Firs build idea.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by frankenbass2014, Feb 8, 2014.


  1. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    so after trolling this site for a few weeks and being inspired by what all you guya (and gals) are building, ive decided to make the step from piecing stuff together to a full on build. i dont have any major wood working tools (planer, band saw, table saw) and i really dont have room for them lol. my main tools are going to be the drill press at my garage, my hand drill, my dremel, my jigsaw, possibly my circular saw, and the greasy toolbox full of rasps and files i have.
    with that said, due to my limited wood working experience and lack of tools, ive decided to build a simple jazz bass copy, but with a thru body neck. i dont know why, but the thru body seems like it would be simpler to construct. if im wrong, call me out. and it will be a fretless, since i have zero experience installing frets and i play fretless.
    the body is going to be ash or alder, whichever i can find cheapest. the neck is where i cant decide.
    does the neck absolutely have to be maple? is there a less expensive wood that i can use? and is there an inexpensive fingerboard material? i ask this not to save money, but because i plan on finishing the entire instrument satin black, including the neck. when i seal the fingerboard im going to use black dyed epoxy. i dont see the point in buying a beautiful, expensive piece of stock if im just going to cover up the grain. so if i have other inexpensive options out there id like to know lol.
    as far as electronics, its goingto have simple passive j pickups, probably emg selects or something of that nature. i am not going for perfect gigger here, just want to have a bass i can say i built myself. and maybe if i like doing it, i can move on to bigger and better things lol. ideas? opinions? pros and cons?
  2. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    and yes i know that it would be easier to just buy the parts and assemble it, but i already do that, and have done so atleast a dozen times. i want evry body and neck aspect of this project to be formed and constructed my me without any warmouth or stew mac help lol
  3. BioWeapon

    BioWeapon

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2013
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    If you're not concerned with beauty, the neck wood doesn't have to be 1 piece. You can buy multiple same-dimensioned pieces and glue them up instead.
    FYI, You're probably gonna have a helluva hard time routing with a dremel.
  4. Beej

    Beej

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Location:
    Canadia
    I'd just do a maple neck, sure there are other woods, but maple is about as cheap as you can get for the strength it has. I use about $5.00 worth of maple in a neck, unless it's really pretty maple, and then it's about $15.00...
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  6. BioWeapon

    BioWeapon

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2013
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    5$?!?!
    Do you grow your own maple?! I've never heard of neck-worthy maple that cheap! Please, sir, share your secrets!
  7. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    i had planned on using the drill press to remove most of the material, then the dremel as a clean up tool. ive done this a few times and even tho its time consuming it keeps me from spending money on a router i will only use once or twice a year lol. also picked up some used bar clamps from craigslist dirt cheap, since the only clamps i have are c clamps that dont open near wide enough to clamp a body together.
  8. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    ditto. ive been unable to find anything locally, and net searches bring up pre fabbed necks that are $200 or more. i wouldnt mind paying $40 or $50 for a good neck thru blank, but its the finding it thats hard
  9. tdf_xi

    tdf_xi

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2012
    Location:
    USA, MA
    Chisels do get the job done too as far as making pickup/electronics cavities and neck pockets. I'm on my third bass with nothing but hand tools (not always by choice, but living in an apartment has its limitations). As you said it is much more time consuming. :p
  10. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Location:
    Norman, OK
    Find a lumberyard with 8/4 maple stock. Look through it and find something that is defect free.

    I got a piece from a local shop a few months ago that was 48" long, 6" wide, and 1.75" thick for about $13. It's big enough to get at least two necks out of it.

    If you can't find a good lumber yard, look for a door/stile shop. Ask around, and you'll find something.
  11. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    new developement: i gave a guy two large trees to cut down for firewood. he came and checked them out, and was disappointed. he said theyre maple trees and would take all year to cure enough to burn. but hes still going to take them. whats the chances i could use a piece of this? how long will it take to dry or cure? ive heard of kiln dried maple before, is this possible?

    EDIT: thank you craigslist! found a guy in my town with CHEAP cured maple, wormy maple, walnut, cherry,and ash. AND he will plane it to my specs. so its gonna be an ash body with a maple thru neck for sure. i may pick up some cherry and walnut along with some extra maple for future builds
  12. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    also found another guy 15 miles away with buckeye and sassafras as well as walnut and maple. but all his stuff is planed to 1 inch and edged. maybe i could do a laminate body with the buckeye or sassafras later on? all of this is under $3 per board foot
  13. lbridenstine

    lbridenstine

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2012
    Location:
    MI
    Just for reference, sassafras is listed as a direct toxin on the lists of toxic woods. I'm sure people still work with it, but you would want to take safety precautions.

    You can find neck blanks here too:

    http://www.lmii.com/products/mostly-wood/neck-woods/neck-blanks

    Locally is probably better, but just giving you the link just in case.
  14. JayGunn

    JayGunn Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Location:
    Meherabad India/Chapel Hill NC
    Since you're in Kentucky the ash will not be black (swamp) ash, but one of the heavier ashes like white, green, etc. These are comparable to maple in weight and stiffness and would make a good wood for a neck. Since they have open pores you won't get a super smooth finish on the neck unless you fill the pores, which is an extra step but not difficult. And people do love the feel of unfilled wenge, which is more porous.

