Project Rogue - Beatle Bass Overhaul

Discussion in 'Project Depot' started by Mossman, Apr 27, 2017.

  1. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    I've been posting about this project on TalkBass for a while, but for some reason, it's only generated a smattering of interest. There's a good deal of brand snobbery over there, though, so I guess not many people care about my cheep-ass bass rejuvenation (I guess they would call it 'turd polishing').

    I don't think we got any gear snobs over here, and everybody seems to like projects, so I figured I'd post it for y'all's enjoyment (never thought I'd use a word with two apostrophes in it).

    This bass is almost finished (just waiting on a control panel from Pickguardian) so you won't have to wait (sometimes weeks) between progress reports, but I will make these posts in installments, so you don't have to take it in all in one sitting.

    However, this first post is kinda long, so if you're into projects like this, grab a cupa coffee and a muffin or something and settle in.

    Here's a little background... Back in November, I bought one of these when MF was blowing them out the door for $149 (I actually got mine for $131 as an 'open box' item. I can't find anything wrong with it).

    I used to own an Epiphone Viola a few years back (yeah, I'm a Beatles nerd) and it was a very high quality bass, but I just wasn't very inspired by the way it sounded. I put a set of Chromes on it and it sounded kinda boring. Maybe I just don't like Chromes, but I think the pickups were kinda lackluster, too. I was into modding back then, but I had no idea what kind of pickups I could replace the stock ones with, or where to find them (I wasn't very internet savvy yet).

    The Viola ended up collecting dust and I eventually sold it after a couple of years. Every now and then, I would start thinking it would be fun to have another Beatle bass, but the last time I checked, the Hofner Icons/Ignitions/Whatevers weren't anywhere near the quality of the Epiphone Viola, and frankly, I didn't want to invest $350+ for another go at this project of sheer whimsy.

    Anyway... Along comes the Rogue, and I figure; for $131, what the heck... I didn't expect it to be as nice as the Epi Viola (and it's not) but it's much nicer than what I was expecting. I was expecting a toy, honestly. I expected it to feel flimsy and cheap with lots of finish flaws. In fact, this is a pretty well made bass. A surprisingly well made bass. It has some heft to it and feels pretty darn sturdy.

    The paintjob looks great, and I could only find the most minor of finish flaws. If I had paid the regular price of $229, I still wouldn't have complained at all. It played well right out of the box. The fret work was well done (I did have to file just the slightest bit off of a couple of frets, but that was it). They were all seated well, dressed well, no sharp ends, etc.

    This is a fully hollow bass, just like a Hofner, but unlike an Epiphone Viola - which was only semi-hollow. I think that's why I didn't like the sound of that bass. It just sounded dead and flat with that center-block. The Rogue is much more lively and resonant.

    The biggest surprise were the stock pickups. They sounded really good. Especially the neck pickup. I didn't care for the sound of the bridge pickup as much, but that had more to do with the fact that you couldn't get it close enough to the strings. At any rate, I was planning on making this into a Hofner clone, so the pickups would have to go, in favor of a pair of Hofner-licensed replacement pickups from Allparts, but I'll get to that later.

    62fd711e4c461583c1c08cbad87ae721.jpg

    I like the fact that the Rogue has a Hofner style headstock and I think the body shape is closer to a Hofner than some of the other copies. What I didn't like was the 'lemon-drop' burst as it appears in the pics on the website, and it kept me from pulling the trigger on one for a long time. I found out that these are very old photos (MF has been using them since the '90s!) and the finish actually looks more like this:

    9dc8fa8520ba69f347260f1a0bda3efd.jpg

    Note: By the time I had taken this photo, I had already changed the stock 'curly-Q' tailpiece for a genuine, German Hofner TP (found a good deal on one online). I also removed the hideous pickguard. It was the cheapest looking 'pearloid' PG I'd ever seen. Besides, why cover up that flame?

    The paint job and finish are surprisingly well done, and looks even better in person, IMO. The burst is a little lighter around the edges than it looks in this photo. It's kind of a honey sunburst, leaning towards tobacco.

    My original plan was to make a 'deluxe' Hofner clone out of this, since it already had the appropriate headstock and body shape. I figured the rest would just be a matter of getting the right parts. I knew I might have to get creative with some stuff, since there were sure to be structural differences between the two basses, but the further I got into the project, the more I realized that I would have to make too many compromises and it could never end up looking exactly like a real Hofner.

