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Drake single cut 6 string bass, Wenge, Burled Maple, Sapele

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Drake Custom, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Happy holidays everyone. I hope all is well with you.
    Today I am starting a post to show a new project I am really excited about. I have a customer who ordered a single cut style 6 string bass. I have only made one 6 string bass before and only one single cut style before. This will be a great learning experience for me as I am trying a design that I have never tried before. This bass will be played mostly on cruise ships in the Med so I have to make everything as bullet proof as I can as the customer will not have access to a music shop for repairs or maintenance while at sea.



    [​IMG]
    This is the shape we have decided to use for the body. The customer does not want a bulky body size so we have made the dimensions pretty much that of one of my 4 or 5 string basses. 14" is the widest width. This bass will have 22 frets, a zero fret, and a 34 inch scale. With the body shape we plan to have the body reach out to the 12th fret or beyond.
    [​IMG]
    Here are the materials I have gathered for the bass. There is a billet of Sapele and a thick neck blank of Wenge from Exotic Woods in NJ, a beautiful uncut Burled Maple top from North West Timber, and the bridge and tuners by Hipshot. We will be getting EMG 45P and 45J pickups with a BTC 2 band EQ later on.
    [​IMG]
    This slab is a very lacy figured Burl Maple that I will book match for this project. Under finish it will look like this....
    [​IMG]
    ...blurry photo.
    [​IMG]
    This is a close up of the Wenge I will make the fret board and neck from.

    I will start with the neck construction.
    [​IMG]
    I first squared up the neck blank on the jointer and checked that everything is square. I then sliced off the part that I will use as the fret board. I like doing it this way as the grain matches the neck so well that it looks like a one piece neck when I am done.
    [​IMG]
    Then I run the edges of the fret board over the jointer to make then nice and true. After that I sliced off some thin pieces that I will "bind" the fret board with. This I will explain later.
    [​IMG]
    This in my scarf joint jig. I modified an angle cutting sled so that I can cut scarf joints on necks that are 3.5 inches wide. Not sure what the angle is that I use but all of my basses have the same angle headstock. It is about like a Gibson Thunder bird bass headstock angle.
    [​IMG]
    The bit left over will be the headstock once I cut it down to the right thickness. My table saw cuts most of it away but to be safer...
    [​IMG]
    I finish the cut on my band saw. I could do the whole thing on the band saw but I do not get the best results with my band saw for re-sawing.
    [​IMG]
    I plane down the headstock bit to a little more than 3/8 of an inch. Seems thin but I laminate my headstocks.
    [​IMG]
    The remains of the headstock I keep to make rear peghead veneers on my standard basses that have Wenge necks.

    Well this is all I have time to show today. Please check back for updates. My goal is to have this bass completed by February so I will be moving along quickly on the project. I am quite a way into the build in real time so I have a lot of progress to show.
  2. Thumpin_P

    Thumpin_P

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    Nice! Love your builds!!!
  3. MarkA

    MarkA Registered Schmoozer. Supporting Member

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    34" scale (I know you mentioned a couple of 33" builds before)... have you and the customer decided on a nut width and string spacing? Fingerboard radius?

    Like I said, excited to see how this turns out.
  4. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Thanks guys.
    The customer wanted the 34 inch scale as he is used to it and likes the sound of it. I like to build 33 inch scales but I will make whatever is ordered. I like 34 inch scales too. The customer currently plays an Ibanez 5 string like a Prestige Model so he is used to narrow spacing. We are going with a 2.16" wide at the nut and about 3.25" at the 22nd fret. We will space out the strings to fit. He has played an Adam Nitti model bass with 2.16" wide nut and he liked that so we are using it. The bridge spacing is .669" between strings which is one of the Hipshot standard spacing choices. About 17mm, (16.99mm). It is a spacing that I have used on 5 string basses over the years and I find it very playable.

    The radius will be 20".


    Today I will show the making of the scarf joint. For those who have seen my builds before, this is nothing new.
    [​IMG]
    I prep the gluing surface of the neck to remove any saw marks. I am not sanding much, just using a hard sanding block to rough up the surface some and give the wood some scratch pattern. Wenge is a rougher wood grain so this is not totally necessary but I do it on every instrument.

