"This has been one of the most interesting and rewarding projects I have undertaken. I used the photo of the vintage 1951 Precision Bass directly above as my inspiration. I have always wanted an original 1951 Fender Precision Bass, or even one of the replicas which Fender has issued over the years. Love that slab body, the aged butterscotch finish, the black pick guard and that single coil pickup - but I could never get around gracefully on that confounded standard long scale neck."



It is interesting to note that Fender Japan made a few production runs of medium scale basses in the 1980's at a time when Fender Japan WAS Fender.


"The Precision Bass (1951) is such a special instrument. If Clarence Leo Fender were to be remembered for nothing else, surely it would be the Precision - an instrument, indeed a whole new kind of instrument - that simply didn’t exist before he invented it, that would forever ensure his place in history. For while all the other great Fender products of the decade certainly affected music, the Precision Bass profoundly affected music. The first commercial unit of the Precision Bass was produced in October 1951. It had a “slab” ash body with two “horns” - as opposed to the Telecaster’s one; this provided greater balance and was subsequently adapted for the Stratocaster. It also featured a one-piece 20-fret maple neck fixed to the body by four screws, a single pickup, black pick guard, Kluson tuners, a string-through-body bridge with a cover, and two pressed fiber bridge saddles. It borrowed several features from the Telecaster, including its head stock shape, neck plate, truss rod nut, potentiometers, two domed chrome control knobs, output jack ferrule and strap buttons. It was available only in a blonde finish."


"Back at Fender headquarters in the United States, the early ’80s was a busy time. Most significantly, CBS appointed former Yamaha executive William Schultz as president of Fender in 1981. Passionate about the brand and eager to reverse its ailing fortunes, Schultz immediately recommended modernizing Fender’s U.S. manufacturing facilities, which largely meant halting production while machinery was updated and staff was re-trained. Concurrently, he suggested building Fender instruments in Japan for the large Japanese market. This would keep Fender instruments in production and combat the cheap copies that were voraciously eating away at Fender’s Far East sales. Accordingly, Fender Japan was established in March 1982 and began building quality Fender instruments while U.S production was reorganized."


As it turns out, Fender Japan started making medium scale Jazz and Precision basses in the 1980's. I am not too sure why, but I am sure glad they did. Maybe they realized how cool and playable these instruments really were - and that in itself created a demand for them on some level at that time.

I was thinking that if I could score a 1980's Precision or Jazz Bass from Japan with a medium scale neck and a maple fingerboard, I would be all set. I could get the body made and I could get everything else I needed in the way of Fender parts to make it all work. Rosewood boards were much easier to find - I had never even seen a maple board on a Fender Japan medium scale.

I became a bit obsessed with the idea and introduced myself via email to a number of Japanese guitar dealers and kept up a weekly email campaign. Putting the word out - I enlisted their help and I found a number of Precision Basses and some Jazz Basses but always with the rosewood fingerboard. I was told at the beginning that the chances of finding a maple fingerboard in medium scale were slim to none - as there were very few Fender basses made during this era that fit the profile.

Finally, after a couple of years of hoping and keeping after it, I couldn't believe my luck. There was serious light at the end of the tunnel. I found a 1980's Fender Jazz bass with a maple neck and fingerboard. This one seemed pretty unusual, as it was also sporting cream pickup covers, so it must have been a custom order. It even had dots on the fingerboard and not the blocks which were so common on Jazz Basses of that era. Here is the bass I found and purchased directly from a private dealer in Japan.

When it arrived from Japan, I was amazed that it was in such incredible shape for as old as it was, and the neck checked out perfectly, although it appeared that it could use a fret job. When Fender Japan created a medium scale bass, they actually reduced the entire body size slightly in order to bring the neck pocket size down to the size required by the width of the slightly narrower medium scale neck.

I had a custom one-piece swamp ash body made, copying the original Precision Bass but reducing the size slightly to dial in the correct neck pocket fit. The slab body was pretty easy, not at all as involved as the contoured body would be. The picture below shows the body made for me out of a light dry single piece of swamp ash.


Here is the body below with an interchangeable Fender Precision neck attached.


Also, after the Jazz bass arrived from Japan, I bundled up the neck with the maple fingerboard, and shipped it to John Ingram and his staff and asked them to trim the head stock down to the "Telecaster" shape as below. They were downright giddy about the project and found it hard to believe I was doing this. They did an incredible job and I asked them to refinish the neck with a vintage amber tint. I also asked them to refret it - you can see the finished head stock below is also showing the piece I had them cut off.


You can see that - except for the slight variation in the tuning key shape - they are virtually identical. On top is a standard 1951 Precision Bass head stock, with my head stock below.

When I received the body, I sent it down to John who still had the neck. I asked him to finish the body - to match as closely as possible - the original vintage aged butterscotch in the photo above. I also asked them to finish and polish the edges of the pick guard. John also refretted the neck, dressed the frets, assembled the bass and set up it up for me.

The only compromise from the original Precision Bass is - I have an updated American Standard "strings though the body" type Fender bridge with four separate adjustable bridge saddles. I had a modified original bridge for the bass, but I found that the original bridge couldn't be dialed in properly to perfectly intonate all four strings.

To personalize the bass, I also added a sun engraved plate on the back of the neck. It has a Lindy Fralin vintage P-Bass pickup and the standard Fender electronics. I have a natural maple finger rest for it, which needs to be stained to match the body and mounted, but I haven't gotten around to it. I don't use it so I am not worried about it. It is strung with Labella "Deep Talkin Bass" flat wounds. This bass is a beast and I love it as much as any bass I own.


This is probably the only medium scale, 1951 Fender Precision Bass replica that exists in the world today with a Jazz Bass neck - the serial number of which places the neck at 1993-4. The body is one piece of swamp ash, dyed a vintage yellow to approximate the look of the worn original butterscotch "vintage" ones - with a gloss lacquer finish - which have naturally discolored over time. The tuners are the original Fender tuners from the Jazz Bass neck. It is fitted with a deluxe Fender "strings though the body" American Standard chrome bridge, along with Fender chrome bridge cover, pickup cover, ferrules and cavity cover. The vintage P-Bass pickup is by Lindy Fralin. This bass weighs in at 8.8 lbs and the width at the nut is 39mm. The pots are Fender along with the wire, the knurled knobs and even the pick guard screws. The jack on the body is Fender along with the string grommets on the back of the body. The custom plate on the back of the neck features a sun design.


Builder/Manufacturer:  Fender Japan Jazz Bass Neck - Custom Ash Body

Year Completed: 2011

Model Name: 1951 Fender Precision Bass

Body: A single piece of Swamp Ash

Finish: Vintage yellowed butterscotch

Neck: Modified from a 1993-4 Fender Japan Jazz Bass

Neck Material: Maple no skunk stripe

Neck Finish: Vintage tint satin lacquer

Scale Length: 32” (832mm)

Fingerboard: Maple

Number of Frets: 20

Nut Width: 39mm

Electronics: Lindy Fralin vintage replica single coil

Electronics: Volume and tone – all wiring, pot, knobs and capacitor are Fender

Bridge: Fender American Standard strings through chrome

Hardware Finish: Chrome, original Fender Machine Heads

Strings: D’Addario “Chromes” Flatwounds - .045" .065" .085" .105

Unique Features: Custom "Sun" neck plate - control plate, knobs, bridge and pickup covers by Fender



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