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Headless Rick-Shaped Thing Disaster


Bassassin

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I've had this sitting around for years, waiting for me to decide what to do with it. It's not really a Rick copy beyond the body shape but that meant that the retailer, a fairly short lived UK online brand called Wesley, rapidly got a C&D letter from Old John Hall & panic-flogged all their stock of these for £99. And I bought one.


It's called a Wesley Europa, and used to look a bit like this:
 

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It's a nicely-made through-neck bass with a 3-band active preamp, 2-way truss rod, flamed  top &  wooden body binding. It's also got one of the most inappropriate afterthought headstocks I've ever seen on a Rick-style thing - and I've seen a few.


It's a nice-playing & decent-sounding bass, meaning I did gig this quite a lot when I first got it, which quickly highlighted a significant problem - the finish that's been used everywhere other than the nice, shiny top. It's basically had a thin coat of matt black applied onto bare wood over the entire body & neck - and this just comes off, on your hands, on your clothes, anything you lean it against - everywhere, any excuse! I don't have any pics of mine at the time but this is one that turned up on Ebay quite recently - mine looked just like this after a few weeks of use!

 

wes011.thumb.jpg.348cd75394ae40db17169036b84189c4.jpg

So I temporarily retired it with a view to refinishing it and maybe making that headstock a bit more palatable. Dismantling it & removing what was left of the black 'finish' revealed a rather pretty neck-through construction underneath:

 

wesley08.thumb.JPG.73677bae07bcd092a939fdb832e40f9e.JPG


It also left me with a dilemma  regarding the headstock - I've re-shaped a few before with pleasing results but there's so little space to improve this, the best I could come up with design-wise was pretty much an Ibby Soundgear lookalike, which hardly seemed worth the effort. Hacking the bloody thing off was a more appealing idea but way more complex than I'd originally planned. So as is my wont, I got bored & wandered off, and years passed, as they do.


Converting this to headless stayed in the back of my mind & probably about 10 years on, I started seeing affordable & potentially useable headless hardware in the form of cheapo Chinese individual bridge/tuner units. I'd previously thought about that 'Overlord Of Music' Hohner clone system, but that would involve routing (I don't have a router) and relocating or abandoning the battery compartment, which is directly behind the bridge.


Anyway, I recently came across some nice looking individual units branded 'Guyker', hit the buy button, and this is what turned up in the post a few days later, direct from Weifang, China, for the princely sum of about £45 delivered.


Tuners.thumb.JPG.9c52ae579e00efb769f0614c7bfc24f2.JPG


They look halfway decent & seem to be pretty well-made, I think the machined components are brass under the paint, not sure about the cast saddles etc. The lack of thrust bearings is a bit of a disappointment but with a sufficiency of lubricant they should hopefully be functional. Setup is likely to be a bit of a fiddle with the saddles needing to be positioned by hand then locked in place with small & inaccessible allen screws, but likely to be a do it once then forget it task.


The head-end string retainer won't win any prizes for stylish design, but it's very solid & the two clamps per string certainly mean business.


The plan is - obviously, I hope - to lop off the ugly bit (which I accept might be subjective) and re-shape what's left to be functional and not look like a complete bodge/mistake. I've previously been nonplussed by, and critical of 'headless' basses that retain a sort of vestigial flap where the head should be (Laurus springs to mind) but paradoxically, that is exactly what I intend doing with this!


There's an element of necessity - the string clamp requires a bit of 'head' to be mounted on, and I also need to leave space for truss rod access. While it's tempting to make this as minimal as possible, the proportions of this bass mean that the tuners will overhang the end of the body by a good 2-3 cm so it's going to have to live on a wall hanger or neck-supporting stand, rather than be bunged in the corner. So my necessary flappy end bit will keep enough of the 'flare' of the old headstock to do that. Assuming I can cut straight.


So now we come the the nailing stuff together & hacking bits off part - I haven't done anything like this in some considerable time and it's a bit daunting!


