1. Welcome to TalkBass 2014! If you're new here, we just went through a major site upgrade. Please post all concerns and bugs to the Forum Usage Issues forum. We will be monitoring that forum. Thank you for all of your feedback.

    The TB Android app is working, you may need to uninstall/reinstall. The iPhone app is now updated and should work after you upgrade. TalkBass is responsive to any screen size, so we recommend using your mobile browser for full functionality.

    Please read the TalkBass 2014 FAQ for lots of great info on the new software.

First Build: Pine Precision Body

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Corey Y, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    Well, I decided to try my hand at making a bass body. Not for savings or to get something that's unavailable, just for the learning experience. I've never made any musical instruments, but I do have a lot of wood working experience and a wood shop at my disposal. I downloaded a template for an American Precision body and decided to use pine. The decision to use pine wasn't based on looks, weight or any expectation of tonal properties. We had a few large pieces of unmilled sugar pine in our wood shop at work, left over from a recent job, which were both thick enough and wide enough for a one piece body.

    I did each of these steps on a separate day. Just when I had time on my lunch break or for an hour or so after work. Looking back on my work up to present, I could have just done it all on one Saturday. I found it helpful to let my mind sort of digest each step though, for at least a night. I figured out there was something I could have done a littler better the previous step each time, to make things easier. So I got a littler better with each step.


    Day 1:

    First I printed my template out in 4 pieces, cut them carefully along the center lines with a razor and taped them together. I traced it onto a piece of 1/4" MDF, rough cut it on the band saw and shaped it down to the line on the belt sander. I had to sand do most of the sanding around the horns and cutaways with a dowel or by hand.

    [​IMG]


    Parts of my template actually came out a little rough and bumpy, even after some additional hand/block sanding, but I managed to get that sorted out during the routing. More on that later.


    Day 2:

    Here's the piece of pine I selected for my body. The first piece I ran through the thickness planer revealed a crack, so I cut another piece and gave myself plenty extra length to work with. After planing it down to 1-3/4" I circled some of knots, pitch pockets and other imperfections and found a section suitable for a nice one piece body.

    [​IMG]


    Next I traced my template onto my piece of pine, cut off the excess and rough cut the shape on the band saw. I kept a pretty tight margin, leaving about 1/8" all the way around. That way I wouldn't have to work the router too hard.

    [​IMG]

    Day 3:

    Next I prepared my template for routing. I was using a hand held router and a 2" flush cut bit with a bottom bearing, so I would be routing with my template on the bottom of my wood. I cut up a strip of 1/2" MDF into blocked and fixed them with double sided tape to one side. This way I have plenty of clearance for the bearing to run along.

    [​IMG]

    Day 4:

    Next I attached my rough cut piece of pine to the template with double sided tape. I laid the body on my work bench and dropped the template down, so I could get it aligned evenly. Then I attached double sided tape to the bottom of the blocks and attached the template to the corner of my work bench. Making sure I had plenty of clearance to route all the way around without having to reach.

    [​IMG]


    Then it was time to route out my body. I did a dry run with the router unplugged a few times, just to get a feel for how I'd have to balance the router while going around the horns. I'm glad I did this, because the router was fairly large and the horns narrow. It's been a long time since I used a hand held router and I've never used one on anything this curved with such sharp returns before. I ended up making a few passes, because my first was a little rough. I stopped and started a few times, rather than rush and chew something up, but by the second or third go I had the hang of it. Light grip, not pressing down too hard and pivoting around the horns, instead of pulling the router around and trying to balance it precariously. Having very little material to remove certainly made things easier than they could have been.

    This is where the fix to the rough template shape comes in. Once I finished my route, I felt around the edge of the body with my fingertips and could feel a lot of bumps and ripples. At first it was definitely my routing technique, but once I sorted that out I could feel where my template wasn't quite smooth. I got a tip from my father here, who has been building arch top windows for decades and has much more experience with this sort of thing than I do. He suggested I leave my pine body on and sand the template in place, then make another pass. That way I can fix my template and the body acts as a backer of sorts, making it easier to get a smooth shape and keeping me from rolling over the edge of the 1/4" MDF template. I used a block, a large dowel and some hand sanding to smooth everything out and took a final couple of passes. It really improved the smoothness of the curves/cutaways and it was a great tip. Being able to check the smoothness of the template by running my fingers along the 1-3/4" pine was a great help, instant feedback on what was smooth and what needed work. Although it did teach me that spending more time refining my template will save me work down the road. The more time prepping and refining each step, the easier the next one was. Lesson learned, that I really should already know.

    Here's the routed body.

    [​IMG]

    Day 5:

    Next up was the roundover. I picked out a 1/2" radius bit and used a smaller hand held router for this one, since it didn't need as much speed. I set up the bit and did a couple test routes on one of my drop off pieces. Before I started the roundover I block sanded the faces of the body with 120 grit sandpaper. I also put the body in a vice and sanded the edges with a block and a dowel to smooth them out as much as possible. Any ripples or bumps on my edge would be transferred to the roundover, since the bearing would be running along the side of the body. Then I attached the body to my work bench directly with double sided tape. I grabbed one of the larger dropoff pieces from my pine and ripped them on the table saw to 2" strips. Then I fixed them down to my work bench around the horns, to give me a little extra stability. After all the work I had already put in, I didn't want to ruin my nice piece of pine at this point. I started with the back side, so if it was a little off it would be less visible on the end product and I could adjust before doing the front.