    Just to be clear; I wasn't thinking of trying to trick anybody. I just thought it would be a fun challenge. I thought of it in terms of; if I were playing 'Paul' in a Beatles tribute band could I get this bass close enough to a Hofner to pull it off on stage ('cuz there ain't no way I'd pay $3,000 for one if I were swimming in money).

    Anyway, I decided to go my own way with it, but my original plans informed most of my parts purchases, so it's still going to look (and hopefully sound) much like a Hofner, only with a few personal twists.

    After installing the new TP and getting rid of the pickguard, the next thing I wanted to do was get the Rogue logo off the headstock. I was hoping I could just scrub off the decal, put the Hofner one on, and spray poly over it. In most cases the decal is just under a thin layer of poly and you can sand it off without going all the way down to the wood. Not so in this case. The Rogue logo was screen printed right on top of the paint, so now I would have to re-paint and refinish the headstock.

    I had considered that this might end up being the case, and I told myself that if I could get the Rogue logo off without repainting, I was just going to apply the new decal and spray poly over it. But if I do end up having to repaint, I was going to try my hand at painting faux binding around the headstock.

    So now it's on!

    f5c02c00418111558fca0b95243caa7e.jpg

    You'll notice a crack on the lower right side of the headstock, just above the nut. Someone went a little crazy with the glue when they installed the nut, so when I removed it, a big chip of wood came with it. Luckily, I was able to glue it back in and conceal the fissure in the end.

    3a171089b882e1849e5858a4df5ec6d3.jpg

    Taped and ready to spray on the 'binding'(sorry about the blurry pic):

    7a2d2ee63721043eece1bc09f044ca89.jpg

    I used 3M blue painter's tape (never again). It didn't come out as clean as I had hoped. Had a few spots where there was some paint creep under the tape.

    Left side - There's a couple of spots near the top of the headstock, and it's a little rough down toward the nut. I waited too long before pulling off the tape and it came off kinda chippy towards the bottom.

    4e4ca269f7b5b593f104bdf07d069510.jpg

    Right side - Came out a little better.

    7f17ccce58adac5facae5175b4ca6fd1.jpg

    Top - another leak.

    19606032e100e57acb97245ec60ba7ef.jpg

    I cleaned up all of the leaks with an x-acto knife. Just put down a piece of masking tape to use as a guide and lightly scored/scraped the paint off with the x-acto blade. It all cleaned up quite nicely, but I CANNOT recommend the use of 3M Blue painter's tape for this application. It may be fine for water-based paints, like latex, but doesn't hold up to solvent-based paint.

    Even still, I used it again for the black. I didn't think it would be as bad this time, since I would only be spraying a single, light coat of black, as opposed to the several coats of cream white I had to spray previously.

    How wrong I was:
    597487232cc478a0883cbc98f5bc12d0.jpg

    All kinds of creep... All the way around.

    fcfbe0c2f2c5e15697f9f4c06d179e8f.jpg

    I don't think the pics show it as bad as it truly looked, but I didn't panic. I was glad that I decided not to wait a day or two before removing the tape. I just waited until it was dry to the touch, because I knew I would have a better chance of cleaning up rough spots before the paint completely cured.

    The white paint had been drying for a week, so it was fully cured by then and could probably stand up to a mild solvent if I'm careful and go lightly. You should always try the least aggressive solvent first, so I tried rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip and it worked brilliantly! I could use the Q-tip as a tool to rub the black paint back to a smooth, clean line all around the edges of the headstock and it didn't affect the white paint at all. (whew!).

    For a first attempt (heck, for a 21st attempt) I couldn't be happier with the results (again... sorry about the photo quality. Photobucket sometimes make pics a little blurry when you reduce them, for some reason):

    d68b7c70edb99e507a7636163e6584e4.jpg

    e1787489fc6f80007ed846eb16c76784.jpg

    The challenge with painting the binding on this headstock came from the fact that the edges of the headstock are not sharp and square. There's a lot of spots where they rolled over the edge when sanding and the headstock has slightly less than uniform thickness from left to right, so I had to compensate for that as well.

