Behold Leo Fender's handmade Breadboard Bass, which he used as a "quick and dirty way to test pickups"

Here’s something you don’t see every day: Leo Fender’s Breadboard bass guitar, a rudimentary design that the legendary builder would use to test the pickups for his instruments.

Why was it called the Breadboard? Simply put, the slab body looks like the typical kitchen cutting board used for slicing bread or other food items.

The cool thing about the Breadboard bass, as discussed by Dave McLaren from CLF Research in the accompanying video, is that “it sort of touches all three brands” that Leo was involved with throughout his career – Fender, Music Man and G&L.

Leo first put the bass together in the 1960s while he was at Fender, and installed a traditional Fender bridge. Later on, he added a Music Man neck. 

Last but not least, he loaded it with single-coil MFD (Magnetic Field Design) pickups with large adjustable pole pieces, which he had developed for his G&L instruments.

“This is where you see the man’s personal journey transcend the brands,” McLaren states.

“We have the Fender brand beginnings, and then the Music Man brand and then finally the G&L brand. And it’s all kind of in one thing.”

That said, McLaren also stresses, “This is just a pickup tester. You can see this isn’t supposed to be a tone machine. But it’s an approximation. It’s a quick and dirty way to test pickups.”

As for how it sounds? Check out the video above and hear for yourself.

As McLaren states, “This is really cool piece of history. It’s not about how it sounds. We wanted to bring it to life, solder it up, and get it working again and show what it does. Just for kicks.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.