RESTORING A 1964 FENDER BASSMAN HEAD

This page documents the restoration of a slightly abused 1964 Fender Bassman head.


Click on the thumbnails to see the full-size image

These photos show the condition of the cabinet upon receipt, with the usual rust and scuffs typical from a 40 year old amp.  However, someone during it's life had cut holes in the cabinet, presumably to facilitate output tube bias adjustments.  The back panel was also in pretty bad shape and had been broken in the middle.  So, while this amp wasn't in terrible condition, I decided to repair the holes and restore the cabinet.          
Electronically, the head was in pretty good shape.  The power supply had recently been recapped and several of the coupling caps had been replaced with Mallory caps.  Although the tube chart remnant indicated what was probably a AB165 circuit, inspection of the circuit was clearly an AA864.  The PT was original, but the OT was a Fender bassman OT with a date code of 1965 and the choke was also from 1967. Close enough.          
The photo on the left shows the cabinet after the old tolex was stripped off.  The other photo shows the cabinet after sanding off the old adhesive, before repairs.     
First repair was the large irregular hole in the bottom.  First, the hole was squared off and a piece of pine board was glued in place.  Fortunately, I had some pine board that was exactly the same thickness as the cabinet wood, so it was an easy repair.  All the finger corner joints and repairs were filled with wood putty and sanded smooth.          
The round hole in the top was filled with a dowel.  The hole was an irregular size, so it was carefully filed out until the wood dowel could be hammered into place.  The leftmost photo shows the dowel glued in place, and the middle photo is after filling with wood putty.  The photo on the right shows the inside bottom repair after filling and sanding.  Because of the repairs, I decided to paint the interior of the cabinet with flat black spray paint.  The cabinet is thus masked prior to painting.          
Time to start cutting the tolex sections.  The photo in the middle shows the back panel after gluing the crack and re-tolexing.  The photo on the far right shows the cabinet after re-tolexing.  I use the old petroleum-based Weldwood contact cement.  It's relatively cheap and I apply it to the cabinet and tolex outdoors, and when dry,  bring pieces back into my shop for application.  I've never had any problems with shrinkage.  I've tried the latex-based contact cement and didn't really like it.  Maybe for my next restoration project, I'll try one of those commercially available tolex glues.            
The original grill cloth did not appear to be original.  And while it was in pretty good shape, whoever applied it didn't leave enough overlap on the edges and it was coming off the wood where the chassis contacts this panel.  So, it was an easy job to recover that front panel and reattach the original logo.  Easy, that is if you have an electric stapler!  I STRONGLY recommend considering getting an electric stapler if you take on this kind of project; particularly if you find yourself stapling into particle board.     
Since this amp does not have all-original "vintage" parts, I decided to replace the screen as well.
Here is the completed restored cabinet with new corners and handle.  I replaced the old handle, since it was broken.  To complete the job, a reproduction tube chart was also included.      
Here is the back of the final restored bassman head with the restored back panel.  
With a replacement front panel (painted metal, just like original) and new knobs, it looks brand new.  The original knobs were damaged, so even though there are slight differences (see here), I decided to replace the knobs with current Fender replacements.           
The photo on the left shows a 1966 Bassman 2x12 cabinet I restored to go with the head.  I was fortunate to come across a pair of 1960 Jensen P12N speakers (with original cones) for about the same cost as two similar Alnico Weber speakers.  

The photo on the right shows the completed Bassman rig.

  

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Created 15 Oct 2004

Last edited: 03 January, 2013