First things first - position the tuner units accurately. I marked saddle travel positions from the original bridge on the body - the new units have a little more range and will be a few mm closer to the bridge pickup, as G string intonation was at the limit of its movement on the old bridge. Measuring from the 12th fret after marking the new saddle positions, the mid-point between them turns out to be bang-on 17". Which is reassuring!

 

Having measured everything (hopefully!) accurately, I made a template for screw hole positions for the individual units, giving 20mm string spacing, same as the original.

 

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Using the same template I made a plate to sit under the tuners to conceal the old bridge mounting holes and the earth wire which will link the units. It's less than 1mm thick and should not adversely affect string height.

 

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A minor irritation with the tuners is the presence of a screw which sits proud of the base of each unit. It limits the travel of the ball-end retainer to stop the unit falling apart - but also stops it sitting flush on the top of the bass, which is irksome.
So in order to make them screw down properly, I'll have to create a row of rebates for the heads to sit in. Lacking suitable tools it'll be down to my ancient Dremel knock-off, a steady(ish) hand and a sense of relief that the resulting mess will be covered by hardware.


OK, time to work some wood - out with the blowtorch and nailgun, and onward!

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Good man!

 

I have one observation in that the free string length should never be less than the scale length (34") so you could gain a little extra saddle adjustment over what you have now with the saddles 17" from the twelfth at the centre of adjustment.

 

I think that's right anyway.  Perhaps someone else could confirm this for me.

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Mmmm...

I'm alrightish with the headstock... more so than headless and overhanging tuners...

 

Back looks real nice, presume front is similar with the contrasting woods on the neck thru...

 

I'd re profile the headstock, curving the sides, and at the hook on the side... with a 'bottle opener' look... to mimic the edges and 'bottle opener' hook at the top on a Rick...

 

Homage and Lineage...

 

Maybe have a go before lopping it's head off?

 

Headless is OK on modern stuff, but would be a shame with that body n neck.

 

Just my 2p

 

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I'll try not to disappoint anyone by getting bored & wandering off again. That might be a challenge...

 

Anyway, some drilling has happened, also some gluing a bit of scrap wood inside the battery compartment, as the front screwholes for the D & G tuners just happen to be right over the route! Fortunately there's enough space under the battery box to add an extra 5mm for the screws. Speaking of screws - I have every expectation the ones provided will be made of cheese, so has anyone got a source for decent raised countersunk Phillips types? Stainless might be nice...

 

@SpondonBassed - if I understand you correctly, that's exactly where I am with the positioning of my new units - 17" from the 12th fret is exactly in the middle of the saddle range. The original bridge was a little too far back (although the G intonation was pretty much right) and the new ones are 5mm forward to compensate.

 

@PaulThePlug - sorry to disappoint - but it's going! As it is, I already have 3x 70s MIJ Fakers and a glittery pink Retrovibe, all of which have proper Rick-shaped headstocks, so something a bit different appeals more than what would (IMO, obviously) be a bit of turd-polishing exercise. What you're suggesting would, I think, end up looking like the weird headstock used on the Shine RK2000 Faker - back when Faker makers thought a 'non-infringing' headstock would make them immune from John Hall's C&D letters:

174.JPG

I'd assume Wesley thought the same...

 

As it happens, I've come across a couple of other headless Fakers over the years, both of which are custom one-offs rather than modded basses like mine:

 

f3t75zaykmv3deph5yfc.thumb.jpg.823591c4735b0d2cd17b5c6727446d0e.jpg IMG_1228.thumb.jpg.a5e088c7444a7478322418faade00745.jpg

 

Both of these are bolt-on & feature carbon graphite necks - and IMO great examples of Rick-inspired basses that aren't really copies.

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I take it all back... The bottom one looks cool... Rear Route helps for the modern look...

 

Are you cutting and shaping the body back to the saddle plate?

 

I get odds n sods, stainless bridge screws n stuff from Spaldings Fasters of the 'bay...

Edited by PaulThePlug
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10 hours ago, Bassassin said:

The lack of thrust bearings is a bit of a disappointment but with a sufficiency of lubricant they should hopefully be functional.

