Fixing my Yamaha BB1100s Bass (Part 2)

This is the part 2 of resuscitating my old Yam bass that was in a rather filthy and corroded state.

So, because I’m not quite as exacting with my own guitars as I would be with someone else’s and only had a few hours to get this thing playable again, I took a shortcut in cleaning the frets. If I was being thorough I would have taken the neck off, adjusted the truss rod until the neck was dead straight, checked all the frets for levelness1. Then (probably) skimmed them with a levelling beam, re-crowned all the frets, masked the fingerboard with masking tape and polished the frets using wet&dry sandpaper in progressive grits from 400 to 2500, then micromesh and metal polish until I could see my face in the frets. Then cleaned and oiled the fingerboard.

It would have been lovely… but this takes about 3 hours to do properly and I didn’t have time. Pragmatism rules – so off came the strings and I used a metal fingerboard protector and polished a fret at a time with 1200 grit wet&dry. Then cleaned up the fingerboard with naptha2 to get the worst of the gunk off – and voila, the picture shows the result. It’s not perfection, but it’s easily good enough to play again3.

 

Next step is to restring it and get the neck relief sorted out.

The pic shows the truss rod adjustment with the neck screws slackened and the neck tilted up. It’s a M6 threaded truss rod with a buried nut in the neck heel that takes an 8mm socket. Theoretically this should be easy to adjust given the right tool – practically, it is a bitch because the rod sticks out of the nut a long way so it needs a (slightly) special tool that comes with the bass …but I never had this tool.

I had bought an 8mm truss rod socket tool to do the job, but it wasn’t deep enough until I drilled it out on a bench drill. That fitted, but only when the neck was tilted out of the pocket – hence the picture. That sucker took some cranking to flatten the neck, probably a turn or so by the time I had finished getting the relief down to 13thou4.

The rest of the action setup was pretty straightforward, I went with the Fender P/J-Bass “standard” numbers of 5/64in5 on all strings at the 17th fret. The first fret action was 20 – 22thou6 which is pretty much perfect, so the nut didn’t need touching.

So that was the basic playability sorted, light-ish, but nothing buzzes at my level of fumbling7. Result.

Next step – plug it in and make a noise … ouch! Not so good.

 

Snap, crackle and pop! The controls were very noisy so I had the back control plate off and squirted contact cleaner into everything and twisted the pots back and forth to clean all the dust and gunge out. That fixed it.

This is actually a switchable active / passive bass, but I prefer the passive sound so I didn’t bother putting a battery in and testing the active circuit. It worked last time I used it.

I’m not completely convinced the jack is making the best contact possible, so that may need to be replaced at some point. It’s OK for now though. Switchcraft replacements are about a tenner via Allparts.

 

The last problem was the tuning machine heads were really loose and prone to slip. These are special Yam tuners with friction tension collars that can be adjusted to set the “stiffness” of the tuners. As usual, these need a special tool to adjust …which I never had.

This tool is like gold-dust, people are always asking where to get them from on the vintage Yamaha discussion groups, but they can’t be bought so the only solution for me is to bodge it8. Molegrips with a bit of thin rubber on the jaws to avoid chewing the collar up was the dirty solution. Job done.

 

…and she plays a treat! Bassy goodness all round.

I’ve got a new set of strings to put on, the 45-105 round-wounds on there are very dead and a bit manky. I might also polish the frets a bit better and oil the fingerboard when I change them, but there’s no hurry now it plays properly again.

 

Notes:

  1. Using a fret rocker.
  2. A good, not-too-aggressive solvent.
  3. There were a few slight string marks in the lowest couple of frets, so they need skimming and properly polishing some time. I checked with a vernier caliper and the frets measured around 46thou high which is pretty much stock – they have never been leveled before. I did check over them with the fret rocker and there are no uneven frets, so this neck is in a pretty good state as-is.
  4. 0.33mm. I roughed this out, played the bass a bit to give the neck time to settle and then went back and tweaked it to the final value.
  5. 2mm
  6. 0.5mm
  7. Some players like and need a higher action, some lower, so the numbers I quote are a matter of taste that work for me.
  8. Some people replace them, there is a Gotoh part (GB2) that is a close equivalent, but needs another hole drilling.