Harley Benton PB-50 '51 P bass

What's Hot
5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
edited February 2015 in Making & Modding
Got this lovely little thing the other week from the wife as a birthday present....

image

Overall, very impressed for the money. It has the general feel of any other cheaper level guitar/bass, but is much cheaper. 

The body is very good, nice feel and finish, some nice grain coming through, all of the hardware is relatively neat and wobble free. Controls are solid and work well, if a little "on/off", but I'm not surprised and didn't think these would be much good anyway. The pickguard is a bit roughly cut, but again nothing too bad and this may or may not end up going. The bridge and tuners are surprisingly quite good for the price, and I thought these would be essentially useless and clearly where money had been saved. These will probably stay until they start to fall apart. Might put brass saddles on sooner, actually. Bridge is going to have a cover over it, so not too fussed about having a modern looking bridge on it for now. 

image

The neck has a nice smooth satin finish and there aren't any sharp fret ends, although a few frets are higher than others. The maple is quite pale, and there's a very clear difference in colour between the fretboard piece of wood and the rest of the neck, which is noticeable and a bit unsightly. This neck is one of the main areas where the cheap roots of the bass show slightly. I think this is actually their cheapest maple necked bass by around £30, so I imagine the other options have nicer wood in the necks. The feel and fit of the neck is however very good, so it's not really a craftmanship issue.
image

The most interesting thing about this bass, well maybe not in the grand scheme of things, is the fact that it's a wilkinson pickup. I may be wrong, but I'm not aware of any other wilkinson linked guitars (i.e. Vintage) having a '51 style single coil p bass pickup, which means this is the only bass you can buy it with. At least at the moment, until Vintage release a '51 P bass copy. 

Soundwise it does what it's meant to do. Not the most characterful pickup, does solid rock/pop and quite good for punk sounds. Bassier than I thought it would be, but definitely happiest with lower mids. Seymour Duncan do a range of good single coil p bass pickups, so I'll stick one of those in at some point. 

Modding plan: 
  • Change over electronics - CTS pots etc
  • sort out frets/fret dress 
  • cut headstock into '51 tele bass shape 
  • sand headstock and fit 50's decal 
  • Vintage gloss tint for neck 
  • cut and fit white pearloid scratchplate 
  • fit bridge cover, maybe pickup cover too
  • change nut
Effectively, it's working on the neck and the guts. The body of the bass is actually very nice, so I don't want to touch that. There's a guy on youtube who reliced his HB 51 bass, but I'd rather get this looking nice and shiny. Not much modding really, but just focusing on trying to create a good looking '51 style bass. 

May take a while to start work as I'm waiting for parts, but will update as I get on. 

0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
«1

Comments

  • Sounding good, your plans. Generally the Wilkinson Pups are pretty good and it's what I went with for my HB tele 30. All the best with your mods. Will be watching with interest.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited March 2015
    Right, finally got some time to work on this recently. After playing about with the bass a bit, I decided to swap the bridge out asap, as I was getting a bit of buzz from the stock one, so that's gone and replaced for a Wilko with brass saddles. With some adjusting the pickup's sound has improved immensely, so far happier with the pup than I was. 

    I also changed my mind about fitting a decal. Love the 50's fender logo, but just didn't feel right. 

    First work was to get started on some fret leveling. A few people have commented on the standard of the bodies being a lottery, and have to say this one seems pretty good. Wood pattern on the surface seems to match the one in the pocket, so don't think it's a veneer. image

    Got the headstock sanded ready to be cut down to a '51 tele shape, which will be this weekend...

    image

    And fret's masked up and ready to go. I'm taking my time with this, as haven't done it before, and only being gentle going through 220, 400, 600, 800, 1200 and 1500 grit paper as the frets aren't actually that bad when checked with a rocker, just a few high spots here and there. I also realised that as I'm lacquering the neck, I'll need to sand down the frets anyway, so didn't do too much this time around and will do some close up shots of the frets once finished. 

    image

    Next job, sort out wiring. As expected, comes with tiny little pots, but the wiring and soldering was very neat and sturdy. Far better than my efforts are going to result in. Still finishing this off now, so will post my very messy results later. 

    image

    Next up this weekend - finish wiring, cut headstock shape, start lacquering neck. 