    [​IMG]
    Next I do my toothpick thing. I use toothpicks to act as guides for the headstock when gluing and to keep the headstock from moving about under pressure from the clamps and glue. I first clamped the dry headstock onto the neck and drilled the holes to fit toothpicks making sure everything was centered properly.

    [​IMG]
    Then add some glue...
    [​IMG]
    ..and some clamps.

    Thanks for looking at my build. More to follow.
  5. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Ok, today I am covering the making of the headstock and body blank. I have some repair and mod work going on so this had to sit awhile.

    [​IMG]
    First, the neck blank was a certain size so that I could cut the scarf joint. Now I need to make it wider so that the headstock shape will fit onto it. To do this I have cut the headstock and ran each side over the jointer so that I can glue on some scrap Wenge.
    [​IMG]
    Now with the ears glued on, I have a bigger surface in which to veneer with the peghead over lay.
    [​IMG]
    While that dries, I have planed down the body blank wood to make up the body back. I started out with a one piece blank but it was 2 inches thick. I had to re-saw the back off to take it down to about 1 5/8 inch. I could have planed it down with the planer but it would have wasted a lot of wood. I want to make the electronics cavity cover cut from the piece that was cut just over top of the same area on the body. That way the grain will match for the most part. I had to slice the blank into two pieces to be able to re-saw it. I use my table saw and only can re-saw 7 inches at a time.
    [​IMG]
    Here I am gluing the body blank halves together.
    [​IMG]
    After the glue has dried I cut the basic shape out and plane down the surface for gluing. I love using Sapele as the glue lines are well hidden.
    [​IMG]
    I bookmatched the Burled Maple top and joined it together before running it through the planer. Sorry, I lost the pics of that. Now I have cut it to the basic shape. I always leave plenty of waste around it as I will trim it all back once the entire blank is glued together.
    [​IMG]
    Here I have cut a scrap piece of the top wood to make the peghead veneer. This covers up the glued on ears and will hide the glue lines. I will laminate the back with remains from the body wood to hide the scarf joint and ears from the back.

    Thanks again for checking in.
  6. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    It is Christmas but I am always at work in my shop.
    [​IMG]
    In this post I have the body blank glued up and cut out to the rough shape.
    [​IMG]
    Now I am chambering out some areas to reduce weight and to give the bass a little more warmth in her tone. Since the customer likes to play slap style funk, I don't want to leave any big open areas that will make the bass too warm in tone....so I do a series of smaller pockets. I rough them out with a forstner bit and then clean them up with the router. I don't worry about making them super fancy as they are completely sealed inside the bass and will never be seen. I, however, do not want to leave any nasty areas that have chips of flakes hanging off the edges as they may break off inside the bass and rattle around later on. Some care is required. The area with the black marker drawn on is the area of the control cavity. It gets routed out from the back later.
    [​IMG]
    Here I have trimmed up the top of the bass and laid out the pickup locations. I need to know where everything will be so that I can utilize certain areas for the next step.
    [​IMG]
    Since I use my toothpicks as guides after spreading the glue, I first center the top onto the back along with a thin Walnut veneer in between the top and back. I then drill the small holes for the tooth pick guides and some for screws that I will use to apply pressure to the center during the glue up. I am working on a jig that will have a large clamp to press down on the center but for now I will use screws. I just apply the glue to the back, slide the Walnut veneer on using the toothpicks to center it where it needs to be, and apply more glue onto the veneer. The veneer is rather porous so I have to apply plenty of glue. Then I slide the top onto the toothpick guides and press it down onto the body. Everything is aligned and I apply the center screws. They squeeze the glue out to the sides before I apply the clamps around the outside. So far this method has made nice flat tops with no bulges or bubble of glue under them.
    [​IMG]
    Here is a shot of the body after the glue is dry. You can see the Walnut veneer better here. The Walnut makes a nice accent line that will frame the top after carving.