    There are all kinds of inconsistencies all around the headstock that make it hard to maintain what looks like a band of uniform thickness all around the perimeter. When you're laying the masking tape down, you have to look at it from all angles to get a sense of what it's going to look like. I had positioned and re-positioned the tape several times, and often times, where I positioned the tape seemed counter-intuitive when looking at it from the side, but when you look at it from the front of the headstock, it made perfect sense.

    The fact that it looks uniform all the way around is partly an optical illusion... I had to fudge it a bit. This came into play when I was rubbing back the black too. I had to be careful not to expose too much white.

    Anyway, I'm delighted with the way it came out. Whenever I attempt stuff like this for the first time, it's usually a lot of trial and error and starting from scratch again, or attempting a series of heroic 'fixes', which often times make it worse. I like it when everything comes out right the first time and bumps in the road are easily overcome.

    Well, that's enough for now.

    Next post: Tinting the binding, then decal and poly time!
     

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    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  2. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Ok, hang on... The pictures aren't showing for some reason.... Working on it.
     
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  3. Ralph124C41

    Ralph124C41 Guest

    I'll be watching this. I got my Rogue bass back in 2001. I still have it and frankly it's my main bass. The pickguard lasted about two hours. I still have it, btw. Well, both, the bass and the pickguard.

    Two revisions I'd like" As you said a better (stronger) bridge pickup. ANd I know this breaks with the vintage vibe, but I'd like some sort of a tone control installed. Those controls are very minimalist and all the SOLO/RHYTHM switch does IMO is just quiet the thing about 40 percent. I never use it.
     
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  4. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Ok, fixed... sort of.
     
  5. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, that pickguard is the worst. The pearloid effect is only in random spots, on plain, white plastic. I guess they expect our brains to fill in the rest of the pearl. I was going to have Tony make a 'marble tortoise' PG for it, and mount it properly, (floating, with a bracket and everything) but I don't know what I did with the original. (I don't think I threw it away in disgust, but you never know... :))

    After looking at pics with the PG on, I remembered that it doesn't even follow the contours of the body that accurately, so I'm not gonna worry about it.
     
  6. Ralph124C41

    Ralph124C41 Guest

    Well, I've played it at gigs for years and years. With my fingers. With a pick. And I admit I'm not a crazy type of hard player but 16 years later I still don't have a single scratch where the pickguard would have covered. But that's just me.

    Btw, that wooden bridge looks to be the cheapest thing in the world, doesn't it? Again no problems after all these years. The only thing I've done is replace the input because the connector inside wore out and was loose. And I had to widen the nut to accept medium-gauge flatwounds.
     
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  7. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Nah, the strings are so high off the surface of the bass, you would have to really try to scratch it with a pick.

    Some people get all nervous whenever I take the PG off of my Casinos. I've owned three over the years, and invariably there's always someone who's gotta say: "You better put a pickguard on that guitar before it gets all scratched up!"

    I don't know how I could scratch the top while playing it... I hate that pickguard! I don't like the way it looks and I don't like my fingers dragging across it when I'm strumming (though I think a black PG on a VSB Casino would look cool - not that blinding white thing).

    I'm glad to hear you say that about the bridge on the Rogue, because that has been troubling me. I ordered a Hofner bridge from Allparts, but it was way too tall for the Rogue. I suppose I could hunt down a better bridge on ebay, but so far, this bridge ain't broke. I just wanted something that looked a little more... refined.
     
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  8. nomadh

    nomadh Well-Known Member

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    Always thought these were neat looking copies. I remember thinking the only cheap looking thing was the control plate. Then I realized thats how the original looked. Then I realized how irritating it was on the original. Buck the trend. Make it an oval. Round the corners. how about a rounded smile or a star trek type comet insignia. Anything but a rectangle bandaid patch, please :)
     
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  9. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the control plates on Hofners were originally oval shaped (and they had single-coil pickups).

    I can't embed the photo for some reason (I'm on my cell phone), but here's a link:

    https://goo.gl/images/Y8Bjuy
     
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  10. big daddy

    big daddy Well-Known Member

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    I have the Rondo/Douglas violin bass and love it for all the same reasons stated above, plus a few that were not. Light as a feather comes to mind though a bit neck heavy/prone to neck dive. Just us a bass strap with a wide grippy pad.

