Bill Nash
Nash Guitars
Olympia, WA

Years Building: 7
Wait Time:
in stock through dealer network (custom orders vary)
Price Range:
(for dealer info., not available direct)

I have to admit, I thought my conversation with Bill Nash was going to be product-centric, but we spoke at length about vintage basses, the fine points of patina, and the general good karma that breeds success.

Tell me about the vintage product line.

The entire product line is based around vintage Leo Fender-inspired guitars and basses. In a typical month, we build about 100 instruments. About 25 percent of them are basses, from the ‘52 Blackguard bass to the ‘70s Jazz Basses, and most models in between. We will also do some custom one-offs from time to time.

Tell me about some of the builds that you’ve done.

We make everything from a traditional ’62-style stack-knob Jazz Bass to a Blonde Goldguard ’58-style Precision Bass. We make any Fenderstyle bass you could imagine to your specs. We’ve done many custom pickup combinations and hot-rodded basses, the most popular being a P-Bass with the added J-Bass bridge pickup, or a ’52 P-Bass with two Jazz pickups and stacked knobs. We use ash and alder bodies, rosewood or maple fingerboards. The possibilities are endless. We offer three standard levels of aging: light, moderate or heavy. Extra heavy aging is available as an upgrade.

We touched on pickup combinations, whose pickups do you use?

For 80 percent of the builds, we use DiMarzio pickups. There is nothing that captures the essence of a vintage bass better than a set of DiMarzios through an old SVT. We also use, and have great success with, Fralin and Lollar pickups. Who manufactures your hardware of choice? My primary hardware is old-school style Japanese Gotoh tuners and bridges. We also use CTS pots, Switchcraft jacks, Tusq nuts. Necks are 10" radius, and we use a medium large fret.

Do you feel the hardware has a lot to do with capturing the old-school Fender tone?

Modern, heavy hardware will make a bass sound different. I feel if you want the old tone, you must use the old style of hardware. Lightweight bridges and tuners make a big difference to the resonance and tone of the bass. Let me tell you, Leo Fender was a genius. Nothing plays or sounds as great as an old Fender bass.

Is your wood cut in-house?

The last thing I want to do is be in the wood manufacturing business. Though all of our components are out-sourced, we only buy the best components available. All finish work, all prep work, and all assembly is done on premises. To me, this is where the magic happens.

Your basses are finished correctly: they always have the correct primer, base coat, top and clear coats. The wear seems to be in correct patterns. How was all this accomplished?

We take great care to make sure our finishes are accurate. As a kid, I used to build models. I’d paint the car bumpers to look rusty. I made WWII-era planes to look like they were hit by flak. I pay the same attention to my instruments. Guitars wear differently than basses do. I look at old record albums, books, video, etc. and I study the wear patterns of instruments. I use the correct series of base coat, primers and color coats. I only use real-deal, oldschool nitrocellulose lacquer, the good stuff… the flammable stuff. It’s all hand sprayed using old-school techniques. All finish work, along with assembly and setup, is done in-house.

Why don’t you like to use the modern finishing products?

The modern stuff does not capture the oldschool essence. It looks perfect for too long. It does not age right, and when it ages it does not look like an old guitar should. It’s great for the car business, but really impacts tone in a very negative way, as it kills the natural sound of the wood.

Does the Washington state weather affect instrument finishing?

Actually, we never have issues with this. Even though we have a lot of rain, we do not have a lot of humidity. When needed, we can change the mix of our lacquer to speed or slow the drying or viscosity to adjust to the weather. Humidity is what makes finishing rough going.

KBP4 Classic

What factors have led to the success of your brand?

Hard work! We work hard to make a great product; we work hard to make an accurate product. We are diligent in maintaining great relationships with our dealers, and our dealers are excited about the product line. Our price point is within reach of most players. The players themselves are excited about the product too. It’s a great bass at a great price.

What is your player base?

Most of our end users are folks that either do not want to bring their dream bass to a gig and want something replaceable, or the price of the real example is so far out of reach they will opt for my piece. We also have a large stable of very well known players.

What is the inspiration around Bill Nash Guitars?

Nash Guitars was born out of a midlife crisis. I was always involved with building, repairing, refinishing and reselling guitars and basses. I was an executive in a video distribution corporation. I was making about 85 calls a day.

Multiply that by my time in the business, it was a million calls! Through the support of my wife and kids, I’m able to live the dream.

Next Up: Pensa Custom basses