1971 Gibson EB-3 - Basketcase Redemption

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 8/30/2008 08:03:00 PM -

 I finished this project roughly 5 years ago - but I think its an interesting one as it demonstrates a pretty extreme headstock repair and also inlaying wood into a top to repair "artistic" carving.

The subject was a 1971 Gibson EB-3 bass, with the infamously delicate slotted headstock. I bought this bass as a project on Ebay for something along the lines of $90, partially as a potential project and partially for the included "mudbucker" pickup and bridge, which I wanted for a 1969 EB-0 I was also working on. The bass also had 3 of the 4 tuners and the original knobs - so I was going to have to figure something out or find another tuner somewhere.

The reason the bass was so cheap was the complete decapitation of the bass - the headstock was included, but several chunks of wood from right behind the nut were completely missing - so there was about a 1/2 inch gap of NOTHING between the headstock and neck. In addition, someone had gone a little crazy with their Dremel tool and carved flowers, Guild S-100 style, into the front of the body. On the plus side, the heel was solid and the fretboard appeared to be in good shape too. The bridge position mini-bass humbucker was also included, but it was missing all four polepieces ?? Where did they go ???

Given that I had gotten my money's worth out of the bass with the parts I needed - I figured I had nothing to lose on this bass - except for maybe a lot of time. I decided to fix the headstock as best I could, inlay wood into the front of the body to replace the carving, fit the bass with a 90s Thunderbird pickup in the neck position and the baby humbucker in the bridge position if I could fix it, and then paint the whole thing white in the style of an Polaris White mid-60s SG Special.

I started by routing the carved area of the body a 1/4 deep - so that I could fit in a mahogany patch. I also used a file to even out the edges of the headstock break, and then cut and carved a piece of mahogany that I could place diagonally to fill the gap. I used a protractor to mark and cut a piece of cardboard to make sure I ended up with the proper back angle on the headstock, and marked lines on the face of the headstock to give me something to align the headstock with the neck. I then Titebond'd and clamped everything together - trying to maintain the alignment as I did.

Once the headstock had dried and it appeared aligned - I drilled through the joint, and placed five small maple dowels, liberally glued - across the joints to give them additional strength and stiffness. Sadly I didn't take pictures of this part of the process - the joint looked very strange - with an untrimmed block of mahogany with a bunch small dowels sticking out of the front and back of the area around the nut.

I then trimmed down the dowels and carved the added mahogany to match the profile of the neck and added the typical 70s "volute" behind the nut. The two pictures show the joint after the shaping - with the lighter colored added mahogany and dowels clearly visible. A few more pictures of the bass back together in one piece, patches and all.

Now came the work of filling in the grain - sanding the whole thing smooth - and spraying the first coat of a clean white nitro finish - to resurrect this poor old bass. Amazing how much better it looked after the first few coats of white !!

I started getting together the hardware - making a pickguard and backplate from 3-ply material, and a neck humbucker surround from black plexiglas. I was able to find 4 steel threaded inserts at my local hardware store that amazingly threaded right into the baby-hucker - returning it to full function. A recent Gibson selector switch substituted for the Variatone, and a set of new pots and jack to complete the electronics.FInally, I carved a new nut from some fake bone material.

I applied a few more coats of white before wet sanding the finish smooth. Then I carefully masked the headstock (tricky with the slots for the tuners!) and sprayed the face black. The logo had been a pearl logo glued to the face of the headstock - only 1/2 of it was present when I got the bass, so I decided to skip the logo entirely. Maybe one day I'll find one and glue it on or apply a decal.. not the biggest concern on this hot-rod EB !!

Finally - I buffed out and polished the finish - and assembled the parts - and wired her up. I had to kind of jerry-rig a schaller tuner for the missing Gibson tuner, but it fit well enough with a little drilling and looked pretty good. The black pickup, headstock face, pickguard, and chromed bridge and pickups combined to give this bass a very sharp look - later I saw that Gibson used a similar look on their "SG Bass" reissue !!

The most impressive thing - besides the fact that the neck was dead straight and the thing held tune - was that the 90s Thunderbird pickup in the neck position sounded AWESOME !! - and combined with the bridge pickup with the switch in the middle position, this bass is a great sounding instrument - more like a T-bird than an EB-3 !!

This bass now belongs to my brother Raj, in Red Bank NJ - as he is the king of the EB-0/EB-3 family - in fact, he used to play in a Cream tribute band - called, of course - Cremora !!! (the cheezy cream substitute??)


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