Bass Guitar Repairs London: Vintage Washburn B-20 Bass

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 Electrics

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.

Machine Heads
New machine heads were sourced and bought in.

The Nut
A new nut was cut from a bone blank. How?…

The Finish
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

15 Responses to “Bass Guitar Repairs London: Vintage Washburn B-20 Bass”

  1. Dave Nicklin Says:


  2. Dave Nicklin Says:

    But tell the owner to change the pickup covers to black for aesthetic reasons!

  3. Guitar Top Nut: Custom Making « Graham Parker Luthier Says:

    […] guitar here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Graham Parker guitar repairs and custom guitar […]

  4. Bill Says:

    Beautiful job! I have one of these basses and I absolutely love it. It’s great to save them, they are quite rare.

  5. keith Says:

    Any clues on a B20 8 string same shape? In better nick than that started out, I agree great tool but im too old!

  6. 000x6f Says:

    ron mcgovney have this bass

  7. Patrick Mullins Says:

    I have one of these bases (original owner). Where on Earth did you find strings?

  8. Graham Parker Luthier Says:

    This was the Washburn B20 4 string, so no issues buying in strings

  9. keith Says:

    Ony used my 8 string as a 4 string – just didnt get on with 8 & werent that keen on the sound either but a class piece of kit – any offers?

  10. Darlene Hoffman Says:

    I have a Washburn elec. Guitar In excellent condition that looks just like this bass only my guitar hasxa burgundy finish. It has all original parts. I’ve had it for years and have always wondered what model it was and how much it was worth.

  11. scott karch Says:

    Keith… do you still have the 8 string? Looking to sell it still?

  12. Mark Dinnauer Says:

    Just stumbled on this site checking out how some people just don’t have respect for a fine instrument. A thumbs up for a job well done in bringing a fine instrument back to life! Wow! I currently have a B-20 and a B-20-8. The 4 string I bought used in pretty well condition in 1988 and still own it, the 8 string I bought brand new in 1984 and still own that as well. Both of my B-20’s are black with the gold binding around the body/headstock. Very nice playing basses and I’ll never part with them. Both my B-20’s are totally original. I love the feel of the truss rod on the back of the necks on both basses. Very comfortable playing basses, and, the 8 string has such a wide and massive sound to it. Washburn sure does not make quality instruments like that no more. Hail to the Matsumoku(sic?)made instruments of the day!

  13. Bo Says:

    I have a B5 from 1984 that I bought new from Apple Music in Portland Oregon. I was all of 14 and I didn’t know how to play but I sold a Topps® Trading card ,(Riickey Henderson Rookie) for $400 and boogied on down to Apple. I remember it well as they say. I asked the clerk if he had any guitars that could make panties drop. He showed me the very last B5 in the store and told me, “It’s yours for $350.” It was white, not my favorite color, but it sounded like bombs being dropped! (Music to my ears.) I almost sold it one day to buy a car when I turned 17 but my dad helped me out and I still have both. A 64 Oldsmobile Cutlass f85 & a Washburn B5. Two “hot rods” that will live far beyond my years.

  14. fockewulf13 Says:

    Hi, where did you find the machine heads? I need some for my B20. (Which is a nice cherry sunburst on a tiger striped maple top). Awesome basses, will never sell mine.

    • Bo Says:

      Southern Oregon is a treasure trove of old Washburns perioud!!!! I have found 3 B-20 basses with original cases and a White B-5 with a black Kahler bass tremolo. I paid $220 for the B-5. I totaled what I paid for the three basses and devided by three and I paid roughly $337.88 per bass. All three B-20’s are in VERY good condition. Only one needed a new tuner and I found that online in a washburn chat room. Paid only $10+ $2.99 shipping for the tuner. VERY good tuner as well. Like new.
      Hit those Washie chat rooms for parts. Excellent recource but please use PayPal to cover your but.

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