    Mine is completely stock except for the strings. Pyramid Gold Flats (you'll thank me later) made my bass come to life and after the string swap, there was no need to swap pickups (does anyone actually use the bridge pickup on these anyway...)

    Good progress so far and I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this thread.
     
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  11. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Big Daddy.

    I've never owned a Douglas violin bass, but judging from the photos, I believe those basses are identical to the Epiphone Viola (at only half the price). I assume that they were both made in the same factory at one time.

    I've often been tempted to buy one just to see how it stacks up to my old Epi.

    I considered Pyramids, but they're a little spendy for me. I really like the LaBellas that I put on this bass, though.

    The bridge pickup isn't very useful on these basses due to its proximity to the bridge, but when I had the original pickups in, dialing in the bridge pickup tightened up the tone and oddly gave it more of a woody, 'upright bass' sound than just the neck pickup alone.
     
  12. Ralph124C41

    Ralph124C41 Guest

    Again I agree with you, Mossman. I have the LaBellas "Deep-talkin" medium flats. And using the bridge pickup with the neck does give the bass more of a woody sound. But ... the neck pickup is boomy, so I often have to cut the bass control on my amp a little. Btw, although I own five basses, the Rogue is the smallest ... and the loudest of them all on the neck pickup alone.
     
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  13. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Ok, I had already put an order in with my regular decal maker for a Hofner logo about the same time I ordered the Rogue, which he went through some considerable effort to replicate. It's a shame it'll never get used (unless someone here wants 'em).

    43bb3c2945abe2d1b992daa5ffd98050.jpg

    Instead, I had him make me a 'Mosstone' decal. Which also took a little doing, since the exact font I wanted was a little hard to find. But he found it.

    4aa38078f82fc7aa3e2e21dc07d21a05.jpg

    Essentially, the same font that I used for the 'Earthling' logo on my previous builds.

    a27659631f2cfb16bacc87b94a8d0400.jpg

    The problem was; I had a computer stolen from me a while back that contained my old logos (and the software that I used to create them). This used to be a common font (I had it in Photoshop and a couple of other programs), but it's harder to find anymore.

    I also got some banjo tuner buttons from StewMac for a more appropriate look than the modern, chrome, stock tuner keys. Thanks to a tip from a fellow TB'er (sorry, I can't remember who it was at the moment), I knew they would fit:

    059b0a4fc8a1aa5c2504d041d4355237.jpg

    Getting back to the binding... After removing the tape, it became clear that the 'cream white' paint that I used to paint the binding was still far too bright in contast with the neck binding. I still had a can of ReRanch amber spray laying around from a previous project:

    1eb040121a456c2b4a6052d796092de1._.jpg

    I sprayed some of the tinted lacquer into a spray-can cap, dipped a Q-tip in it and dabbed it on the binding, all around the headstock. This kinda worked well. I ended up with the desired results, but it was real fiddly work. First of all, the lacquer had a tendency to start melting the paint. I know it might have gone better if I sprayed some poly on the binding first, but I was more concerned about the amber then melting into the poly, and disturbing the smooth surface (wet-sanding and buffing would remove the amber, so... I would be back at square one).

    It took some time and patience (and some re-painting of the white and re-ambering in spots), but it was worth it. It looks much better than just the paint itself.

    It's kind of hard to tell from this photo, but the effect was much more dramatic in 'real life'. It still doesn't match the neck binding perfectly, but it's much closer.

    Once I was satisfied with the binding, I glued the nut back on:

    14e82f6b232065b70e878cc4795138eb.jpg

    And did a dry-fit of the tuners and the black washers and bushings I had ordered to replace the chrome ones.

    a8b69690db0edea53cd28b76c3989111.jpg

    I had originally planned to replace the stock tuners with the same tuners that come on a Hofner, but those things are like guitar tuners (actually, they are guitar tuners) and I would have to fill the current post-holes and drill new ones. The back of the neck and headstock have a trans burst finish, so any hole plugging would be visible on the back, and I would have to paint the whole neck black in order to hide it.

    I did not want to do that, but I also didn't like all that glaring chrome dominating the front of the headstock. Made the tuner posts look even bigger than they are. Decidedly not Hofneresque... So I decided to replace just the washers and bushings with black ones. They're still not vintage-appropriate ferulles, but you don't really notice them and they have the effect of making the tuners look smaller. More like the Hofner ones.

