Repair log: Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR (1950’s, Precision Bass, Left Handed in Fiesta Red) Vintage Series
Copyright retained, Terry Relph-Knight 20/06/18
Cost – £ 95.82 + shipping
Delivered with a black soft gig bag.
Fender do not currently make a single coil vintage precision bass in their standard range, let alone a left handed version. The closest is the Mike Dirnt Road Worn® Precision Bass® with a split humbucker pickup at £1,399.
A Fender 52 Precison Bass is only available from the Custom Shop.
The customer brought this bass to me because he wanted the headstock re-shaped from the Harley Benton outline to the correct shape for a Fender 50s Precision Bass.
This bass is a Thomann in house brand, far east made, left handed version of the Fender 1951 Precision bass with the four pole single coil pickup and design features carried over from the Telecaster. It is a long scale instrument 864mm, 34 inches. It ships with D’Addario round wound strings 0.045, 0.065, 0.080, 0.100. Perhaps EXL170 ?, £22.99 of value just in the strings.
This instrument represents astounding value for money. Like most low cost Chinese instruments it looks great and the paint finish is excellent, but there are signs of rapid finally assembly by semi-unskilled workers – the string tree barely attached by a very small screw at an odd angle, the untidy fit of the neck in the neck pocket and the neck screws fitted at odd angles.
Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR (1950’s
With just a little corrective work this bass is a unique looking instrument that plays well and sounds great.
Body – A basswood contoured body (probably in four or five pieces) in a Fiesta Red high gloss finish with a white vinyl single ply pick guard. Some of the countersinking for the pick guard attachment screws could be a little deeper. No neck shimming in the neck pocket. This body has forearm and belly contours and a fairly heavy edge radius, all of which the original 1951 instrument would not have had.
Unlike the review of one of these basses on YouTube, this instrument does not have a hidden hole under the pickguard, the hole for the pickup lead is correctly drilled, from the pickup cavity through to the control cavity. Fair amount of dust under the pick guard. The control cavity is not screened.
Neck – A substantial modern C profile, two piece maple neck with a glued on 16 inch radius, 20 jumbo fret maple fret board (truss rod obviously routed and fitted from the front). Black plastic dot markers. Dual action truss rod adjusts at the headstock with a 4mm Hex key. Removed from the body the neck is almost flat with just a hint of forward bow. Rod had maybe 1 and ½ turns clockwise. White plastic 42mm nut. 4 bolt neck plate with a black plastic cushion. The four screws were very tight in their holes and had been drilled and fitted at odd angles. The corners of the heel are a bit sharp and the neck doesn’t fit all the way to the bottom of the neck pocket – there is about a 1mm gap.
Hardware – Pickup: Roswell VTN4 Vista Vintage PB Style single coil (specd. At 9Kohm DC resistance, actual DC resistance is 8.81K). Black Forbon flatwork, top printed with the Roswell logo in white, four ¼ inch Alnico 5 rod magnets, coil wrapped in black fabric tape.
L in HenrysQResistance
120Hz 4.114 0.3574 8.882
1000Hz 4.137 2.710 9.602
16mm Volume (B250K lin, 247.5K measured and treble A250K log, 257.6K measured) controls on a Tele prototype style chromed plate. Chromed dome knobs with plastic push on inserts. Wiring isn’t terrible. As this is left handed instrument the controls operate in reverse, so its anti-clockwise for more volume or treble. The linear volume is reasonably smooth but the log treble wired in reverse is of course, very on/off. The precision basses from the ‘50s had a 0.05uF (50nF) tone cap and today the nearest standard capacitor value would be a 0.047uf (47nF). The capacitor fitted is a 68nF nominal value plastic film capacitor which measures at 73.26nF. This larger value would also tend to exaggerate the on / of nature of the tone control.
The chromed 4 saddle bridge plate is probably a zinc alloy casting, but the barrel saddles are of chrome plated steel. 4 Kluson style elephant ear tuners with centre split posts. The tuner posts are steel, not zinc alloy, I don’t know if the chromed gear is cast zinc or brass. A single round string tree between the E and the A tuners. String tree screw is very small, is fitted at a weird angle, and barely bites into the headstock.
The strap buttons are rather notional – small and without much taper.
Problems / modifications – Customer wanted the Harley Benton headstock outline re-shaped to something closer to the original Telecaster shape. As became apparent, the Volume and Tone controls are unsuitable values and do not work well. The output jack is very cheap and flimsy.
Very poor intonation.
Work done – Disassembled the bass and checked for fit and finish. Deepened the pick guard screw countersinking a little, as a few of the screws were standing a little proud. Countersunk the screw holes in the body to minimise any possibility of finish cracking around the holes. Countersunk the screw holes in the neck to minimise tear out and ensure a flush fit to the bottom of the neck pocket.
Sanded a little more of a radius on to the corners and back of the heel to improve the neck fit.
Lubricated the four neck screws with candle wax so they aren’t quite so stiff to screw home.
Re-cut the outline of the headstock to be closer to a ‘53 precision bass, using a template for a Mike Dirnt signature bass. Sealed the cut surfaces with 3 coats of Danish oil.
Plugged the string tree hole, re-drilled it and fitted a more robust screw. Fitted a matched pair of more robust screws to the jack plate.
Replaced the volume and tone controls with Alpha 25mm 250K anti-logarithmic pots, the tone cap with a 0.047uF (46.22nF measured) plastic film capacitor and the output jack with a Switchcraft jack. Re-assembled and adjusted the intonation, which was way out. Also tweaked the action/saddle heights a little as the saddles were all at odd angles.
Intonation as delivered (now adjusted for zero error)
It doesn’t seem as though intonation was ever set on this instrument as it was a long way out. Probably the saddles were left in a what looked like a sensible stair step pattern as the bridge came off the factory pile. The saddle heights also don’t seem to have received much attention since all four are slightly tilted.
As with most bass string sets the two low strings in the D’Addario set fitted are double wound while the two uppers are single wound. Consequently the intonation compensation for the two pairs of strings is almost the same, with the two single wound strings requiring a shorter string length than the two double wound. This explains why Leo Fender thought he could get away with only two saddles, each saddle sharing a pair of strings, for the original design of this bass.
Action as delivered – open string action at the twelfth fret – G 2mm E 3mm
After adjustment G 2mm E 2.5mm
A fret rocker test did not reveal any high frets.