Thursday, December 31, 2020


If you can't play with the ones you want, build the ones you're with.

[NOTE: I built a total of 9 finished basses in 2020, but have been posting over on Facebook much more than here. Here's a year-end summary of my personal bass projects - individual postings and videos on each of these builds can be found at ]


Well, it's finally over (unfortunately not the pandemic, but most definitely the calendar year). If you're the clever, crafty muso type like myself, the inevitable result of being bored because you're not touring and performing is to end up involving yourself in many "projects." In my case (as one does), making more basses. In fairness, I actually unloaded 3 basses this year, but even I will admit that this probably does not quite balance out with the 9 basses I built for myself, but it kept me sane. So.
I hesitated posting this year-end roundup because of the obvious humble-braginess of it (yes, spellcheck, I am claiming this as a real word). But let's face it, some of us didn't even survive the year, so I prefer to err on celebrating life and creativity in any form it takes.
The first two basses on the left were admittedly completion of projects started in 2019, and as they were completed before mid-March 2020 it's a stretch to even call them COVID babies. But the virus actually did exist as of late 2019, and this whole year is kindof a blur at this point. My BLUBOY relic'd '61 Jazz, with flats and original Fender mutes under the bridge cover, absolutely nails that thuddy jazz bass sound heard in early-mid '60's rock recordings, until bassists worldwide decided they wanted more high end to cut through on stage and summarily removed them (think GREEN EYED LADY and the HAIR Broadway soundtrack). The natural '51 P Bass (minus the tortoise pickguard, which I love but remove when performing Zeppelin sets) nails John Paul Jones' live P Bass grunge sound on the proper songs (esp. IMMIGRANT SONG and BLACK DOG from live tapes in the early '70's). This original proto-Precision bass is the ONLY bass pictured that I actually got to perform live with this year, as all gigs were shut down by mid-March. Let's hope 2021 offers more live performance opportunities, because you never really know how a bass will actually sound until it's live on stage mixing with the other instruments and voices.
The '67-style Jazz Bass with the blocked bound neck was officially a boredom project, where I swapped the neck from a Jaguar Bass I liked but never loved because the body is probably too lightweight to ever have the fullness I'm looking for. There are few (bass) things prettier to me than a "fully dressed" Jazz, as limiting as that may be sometimes (especially if you want to palm mute specific but not all notes in a song, which is impossible with the bridge cover), but the bass has a great, bright yet full Geddy tone.
Behind it, the only non-Fender pedigree bass and another "boredom project" - a "Fenderbird" assembled from a Korean Epiphone body had I upgraded with active EMG pickups many years ago, paired with a Korean Fender maple neck. I planned to sell this once completed, especially since I didn't think the lighter wood used to manufacture the body would be particularly full-sounding, and I had disliked the neck on 2 previous basses I used it on. But after hand-stripping, staining and sealing the body, fighting for a week or two with the 3-point bridge bolt holes (thank you Polyurethane adhesive) and cleaning up/sealing/fret dressing the neck - OH MY is this an excellent bass (so much so that I decided to sell another even more souped-up Thunderbird I built back in 2008 instead). The neck is super straight, the action super low, and I now have an outstanding Fenderbird for if/when I get a call to fill in as Entwistle in a Who tribute one day.
The second Sunburst Jazz bass on the floor is my JPJ Tribute Jazz, built as close to original 1962 John Paul Jones jazz bass spec as possible. The first version of this has a bad neck, so I spent a bit more $$ on a Fender-licensed WD neck (this one with an Ebony fingerboard) put on a set of Thomastik Jazz Flats, and - I now refer to this bass as the finest bass I have ever made (also possibly as MOAB, aka Mother Of All Basses). I look forward to performing Zeppelin music (and anything else) around the world with this beast once that asshole Mr. COVID is dead and buried.