    I also had a truss rod cover made to replace the awful, fake pearloid TRC that came on the bass.

    0be012adfba087666d84a051d4c68e45.jpg

    98a85f7f5c82b00d1f2c60a048fd2d38.jpg

    Note that crack is still visible where the chip was replaced. I thought I sanded that completely flat before I painted the black. But it almost completely disappeared after the poly went down (you can just see a slight remnant of it if you angle it in the light just right).
     
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  14. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    The stock neck pickup is boomy, but in a good way. I really liked it. I don't think the Hofner pickup is going to be as boomy as the stock one, though. I wired the new pickups to the stock controls, to get an idea of what they sounded like before I sent the control panel to Pickguardian. They're more well defined than the stock pups and they sound really good so far (I'm holding out judgement until I get it wired up with the new pots and cap), but they don't have as much of that upright tone that the stock ones have.
     
  15. big daddy

    big daddy Well-Known Member

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    I agree that the Pyramid's are pricey, no question there. However, it's not just the sound they produce, but the feel. They are the smoothest feeling flat's I've ever played (with regards to your fretting hand) and they are very low tension, which translates to a very "rubber band" like feel on your plucking hand.

    Some might say "eew... I don't want that rubber band feel on my bass", but once you try them and get used to them... I would never put any other string on a Beatle bass and, for the record... the strings on my Douglas are at least 5 years old, but show no signs of wear or corrosion. The tone is just as creamy (if not creamier) than day one and this bass gets played a lot.

    $40 for LaBella's, or $60 for Pyramid's... IMHO, worth every penny.
     
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  16. Ralph124C41

    Ralph124C41 Guest


    Actually for some players dead flatwounds are "the" strings. I've read about bassists who put a set of flats on their basses ... and never change them unless they break. And I mean "NEVER." Bassists who have the same strings on for 20 years or more.

    So in that case, that extra $20 would be well worth it, considering the long-term investment.

    Actually I've heard Thomastik-Infeld flats will beat Pyramids any day of the week that ends with a "y." And they cost more with a discount price of around $72-$76. I also understand the T-Is are very low-tension strings also.

    Sorry for going off on a tangent like this. I just think this bass is made for flats and I should think that a change to a very good set of strings is on the menu. But the LaBellas are fine strings.
     
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  17. harold h

    harold h Well-Known Member

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    Alain Johannes plays a Rogue bass live


    28490e77a1bdca41e19457a627cfa328.jpg
     
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  18. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Oh I know there's big love for them, and they last forever. To be honest, the 'rubber band' feel isn't something that's an attraction to me, but my curiosity might get the better of me some day. I would like to find out what all the fuss is about. It just feels like such a commitment. I only ever see them for $70, or it ends up being $70 with shipping. I suppose if I really hated them, I could always sell them on TalkBass and get most of my money back. There's lots of Pyramid fans over there who don't mind saving money on a barely used set of strings.

    In the meantime, I'll keep digging the LaBellas until I don't anymore. I reckon these will last a long time as well. I don't know if I'm gonna be one of those flatwound guys who likes dead strings. Then again, I might love it. I've been playing bass since I was 15, but I didn't start using flatwounds until last year. I decided I wanted to have flats on one of my basses because I was playing a lot of Motown and 60's stuff and the roundwounds just didn't sound authentic enough (even with a mute and the treble rolled off). That's when I discovered Ernie Ball Cobalt Flats and fell in love with them. Now I have them on two of my basses, and they're the two I want to play most often. The strings sound completely different on each bass (of course, one's a Precision and the other's my Custom Jag with two Fender Jazz pups), but they both sound great on each bass.

    I might go back to rounds on the Jag some day. It's a pretty growly, aggressive-sounding bass, and I sometimes wonder if flats might be holding it back too much (the only reason I put flats on it was because I hadn't built my P-bass yet)... But the Cobalts are pretty growly, aggressive-sounding strings for flats. They just may end up on all my basses after a while.

    Except the Thunderbird... The T-Bird's gotta have rounds.
     
  19. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Cool! I don't know who that is, but cool! (y)

    I love it when I see pros who have no brand shame.
     
  20. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Just looked him up.

    I like this thing with the eight-string cigar-box guitar (it's the first video I chose so far).

     

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