Hey guys, for awhile now I've been playing my little brother's neglected Squier Affinity Jazz Bass and ive been thinking about making modifications to make a decent (or just a better bass) I didnt want to make a rash decision as to doing this without help so i turned to the forums for help.
There are three main things I want to change: the pickguard, finish and pickups. For the pickguard, i have this all white 3-ply pickguard and was wondering if there was a way to draw on it and have the design fade. In regards to the pickups, what pickups would you say can encompass many genres such as punk rock, funk to jazz, or in other words, pickups that can encompass many tonal results. And as for the finish, I was wondering who exactly you would remove the finish off the body and applying a new one, as I have heard that it is rather hard to remove a polyurethane finish.
If there are any forums already talking about such topics please tell me, and thank you for anyone that can help.
Hi Ashboy and welcome to the forum!
A few points:
1. This is not going to be easy.
2. This is going to be costly.
3. This is going to be MESSY.
4. Home refinish jobs seldom have the expected outcome.
5. The Squier Affinity is the bottom of the Squier line with a used one worth about $100 to $125 where I live in NC USA. After you spend untold hours and dollars refinishing and upgrading it, the bass will actually still be worth about the same for sale or trade...or maybe even less if the refinish is botched. Even if everything goes 100% according to plan you'll still have the same hardware and wood.
You might actually come out cheaper trading it in on a better quality bass in the color you want.
That being said I'll address your questions in order.
A. Fading a design could be done by overspraying the design with a very thinly mixed paint the exact same color as the guard. An automotive body shop can mix a paint to match your guard. I don't recommend painting a guard as you are going to knock off the paint with a pick maybe, but in this case it would fade the design.
B. There are as many different opinions on pickups as posters here. Find an artist you like and find out what pickups they use, then try those. On a budget project like an Affinity I'd stick to the mass produced pickups like Seymour Duncan or Fender. Another option would be the WILDE pickups by Bill Lawrence which are just a little more. They are still mass produced but in smaller numbers. The right pickup can make a difference in an instrument's voice. However, because of differences in the quality of the wood and hardware, putting Custom Shop pickups in an Affinity bass will not make it sound just like a Custom Shop bass, but instead it will sound like an Affinity with Custom Shop pickups. You can expect a different basic sound, but don't expect miracles.
C. Refinishing a guitar or bass body is the last thing I recommend someone with no experience at it attempt. The outcome is rarely what was expected. Removing the poly is a huge hassle, expensive, very messy and very labor intensive. You have to use very caustic chemicals to strip it requiring specialized personal protective gear and even then you will still have to use lots of muscle, sanding and steel wool scrubbing what the stripper doesn't remove. Some refinish shops charge $150 to strip a poly body, so that should give you clue that poly stripping is not fast or easy to do. For home refinishing there is a company called RERANCH that sells refinishing supplies and offers tutorials on their website at http://reranch.com/index.htm
In a closing note to you, there are things you can do to any bass that will improve the basic tone and I would suggest those first or when doing the pickup upgrade. They are relatively easy and cheap. I think you'd be better served spending money on these upgrades than on paint.
First: Shield and star ground the bass to reduce hum and RFI.
Second: Put in a better tone capacitor than the cheap stock poly caps. Usually a better capacitor will make a surprising difference.
Cost for these two upgrades is about $20 and probably the best upgrade money and time you can spend.
You can find links to helpful tutorials on both these simple and beneficial upgrades on the website in my forum signature below. First, go to that site and click on "DO IT YOURSELF SETUP AND MAINTENANCE." Once on the Setup and Maintenance page read the section "SHIELD YOUR BASS." Next go to the "REPLACEMENT UPGRADE BASS PARTS" page and read the section titled AXEGRINDERZ which explains a lot about tone capacitors.
I think I'd leave the finish alone and possibly go ahead with the pickup upgrade and also do the Shielding & Cap upgrade at the same time as the pickup upgrade since you'll basically have all the electronics out then anyway.