Between the two Sunburst Jazz basses is an experiment to use up a one-piece solid walnut Jaguar/Jazzmaster body blank I've been sitting on for years. It is now part of an outstanding Jazzmaster Bass, a Fender model that never actually existed in any form, but if it does (one day) they could do worse than this 30" scale neck and actual P90 guitar pickups with certain pole pieces removed, resulting in an incredibly bright and full sounding bass (I am available to consult with Fender on the Pelletier Squier Jazzmaster Bass if the opportunity presents itself). It's so comfortable to play, has highs and upper mids that cut like you wouldn't believe, but is still plenty bassy/boomy because of the heavier walnut body (with an incredibly straight neck and low action). I just replaced the tone pot from a B250 to an A500 (which now matches the volume pot), and it's ready to go (where, I don't know, but as long as I'm with it...).
The '72 style Telecaster Bass was another boredom project, as well as a good exercise in fretting (my first attempt in 40 years). The body was from a Fender Squier Tele Bass that has sat in my shop for 12-15 years. I had to fill some radical routing I has attempted back then, then match the top ash veneer grain and paint/stain/finish, and THEN fight for weeks with a crappy warped 3rd party neck, who's headstock I reshaped into the Tele shape it now sports. After essentially giving up on taking the twist out, I pulled all the frets, reshaped the fingerboard to straighten it, then re-fretted it with smaller frets. I even ordered another maple P Bass/Tele Bass neck to replace it, thinking it would end up being trash, but it actually ended up quite playable. The only reason to keep it on my arsenal is the Gibson-influenced OEM Fender Mudbucker pickup, which is so boomy and muddy that I added a series/parallel switch to the tone pot to tame it down a bit. It's quite something, actually.
Next to that on the end is Smiley Red, my relic'd Red over Sunburst project that has been on my mind for a few years now, but only got this far because my body supplier finally restocked their Alder Sunburst bodies. I tried re-purposing the neck originally mounted on the MOAB Bass after reshaping the headstock and painting it the matching metallic red, but the jury is still out on this one. With all top-grade parts including Hipshot Ultralites and KickAss bridge and EMG Geezer Butler passive pickups, this thing should be the Swiss Army Knife of basses, but the neck and frets are still not quite cooperating (with some buzzing in the first 5 or so frets that I just might not be able to eliminate, not matter how much fret filing I do). I've gotten demanding enough as a player and good enough as a luthier that close enough actually isn't, so another neck is currently on order.
This leaves the PUFF-N-STUFF P Bass, a quick little project completed this month. Inspired by a Facebook Bass group photo of a 60+ year old natural Fender Jazz Bass with a hand-painted King Crimson logo, I made mine into a natural Precision Bass (because I really don't need ANOTHER Jazz bass - ever) with a logo from a Saturday morning kids show I loved - AS A KID. It's called Kitsch because it elevates bad or bland art and design. That's why it's cool now, because it was so bad then. And HR Puf-N-Stuff was both cool to my 9 year old brain and really bad to my 59 year old brain. And the bass feels and sounds great to play, too, so there's that.
(There was a 10th project, a Deluxe Jazz with a modified 24 to 22-fret Korean Jazz neck that ended up a but twisted and un-useable as is, so the parts were cannibalized to use on Smiley Red, and perhaps I'll get back to it one day - when I'm bored).
2020 was also the year I needed a few more bass guitar soft cases (for obvious reasons), and I finally have an Ampeg tube bass head to mess around with at home (it's NEVER leaving the house as long as I can help it). Here's to 2021, the year I get to play ALL of these basses on a stage at a high volume with other musicians and witnesses, and (probably) only build a couple more. 
Have a Happy, stay safe, and WEAR A MASK.
AND AS FOR CHOCOLATE: Beware of the COSTO packaging for the TRUFFETTES DU FRANCE chocolate truffles. This was/is an incredible bargain for these addictive and COVID weight gain-inducing chocolate mouth bombs, but BEWARE when you get home and open the box because there's not one, not two, but FOUR packages in there! I also discovered another great chocolate bar at Trader Joes: El Campano 78.5% dark w/sweet plantain (although I must admit the chocolate drawer has gotten a bit less used because 2020 was the year of serious baked goods, which resulted in 10 pounds of COVID weight).