    Now the next couple of shots are of the body after some trimming and sanding.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]Next time I will install the truss rods and attach the fret board.
    Thanks for checking in.
  7. MarkA

    MarkA Registered Schmoozer. Supporting Member

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    Merry Christmas! Keep it up -- still following!
  8. chubfarm2001

    chubfarm2001 Supporting Member

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    Sub-a-dub-dubbed.
  9. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Ok, I said I was going to show the truss rod install this time but for some reason the website that has the pictures from that part of the build is not letting me pull them up. I was going to have a longer post covering the truss install after showing the fret board work. I can atleast show the fret board work.

    [​IMG]
    I started with a large Wenge neck blank that I was able to saw off a matching fret board. I then planed the FB down and then cut a couple of small strips off of it. I will show what those were for later. So I have a fret board to slot. Here is my Stewmac slotting jig. I use their saw (the old style not the new style) for doing this. I am looking for a small table saw that I can convert into a dedicated fret board slotting rig but have not found one small enough for my shop. Any ideas on models for this would be appreciated.
    [​IMG]
    Once the fret board was slotted, I needed to make it the correct width for my 6 string bass neck. The Stewmac slotting jig only allows for a 3 inch wide FB. So I need to add some on each side. These look big but I will be trimming most of them away when I cut the perimeter of the neck. They are scraps left over from the Wenge neck blank.
    [​IMG]
    Here I am gluing them up. I have removed the rubber caps from the jaws of the clamps to do this as it allowed me to press the whole thing onto a flat surface better. Less leveling on the back side after the glue dried.
    [​IMG]
    After the glue dried and the back side was true again, I used a block plane to bring the "wings" down to be level with the FB. I then used my other Stewmac saw, with the depth guard on, to connect the slots to the outer edge of the fret board.
    [​IMG]
    After I was done with some sanding of the face of the fret board, you can barely see where the "wings" were glued on.
    [​IMG]
    Here is another shot of the FB after the rough shaping. I still have not radiused the board so you can see that more sanding is needed to hide the "wings" that have been glued on. They are a little low toward the end but the radius will get through that bit.
    [​IMG]
    Here is what I am going for in the end but since I can't show the truss install and the gluing of the fret board onto the neck yet, I will skip ahead to the final fret board detail.
    [​IMG]
    In this picture the neck is at the point where the truss rods are inlaid and the profile has been cut. I will go back and cover that part as soon as I can retrieve those pictures. This is the Stewmac binding channel bit that I use. The two strips cut from the fret board earlier now come into play.
    [​IMG]
    I routed a channel along each side of the fret board.
    [​IMG]
    Then I apply wood glue to the neck and tape the strips into the channels.
    [​IMG]
    Once the glue is dry and the tape comes off, I can radius the fret board and prep for frets.
    [​IMG]
    In the end we have a nice Wenge fret board with fret slots that do not show the tang at the edges. With Wenge the seams are almost invisible.

    Next time I will see if I can get the pictures of the truss install posted.

    Thanks again for looking at my work.
  10. Big B.

    Big B.

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    Love the bass Andrew. My first 6 I made had a burl maple top and this one gives me warm memories. :D

    The edge of that fingerboard looks fantastic, can't wait to see how it turns out.
  11. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Thanks B.


    Last time I was unable to get pics of the truss rod install so I skipped ahead to the fret board prep work as I needed to make the fret board wide enough to use on a 6 string bass. I have retrieved the pics of the truss install so I will show that today.
    [​IMG]
    Here is the neck blank with the headstock rough shape cut. Along the side of my table saw I have fixed a jig I made out of Oak. This jig allows me to have a straight edge for my router to follow. I can use this jig when the headstock's width exceeds the neck blank as well.

    [​IMG]
    Here is my router with it's edge guide fixed in place. I leave my neck blanks squared off and stick them down with carpet tape right up the jig's edge. This makes the slots I am about to route run parallel to the center line of the neck blank.

    I have covered this part a few times before but I basically I just run through a series of round nosed bits (1/4", 3/8", and 1/2") to make the channels for the truss rods. The next few pics are of the bits. Some are cheap Chinese made bits that I replace often and one is from Grizzly and seems to last longer.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    One down and one to go. I decided to use two truss rods and no carbon fiber for this build. I believe that this will be a better setup for this bass and I may even try it on a 5 string someday soon.

