Author Topic: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...  (Read 870 times)

edwardofhuncote

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Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« on: January 27, 2017, 04:36:21 PM »
So I'm mulling over a couple, (actually three) backburner shop projects that may involve installing some Alembic awesome-ness.  ;D


Moving to the top of the heap is this old Gibson Thunder Series V, basically a 'studio' Thunderbird. Even uses the same pickups and controls as a standard 4-string 'Bird. They only made a few hundred of these at the Nashville plant in 1987 before yanking the plug on yet another marketing flop, but truthfully the Thunder Series instruments were one of the most ergonomic basses Gibson ever produced. They came in 34" scale, with solid mahogany body, a mahogany set neck, and ebony fingerboard. Most of them are white, black, or red like mine. I always suspected they painted the ugly ones, but occasionally a natural finish one turns up with some decent looking wood. Without re-litigating various reasons why the Thunder Series didn't survive, I'll cut to the chase... 


The volume pot to the neck-ward pickup is getting wonky, and cuts out at anything less than 100% on. I could just replace it, but then I'd also be inclined to replace the pot to the bridge pickup too. Then there's one odd tone pot left... might as well toss it in a spare parts bin while I'm at it. (I'm getting to it here...) Though I don't know how deep the routs are, these T-bird pickups don't look too far off the shape of Alembic AXY's... heck, they may even drop in. The control cavity is plenty deep enough for Alembic pots and boards to clear, and I think there's even room for a 9v battery in there. 


This could be a very easy bass to modify, and while the stock stuff doesn't sound bad at all, some activator circuitry in this thing would be a HUGE improvement. A pair of AXY's with a V-P-F harness, and a 3-position Q-switch would make it work like my Persuader 5-string too, another big plus. 


I guess the only thing stopping me is the potential for fouling up a pretty nice bass, not only that, but one with significant sentimental value to me. I would not want to refinish or do anything more than maybe a little routing. Originality of the electronics isn't a concern, but the integrity of the instrument is, if that makes any sense. That said, this isn't really priority enough to send it out to Santa Rosa for the work either. If I can't do it myself it probably won't get done. 


Just daydreaming... I like this old bass a lot, and I'd definitely play it more if this could be done. If not, I'm fine leaving as is, and just getting a local solder-jockey to sweat me in some new pots. 


Thoughts? 

growlypants

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2017, 11:53:39 AM »
I "Alembicized" an old Gibson Ripper I had long ago, and I still have it, in fact!!  It was a circuit they referred to as a Stratoblaster, or something, involving the use of a 9-V battery.  (Rippers are passive.)  It worked well for me, it still sounds cool, but... the longer I hold onto the bass I realize that they do get "collectible", and the modification reduces the value, at least to the true collector.

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2017, 10:51:09 AM »
I hear ya' Growly.  ;)

Not too much concerned with this one ever being collectible, or rather detracting from it,

Just wouldn't want to make a hash of it, as this bass -other than some casual playing wear from the original owner- is pretty much perfect. I buffed out the Ferrari red with some Meguiar's No.7, changed the strings, and that's about it. If the volume pot wasn't becoming a nuisance I wouldn't have considered altering it.

Basically I'd be putting close to $1200 (for new parts) into a $600-$700 bass. I'd do it in a flash if it was relatively simple. The biggest thing is seeing how much whittling would be req'd for a pair of modern AXY's... guess I need to do some careful measuring and see. According to this post, they are 4.11" X 1.75", but I don't know if that's the new or older design. I believe the old AXY's have more rounded corners.


David Houck

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2017, 11:36:08 AM »
One alternative would be to custom order direct replacements.

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2017, 01:46:05 PM »
Now there's a thought... hmm.  8)

I measured the 'Bird pickups and compared against my stock Distillate pickups... they're really not that close. I'd have to rout a fair amount to drop in AXY's. Which I'm not against doing, would just rather not do it myself. I can see paint chips flying.  :-[

adriaan

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2017, 01:59:22 PM »
MXYs might be an easier fit - exactly the same innards as the AXYs, but without the oversized housing. And sometimes cosmetic seconds are available.

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2017, 02:34:31 PM »
Also a good suggestion, Adriaan.  ;)

I'm looking around for the dimensions of MXY 4's ... I know there's a graphic or chart here somewhere... just don't remember where I saw it.  ::)

Thanks fellas. I'll tell Mica it's your fault!  ;D


David Houck

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2017, 05:27:08 PM »
MXY size is here.  MXY4, 4.110", 1.220"

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2017, 07:04:04 AM »
Looks like I'd be doing some routing for either AXY or MXY. These TB-Plus pickups are shorter one way, and wider the other for MXY's, and all-around too small for AXY's.