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • I'm not a bass expert, I only have 1 for bass tracks etc, that I play like a guitar player, but isn't that an odd position for the bass pickup? Not at the neck nor at the bridge, but in the middle? Don't get me wrong, I like it, I just never saw one there before. Kinda cool. Personnally I like the HB headstocks. I was gonna reshape mine on the Tele, but fell in love with it!
    1reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited March 2015
    It's actually a very good position for the pickup, as it puts it in the sweet spot for a good mix of low end punch and but without the muddiness you can get from neck pickups, and high end clarity. They split the pickup in 57/58 to the standard P bass pup because of the hum the 51 single coil style pickup used to create. 

    I agree, as far as a fender style headstock goes, the HB headstocks are actually pretty good. With this one I wanted to get a 51 style look as much as possible. 

    Managed to get the headstock done this weekend. Here it is for prep - 
    image

    And finished! As you can see, the 51 template just about fitted in, so just needed a tiny bit of sanding to smooth it out, and now it's ready for spraying this week. 

    image

    Soldering iron managed to die just when I needed it, so another ordered and wiring to be finished this week. I also went to cut the pickguard from the white pearloid sheet I had, and realised that the pickguard sheet was guitar sized, so not big enough. Annoyingly this means I'll have to leave this and save it for another time. 


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited March 2015
    Lacquering the neck has been an experience. A truly awful experience. It would appear that you need one thing, of which I am lacking.

    Patience. 

    I'll get some pics up soon, but in the process of trying to even out the back of the neck with fine steel wool, it has dried with uneven depth patches. I was concerned about the fretboard and front, but this has actually not come up too badly. However, the back, thanks to some heavy handedness from me, is patchy and I'm going to need to be refinished at another time. As I need the bass next week, it'll be in a few months. 

    The whole point of doing it was as a learning experience, which is what it's been. I've stained and lacquered before, just not a tint lacquer. Couple of points I've learned is - 1. resting guitar neck horizontally, rather than hanging vertically, is much better for an even finish 2.Take time with spraying and do a single spray, and give it several hours between coats, and 3. never touch drying finish, even if you think you can wipe out a drip blob. The consequences are horrendous. 

    Anyway, more pics up soon. Maybe not of the back of the neck, due to the embarrassing mess. 


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited March 2015
    The front. Pretty happy with this so far, given the difficulty of spraying over frets, first time and so on...

    image

    Headstock close-up. Everything looking good so far...


    image

    And then THE HORROR. THE HORROR...

    image

    That, my friends, is what blind panic over the course of several evenings looks like. As you can see, it's also fair bit darker than the rest, as for some reason in my panic about how much tint spray I had left and being left with a thin tint, i decided to empty the entire remaining contents of the spray onto the neck. Maybe if people ask, I can just say it's "figuring in the wood" or summat. 

    Another view of the problems here - 

    image

    Be kind peeps, be kind. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Andyjr1515Andyjr1515 Frets: 2141
    Well, the front looks great and who the hell sees the back anyway! Actually doesn't look too bad and easy enough to re do once you have a gap in playing commitments...
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • PVO_DavePVO_Dave Frets: 1929
    Or, give the back of the neck that worn in look / feel with wire wool, which should remove some of the colour too? 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    Thanks Andy. That was a consideration Dave, and I may go down that route later. I should have just sanded back and restarted the back of the neck when the patch came off, but wasn't sure how much I had left in the can. Turned out I had plenty. 

    All a learning experience anyway. 

