Hey, all. I've been lurking for a long time, following various builds, gleaning ideas and generally drooling on the keyboard. I figured that since you all have provoked me into a project, the least I could do was to inflict pictures of the results on you.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1995 my then-friend (now-wife) had picked up an 80's? Memphis J-style bass at a garage sale, and played it for a while in our church worship band. It had been mostly sitting in the closet for the past 5 years or so. After seeing the cool stuff you all do, I started itching to do something, and I thought if I started with an instrument that was playable, I could at least give it a cosmetic remodel and see if I really had any of the chops for a serious, ground-up build. So this is what I started with:
It was kinda heavy, so I thought I would remove some wood and carve it into a more, um, custom shape. Taking off the finish on top revealed a 3-piece body, from some kind of wood. My guess is whatever type of wood they were using in Japan then, since the neck plate says "Made in Japan". (If anyone knows what it really is, I'd love to hear it.) Here's what it looked like after the jigsaw attack, then some rasping, surforming, and sanding:
The neck pocket had a gap between the body and the neck that I was very unhappy with, and I remember reading someone speculating that one might be able to make a nice, tight neck pocket by coating it with epoxy, wrapping the neck in plastic wrap, and screwing the neck in for a while. I was scared to try it in epoxy, but I thought that bondo-type wood filler would be a reversible option, so full speed ahead:
I filled in the control cavity with scraps from the body. I also stained the fingerboard wood with a dark walnut stain. I know that this might be considered sacrilege by some, so I humbly apologize. However, I kinda like the more understated, less contrast look of the black block inlays on dark wood.
I left a ridge along the top edge so that the veneer top would have someplace to stop. Speaking of which, I got a couple sheets of kewazinga (rotary-cut bubinga veneer, according to wikipedia) from eBay, less than $30, yet garishly grained. I like it, but that may just be because of my low tastes. I glued it up with Titebond II, under a leaking plastic bag of dirt with weights piled on top (nothing but the best equipment in my workshop, as I call my patio's picnic table).
You might be able to tell that I got a lot of good-sized ripples and bubbles in the veneer. I ironed it out as flat as I could with the clothes iron and a sheet of aluminum foil, got it pretty flat. The edges along the forearm cut and the upper horn were the worst. I was able to actually press down the gaps along these edges where the veneer didn't get enough pressure for a tight joint. Not ideal, but pretty good.
So, I moved on to finishing, more or less following Karl Hoyt's method from the sticky: Show and tell: finishes
I lost track of how many coats - I know at least 15. Then wet sanded, polished with turtlewax polishing compound and a drill-mounted dome-shaped buffer, and a couple coats of trewax furniture wax. Oo shiny! But you can still see some of the grain in the finish- that kewazinga has lots of tiny splits that don't like to fill. I used #0000 steel wool on the back of the neck, and the fingerboard, so its feels nice, almost bare, but with some protection.
So then my new black ebay hardware, EMG P-J set, and DIY veneered-to-match wood knobs. The new rear control cavity has those fancy neo magnets to hold it closed (oh how my inner geek loves this). Vwaaah-lah:
SO the before-and-after:
See what you made me do? And please, don't anybody tell me I've hacked up an obscure, incredibly valuable Japanese 80's bass. Even if it's true.
I learned a lot on this project, mostly what many of y'all have said over and over: slow down, rushing just lets you mess up faster. I messed up many times, always as a result of trying to go too fast, or work too late (only had after work and some weekends to work on it). Especially since as my first real woodworking project of anything more complicated than rough shelves, I really needed to think through each step very carefully. This actually started in April, finished in December. That's what, nine months? Seems significant...