Bass from the grave: Musicman Sabre part II

Although this bass has been neglected over the years, it is still a fully intact working instrument. However, the playing experience is hampered by a few problems, so I’ll be tackling these one at a time to bring this bass back to the instrument it deserves to be. Let’s start with those pickups.

pickup and old caseOn the surface, the pickups look dog-rough [Sorry for the technical terms, readers – Ed]. They have taken a real beating over the years, but having played this bass I know the pickups are still up to the job and have a lot of gigs left in them. It is only the outer casings that are totally shot and need replacing. This is purely a cosmetic problem that does not affect the pickups’ performance.

I have a very definite look in mind for this guitar, and the pickup cases that I wanted couldn’t be bought off the shelf, so I went to County Cork to see my friend Matty Dread to get them custom-made. The brief I gave him was that I wanted something very strong, light and hard wearing with a chrome type of finish, so he made me these new casings from polished aluminium – and they look the business.

The old pickups are now a real focal point that will set this bass apart from the crowd. At 40 quid a pop they aren’t cheap, but they are bespoke, handmade pieces and quality costs.

both new pickup casings

These cases are precision-made and fit the pickups perfectly snugly: by applying the minimum amount of pressure, the pickups push easily into place.

This first job has got this project off to a great start and I am feeling very confident about the rest of the work. I want this bass to be something that a modern player would feel comfortable with, but I want to retain some of its vintage qualities. This is a tricky balancing act and I only have one shot at it, so let’s get it right first time.

Next month I’ll be tackling the neck, including a total re-fret. If you have any questions about this bass, email me at

Costs this month: £80. Total costs so far: £80. 

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