    Nearly finished, just some sealer clear coats to do, then re-build and ready to play. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited March 2015
    I'm also now going to take the body down to a satin/matt finish, just to give it a more vintage look without going for full relicing. 

    Quick question on clear coating and final sanding on the neck if anyone can help. 

    My current plan is to do around 6-8 coats of clear nitro coat, then wet sand 1000 grit, 1200 grit and 1500 grit in around 1 week's time, once the clear coat nitro has cured. 

    Will this leave a relatively glossy finish? Could I do any sooner than 1 week? 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    edited March 2015
    Aaaand it's done. 

    image

    image
    image

    So from the standard bass, I've - 

    • Changed Bridge to Wilkinson brass saddle bridge
    • Changed electronics to 250k CTS pots and orange cap 
    • fret levelled 
    • Cut headstock to standard tele bass shape 
    • nitro vintage tint and clear gloss coat 
    • sanded and polished body and pickguard to give a semi-gloss/satin look
    • fitted standard P bass bridge cover 
    Other jobs for the future will be to change the wilkinson pickup for a seymour duncan single coil, but it's fine for now, and to cut and fit a white pearloid pickguard, when I can be bothered. 

    All minor changes really, but lacquering the neck was a learning process so glad I had a go at it. 

    0reaction image LOL 4reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • RockerRocker Frets: 3413
    Better than impressive my friend.  Great work.  Well done.  Enjoy.
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Andyjr1515Andyjr1515 Frets: 2141
    Lovely job - well done!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Nice looking bass. Neat work mate.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    Thanks all. Happy with the way it's turned out generally. The neck tinting isn't good enough, but a good learning experience and still left with a very playable bass at the end of it all. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Hi 5redlights, I have the same bass as you, Mint aren't they?
    One of the first things I did was change the cheap looking silver screws on the pick guard.
    I used black screws and the difference was amazing for less than a £. Them I took off the useless thumb rest
    and placed two black shorter screws in the remaining holes.
    Who can play using them anyway ? shouldn't they be above the strings? HaHa! I bet that will open a can of worms!
    Next I changed the Bridge for a vintage fender style. Less mass but much better tone and growls.
    I was going to re-shape the head like you have, but only because my puppy chewed the end of the headstock.
    Silver knobs replaced for black ones, again looks more quality now
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • paulnb57paulnb57 Frets: 1412
    Isn't it a finger rest, so you can play with your thumb, like wot Sting does?

    Paul
    Stranger from another planet welcome to our hole - Just strap on your guitar and we'll play some rock 'n' roll

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • stimpsonslostsonstimpsonslostson Frets: 3942
    edited August 2015
    So, you'e had the bass for a wee while now. Fancy giving an update/review of it?
    I'm in the market for a CHEAP p-bass type thing and am strongly tempted by this- I enjoyed modding my HB Te52 into an Esquire, and quite fancy another wee modding challenge. I'm impressed with your work and would plan to do almost exactly the same! (with the possible addition of a Mojo pickup if needed. 

    Would you recommend it? 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    I used it for several weeks in a work covers band playing a variety of song styles and it did a good job, if a bit basic. The sound is slightly less characterful than a split coil style P bass, but has that slight vintage woodiness that you'd want from a 50's style single coil. The neck is very nice and playable, and overall the bass feels sturdy. The standard tuners are actually OK and hold tune well; I was expecting them to need changing but they've been fine. I also don't see much point in changing the pickup; it's actually quite good and the sound quality is fine. I'm sure I'll change it at some point, but for now it's going to stay. 

    It's not getting used much at the moment as I'm playing something else in preparation for modding it (so wanted to give it a couple of weeks to find out the weak spots), but the next step is to put some flatwounds on it to add to the vintage feel, and use it for motown/60's rock songs. It'll probably be back into circulation in the next couple of months.  

    I'm predominantly a bass player, and wouldn't advise on having this as a main bass (a PJ type bass would be a much better option in that scenario if you're only looking at 1 bass) but if you're looking for something a bit different to have a play with, it's a nice choice. 




