Katrina Rescue: 1971 Fender Telecaster Bass

We always enjoy Katrina rescues. Returning to life something the owner thought was long gone is a great feeling, and each one of these instruments we restore presents it’s own unique set of challenges. Plus they look really, really cool.

We’re pretty firm believers in keeping these flood-soaked guitars as original as possible; to let them tell their story. That means no new shiny paint, and no new parts replacing anything that can still function. The dirtier the better.

When this 1971 Fender Telecaster Bass came into the shop it was barely intact. The body was being held together by the pick guard screws, the volume and tone pots were frozen solid from corrosion and fused to the metal knobs, as were the bridge saddles to all of their adjoining screws, and the walnut skunk stripe was coming out of the back of the neck! Fortunately, it’s an electric guitar and they glue back together pretty easily (see any of our blog posts about restoring acoustic guitars). But I’d be lucky to get this thing apart without shearing off at least a few rusted screws…

This bass sat in the flood waters of Katrina for over three weeks, and then sat in a closet for thirteen years. Here’s what we had to work with to start:

After about 30 minutes of work pulling it apart and NOT breaking a single screw, I had this: a few pieces of wood and a small pile of rusty metal.

I measured out and created plugs and corresponding holes on each side of the split body, to better facilitate getting the body back together.

Check out these original factory saw blade marks.

Glued and clamped. Ratchet straps are awesome!

We performed all the fretwork with the neck attached to our surrogate neck jig body, which just so happens to be almost the exact same color as the tele bass.

The pots were totally shot due to rust and corrosion, so I didn’t mind destroying them to remove them. They were completely fused to the control plate, but where there’s a will there’s a way!

Fresh pots!

The original saddle screws were rusted over, and didn’t want to come out. It took and overnight soak in “the buttah” to get the set screws out of these saddles, but it was well worth the wait, as I was able to keep the original saddles.

New frets, new bone nut, all new electronics with a vintage spec single coil replacement pickup, a bunch of elbow grease – and just like that, we’ve got a rocking bass that’s been through hell and back!

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