RESTORING A 1963 GIBSON EB-OF FUZZTONE BASS BY JOHN BROWN
Gibson manufactured the short-scale EB-OF bass from 1962 until 1965.
The “F” stands for “fuzztone”—Gibson’s
onboard circuit that produces pretty cool
fuzz-like distortion. Clearly, not every bass
player would want or use such a feature,
but in the early ’60s, those eager to stretch
out and test their musical boundaries
would have found it appealing.
Gibson made the EB-OF with a double-cutaway slab mahogany body with rounded
horns and a transparent cherry-red finish.
Its one-piece set mahogany neck had peghead wings and a mother-of-pearl crown
peghead inlay, and the 30. 5"-scale rosewood
fretboard sported 20 frets and dot inlays.
Other features included a rosewood finger
rest, a nickel-plated stud bridge/tailpiece,
and a single humbucker with adjustable
pole pieces and standard volume and tone
controls. The fuzz circuit came with an in/
out switch and on/off and attack knobs.
When an EB-OF arrived at my shop for
restoration, I realized I had a lot of work
ahead of me. The original cherry finish had
been brutally removed and needed to be
restored. Major headstock and neck-joint
breaks required repair and strengthening.
Over the years, layers of different colored
non-original finish had built up on the plastic
pickguard and control plate. The humbucker
pickup gave me a strong 26. 3 Ω reading, but
I saw that the potentiometers and fuzztone
circuit board needed to be cleaned, and some
solder points would require touching up.
I repaired the headstock and neck-joint
cracks using industrial epoxy and high-pressure clamps. I prepared the wood for
its new finish by first sanding it with up to
280-grit paper, and then cleaning the body
and neck with acetone to remove all the
unwanted impurities that had impregnated
the pores over the years.
Back in the day, Gibson used burlap
material for applying the red-stained grain
filler. It made for a messy job, as the burlap
fibers would drift throughout the room and
contaminate everything, so Gibson eventually discontinued this technique. I wanted to
reproduce the look of the original early-’60s
cherry finish, yet without all the mess.
I started with clear, waterbase
ColorTone grain filler and mixed in some
concentrated Color Tone #5038 cherry-red
liquid stain. (I acquired all my finishing supplies from stewmac.com.) I tested
1. Applying the premixed cherry-red grain filler. 2. Scraping out unwanted paint from the engraved
letters with Formby’s and a wooden toothpick. 3. Using up to 1000-grit paper to sand away layers of
non-original paint before buffing. 4. Using a razor blade to detail the sides of the plastic control plate.
5. Aging the white laminates by applying a water/acetone/stain mix with a Q-tip. 6. The fuzztone
controls and circuit board. 7. Our fully restored and totally cool Gibson EB-OF fuzztone bass.
the stain on a sample piece of mahogany
until I got that old-school, deep-into-the-grain cherry look. I know there has been
controversy within the repair community
about using waterbase grain filler, but
when I thinned it with the cherry-red liquid stain, it went on like butter.
Using a lint-free cloth, I applied the
now-stained grain filler to the wood. The
cloth worked well for burnishing in the
grain filler, and best of all there were no
fibers floating around in the air. After the
grain filler was properly dry, I applied multiple coats of clear nitrocellulose followed
by one coat of vintage tint.
To get the paint out of each engraved
letter on the control plate, I used Formby’s
Conditioning Furniture Refinisher. This
product easily dissolves lacquer without
aggressively stripping it away, a process that
would damage the plastic material. I used
wood toothpicks to scrape out the unwanted paint from the letters. A razor blade
worked well to scrape off the non-original
layers of gold, black, and white finish from
the sides of the control plate.
Next, I sanded the plastic up to 1000 grit
and then buffed it. I aged the bright white
laminate sides of the plastic control plate
using a water/acetone/stain mix applied
with Q-tips. The water dilutes the acetone,
which helps to gently burn the vintage-like
stain into the plastic. Reminder:;Always use
appropriate ventilation when working with
toxic chemicals like acetone.
This bass would have left the factory
with a string cover, but in this case there
wasn’t one. Typically string and bridge covers are the first items to get removed by
owners, later to be lost forever.
After all the hardware and electronics
were installed, I strung up the bass with a
set of short-scale flatwound bass strings—
just as Gibson would have done in 1963.
What a cool bass!
JOHN BROWN is the inventor of the
Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates
Brown’s Guitar Factory, a guitar manufacturing, repair, and restoration facility staffed
by a team of talented luthiers. His guitar-tool
and accessory designs are used by builders
all over the world. Visit brownsguitarfactory.
com or email John at email@example.com.