Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Seeing as how we are fortunate to count Paul Gagon as a member here, it seemed like a good time to give him a home to stretch out in and relax a little. Maybe exercise the grey matter and present a little history of the guitar and bass (amps too!) from his perspective as one of the eminent designers of our time.

Got questions? Great! Good questions might be, "What kind of windings are on the S500 pickup and why?" Or, "What was the thought process behind the MJ-4?" Troubleshooting questions should remain in the regular forums (he reads those too). Finally, please be mindful of how I feel about tech questions via PM or email.

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Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby Paul Gagon » Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:58 pm

I’m not sure if it was my playing a Hofner Beatle Bass in my youth or the Rickenbacker 4001 Bass I played during the 80s that made me favor a bass with widely spaced neck and bridge pickups. Since I have neither the money nor the desire to hunt down those classic vintage basses, I decided to go another way.

I got my hands on a G&L Kiloton Bass (Tribute) and began thinking about the possibility of adding a neck pickup as close to the neck pocket as I felt would be safe. I didn’t want to weaken the neck pocket so I figured any routing would need to stay at least ½ inch away from it. First thing I needed to do was decide on a neck pickup. My favorite guitar, and the one that has been at my side since the middle 90s, is a Clear Blue G&L Legacy Special. There are two types of pickups in this guitar. Both types are Dual Blade humbuckers wired in series humbucking mode. These are the pickups I designed in the 90’s specifically for the Legacy Special . They were always one of my favorites. They are manufactured by Gotoh for G&L. The Neck and Middle pickups are part number TWB-2A and have 3,800 turns per bobbin of 42ga wire. The Bridge pickup is part number TWB-2 and has 5,000 turns per bobbin of 42ga wire.

Since the MFD Bridge pickup on the Kiloton has 5,000 turns per bobbin of 42ga wire I thought I would pair that up with the TWB-2 Bridge pickup, giving each pickup the same number of turns per bobbin. Now that I had the neck pickup figured out, where should I position it? I decided to find the octave harmonic location around the neck area and found it to be almost exactly 1 inch from the neck pocket. Placing the center aperture of the pickup at 1 inch from the neck pocket edge left me with just over ½ inch of wood between the neck pocket and the neck pickup route. Whoa, that was close. Here’s what it looks like. Oh, you’ll notice an extra switch and control on this bass. I’ll get to that in a moment.

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OK, so because of the additional pickup, I needed to add a pickup selector switch. I put that switch on the lower horn of the body. Why? I thought it looked cool and I wanted to add an additional control on the bass. I personally find the G&L control setup of Volume, Treble cut and Bass cut to be amazing. I wanted it for this bass. Since the Kiloton comes with two controls, Volume and Tone, I needed to drill another hole so I could have my Volume, Treble, Bass thing. The Kiloton Bridge pickup coil configuration switch allow for Series HB, Parallel HB and single coil mode using the front coil of the pickup. Not a bad combination for a single pickup bass but for this two pickup baby, I needed to change things around a bit.

Since I wanted to use the neck pickup with each one of the single coils of the Bridge pickup, I configured the switch to have Series HB, single coil front and single coil rear. Adding the extra control and switch meant I had to do a bit of extra body routing. After the routing I also needed to shield to whole thing. Here’s what that looks like.

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Let’s stop and talk about shielding for a moment. I like having a nice and quiet instrument and the easiest way I have found to accomplish that is to properly shield the pickup and control cavities. There are 2 different ways that I do shielding. Copper tape and graphite paint. If the cavity is already painted, I use copper tape. If it’s a freshly routed cavity or easily sanded, I use graphite paint. Other people have their ways of shielding and I’m certainly not saying my way is best. It works very well for me and so I’ve stuck with for around 30 years.

Since this was a freshly routed cavity I went the graphite paint route. First, I solder a wire to a ground lug and then I screw the lug into a location inside the cavity that’s kind of in the center of things. Then I tape off the area outside of the cavity so as to not get graphite paint on other surfaces. If you have used this stuff you know it can get anywhere. I have shielded cavities and found graphite on my shirt, pants, and this time, on my freaking forehead. Be careful and take your time. I usually paint on 3 coats. Dry time between coats is typically around 8 hours. Some people wait 24 hours…….I’m far too impatient.

This next step is important. Paint a coat of polyurethane over everywhere you have the graphite paint. That way you won’t rub your finger in the dry shielded cavity and later find you finger print on everything in your shop. The wire that has 3 coats of graphite paint on it, as well as a coat of polyurethane, is your connection to ground. Solder this wire to the back of one of the pots.

I made one other slight modification. Since this bass was using a Dual Blade pickup with the MFD, I removed the .001uf loading capacitor that is usually found on the back of the Bass control. I also changed the value of the Bass roll off cap from .0022uf to .0033uf to retain a bit more bottom end when the control is turned down. This was just a personal preference after playing it awhile.