    [​IMG]
    After both channels are routed I have fit the truss rods in and made some plugs made out of Black Limba to hold the truss rods in place and add more gluing surface. It also keeps excess glue out of the working bits of the truss. I use softer wood so that I can easily slice them off flush with the neck surface with a sharp chisel.
    [​IMG]
    And her we are ready to glue on the fret board, which I will do next time.

    Thanks for stopping by my build.
  12. pushifier

    pushifier dB basses Supporting Member

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    That looks really tight and clean Drake! Great build!
  13. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Today I am ready to install the fret board.


    [​IMG]
    Here the neck is prepared to receive the fret board. I have drawn out the center line on both the neck and the fret board. I have marked the ends so that I can see that everything lines up correctly. I also used a square to make sure the fret slots are running perpendicular to the center line. Then I clamped the fret board in place and drilled two small holes in the waste area to insert my toothpicks. The toothpicks will be used as guides to put the fret board back on in the exact same location after I spread the glue. They will be cut away when I cut the taper of the neck later.

    [​IMG]
    Next I apply glue to the fret board. I put a lot on and wipe excess away. I want it to soak in a bit, wipe some away, and then I dab at the glue with a balled up paper towel.
    [​IMG]
    No, I did not fill the areas around the working ends of the truss rods with glue. I first applied to small patches of masking tape to keep the glue out. I trimmed them around the gaps with a razor to minimize the tape's footprint.

    [​IMG]
    Here the clamps have been applied. I use wooden pads under the C clamps down the center as they would leave marks on the fret board. Then around the outside perimeter I use my squeeze clamps.
    [​IMG]
    The next day after the glue had dried, I rough cut the shape with my bandsaw.
    [​IMG]
    I use my router with a 3/4 bearing bit and the straight edge of a Plexiglass template to cut the tapers smoothly. After this was completed, I had cut the binding channels for the Wenge strips as depicted earlier on in the build.
    [​IMG]
    Before I radius the fret board, I have been doing some rough carving on my necks. I have had some issues with a couple necks changing shape after radiusing the fret board and then carving the neck. I found that after the carving and re-checking the fret board, the FB was not as true as it was before. It seems like that even with the seasoned woods I get for my necks, the wood exposed after carving causes the neck to move as it acclimates. Another possibility is the glue, with it's water content, changing the dynamics some as well. To counter this, I roughly carve the sides off of the neck leaving a 1/2 inch strip down the center. The carving removes some of the mass of the neck and the 1/2 inch strip down the center is used so I can affix some carpet tape and stick it down to the very flat surface of my table saw. The reduced mass from the carving seems to allow better usage of the truss rods to adjust the neck as straight as possible before radiusing. Before I did this step, the necks were a bit difficult to adjust as the necks had much more mass to them. I still have a lot to carve later on but this carving is probably 1/2 of the finished carving.
    [​IMG]
    Here then neck is fixed to the saw top with the carpet tape all nice and true. I used my Stew Mac radiusing beam with a 20 inch radius to complete the process.

    [​IMG]
    After radiusing the fret board, she is ready for some frets. I have a new process for that too.

    Thanks for checking up on me.
  14. MarkA

    MarkA Registered Schmoozer. Supporting Member

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    Interesting point about the neck moving/settling slightly after carving. Interested to see what you have in store for fretting, too. From the few, very novice conversations I've had with luthiers about it, it seems that there's a lot to this seemingly straightforward process, and that everyone has their own spin on it -- or at least that there are lots of subtle things folks do when building a neck in order to get closer to that perfect fret-job from the outset... seems that way to me, anyway!
  15. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    Today I am on to fretting the neck. I will show the tools I use and my new process. The process is nothing new to the fretting world but it is new to me. I rarely used to glue in frets but I have completed some A/B comparisons and think I like the glued in frets a bit better.


    [​IMG]
    Here is the neck all radiused and ready for her frets. The customer is a pro player and opted to go without face dots as he seldom needs to look at his fret board. For quick reference though, we will install glow in the dark Luminlay side dots.

