I’m well into this restoration project now, and it’s really starting to take shape. As I said before, some parts are missing from my bass, and I’ll be getting replacement parts handmade to my own spec as I don’t want everything to be just bought off the shelf. I really want to put more imagination and personality into my bass than that. I had only one original tone control knob on the bass when I got it, so I sent it off to be cloned by my old friend Mr Matty Dread from Cork, who has (as you can see here) remade all four of them in polished aluminium. They look fantastic, and even if I had a full set of the originals I don’t think I would put them back on after seeing these. I also asked Matt to make me some new strap buttons, a three-way selector switch toggle and a new bridge pickup cover. Now that I’ve started to attach some of the new shiny bits onto the bass, I can really see my overall concept coming together, and so far I am more than happy with it.
The frets on my Ricky are in surprisingly good shape given that they are over 30 years old, and they look like they are all original too, as there is no sign of the factory gloss finish on the fretboard ever being tampered with. I reckon that they’re good for another few years at least. On closer investigation, I see that this bass has been used primarily to lay down the groove on the lower register for most of its life, as it has very little wear above the ninth fret. There is nothing wrong with that: after all this is the range where we working bass players earn most of our bread and butter, and venturing past the twelfth fret is something you won’t be doing on most gigs unless you’re lucky enough to get a solo.
The machine heads are also a bit past their best before date, so I’m updating them with new Hipshot Rickenbacker replacement heads. They have the same screw-hole footprint as the originals, so it’s just a matter of taking the old ones off and screwing the new ones on, with no nasty holes left in my lovely paintwork to be filled in later. The Hipshots are a better spec than the old heads: as well as looking good they also have a 27:1 gear ratio as opposed to the original 20:1 ratio, which will give me more accuracy and stability when tuning.
Next time I will be tackling the new pickups. Finally, I’ll get to hear how my bass sounds.
Expert bass tweaker Simon McVeigh restores a knackered old Rickenbacker 4001 to its former glory. Simon McVeigh has been a session bassist for over 20 years, and also works as a bass tutor at the Royal County School of Music in County Meath, Ireland. He has recorded with many Irish artists, including members of Thin Lizzy and Hothouse Flowers, and has toured in Europe and the Middle East. Simon plays bass in the Swing Cats, one of Ireland’s busiest live bands, and runs Bread Head Music, a contacts resource for professionals in the music industry.