Saturday, October 24, 2020


A classic Fender Jazzmaster guitar is a very pretty thing, especially in my favorite dress: sunburst body, red tortoise pickguard, cream pickup covers, oversized headstock on an amber neck (ooh, baby, you had me at sunburst). Unfortunately for me I am a clumsy and irritable guitarist - there's just a few too many strings, and they are too close together. Fender never made a bass version of what was the predecessor to the Stratocaster, unless you count the Jazz Bass (which is certainly related in many ways). I've had a walnut a one-piece sorta Jaguar/Jazzmaster blank kicking around my shop for a few years now, purchased at a bargain from a tonewood supplier who cut the body shape out himself, and not in a particularly great way.  I've been looking at it in my shop for quite a while, and have seen a couple of custom Jazzmaster basses online, but not quite as I envision. Since it's not a perfect match to replace my beautiful but a-bit-too-lightweight sunburst Squier Jaguar body that is still irking me (basswood=nolowendwood) I might as well make an attempt at my own version of a 30" shortscale Jazzmaster bass.

I've also have a set of Epiphone cream-covered P90's kicking around for quite a while (they came with one of the few electric guitars I own, a very nice Epi gold top Les Paul with upgraded Duncan mini-humbuckers replacing the stock P90's). These are pretty fat pickups with a lot of winding, and I'm curious to hear them on a bass, but I was also concerned about single-coil hum, so instead of finally using these I ordered a fairly cheap set that came with one wound in reverse polarity, so using them together would be hum-cancelling (my 2 pet peeves - noisy pickups and head-dive). Placement would all depend on the pickguard, so I tracked down a red tortoise P90 pickguard with as few extra holes as possible (I am stuck only with the two bridge bolt holes which will end up showing because this will require a different bridge, with a different scale than a standard guitar scale), along with cream knobs and a 3-position pickup switch.

For the neck, I contacted a neck maker on eBay and ordered a 30" scale maple paddle-head (so I could cut the headstock shape I wanted). It took a few months to patiently acquire all the parts, but I guess now is the time to try to make this thing.

The biggest challenge is going to be the placement of the neck and neck pocket, which decides the routing of the neck pocket and pickups, location of the bridge, the proper geometry for the headstock and tuners, and (if necessary) shortening the neck and re-shaping the heel. Not sure how many frets will be in this thing, or even if the truss rod location inside the neck will allow me to shorten it from the 24 (?) frets there currently to as little as 20. 

The headstock also presents some challenges - I have some smaller tuners, and want to keep it around the same length as a Mustang Bass (which is a bit smaller than a standard Jazz or P Bass). The angle the pickups are drilled is important to keep the lines straight, and quite a bit of eyeballing was involved to get everything looking right (I guess... the math is way too hard, but I trust my eyeballs). So here we go...

I was able to shorten the neck itself (to a 20-fret version, in order to avoid too much neck imbalance). I got lucky in that the truss rod used by the builder did not extend as far as the 20th fret - I did a smaller cut first just in case I'd have to settle for 22 frets (or ruin the neck entirely).
It looks like the remaining heel will still fit a standard Fender heel body route (although I will also check the squarer version before pulling the trigger, as routing is forever).

The headstock is requiring quite a bit more work than anticipated, because of course it does. Having just recently done quite drastic surgery to three other Chinese Jazz Bass headstocks (these quite poorly cut at an angle that required serious reshaping and re-drilling), I've gotten pretty comfortable with this Frankensteining of the headstock, and it's slowly shaping up nicely.
Next up will be finishing the headstock (probably with a layer of veneer on top to clean it up), then shaping the heel so I can get a final placement for the neck heel, pickups and electronics routing for the body.




Sunday, December 15, 2019

Blue Boy Pt 4

Blue Boy now has a new, heavier ash body; time to assembled it with the "old" parts. First, the pickups and control plate are put in, including wiring all the grounds together. Once the plate and bridge pickup are screwed in, the pickguard is lined up and fitted with a couple of screws (none of the old holes lining up, of course) in order to then screw down the neck pickup. I've decided I don't care for the brown control knobs on this bass - just not traditional enough - so I've ordered a set of standard black ones to replace them.

Now that the pickups are in a row, I can check the exact alignment of the bridge and - wow, off by almost a half centimeter. I'll mark where I want it with tape, unscrew it and re-drill the holes.

