One of my regular customers, and a collector of rare and unusual bass guitars, bought this Vintage Washburn B-20 bass into the workshop. He had hoped that it might be resurrected.
The immediate problems were:
• Heavy fret wear
• The electrics were in disarray with parts broken and missing
• Machine heads missing
• Nut missing
• The Finish was scratched and battered
All in all it was a mess, after a workbench examination it became clear that most of the jobs were doable but there was one nagging problem, there was an extreme split to the back of the neck.
A major worry as this meant that this guitar was destined for the scrap-heap if this couldn’t be resolved. It appeared that the truss-rod was trying to burst out through the back of the neck.
This truss-rod problem could have been due to: (1) Faulty manufacture or material (2) A sudden shock to the back of the neck (3) A fault with the playing action that necessitated the truss-rod being tighten beyond its limit. Whatever the reason I needed to investigate further.
After a quick test I discovered that the adjuster was locked as tight as possible but the neck was in an upward bow. It was the truss rod type that adjusted with an allen key and it showed signs of heavy use.
Another test would have been to string the guitar up, slowly bring the strings up to concert pitch and to check how the neck responded, but that was not possible as two of the machine heads and the nut were missing.
I decided to make an extreme adjustment test to the neck and truss-rod.
Using a heavy-duty straight-edge, blocks of wood placed at either end of the neck and a clamp at the centre of the straight-edge, the neck was gently forced back into a back bow. This took the strain off of the truss rod and held the neck in a back bow. With the truss rod under no pressure from the neck I was able to tighten the adjuster further to hold the neck in a back bow with the truss-rod. The splits seemed no worse for this action.
With the neck now held in a new profile, correct adjustment was guaranteed when it came to setting up the guitar. The tension could be slowly released, at the adjuster, until the optimum position was reached. But first the cracking and splitting to the back of the neck would need to be remedied
The finish around the Mahogany insert was scraped back and the cracked insert routed out. This left a straight and clean channel for the replacement. This was to be a piece of ebony because of its strength and density (taking no chances here).
From left to right:
1. Neck held in jig
2. First router pass shows how deep cracks go
3. Third pass reveals truss-rod
4. Ebony inset glued in place
5. Cutting back the insert
As well as the neck repair here is a list of jobs that were carried out to bring this old War-Horse up to playing spec.
A Partial Re-fret
The frets showed signs of heavy wear and tear on the first 9 frets. These were replaced with identical fret wire. All frets were honed, re-profiled and polished
The pickups were working but the electrics were in a mess, components missing, bad solder joints and the components that were present were cheap and nasty. All pots, caps, 3-way toggle, jack socket and wiring were replaced and the pickups were giving a complete overhaul.
New machine heads were sourced and bought in.
A new nut was cut from a bone blank. How?…
The Finish probably seemed worse than it actually was. The guitar’s top and back had what seemed like lines scratched into its surface. On closer inspection these weren’t scratches at all but gold pen and would probably polish out. Was someone, somewhere really considering cutting along these dotted lines?! There were many scratches and knocks all over its body. Although many of these would never polish out the owner resign himself to the guitar showing its “battle scars” and thought that it would probably look quite cool once the pen marks were removed and the finish polished up.
The Final Job
The last job was on the electrics back cover. This had curled up like a stale sandwich and would never go back into place without some attention.
I used my rib bending-iron and applied a little moisture and heat.
The Finished Result