1973 Telecaster Bass Re-Modification & Mocha Refinish

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 6/02/2008 02:24:00 PM -
This is a project that I am racing to complete for a customer in the San Diego area, who will be in the Boston area next week !!

The bass is a fairly modified 1973 Fender Telecaster bass, which is based on the original 1951 Fender Precision bass, but which was equipped from the factory with a huge "Fender-bucker" pickup at the neck position instead of a single coil "strat" type pickup in the middle position. The humbucker equipped Tele basses tended to suffer from a similar problem as the "mudbucker" equipped Gibson EB-0's, namely, the sound could often turn into a big wall of bottom heavy MUD. To counter this problem, many later Tele basses have an added pickup installed near the middle position - I have seen Jazz bass pickups, standard P-bass pickups and also single coil Tele bass pickups.

This particular bass initially had a Tele type pickup installed near the middle position, and then later was rerouted for a split P-bass type pickup. The bass was also refinished in gloss black.

The current owner has decided not to really "restore" this bass, but rather make it suit his playing and put a finish on it that he like better. He had no idea that the bass was originally Mocha, but he suggested the color right off the bat. As I sanded off the black finish, I was pleasantly surprised to find the remnants of a mocha finish under the black refin !!

Unfortunately, the original finish had been thinned out quite a bit as prep for the black refin, so the body still needed to be refinished, but my worries of not being able to do a translucent finish because of black paint stuck in the grain of the wood were not realized. I did try to save the finish on the edges of the body too, where it was much darker, but it was too hacked up to save, so the edges will be cleanly stripped.

The modifications that the owner wants for his Tele bass are the following:

- Alembic P-bass pickup with active electronics installed where current P-bass pickup is installed

- Dual output jacks fitted, with one output for the neck mounted humbucker and a volume control, and one output for the Alembic pickup with active volume and tone controls
- black single-ply pickguard with extended bridge side contour to cover current Tele bass pickup route
- routing for battery under guard

I have carried out the repairs and mods to the body - I took a dual output jack plate from a Rickenbacker 4001-copy project I had lurking in the basement so that a slick two jack setup could be installed. This required drilling a second hole in the edge of the Tele bass body.

The battery route was done by simply deepening part of the wiring channel to the control cavity.

Finally, the tele bass route was plugged with a maple block, even though it will be hidden under the new guard.

(UPDATE 6/6/08)

After a trial spray of the guitar body with tinted clear nitro, I realized that trying to preserve what was left of the original finish was just going to make the refinish look uneven, so I sanded the front and rear face of the body to the clear undercoat. Because the Tele bass has a simple slab body, this was a quick bit of work.

I also wet sanded the edges, though some of the original finish and uneveness remained on the body edges, where the undercoat had worn away during various rounds of refins and stripping over the year.

I mixed up a dye blend that was about 4 parts amber; 3 parts walnut and 1 part cherry. This gave a yellow tinged brown color that looked very much like the mocha instruments I had seen. This dye blend was mixed in clear nitro and then thinned down for spraying.

A number of coats were sprayed - starting with lighter less tinted coats and then building up the strength of the tinting, expecially to do the edges of the body. The finish looks good - once it dries it will be lightly wet sanded and then a few more tinted coats will be applied before clear coating the entire body several times.

(Update June 20th )

The body was finished around June 11th - and the pickguard too (though it still has its protective covering on it in this pic): test fitting the electronics, including the new dual outputs.

The rest of the bass was finished on June 13th - though I did a few more mods to the routing under the pickguard this evening while Harry and his wife Mika visited the fine Davis Square dining establishment known as "Redbones". As you can see, the final color is definitely more of a "rootbeer" - with a strong red tint - a rich color under the lights.

Harry actually was able to record with the bass this past week and reported that the Alembic pickup sounded great.

Krishna Jain


Written by Admin

Aliquam molestie ligula vitae nunc lobortis dictum varius tellus porttitor. Suspendisse vehicula diam a ligula malesuada a pellentesque turpis facilisis. Vestibulum a urna elit. Nulla bibendum dolor suscipit tortor euismod eu laoreet odio facilisis.


  1. Can't wait to see the update to this one. Looking great so far.


  2. Krishna did a really fantastic job with this instrument! I've gotten nothing but compliments on both the look and the sound. For years I didn't really play this bass, but now it's become one of my favorites!

  3. I have an original 1968 TeleBass that I purchased new in early 1969. The original white finish was stripped down to the ash body in 1973 and I added a Seymour Duncan J-Bass in place of the original which I still have. I also have most of the original hardware minus the pick guard and, I think, the bridge cover. Should I restore to original or beef it up to modern specs and continue to use?

  4. The early Tele basses with the single coil pickups have become pretty valuable, so restoring it probably wouldn't be a bad investment, but then again, if its a "working" instrument you should do what makes you happy - just don't drill or rout any more holes in it !!!

    If you were going to refinish it, I'd do either the original white or Lake Placid Blue - which is a finish I have seen a few done in - and it looks very cool. Making a pickguard would be pretty easy I think - the bridge covers are available as reissues I believe.

  5. Hello,

    I know this post is old, but recently I received a humbucker tele bass like this. Well, this pickup is broke and I have to rewind it. The problem I don't find information about D.C. resistance and kind of wire, do you know about this?

    Thank for advance,
    Jose Ramos from Ramos Guitars (Spain)

  6. Hi Jose - I'll have to look into that - I dont actually have one of those pickups around. Email me directly at: krishna@guitargarage.net

  7. I'd just like to say that, even though this post is old, you posted the ONLY picture I can find of a humbucker Tele bass without the pickguard! I've been looking all over the web for a routing template and it's been a horrible pain. Thank you VERY much for posting these.

    I had a 74, and selling that was a horrible mistake. It was nearly dead-mint. I got it at a garage sale for $75 in the 90's from the original owner. It came with the original case and owner's manual, even. I've since realized what a major bonehead I was for selling it (I prefer the humbucker to the single-coil) and I want it back. Problem is, the guy I sold it to is dead now.

    So I'm planning on building a replacement for myself.

    Now, where to find an original pickup that has previously lost its bass....

    Here's what I did to stop the mud. I ran the bass into the input of my GK 800RB head, and from there I plugged in the preamp section from an Ampeg VT22 guitar amp. On the VT22 I flipped the midrange switch to 3k and cranked it to about 8, the rest was just set to taste (but the 3k gave it a clarity it didn't have before). From there is just went back into the GK and out to the speakers. It got very SVT + P-Bass, but with a much heavier low end with far less mud than through the GK by itself.

    Would you have any idea on how to get that pale yellow/blonde/partly translucent finish color In about half the pics of 72-74 Tele basses on the web? That's the color mine was and I'd like to duplicate that if at all possible.

  8. Hi, just wondering: I also have a Tele Bass humbucker pickup that needs rewinding. Do you, or do you know anyone that rewinds these?

    Many thanks.

  9. Hi Mike - I'd have to recommend Curtis Novak - I do believe he can rebuild ANY pickup - and he's a super nice guy !


    Phone: (760) 820-4434