First Full Build (Fretless Zebrano)
Hey I'm new here but I have been lurking for a while. I am also new to bass and new to building instruments from scratch.
I have built a superstrat parts-caster previously and also a laser-cut MDF guitar when I was 14 for school. This is my first time hand building an instrument.
Okay so lets start from the start, I bought this:
This is the project bass I bought for myself during exam period as something to look forward to after university. I intended to build an electric upright by modifying the body, giving the neck a larger angle, new bridge and adding a floor spike and leg rests.
When it arrived I realised the body was un-usable and I would have to build a new one, also my initial idea would be quite hard to implement.
I sketched up this model to make a simple body for the bass based off a Cort Arona but smaller
Then things started to get out of hand, I saw some Gibson THunderbird pickups on Ebay and I had to have them. I then got some pretty ambitious wiring plans.
This is the new design for the body. The only part I am salvaging from the original is the neck, however I intend to make a new one to match the guitar later.
I was just going to use whatever cheap wood I could get for the build, I had already blown my budget with the pickups. A friend of my parents said he had some zebrano I could use.
I was a little disheartened when I saw it.
But after we planed it it looked great. I saw an old walnut handrail lying around and asked if we could cut stripes from it
After arranging the blanks to choose the nicest pattern in the figuration we clamped and glued
SO that is half the guitar done. But I needed some wood for the back. I wanted a contrasting wood and I found maple and Idigbo planks for £20 on Ebay. I asked on another luthier forum (regretfully) which i should purchase to go with the zebrano. I was told the Idigbo would be much easier to work with however nobody told me it would turn a nasty yellow green colour with time. But that is what I have.
We put in biscuit joints and glued it to the zebrano (sorry no pics of the two halves coming together). Unfortunately that was mistake number two, the side with the nicer figuration wasn't the side with the indicators of the biscuit placement, so we lost them which is a problem for cutting out the guitar.
I am building this guitar with my father primarily so after leaving Tony's we found that none of our tools were quite suited to shaping of a guitar and we needed to consider our options. So in the meantime, to feel productive, I hacked up the blank a little and used some offcuts to start making some willis ramps to go between or over the pickups (still not sure)
Oh yeah, we also Jig-sawed out a rough MDF template and I sanded the edges to shape.
So after failing 5 times the weekend prior to last to make a neck template using a follow collar on my dad's router we bought a router with a follow bearing. Perfect.
We also borrowed a 'bandsaw' from a friend that turned out to be a scroll saw that was useless. So we opted for extended jigsaw blades. Progress was much faster this weekend.
We clamped the neck and lined it up using a string and plumb bob.
And used straight edged MDF blocks with double sided sticky tape to make a template for our template.
A perfect fit first time
So we went onto the body
Lined up all the centre lined, checked, checked and triple checked and started routing.
We went to depth before following the edge so the new bit would only be used for cutting the final edge.
This is when i noticed mistake #3. The neck pocket was mis-aligned I had no idea how to fix it, but it didn't seem to affect the bridge placement too much, so we went ahead with cutting out the rough shape with the Jigsaw whilst still a little disheartened and confused by the mistake.
My theory is that the string was not the best method to line the neck to the template centreline due to parallax error. We also used a string with a diameter of about 3mm which gave us a +/1 1.5 mm error margin.
So anyway we clamped it and started cutting
IT turned out we hit the biscuit in cutaway of the lower horn, but hopefully after heavy chamfering it will disappear.
For the horns We decided to use the router and the MDF template.
If you look closely you can see the outline of the biscuit in the above photo, it should just disappear when I'm done shaping it.
Ploughing on, but feeling tired, we decided to add some wood instead of removing it and plugged the old neck holes with some dowels cut and whittled from some small maple blocks.
Here is a mockup of what we achieved. The wonk on the neck is really pronounced in this photo, i think the grain on the zebrano really exaggerates it.
I did another mock-up today, with the bridge and some cotton thread strung up. It looks like due to the angle of the neck pocket, the optimal bridge position is where it would be without any wonk or offset on the neck pocket. Which I guess is a plus.
However, I remembered I have some offcuts from the body blank, I was thinking of routing around the neck to create a template of the inside of the neck pocket, route a plug out of the offcut zebrano, re-align the neck and re-route the neck pocket.
What do you think? Is this a viable solution?
From the pictures, everything seems to be pretty much centered. I don't get what you promblem is. Looks really good to me!
I think to fix it I am going to sand this block until it fits perfectly, glue and clamp and then re-route the pocket. This luckily is only a tiny area where I need to add material.
I can't think of any other solution right now. Does anybody know of a better way to obtain a centreline for an already finished neck? Thanks
You have only done the neck pocket right now?
I would just reposition the bride so it lines up with the neck. Nothing is impeded, and it still looks quite normal still.
Sometimes the simplest fix is the best.
This happened to me on a build and I just moved the bridge over a smidge. No one can tell.
Thanks for your input. Really the bass is for me, and knowing would really grate on me as I'm quite a perfectionist.
I went ahead with my solution and it turned out really well if i say so myself.
First, using the router follow bit we made a template of the neck.
Then cut a small block of the excess zebrano to fit in the corner of the neck pocket and glued it in.
It looks like there is a bit of a gap here but once sanded and thicknessed & routed you can't tell anything happened.
This time I lined it up by eye and it looks perfect to me.
Next I marked and drilled neck holes and aligned them to the neck using an awl.
Next aligning the bridge:
The screws for the new bridge are huge and will have to be cut down due to the heavy contouring I want for the back of the bass.
Marked and Drilled for the bridge.
And then routed for the Piezo wires. The bridge is strange actually, it has individual piezo elements on each saddle but then they all connect to one output on a tiny circuit on the bass of the bridge. It does leave me thinking there could be room to mod a
I made the pickup templates the same way we made the neck template. Before routing them I removed material with a 12mm drill bit.
I went very deep with the pickup route. My reasoning is that these pickups came off a Gibson bass. Their strings are usually pretty far from the body due to their bridge style so the pickups likely are happier with a larger distance between them and the strings. Also I will be putting slim Willis ramps over the pickups so they will need to sit lower regardless.
This is where we left it the weekend before last.
Last weekend it was time for the control cavity. After
I drilled holes through the cavity cover to use them to line up the control positions on the front of the bass to the cavity at the rear. The cavity was pretty tight to the controls - I want to remove as little material as possible as the bass was already getting pretty light. Its a good job I'm using zebrano and not basswood otherwise neckdive would be a serious issue.
The masking tape was to help line everything up with clearer lines than could be drawn directly on the zebrano. I should have thought of that earlier.
There is no turning back now.
I used the paper template to align the holes to the MDF cavity.
The template for the ledge of the cavity needed to be raised due to the minimum depth of cut of the router follow bit.
The last thing we did was make a router jig to cut the cover wood to thickness.
Possibly some of the most exotic wood ever used to make a router Jig, and double sided tape probably wasn't the best thing to use but it flippin well worked.
Looks great, nice patch job, that's some nice joinery there...
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