Now that that's cleaned up, I restring with the stainless La Bella strings, adjust the neck tension, string and pickup heights a bit, put the plates back on and let it sit overnight to settle (the strings and neck have to get used to each other).
Here's my first reactions the next morning: Blue Boy video 4

Conclusion - this body is fuller sounding on the low end, but still not as resonant with the neck as I would like. I also dislike the clangy-ness of the stainless strings on this neck, the frets are pretty noisy. I will try changing up the strings, first with flats, then maybe nickle half rounds or...

Of course, playing it on my full rig - with lots of volume - live with other musicians will be the real test. I'll avoid any additional major changes until I've had that opportunity. Who knows?

Friday, December 13, 2019

Blue Boy (part 2+3)

Having introduced the victim, I am now slowly tweaking it in a probably futile attempt to not perform the radical surgery - replacing the body - that seems almost inevitable. First, I just changed the strings hoping a slightly heavier set would solve both the low tension and low end tone issues. Spoiler - it did not:
Blue Boy (part 2 - changing strings)

Ok, now first let's make sure the neck and body are a good fit, and, even with the generic pickups and hardware that came with the ash body, if it is noticeably fuller in tone. It is:
Blue Boy (part 3 - new body test)

Now comes the work. Although the hardware on the new body is OK, I want to switch it all out with the parts I prepped, aged and installed on the original body (including the EMG Geezer Butler passive pickups, which are very nice). One thing I did notice, besides total lack of shielding on the body (which I corrected with copper tape and ground wires to each pickup compartment, grounded to the main compartment wall) is that the pickup alignment for the bridge pickup is way off (tweaked to the left, so the strings aren't lining up with the rear pickup pole pieces, but OK with the neck pickup).

In all honesty it will probably sound fine regardless, and I have the chrome plate to mount over the bridge and rear pickup anyway so it won't be visible, but can I correct it? Is the problem the pickup route, or the bridge placement? The joys of 3rd party parts...

Lining it up with a template I made from Fender PDFs, it seems the whole body is slightly skewed, but I think moving the bridge to the right a bit would split the difference. Here we go.

Blue Boy (part 1)

In an effort to clear the logjam of non-posting to this blog, I am trying out shooting video posts. First up: Blue Boy (part 1).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New and Improved Ric (pt.1)

But it doesn't mean you can't try...
We are all the accumulation of our influences, all digested and blended in unique ways, then expressed based on our limits/abilities. Growing up listening to bassists, the Big Three for me were Chris Squire, Geddy Lee and Paul McCartney. The bass they all had in common, and (except for Paul) the bass that defined their sound, was the Rickenbacker.

I always went for that "Ric" sound - bright, cutting high mids suitable for melodic bass lines, even though I mostly played Jazz Bass-type basses (or, for a 20 year stretch, a Steinberger, a Geddy/Sting/Tony Levin-inspired choice). Throughout college and my 20's I played in a progressive rock/Rush tribute band, and Geddy and Chris's sound and approach to bass playing was all over my hands and musical choices. I have owned two actual Rickenbacker basses in my life; an early 80's 4003, and a late 70's model. The first played great and sounded like you would expect, but the neck was VERY chunky, and while I shedded on Yes bass parts I eventually realized that unless I wanted to form a Yes tribute, it would never get played (and I could not find THE drummer, so I sold it).

The second Ric, a beautiful brown model 4001 Autumnglow, required quite a bit of restoration to get it playable as well as presentable, and by that time, playing only Zeppelin, I again found no opportunity to use it live, so it too was sold (with a loss this time - these basses are not cheap, and having $1600+ just lying around like that turned out to be too much for me to bear). The build quality on the second one also left something to be desired, and it kinda soured me of the whole "wanting to be Geddy/Chris" thing, and besides: it was always about their playing and musical choices, not the instrument.


I always admired some of the more organic design qualities of the original Rickenbacker basses. It has some very sexy curves, and the horn and headstock is unique to them (on both their original guitars and basses). One bass I built in 1980 (and still own today), besides being ludicrously constructed of oak, featured a somewhat reverse Ric-inspired body shape and fingerboard markers:

Having had built and now owning and performing with about as many Fender-type bass variations as I can find useful (with a few less useful ones as well), my thoughts turned again to the Rickenbacker 4001 when I saw photos in 2015 of a sorta reissue model from Rickenbacker, the 4003ws:

What a beauty. First off, I am a sucker for walnut (see my Chocobass build postings). This model also featured no neck binding, which turned into an expensive nightmare with my last Ric, requiring extensive and expensive fretwork. I love the vintage touches, including no body binding and the understated 60's neck dots (instead of the later triangles introduced in the 70's). If only this thing wasn't $1800-$2300, I'd run out and grab one immediately.

