, so I sprayed the whole body with satin black a few times before adding the red.

    Here's the body in all black. For some reason the filled pickup cavity was showing at this point, despite me filling with wood, then bondo, then sanding the hell out of it to make it even. It eventually disappeared thankfully.

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    Once the black was on the body, I lightly misted it with the burgundy spray so it gave it an speckled/metallic-type look. I'm actually pretty pleased with how it turned out. Its not perfect because there were some imperfections in the body that I didn't catch before finishing, but I'm not going to worry too much about it since this thing is so cheap.

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    I'll probably give this stuff 2 weeks or so to fully cure before I start spraying on the clear.
     
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  3. Kyle01

    Kyle01 SS.org Regular

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    So the other day we realized that we had no knobs lying around to use for this instrument. We're re-wiring it for a 2 pots (tone instead of a switch) and we couldn't use the original knob because we only had the single one. After browsing amazon for some knobs and only finding (what I consider to be) overpriced ones, I decided that I would just make some myself. After all, we are trying to keep the cost down as much as possible with this project.

    So I started by cutting a couple pieces off of wooden dowel to the proper height:

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    Then I drilled out the recess and the shaft hole using forstner bits:

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    And since I don't have a lathe, my sketchy duct-tape-onto-a-drill-bit had to suffice. I just clamped a piece of 80 grit paper to the workbench and angled the drill to bevel the top edge:

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    Here it is after beveling:

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    Completed knobs:

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    After being sprayed with satin black paint:

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    They're not perfect, but it beats spending $10 on a set of 2 freaking knobs. I think they'll work just fine.
     
  4. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    great thread. nice work. can't wait to see the finished product.
     
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  5. vansinn

    vansinn ShredNeck into Beck

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    I've sometimes played my 7-string 35" bass as a VLS downtuned guitar.
    Fret spacing feels a Bit wide near the nut, and the fairly wide neck can be a trick to reach in-over; else it works fine.

    I think the 33" scale you've doing here will work quite well with the width-wise better handling 6-string board.
     
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  6. CrazyDean

    CrazyDean SS.org Regular

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    Wow, I really love this thread! What a cool way to re-purpose an unused instrument. I am excited to see it complete. Although, I'm wondering why you decided on F# tuning. Will it get used in this tuning?

    Also, was this a cheap build? :fever:
     
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  7. Kyle01

    Kyle01 SS.org Regular

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    Thanks guys, I appreciate it.

    We decided on tuning it to F# because that's about as much tension as the higher piccolo strings can take. I wouldn't want to go above standard E on those top 4. I was also thinking that tuning would work well for rhythm parts written on 7 and 8 string guitars.

    I think it will also work if we dropped it down from F# to E, and tuned it like a bass vi.

    It would be cool to tune it higher than F# - G, but I'm not sure I can find any bass strings smaller than 20p.

    I haven't cut the nut slots yet, so if you guys have any suggestions for tunings / string gauges I'm open to it.
     
  8. vansinn

    vansinn ShredNeck into Beck

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    My 35" Wolf bass is tuned standard low B and up; op string is a 20 gauge plain and fares well like this.
    In TrueFourth tuning, still no issues with 20 string.

    Have you considered tuning it in downtuned C? That is, like a 6-string bass, just starting with a low C instead of B.
    Actually, choosing strings for Eb tuning will allow re-tuning +/- half a step up to standard E and down to C. Should cover a good range of songs..

    Mmnn... 33" in downtuned Eb.. should work well for modernized Hendrix or van Halen ;)
     
  9. Kyle01

    Kyle01 SS.org Regular

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    Here's another update, getting pretty close to completion on this project.

    After spraying the polycrylic clearcoat, I rubbed it down with a gray scotchbrite pad to take the sheen down a little more and even out any imperfections.

    The wiring went surprisingly well this time, usually I get super frustrated by my lack of a third hand. Today it seemed to go pretty smoothly, maybe because it was such a simple setup.

    Here'es the body after the wiring was finished and hardware installed:

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    Here's the back of the neck after removing the tape. I expected to have to clean up the line a little but that painter's tape held up well.

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    And here is the fully assembled bass.

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    Only thing left now is to knock out that old nut and put in the new one. I somehow forgot to order strings for this thing before, so as soon as those come in I'll glue the new nut in and file the slots to the right size.
     
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