Some things about old designs are good enough to replicate, and the ’51 P is definitely one of them.
I have always loved the look of the first Fender Precision basses, from 1951 through 1956. While the originals are collector’s items and the reissues are not typically true to the original specifications, I decided I would build my own. I wanted the look and feel of the original, but with modern pickups, electronics and tuners for an everyday, gigging bass.
I bought the ash body, which is a mid-1990’s (I think) Japanese made Fender reissue, on eBay. It was already finished and routed, so it was an easy place to start. I bought the pickup, a Lindy Fralin 51 P-Bass, from Best Bass Gear, and the pick guard, tuners and miscellaneous electronics from www.angela.com. I also bought a couple of bone nut blanks locally and shaped them myself.
The neck was not so easy to come by though. The original Fenders had a U-shaped neck, more affectionately known as the “baseball bat”. These first electric basses were meant to replicate the sound of the upright in a more portable package, thus the shape of the neck is more like that of an upright. So to be authentic, I needed to find the U-shape neck, and also the distinctive “telecaster” style head stock. Fender doesn’t even make the U-shape any more (most all basses are a C-shape), so I checked out a couple of G&L’s that still use them. Satisfied with the shape and knowing that making a neck myself was beyond my skill level, I was introduced to MusiKraft, a Fender licensed custom shop out of New Jersey. I custom ordered the one-piece maple neck to the early 50’s specs, with not only the U-shape, but also the tele-style headstock, thin frets and dark satin lacquer (among other specs). The quality of this neck exceeded my expectations!
All in all the bass turned out great and sounds fantastic. It really brings back the look, feel and sounds of the early days of electric bass!
Name – “Jennifer” (after my “more than patient and supportive of my musical addiction” wife)
Body – Mid 90’s Japanese made Fender reissue ash body
Neck – Custom made one-piece rock maple neck by MusiKraft matching the original U shaped radius (baseball bat), thin “vintage” frets, dark tint satin lacquer, squared heel, 1-5/8” wide nut. A modern dual-action truss rod was added, tastefully beneath the classic “skunk stripe” on the back of the neck.
Pickup – Lindy Fralin 51 P
Nut – Bone blank, filed by yours truly
Bridge – American Standard Precision bass (I would put a Badass III on if I could get another one)
Flat wound strings and foam mute for the Motown/Stax sound!
Well done, Nicholas!
If you would like your bass features for bass of the week, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a few photos and a short story of your bass build. You might get featured!