I made a wiring diagram to show what I did in the control cavity. Check it out.

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The wiring is not too intense and I tried to make things as clear as possible. This is a pretty easy bass to modify and this here represents all the oddities that float around in my head. At some point I will post some sound samples on my Instagram @gagon.electronics if you’d like to follow along.

Here’s a couple of pictures I took while putting the bass back together. What do you think?

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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby bdgotoh » Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:27 pm

I have a Legacy Special, I love those pickups!


Your bass looks great, I'm very interested in how it sounds. I played a 4001 for years, I like that neck pickup tone but I don't like the ergonomics of the bass itself. I'm impressed that the neck pickup blades span the strings that well, I thought bass string spacing was wider than guitar spacing.
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby Paul Gagon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:36 am

bdgotoh wrote:I have a Legacy Special, I love those pickups!


Your bass looks great, I'm very interested in how it sounds. I played a 4001 for years, I like that neck pickup tone but I don't like the ergonomics of the bass itself. I'm impressed that the neck pickup blades span the strings that well, I thought bass string spacing was wider than guitar spacing.


Thanks! I’m getting some new strings and brushing up on my bass chops before doing some sound clips. By the way, any opinions on the best bass strings for clear, bright sound? I agree, the 4001 neck pickup is incredible sounding. I think that’s what inspired me to jump into this adventure. You are correct that the string spacing on a bass is wider than a guitar, but many times only at the bridge. The nut width on my Kiloton Bass is actually 1/8” more narrow than my Legacy Special. The Legacy Special string spacing at the bridge is 2.125” and the Kiloton Bass string spacing at the bridge is 2.25”. However, at the location where I placed the neck pickup on the Kiloton, the string spacing was exactly 2 inches. When I measure the string spacing on the neck position of my Legacy Special, it is just shy of 2 inches. By just shy I’m talking a tad less that 1/32”.

Thanks so much for your comments. This was a fun little project and it has sparked a few other ideas I’ve been thinking about.
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby bdgotoh » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:48 am

I tend to like my strings on the mellow side, so I like the stock D'Addario nickels.

You should check out this string thread:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1693
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby Ken Baker » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:52 am

Paul Gagon wrote:By the way, any opinions on the best bass strings for clear, bright sound?


If you recall how my basses (the Bull in particular) have sounded... Those are Infeld Superalloys. Sound like nicely broken in nickel rounds and they last a long time, which is good because they're kind of spendy. For as long as they last, a less expensive alternative might be Dunlop mediums or lights. I've tried Slinkys and didn't care for them.

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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby Paul Gagon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:26 pm

bdgotoh wrote:I tend to like my strings on the mellow side, so I like the stock D'Addario nickels.

You should check out this string thread:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1693


Great thread. Thanks for the help. I’m checking with the G&L factory to see which brand of strings now come on the Tribute basses. A friend of mine gave me a set of Dunlop Stainless Steel (45-105) and a set of D’Addario Bright Round Wound (45-100). I seem to remember round wound strings being a bit hard on my frets. Anyway, thanks for input.

Also, Ken....thanks for all your help with this post. Your guidance through this was greatly appreciated.
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby bigtone23 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:55 pm

That is really cool!
How does it sound? Seems if the bridge PU is in single coil mode, it could get 4001/3 Ric-ish tones. The pickup placements are pretty close for that signature tonality.
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby Paul Gagon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 1:25 pm

bigtone23 wrote:That is really cool!
How does it sound? Seems if the bridge PU is in single coil mode, it could get 4001/3 Ric-ish tones. The pickup placements are pretty close for that signature tonality.


Thanks! The more I play it the more I’m digging it. You’re right about the 4001/3 tone. I’m practicing my Chris Squire riffs and every now and then I get a big ol smile on my face. Brings back some wonderful memories. Once I get a coherent rap down and something good to play, I’ll put together some sound samples. I’m a guitar player that try’s to play bass too. It’s not always a pretty sight.
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby TDR1138 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:13 pm

I wanna come over to your house and play! :mrgreen:

Seriously, awesome project. Would love to hear sound clips.
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Re: Turning a Kiloton Bass into a Megaton

Postby Paul Gagon » Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:58 pm

TDR1138 wrote:I wanna come over to your house and play! :mrgreen:

Seriously, awesome project. Would love to hear sound clips.

My door is always open. You are more than welcome to swing on by anytime and check the bass out.
Everyone here on this forum has been so wonderful and helpful to me. I really enjoy digging into projects and experimenting around with musical gear. It’s nice to have a place to use as a sounding board. At some point
I would love to build a short scale G&L bass with a similar setup to this project here. So many projects, so little time.
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