Or, because it's what I love to do, I would build one myself.

Continuing with the dark chocolate theme of this site (and my Chocobass), in early 2016 I decided to slowly and deliberately assemble the parts to build my own chocolatey Ric. One of the unique elements of these basses is the neck-thru design. Unlike Fenders, and like some Gibsons (I have one actual Thunderbird bass with thru-neck construction), the neckwood extends all the way through the body instead of bolted to the body, with "wings" glued to each side to create the body. I have not built a neck-thru bass by hand in over 35 years, and the results were rather primitive, so I searched for a guitar maker online who could make a basic Ric blank, with the woods I requested, from which I would shape, install and complete. There are many knockoff builders out there (I suppose even I am one of them, although I am not a business, and build basses only for myself), and there have been many counterfit Ric basses built over the decades (with Rickenbacker notoriously protecting its design patents and trademarks, putting most of them out of business quickly, which I do not begrudge). The knockoff Rics currently avalable from Asia-based builders are not great, and most of their hardware was horrible. All I wanted was an unfinished walnut w/maple neck blank. I could take it from there, using actual Ric pickups (since that's the sound I wanted, anyway) and upgraded Hipshot hardware.

This, as with anything good, turned out to be much more difficult than expected.

I settled on a specific China-based builder (name witheld for reasons that will become apparent), and requested a price for these specifications:

Ric 4001 body and headstock shape, 34" scale bass guitar
Maple neck and fingerboard with WALNUT dot markers (not black) I prefer 38mm nut width
Standard size frets (NOT JUMBO FRETS)
WALNUT body and headstock wings, no sanding/contouring of body edges
No sealer/stain/finish on the bass
No routing or tuner holes drilled (I will complete all of these things) unless you can GUARANTEE the routing would 100% fit stock Rickenbacker parts, not your parts

After taking a couple of months to find walnut (???), their quoted price with shipping from China was $299, which seemed a great deal (if it was done right). A month later, I receive this photo from them:

What's wrong with this photo? The fretboard markers are triangles, which would not do. I requested that they remake, otherwise no sale, which they did. They shipped the bass, and a little over two months after the original order I receive this:

First glance says, yes, OK, I can work with this. They even did a better job of matching the direction of the grain from each side of the walnut body (probably a happy accident, but I'll take it). But when I inspected further, I discovered this:
I immediatey sent this email:

Received the bass body today. The body and neck look great, but I don't understand what your builders did with the headstock wings. The body on this bass is walnut, but they made the headstock wings with MAHOGANY.

WHY would anyone do this? I requested walnut body AND headstock wings, as shown in the sample Rickenbacker photos. I had no way of telling which wood was used in the headstock based on the photos you sent, so I had to wait until it arrived. It's not like walnut wood was not available, as they could have used scraps from the body wood.

We are going to need to come to an agreement on how to resolve this; remaking the bass again, or refunding a significant part of the payment so I can pay to have the headstock remade (including removing the current wood and cutting and attaching the correct walnut sides, all without ruining the bass).

NEXT: I fix the headstock, totally reshape the neck.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chocobass is Delicious (the build and radical voicing)

Download the CHOCOBASS book (PDF)

OK, this took way too long to post, but seven months after this build and almost endless adjustments at least I have clarity when it comes to the (very happy) ending of this story. All I have to do is review the photos in order to step back and remember it all.

When we left off LAST YEAR, Chocobass was ready for assembly. All of the parts certainly looked delicious, but you NEVER know how an instrument will feel, play and sound until it's done. There's a certain magic involved in this, regardless of skill level; the randomness of the Universe, where, like a great band, the individual parts come together and - hopefully - combine to make something greater and unexpected. Or at least something playable.

No, playable isn't enough, I have plenty of those. Chocobass needs to be something SPECIAL.