5mm diameter ?

 

4 will cost you £14.53 inc VAT, free delivery.

 

https://simplybearings.co.uk/shop/p504951/F5-10G-Budget-Single-Thrust-Ball-Bearing-with-Grooved-Washers-5x10x4mm/product_info.html

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12 hours ago, Bassassin said:

@SpondonBassed - if I understand you correctly, that's exactly where I am with the positioning of my new units - 17" from the 12th fret is exactly in the middle of the saddle range. The original bridge was a little too far back (although the G intonation was pretty much right) and the new ones are 5mm forward to compensate.

 

No.  What I meant was that the saddles being centred at 17" from the twelfth almost halves the saddles' useable travel since intonation adjustments will always make the string free length more than 17" but never less.  If you set the saddles to the shortest free string length then measure your 17" you will end up with the most useable adjustment.

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1 hour ago, SpondonBassed said:

 

No.  What I meant was that the saddles being centred at 17" from the twelfth almost halves the saddles' useable travel since intonation adjustments will always make the string free length more than 17" but never less.  If you set the saddles to the shortest free string length then measure your 17" you will end up with the most useable adjustment.

Gotcha. Unfortunately too late now as I've drilled, & created rebates for the underside saddle screws I mentioned. Filling holes & re-drilling wouldn't be much hassle but the rebates are another matter! Although having compensated for the original incorrect positioning, it should all intonate correctly as long as I don't go crazy with extreme gauges - which I don't intend to do. Btw I'm a little embarrassed to admit I didn't know that, considering how long I've been mutilating basses & guitars - thanks for the info & I'll know better next time I swap a bridge!

 

12 hours ago, kodiakblair said:

 They're somewhat bigger - internal diameter would need to be 13mm, external no more than 16 to avoid potentially fouling the body, so they're very specific. I did spend an hour or so searching for compatible bearings but with no luck.

 

14 hours ago, PaulThePlug said:

I take it all back... The bottom one looks cool... Rear Route helps for the modern look...

 

Are you cutting and shaping the body back to the saddle plate?

 

I get odds n sods, stainless bridge screws n stuff from Spaldings Fasters of the 'bay...

No need to do any reshaping on mine as the tuners overhang by a few cm.

 

1866610929_bridgesdryrun.thumb.JPG.0cd3d3f3cbed9bd2ca80d0f5338be4ec.JPG

 

I presume that despite the Rickish shape, the proportions & relation between body & neck on mine are quite different to those two. Comparing the Wesley to one of my MIJ Fakers (which is probably pretty close to the original), the Wesley body's somewhat scaled down and the fretboard heel set back a little. It's also 34" rather than the correct 33.25, which 2 out of 3 of my MIJ Fakers are.

 

Anyway, today I will be mostly working out optimum positioning for the string clamp thingy, and might even screw some bits on & string it up. If the thread becomes ominously quiet, take that as a sign that I've bu99ered it all up in a monumentally catastrophic way, and bunged the lot in a skip...

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We will know when you post pics of ya new Short Scale Fretless Headless...

 

I'm arsing about with primer 'n sander and a dustbin of water... want to get my Jazz Hydro Swirl done today!

 

Gotta a feeling it's gonna turn out like kids mixed up playdoh i l just know it...

 

Great day for Bass Mods!

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I appreciate you’ve committed to the headless approach, but another option might have been to stick some extra bits of wood to the existing headstock, then sawing/shaving/chewing down to the desired shape.  Headless basses balance nicely though!

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13 hours ago, Pea Turgh said:

I appreciate you’ve committed to the headless approach, but another option might have been to stick some extra bits of wood to the existing headstock, then sawing/shaving/chewing down to the desired shape.  Headless basses balance nicely though!

Probably a bit beyond my skills - and more importantly the tools & equipment I have to hand!