    [​IMG]
    First I prep the slots to receive frets. There is some compacted dust from the leveling and some wood glue from gluing on the Wenge binding. I cleaned much of the wood glue out when it was still wet but there is always some left. This is a Stewmac slot cleaning saw that has two small sections of saw teeth. one is for a pull stroke and one is for a back and forth stroke. This saw reaches over the binding and allows me to get right up close to the binding strips. I can also angle it and bevel the slot opening to help funnel the frets into the slots.

    [​IMG]
    Once the slots are clean, I cut my wire to a length that over hangs the neck a little on each side. I store the cut pieces in this little storage unit. I made this a long time ago and just as a goof, made it with fret lines and dots as well as numbers. I found that the funny face dots that are drawn onto it really help keeping track where I am as I skip around while I am installing the frets.
    [​IMG]
    I should say here, that I prep the frets by running them through this little gem. It is a Stewmac Fret Barber. It basically is two files inside separated by a feeler gauge. This allows you to remove quite a bit of the barbs on your fret. I have taken to doing this as I was having problems with necks being back bowed after inserting the frets into the slots. It was bad enough with some necks that the truss would not work well. I had to pull frets and widen the slots to prevent the compression fretting I was getting. A bad thing. I got it mostly using Ebony type woods. Rosewood was not so bad but this step basically eliminates the problems. The fret tang is thinner after being removed by the Fret Barber and just taps in easily. The frets are not loose at all and you still have to hammer or press but the fret seats much more easily. Since using this contraption I have had absolutely no problems with compression fretting. I save the compression fretting for work on old guitars that have no truss rods in them.
    I just grab the fret end with nippers and pull it through the Fret Barber. I will be using longer stock in the future and will make this process easier. The short pieces are more difficult to pull through. I did radius the wire through my roller before cutting it into the small pieces. I did this weeks ago and do not have a picture.
    [​IMG]
    Here is one of the frets before the next step....

    [​IMG]
    ....which is to under cut the ends of the wire. I use this Stewmac tool to under cut the ends to bridge over the binding.

    [​IMG]
    Here is a blurry example of what the fret looks like after this step. This is stainless steel wire so it is a bit harder on my tools and I will have to buy new kit over time.

    [​IMG]
    I use a hard plastic hammer to install the frets here. I use my arbor press with radiused cauls to press most frets but the 6 string bass neck is much wider than the cauls I have. I have been doing more and more with just a hammer as I get great results.

    [​IMG]
    So the new process I use involves a thin bead of super glue over the slot. I then hammer in the fret and wipe the excess glue off before the next step....

    [​IMG]
    ...which is to apply a rubber band to each fret pulling the ends down until the glue dries. Notice I skip every other fret. I believe that this helps prevent the neck from getting too much compression. It is a hold over from before I trimmed the barbs, but I am in the habit now.


    [​IMG]
    Here all of the frets are in. Now to trim the ends.

    [​IMG]
    Which I do with these cutters. These are Stewmac as well. I do not work for Stewmac but I imagine that about half of every tool I own is sold by them. It is good stuff for the most part and I fully endorse their products good and bad. Anything that I have purchased and not liked they have made it right by me.

    [​IMG]
    And lastly, the neck is fretted and ready to be planted into the body. Checking with a straightedge I find that the neck is perfectly level and that the is no back bow what so ever. I have installed the Luminlay side dots and beveled the fret ends a bit with a file. I will clean them up better later on.

    Next time I will cut the neck pocket.
  16. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    I have been pretty busy so I have not posted in awhile. Time to join the body and neck together. I have covered this several times in previous builds so I imagine that everyone is tired of seeing it. If you have not viewed my previous builds then this will give you an idea how I do it. There are more details in my other builds if you would like to see more detail and explanation.

    [​IMG]
    Here we have the neck ready to go. The body has been sanded flat so that I can accurately attach my template.