All of the routed areas are shielded with copper tape.

Even the electronics were as vintage-style as possible, including a .1MFD 150VCD repro vintage-style "phone book" oil-in-paper capacitor. The electronics was so basic that this huge capacitor fits under the plate with no problem.

Gorgeous when assembled - too bad the rounded bottom of the neck will require a pickguard to hide the square neck pocket route.

The vintage-style plastic bridge saddles are also beautiful; too bad they will remain hidden under a bridge cover plate.

I decided to reshape the Squier pickguard to fit Choco's contours as best as possible, which will ultimately be used as a template for a hand-made pickguard.





























Yes, She's Pretty, But Can She Sing?

Upon completion of this bass, I took it for a spin on my next Zeppelin Live gig, careful to take all my guitar tools along with me in order to tweak as needed. My immediate reaction - what happened to the bottom? This thing is physically the heaviest bass I have ever played, but the E string just disappears, especially from G on down! This brought home one of the problems described earlier - the first P-Basses had a much more defined curve across the front of the fingerboard, so the custom single pickup I had ordered reflected this, with very high A and D pole pieces, which are NOT adjustable.

Well, with the help of Mr. Dremmel and some radical voicing, now they are...

I also found my thumb constantly fishing around for a comfortable place to sit while playing. All original Fender Basses had a "tug bar", which we now refer to as a "thumb rest", installed below the strings on the face of the body. This was NOT designed for the thumb - it was designed to rest the hand and/or fingers on, using the thumb to pluck (or tug) downwards on the strings (early electric bassists were trying to reproduce the sound of a thumpy acoustic bass). Only later in the 60's or 70's did bass players insist on these things above the pickups, so they could rest their thumbs on them and use their fingers to pull/pluck upwards on the strings. I sometimes find myself conflicted when building a vintage-style bass - the thumb rest looks correct below the pickups, but is thoroughly useless to me unless it's above. For Choco, I went for utility instead of correctness, and made a thumb rest from scratch using a walnut scrap from the body, taping it on until I found just the right distance and height for my playing style.

OK, so now it feels better, and the pole pieces are basically all the same height, pretty much matching the shallow curve of the neck. But the E string STILL seemed weak.

My next thought turned to the strings. Maybe I just had a bad E string, like a recent set of rather expensive Pyramids I installed on a Hofner club bass (which they happily and quickly replaced, solving the problem)? I contacted La Bella, and even sent them an audio file of the bass. They insisted it sounded fine to them, but I know what I felt onstage. This was the first time I had tried their Low Tension flats, and perhaps the E gauge was just too light to balance with the other strings. So at the next Zep gig I brought the bass, my tools, and a heavier E string from their Deep Talkin' flat set, and switched the E string during a set break so I could try them both on the same night, with all the same gear.
This was me (with an onstage friend) trying Choco with different low E strings that night. I was smiling because I like dinosaurs, not because I liked the bass - yet...

Conclusion? The heavier string was a bit louder, but the low end was still bad (actually unusable compared to the Jazz-style bass I also played that night). I was finally forced to accept that it was perhaps the pickup that was to blame - at least I tried everything else first.

This pickup, as had a few sets installed and written about here before, was hand made for me by a pickup builder in Santa Fe Springs, CA. I have loved his P and J pickups, so I asked him to build me a '51 single coil bass pickup, which he said he had never done before. I don't know if his first stab at this just didn't turn out great, of if the problem is the pickup design in general (remember, I never liked the other two Fender Japan reissue '51 P Basses I owned), but this was just not cutting it. I tried repeatedly to get in touch with Mark to see if he could remake it, or even try a split or stacked-coil version (which would also be noiseless), but since mid 2015 I have been unable to reach him. He has either moved, or changed his number and email address, or went out of biz, or...

Remember Sting's '54 P-Bass? I read up on it, and his guitar tech had installed a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop stacked-coil in it (which is not only quieter, but with more traditional P-Bass low end and tone). I spent sometime searching for an affordable stacked pickup option (unlike the SD Custom Shop pickup, I am VERY cheap), but luckily found a used Custom Shop SD for about $150 shipped. With all the time and $$ invested in Choco, I decided now was not the time to cheap out on the pickup, so I bit the bullet and went for it.