    Maple is a religiously pre-approved wood for necks because Leo chose it. (I have tremendous admiration for Leo; the 'religious' part is what we have done to every design decision he made). Had he chosen ash or birch for necks we'd all be saying things like "I guess you can use maple but it's not all that stable." BTW yellow birch is also a decent choice for neck wood and some cabinet shops stock it for kitchen cabinet facing.

    Whatever wood you choose, especially if you're not certain about the seasoning, you might consider these steps:
    1) ASAP buy the wood and bring it inside. If it has been in someone's garage or basement it will need to dry out at least for a few weeks. The claim might be that it's kiln dried (typically to 5-8%) but after a month in a garage it's likely to be more like 12-14%.
    2) Consider ripping a flat sawn piece into strips, turning them 90 degrees and gluing them up so that the heart sides of each strip alternate left and right. Hard to describe, I'll attach a sketch in my next post if it isn't clear to you.

    There are debates about whether flat grain or edge grain orientation in necks is more stable, but you'll find general agreement that a neck glued up out of pieces will be more stable than a single piece. Consider what happens if you buy a kiln-dried piece of oak and rip it down the middle. Often there's so much tension in the wood that the sides of the cut pinch the saw blade hard enough to stall a skil saw or a 2hp table saw. On other pieces, the two cut halves will spread apart, and when the wood is 2/3rds ripped the cut ends will be at least 1/2" apart.

    So if you can rip the wood into strips, you can also detect any tension (and partially release it), and if you get warped pieces you can joint them straight, or at least glue them up with the warps opposing each other (if they're only slightly curved) and you will get a more dependable neck.

    One final thought: I have uses sassafras for a body core without any allergy problems (so far--not finished--build thread coming soon) but it's not nearly stiff enough for a neck. Neither are most pieces of cherry. You can look up the properties of all these woods in www.wood-database.com. MOE is the measure of stiffness. 11-12 are decent numbers, 9 is too low in my opinion, using the scale on this site.

    One extra comment: black walnut is wonderful wood for beauty, stability and working properties. It is not quite as stiff as maple, but I think it would be your best choice if you had a way to route some channels for carbon fiber bars. Once you work with it you'll see what I mean. My second favorite wood overall after teak.

    Have fun!
  15. lbridenstine

    lbridenstine

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2012
    Location:
    MI
    He mentioned wanting to paint the neck black, walnut seems too nice for that, in my opinion.
  16. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    thanks guys for all the info. i really appreciate it. im going to look at the local guys stock tomorrow after work and hopefully pick up enough ash and walnut to do this first build, along with some walnut and cherry for a second build. plus his stock is supposed to be 7 years cured in a climate controlled building specifically designed for the task. aaaand the other guy 15 miles from me has a 36 bd/ft minimum order, so probably wont be buying from him anytime soon. pics coming soon :) and yes im going to finish this first build all satin black, so i can cut the neck in as many pieces necessary if i have to. ive found that the problem with researching and prepping for your first build makes you think of your next build, which i wont get into but will for sure involve some walnut and cherry and a natural finish lol
  17. Jensby design

    Jensby design

    Joined:
    May 22, 2008
    Location:
    Hastings, NE
    Soft Maple has been used for necks and fingerboards.
    That's right "fingerboard", I dare you to put your foot in your mouth.
  18. Beej

    Beej

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Location:
    Canadia
    Seriously? I mean no disrespect, but maple goes for about $4.00 a board foot, there is less than a board foot in a neck, but factoring in taxes, I round it out to $5.00.

    If you're having trouble finding it at that rate, I suggest going to a lumberyard or hardwood supplier rather than home depot. My numbers are average, not low by any means. Maple is very plentiful and one of the cheapest hardwoods out there. I can get really highly figured stuff for 10-15 per board foot.

    If you're buying blanks from LMII, then I get it, you'll spend more like $40, but if one has some tools and can shape their own lumber, there is no reason to pay high dollar for maple...
  19. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Location:
    Norman, OK

    $3.74 per bdft for 8/4 hard maple at my local source.
  20. BioWeapon

    BioWeapon

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2013
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    Guess I just haven't looked hard enough for wood... huh. Most of the places I went to didn't have stock large enough for an 8 string neck so I bought pieces to glue up instead.
  21. frankenbass2014

    frankenbass2014

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    kentucky
    i bought enough maple to do maybe 3 necks, some ash, walnut and cherry today at $2.75 per RUNNING FOOT. the maple is 2 1/4x6x5, i bought the two best planks he had. its flatsawn, so i hope to get a quarter sawn blank out of it (fingers crossed). the ash is a 3x6x6 and is pretty unremarkable, like the maple. the cherry and walnut are 1 1/2 thick, but the walnut is 6 inches wide and the cherry is 8, and both are around 9 feet long. i just bought one of each of these, the walnut is REALLY dark, and the cherry is beautiful. unfortunately the battery in my camera died so no pics tonite. tmw after work for sure :) also picked up a good set of wood chisels from the snap on truck today. im gonna try my hand at chiselling pickup cavities on my frankenbass project tomorrow night and see if im any good at it. if so, i mite ditch the D&D (drill and dremel) method ive been using. also since im gonna used black pigmented epoxy on the fingerboard to seal it, could i also use a slab of the maple? would save me the trouble of buying rosewood or ebony if i could. would the maple be too light colored to pull that off? i dont want the fingerboard to be pure black like the rest of the bass. i want some grain showing, just black lol.

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