    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • stimpsonslostsonstimpsonslostson Frets: 3942
    edited August 2015
    Cheers. Duly noted. 
    I'm a former bassist who's moved to the dark side & am missing playing bass.
    I'm torn between the coolness & uniqueness of this and the practicality and familiarity of a standard P-bass clone (PB20 being a front runner). 

    How's the neck? Is it good and chunky as a P-bass should be? 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    Not as chunky as a proper 50's neck, but close enough and what you'd expect for a P-bass neck. The neck is actually quite nice considering the cost and better with a bit of fret work. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Perfect. Thanks for that.
    The neck on my Te52 is surprisingly wonderful too.
    I'll see what's out there second hand too, but this is definitely an option- as I said, you've done a lovely job.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    Perfect. Thanks for that.
    The neck on my Te52 is surprisingly wonderful too.
    I'll see what's out there second hand too, but this is definitely an option- as I said, you've done a lovely job.
    I think there's one of these basses on ebay now actually. I don't think it's being advertised as a Harley Benton though, so you may have to do a generic "bass guitar" search to find it. It was on there a couple of days ago when I was bored and scouring ebay for projects/bargains. 


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • reynomeyerreynomeyer Frets: 3
    edited August 2015
    Hi 5redlights, very well done! I modded a HB PB 50 too and because of the slightly less characterful sound I changed the pickup to a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound single coil. I guess this could be something for you as well. Now the bass sounds really present and pushes like hell. I also changed the pickguard to a white one because the sunburst precis from 1956 were only delivered with this colour. The original Fender pickguard doesnt fit to the HB, so I fretsawed it from a sleeve.
    Here is the result:
    Body: https://db.tt/QXIVsIDR
    Neck: https://db.tt/NJED8Dnl
    Complete: https://db.tt/b7QvCqaK
    The Fender decal is from a good friend who unfortunately died a very sudden death three weeks ago. The bridge and pickup covers and the roundwound Fender strings are from Thomann. Now the bass is perfect to me.
    Kind regards
    Reyno

    0reaction image LOL 2reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • MossMoss Frets: 2405
    edited August 2015
    That looks amazing @reynomeyer
    Stop crying, start buying
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • reynomeyerreynomeyer Frets: 3
    edited August 2015
    Thanks, Moss. Meanwhile I prefer this bass to my 1978 Fender Preci. The original has an ash body and is really heavy. After 1 set on stage you have a postural deformity. And a bump is not really a drama for this bat.
    0reaction image LOL 1reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • 5redlights5redlights Frets: 259
    Lovely job @reynomeyer, looks very authentic. Good news about the SD pickup too, as that is something on my mind given the lack of character with the wilkinson pup. 


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • @reynomeyer That's really good too! 
    What did you use to treat the neck? Does it have some oil on it?

    Having seen what you've both achieved from a relatively inexpensive starting point definitely isn't helping my GAS! 

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • reynomeyerreynomeyer Frets: 3
    edited August 2015
    @5redlights: I am sure you willl be very glad with the SD QP because this pup delivers what the Wilkinson does not: dynamic, a fundamental low frequency spectrum and very silky high frequencies. The Wilkinson sounds a little too tinny at high frequencies.

    @stimpsonslostson: The neck was only treated with a fretsaw for the headstock, sandpaper and matt clear coat for the cut surface and to fix the decal. The rest was sweat and a lot of smoke.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • So I pulled the trigger & I now have a PB50.
    I like it. I totally agree with your reviews: it's already a nice guitar, but some (relatively minor) modifications will make it even better. I particularly really like the thumpy tone it gives.

    I'm gonna reshape the headstock, replace the bridge, wiring & pots (I have some CTS 250k pots and a Wilkinson brass saddled bridge in my box'O'stuff), add a new pick guard & probably bridge & pickup covers.

    I'll probably start my own thread soon!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Sign In or Register to comment.