I always wanted a bass version of a Fender Jazzmaster, but since they never offered one, I decided to create my my own. If you're interested in having one built for you, you can now order one on this page.
Short History of the Fender Jazzmaster:
The original Fender Jazzmaster was introduced in 1958. It was the first guitar that they offered with an off-set contoured body. It was also the first model that offered a rosewood fingerboard, since everything else had a one piece maple neck at the time. They were easily recognizable from their large 'soap bar' single coil pickups. The first ones had gold anodized pickguards, followed shortly thereafter with laminated tortoise and white celluloid pickguards.
I wanted to make the bass's appearance maintain most of the look of the guitar model, with the same number of switches and controls. The bass also had to be lightweight (well under 9 lbs) and balance perfectly on a strap. Since the Jazzmaster was at or near the top of the line, I decided to use bound necks, with either dots or block inlays, and the necks have the narrower width Jazz Bass profile. Even though the guitar version has two pickups, I decided to go with just using one quad coil to keep it's apearance simple and clean, yet still have several tonal options.
The Build Process:
To keep them lightweight, I used swamp ash on one, and alder on the other for the body wood. I'm constantly trying to find the lightest, yet most resonant body blanks available, and I really lucked out of the swamp ash blank. The blank came in at only 1.69lbs brd/ft. To get the body's shape, I used my Jaguar Bass's body as a template, since the Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars share the same body shape. So, the first thing that I did was to transfer the shape to the swamp ash blank.
The first two Jazzmaster Basses Jazzmaster Bass #3
Next, I cut it out on my band saw, and then shaped the sides on an oscilating drum sander. At this point, the body only weighed 4lbs 6 oz.
The neck pocket was then routed so I could start drawing out the routes for the pickup, pots, switches and preamp.
The pickup and control cavities were then routed, received rounded edges with a 7/16" roundover bit, and then the arm relief and tummy cuts were made. Body weight before paint was now only 3lbs 3.4oz!.
Here's a pic of test fitting the complete pickguard assembly:
The pickguard assembly was shielded with foil tape, and then all of the components were mounted to it. The preamp is a vintage 2-band Stingray clone that I built just for these basses.
The pickup is a quad coil Nordstrand MM4.4. This allows for complete hum-free operation in any mode, including the split settings. I rearranged the coils so it can run as a Split P, all coils on, and a reverse P configuration. Here's a pic of it mounted with the battery clip also in the bass. I used solderless connectors on both the pickup and the battery so it would be simple to assemble, service and change the battery.
I wanted the pickup to have a similar appearance to the Jazzmaster guitar's soap bar pickup, so I modified a white Musicman pickup cover, converting it to a four tab mount system as opposed to the 3 point mount system on a stingray.
The body was sealed and shot with Shoreline Gold nitro. Once cured, I painted all of the cavities with conductive shielding paint.
Here's the gold one completed. It is truly a great playing sounding bass, and it ended up weighing only 7lbs 9 oz!
Alot of people have asked me, "If it only has one pickup, then what do all those controls do?" Rather than explain it, here's a pic of all of the controls and functions.
This page was last updated: December 30, 2011
Click HERE to go to page two for more info and pics of the Lake Placid Blue one