Note that the SD Custom Shop pickup pole pieces are pretty consistently flat, not raised in the center like the vintage-style single coil. 

After installing this pickup and plugging in - BAM - everything sounded GREAT! La Bella, please accept my apologies, your Low Tension flats are as amazing as your other strings (it's very buttery and balanced), and this bass has so much low end now that, well, it almost has too much bottom. I was able to readjust the string heights to a playable level, and even drop the pickup back a hair so the bass is vintagy warm without distorting.

Last but not least, I purchased some glossy black single ply pickguard material. Using the altered one, I cut a final and perfectly-fitted pickguard that hugged the bottom of the neck, closing up the unsightly gaps (not unlike cosmetic dentistry).

And so, my build of what was originally a simplest/primitive bass guitar design is complete. Instead of simple, it was probably the longest and most complex build I have ever attempted, considering all of the fixes and tweaks required to finally dial it in. In the end, it is a true hybrid of the simplest and most advanced instrument materials and technology, with a heavy single piece wood body and oil finish complementing a state of the art modern pickup and graphite composite neck. It plays incredibly easy and smoothly, has very low tension, and has a huge full tone. The only drawback might be the weight, but it hasn't been a problem for me as I rarely use the same bass all night anyway, and when it comes to tone and mass - with basses - you usually get what you pay for (so to speak). I look forward to recording with this beast someday.

One More Thing: Just In Case...

Cases are very important to me (to protect and transport), and I really felt that Choco deserved a special home to live in. A local Craigslister had posted a few of these oddly-shaped fiberglass bass cases, and I offered to trade him what was my first acoustic guitar, given to me by my parents on my birthday when I has probably 15 or 16 years old, but with which I have absolutely no use for these last couple of decades (I have a wonderful Gibson J45 I purchased new sometime around 1998). I have tried selling it so that another young budding guitarist might play it, but could not even find someone to give it away to. Hopefully this case dealer (he had so many cases!) will sell it to someone looking to learn guitar, and I now have a fitting (and well-fitted) retro-looking but very protective case for Choco to reside and be transported in, when it's not sitting on a stand right next to my desk for easy and regular noodling. A lesson in patience and perseverance, and an instrument to cherish.

More Salted Chocolate

We recently watched a bio pic of the writer/director Nora Ephron, which included her list of favorite things she will miss (written while she was slowly dying of cancer). Aside from the argument that, once dead, you are not actually capable of missing anything, my list must include salted dark chocolate. Although my sweet spot (pun intended) for great dark chocolate is in the 65-70% range, I got an online offer to try Godiva's web store, and ordered their 3-bar Dark Chocolate Lover's Tasting Set. The 72% was OK if slightly more bitter than I prefer, and the Dark with Almonds was OK as well, but the set also included a 50% with Sea Salt.


This chocolate bar is super smooth and surprisingly now one of my very favorites, and I say that knowing quite well that it's from a very mainstream, large corporate chocolatier (originally Belgian, but still made in Germany). As their flavors tend to be a bit darker than I expect, the 50% turns out to have the right amount of sweetness to go with the salt. This 3-pack sells on their site regularly for $13 plus shipping, but they periodically offer free shipping along with other deals. The first time I ordered this, it costs me about $2 total, and arrived in a ridiculously large box packed with ice. It occurred to me that maybe that's how they ship just your first order, in order to convince you to buy again, and although the next time I ordered this same 3-pack it came in a smaller box with no ice, all other orders since have been over-packed the same as my initial try-out.

As I only really love the 50% w/salt, I have emailed asking if they would consider ever putting that one on sale (as a 3 pack, or whatever). They said they would keep it in mind, but I'm not holding my breath. I occasionally reorder this sampler pack and put up with the other two bars in order to be able to enjoy this one, but just a few weeks ago I saw the 50% w/salt on sale at Walgreens for $2.50 each/4 for $10, so I'm sure it will grace my chocolate drawer again in the future.

Yes, I have a chocolate drawer. I shares the space with my forks and knives, but make no mistake - it's NOT a cutlery drawer. It's a CHOCOLATE drawer.