The past couple nights I've been working on a really dull, unrewarding (at least from a satisfaction standpoint) project up in my shop... and just thinking out loud - if this were a new build I wouldn't flinch at grabbing a router, but that's the real trick here. The finish is great - nice thick lustrous red poly.

There must be a safe way to rout those pickup cavities out without ripping out chunks of paint. Hi-tack masking tape? Anybody got a secret for this?

On some advice from a TalkBass member, I'm going to try a little De-Oxit on the faulty pot tonight. :-\

It may not be economically feasible, but just having a set of pickups made is appealing. Only one way to find out... will have to give Mica a call. (and resist the severe temptation of asking how that, ummmm... other thing is going)  :-X  ;D

« Last Edit: February 01, 2017, 07:24:42 AM by edwardofhuncote »

tbrannon

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2017, 07:44:04 AM »
If you're on talkbass, drop a thread into the Luthier's corner.  There are a number of very experienced guys there who I'm sure would have some suggestions.  Bruce Johnson comes to mind.  That guy seems to have an incredible amount of experience in nearly everything and answers questions regularly.

gearhed289

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2017, 08:40:05 AM »
Sounds like a potentially cool project, though I'm a big fan of the Gibson TB+ pickups. I've got a '94 Les Paul and a FenderBird with those pups and they sound menacing. A little noisy though. I once went ahead and routed a pickup cavity larger to fit a soapbar where a J used to be. I used a fresh router bit, nothing special, and the finish survived perfectly. I can't guarantee this will be true of every bass out there, just passing it along. Have fun!

bigredbass

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2017, 09:02:22 AM »
I've long decided there's no point in modifying and pricing an axe past what it would reasonably sell for.  For me, this Gibson bass is a limited interest piece, not lot of guys standing in line for them like they would other vintage pieces from Gibson.  If it were me, I'd keep the spend low in terms of what can I get for it when I get the itch inevitably for something else.  Me, I'd try the HiZ EMG drop-in replacements (or the 9v versions if you've really got routeritis  . . . . . ) and call it a day.

When I worked at Gibson in the 90's there was a stack of these bodies and 4-string Explorer-headed necks that are probably still sitting there.  In those days they were still trying to make L-series Steinbergers and the newly-purchased Tobias around the corner at a separate shop, so they just kind of got forgotten.

Joey

tx196059

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2017, 09:11:05 AM »
One trick I have used with some success is to tape it off, then scratch a line with a box cutter against a straight edge clamped to the guitar, going deep enough that you go through the finish, into the wood. Several firm passes for this. Then I use a Dremel with a router attachment guide, and go slow. Then make the final pass inside the cavity with the little sanding cylinders on the Dremel, with the router attachment against the straight edge as a guide. Not for the faint of heart when working on a multi thousand dollar guitar. Good luck!

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2017, 09:58:43 AM »
I've long decided there's no point in modifying and pricing an axe past what it would reasonably sell for.  For me, this Gibson bass is a limited interest piece, not lot of guys standing in line for them like they would other vintage pieces from Gibson.  If it were me, I'd keep the spend low in terms of what can I get for it when I get the itch inevitably for something else.  Me, I'd try the HiZ EMG drop-in replacements (or the 9v versions if you've really got routeritis  . . . . . ) and call it a day.

When I worked at Gibson in the 90's there was a stack of these bodies and 4-string Explorer-headed necks that are probably still sitting there.  In those days they were still trying to make L-series Steinbergers and the newly-purchased Tobias around the corner at a separate shop, so they just kind of got forgotten.

Joey

I hear ya' Joey. Yeah, this is one of those basses that I'm somewhat foolishly sentimental about... you're right- it's honestly not worth putting much into it, now or probably ever. And luckily, I'm not really unhappy about how the stock equipment sounds, just that annoying volume pot got me thinking about possible upgrades. Naturally, I thought of Alembic... especially the sound of those AXY's in my old Distillate. If I do go the route of modding, it'd be nice to be able to put it back to stock, in case somebody down the line wanted to.

I read somewhere on the 'net all those necks and bodies got destroyed by The Flood, leaving something less than 1000 of these things 'out there'. Only my opinion, but they really were a nice bass offering. I don't remember what they sold for new back then, but I'd bet anything it wasn't competitively low enough to make Fender flinch. Probably another reason why all those parts were stockpiled instead of finished basses.

Good suggestions Fellas - I appreciate all the input. ;) 
« Last Edit: February 01, 2017, 12:04:26 PM by edwardofhuncote »

David Houck

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Re: Zzzzzzzz... -Alembicize a Gibson Bass...
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2017, 07:30:11 PM »
I'll second the DeOxit recommend.