    [​IMG]
    My template consists of these pieces of wood, carpet tape, and and a "0" style ruler attached with tape to the surface of the body. The readings start at 0 in the middle and go out and up from there. I also sunk toothpicks through the template and into the body in the waste areas or in the spot where the pickup cavity will be. These keep the template from moving about.
    [​IMG]
    This helps me get everything aligned. I placed the neck onto the body to check the alignment first before I fixed the two side pieces of the template on with carpet tape. Then I removed the neck. The side pieces of my template have a slight angle to them to give the pocket an angle. As I route out the pocket I keep checking with the bridge and a straight edge until I get a desired depth that works with the bridge.
    [​IMG]
    I use my router and Stew Mac 3/8" bit to route the cavity.
    Here is the completed cavity. I used a chisel to get the corners. I have shown this process in about every build I have done so I sort of glossed through it.
    [​IMG]
    Next some more routing of the electronics cavity.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    And I got to spend some time on the body edges.
    [​IMG]
    I removed some more material from around the neck heel area as I want to make sure there is good access to the higher frets.
    I have a lot more carving to do and I will show it next time. Thanks for looking.
  17. Buchada Azeda

    Buchada Azeda

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    Subscribed. This looks great!
  18. Dug2

    Dug2

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    you are a true craftsman sir. lookin forward to the rest of the build.
  19. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom

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    The neck is in and I have shown some carving. Today I will show some of the small details like the cavity cover and rear peg head veneer.


    [​IMG]
    We have the body and neck joined here. You can see I have carved away some around the edges. The little bump out along what would be the upper horn area. This has been deleted from the build, but you will see it in the pictures for the next few posts. It was for a custom inlay design that we were going to do but since the customer needs the bass sooner than we originally thought, we decided to lose the inlay idea and just shape the area like the rest of the body.
    [​IMG]
    Next, I am showing the process for making my cavity covers. I use wood for my covers as I like it better than plastic. As you can see I simply trace the inside of my recess template and then saw it out on the bandsaw. I used a piece of Sapele sliced from the rear of the body wood when I machined it to the correct thickness. I use this wood to make the cover so that grain matches up fairly well. Exotic Woods in NJ is very good about sending body blanks that are almost 2 inches thick. This always leaves enough for slicing off a thin piece off the back. I use these pieces for cavity covers and backwoods for hollow body guitars.
    [​IMG]
    Then it is off to the disc sander to trim it up. There is some back and forth to the disc sander but over time I can usually get it in two tries. Like a glove. Now I have to sand it down flush with the body surface. I use my hand plane to do most of the work, then I move on to a sanding block.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I bevel the edges of the cavity and the cover. This helps hide any imperfections. I can get the cover to fit very snug and with little gap but then over time the wood may swell and stick it in place. I make sure the cover can drop free from the cavity. This leaves more of a gap that you really can't really hide. Since it is obvious that it is there, you are going to see it...might as well make the edges look decent. I then drill the mounting holes.
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    Next I am on to the rear peghead veneer. My designs leave a glue line across the back of the headstock that I do not like. I have done other methods for cutting the scarf joint but seem to like the way I do it best. So I came up with a way to cover it all up and add some decoration to the bass by laminating a rear peg head veneer. I first cut it out to the basic size.
    [​IMG]
    Next I prepare the headstock to receive the veneer. This means that I have to make the curvature graceful enough that the veneer does not crack when being bent into place. I dry fit it until it makes smooth contact from end to end with no gaps, before I apply any glue.
    [​IMG]
    Then I use a lot of clamps to make sure there is good pressure on the veneer and so it seals up nicely with no gaps. I start at the tip of the headstock and work the clamps toward the neck until the veneer is fastened down securely. I look for enough squeeze out along the veneer to ensure a nice joint. If I did not do this I may find that when I carve the headstock, there will be little fuzzy areas where there is a void along the veneer edge. This makes the line between the dark wood of the neck and lighter colored wood of the veneer, blurred. I like crisp lines.
    [​IMG]
    And here I am showing the control holes that were drilled. I was going to get to the pickup cavities but that will be next time.

    Thanks for looking at this build.
  20. crlujan

    crlujan

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2011
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    Great thread. Very comprehensive. Can't wait to see the final product.

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