 

A big part of doing this mod is to scratch a headless/full-size body bass itch. I've actually got 3x 80s era Steinberger style headlesses (they don't take up much room!) but don't have a full-sized one. Since I'm not realistically going to pick up a Status S2000 from the car boot, or even a Hohner Jack for the £150-odd they used to go for, it's Bastille Day for this one... :D

 

A bit of a progress update - fitted the string clamp thingy yesterday, & trimmed the truss cover to fit under it. I then became preoccupied with ideas for re-shaping the headstump into something that would look pleasing and maybe in-keeping with the look of the bass. Imagine if the otherwise-stunning Laurus Quasar had a headstock (or whatever that is) that followed the lines of the instrument, that looked like a continuation of the design, rather than an incongrous, wonky lump of plank stuck on the end?

 

ecqjof1dvwx8yjjbxgsa.jpg

 

It can be done. I'm certain of it.

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1 hour ago, PaulThePlug said:

looks like a toe graphted on in place of a thumb!.. Thought your headstock clamp was a plain block, rather than ball retainer...

 It is - Laurus use individual clamps behind the headstock for the string ends. I thought about doing something like that with my block clamp on the back & the strings going through ferrules like the Laurus, but I don't think there would be the physical space for it.

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So anyway - I made a thing:

 

ProofOfConcept2.thumb.jpg.71e917930e49c4d1bd678bdc3dcc7fce.jpg

 

I think that constitutes a proof of concept - everything's nailed on, everything looks straight, everything seems to work.

 

A couple of niggles - the tuners are very, very stiff - albeit I have not yet smothered them with grease as I don't want to risk oily splats on the unfinished wood. The other is something I didn't forsee - the ball ends on this set of strings (the old ones that were on this before I dismantled it) slip out of the tuners unless the ends are laid horizontal. Not too important - I've had bridges that did this before (the Gotoh on an Ibanez SR800 I had didn't like small balls!) and it's easy enough to place them flat. The ends on these strings are fairly small & rounded so it likely won't be a problem with other strings, but if push comes to shove I can slip washers over them like I did on my old Ibby!

 

Very pleased with this so far, I have some ideas for reshaping the headstump, & I'm starting to think this could be quite special when it's done.

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Slight progress update - I have a design for the re-shaped vestigial head that I think looks pretty damn sexy - it's now down to my (non-existent!) wood-hacking skills to see if I can replicate it in reality. Think I'll keep it under wraps until it's done...

 

Messing around with the tuners, I found that they're a lot smoother with two nylon washers fitted, downside is that the size of washers used on the units doesn't seem to be available in nylon, although they are in steel, copper & aluminium. Back to the grease then, unless I can successfully trim larger washers (which I already have) to size without them looking a complete mess.

 

On 16/06/2022 at 14:15, Henrythe8 said:

Looks like a Steinberger M-Series had a child with a 4003. 

 

Wouldn't be surprised if that's pretty much exactly what it is - Steinberger neck, hardware & electronics transplanted onto a Rick-shaped body.

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On 10/06/2022 at 22:00, Bassassin said:

... I already have 3x 70s MIJ Fakers and a glittery pink Retrovibe!

t happens, I've come across a couple of other headless Fakers over the years, both of which are custom one-offs rather than modded basses like mine:

 

f3t75zaykmv3deph5yfc.thumb.jpg.823591c4735b0d2cd17b5c6727446d0e.jpg

 

 

 

I really like that.

And I've seen the photo of the glittery pink Retrovibe.  It's a sight to behold.

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15 hours ago, alyctes said:

 

I really like that.

And I've seen the photo of the glittery pink Retrovibe.  It's a sight to behold.

 

I really like that scratchplate design - nice nod to the original 1950s 4000 in some of the contours, and a huge improvement on the ugly afterthought Rickenbacker have been slapping on their basses since the 60s.

 

The pink Retro's actually due an overhaul after the scratchplate I made started delaminating & the top pearloid layer started peeling off! Slightly redesigned pickguard, also new pickups & bridge might happen too if I can find anything suitable. It'll be keeping its head, though!

 

RV4_001.thumb.jpg.e1b74db3428badf44b91e5696a6bb2f1.jpg

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