    [​IMG]


    It came out pretty nice right off the bat. I little bit of a lip along the top in some places, but that should come out with a little light sanding. I did make a slight adjustment to the bit before flipping the body over the doing the front side. The blocks were helpful, but the router I used for this part was so light, the bit smaller and the speed a bit slower, that they really didn't end up being that necessary. So I did the front without them and had no problems.

    [​IMG]


    The roundover on the front came out just slightly better than the back. Still a bit of a lip in a few spots, but I was pretty happy with the result.

    [​IMG]


    That's caught up to present. Yesterday I bought a Mighty Mite Precision maple board neck from a fellow TBer in the classifieds. So when that comes in I'm going to make a template for the neck pocket and route that out. I still need to pick up all the rest of the parts. A pickguard will probably be the next most important thing, since I will have to make sure the control route is lined up with whatever I use. I'm going to wait until all my routing is done before I carve the contours, so I don't have any problems with stability on my bench or attaching templates to the body.

    More updates to follow.
  2. Rushing

    Rushing Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2011
    Likes Received:
    10
    Looking good Corey!
  3. ack

    ack Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Likes Received:
    0
    Looks great - thanks for posting.
    Great tip about the blocks under the template.
  4. xaxxat

    xaxxat Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2008
    Likes Received:
    6
  5. dave-chaulk

    dave-chaulk

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2009
    Likes Received:
    0
    Looks good! I'm a huge fan of pine in a bass guitar - though usually with a harder top and back, these days.

    the one-piece body looks lovely, keep it up.
  6. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    Thanks for the compliments, I'm pretty happy with how well it's been coming along so far. It definitely helps that I have a lot of good tools at my disposal. According to USPS tracking info the neck is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, so I should have some more updates soon.
  7. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    The neck just showed up, ahead of schedule.

    [​IMG]

    Thanks to our fellow TBer lowendmafia. I posted a wanted ad on Thursday, he messaged me within about an hour, shipped it Friday and it arrived on Monday. Hardly a beat missed, I can get right back to working on this project.

    I'm going to make the neck pocket template in a few hours, after work. I might get to some actual routing as well, if I have enough time.
  8. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    Day 6:

    I went ahead and routed out the neck pocket. At first I tried to make a template using the plans I have and the Mighty Mite neck to transfer the proper shape to a 1/2" piece of MDF. That really didn't work out well, since I didn't have the tools available to get it knocked down to the line with a smooth finish, suitable for a flush cut bit with a bearing, in such a small space. I gave it a shot with some sanding blocks, but no dice. If I was taking more time and planning ahead with this project I would just buy a ready made F-type neck pocket template from StewMac or something, but I'm just flying by the seat of my pants here. So I went ahead, ripped my half made template into strips on the table saw and went with a more "on the fly" style template, fixed directly to the top of the body. If I were making a neck from scratch this would probably be just fine. It's less than ideal for the neck I'm using, but I think it's useable.

    First I marked the center line on the neck heel and the body, lined the neck up and scribed a line around it in pencil.

    [​IMG]

    Next I lined my MDF pieces to the inside of my pencil lines, clamped them down and checked the neck fit. Nice and tight, good so far.

    [​IMG]


    I marked the depth for my pocket at 5/8" and brought the body over to the drill press to remove excess material with a forstner bit, down to a strong 3/8" or so. I had a 1/2" flush cut bit to work with, so I figured that would give me a decent margin to not have to worry about bogging down the hand held router. I didn't have enough clearance with clamps, so I attached my template pieces with good old doubled sided tape , clamped the body down to bench and checked my neck fit again before proceeding.

    [​IMG]


    It took a few passes to get to the limit of my depth with the bit I had. All the passes went effortlessly, very smooth. I used the smaller router for this that I used on the roundover and it made for easy work, taking just 1/8" at a pass or so. For the last pass I removed the template, adjusted my depth and made a pass from the face of the body, running the bearing along where I had already routed. This worked fine for most of the pass, but once I got towards the bottom horn I ran out of material on which to balance my router and ended up tipping just a bit as I pulled away. So I made a little dip out of the corner, but at least it was nothing too extreme. In hindsight I should have kept the template on, switched to a longer bit and just adjusted my depth.

    [​IMG]


    Once I finished routing the pocket I tested the neck fit again, still good and tight. When I decided to use this template method I realized that the pocket would not match the shape of the neck heel perfectly. It's even more obvious since it's a 20 fret neck and there's no extra bit of fretboard hanging over the body. If I were going to paint the body with a solid color I could fix it and the mistake in the pocket no problem, but I'm leaning towards something that shows the grain. So I'm hoping that the pickguard will hide the gaps around the corners. This could have been easily avoided with a bit more planning and preparation at the template phase. It's a reoccurring education theme for this project.

    [​IMG]

    That's it for now. After I get paid on the first I'm going to buy the rest of the parts I need. Then I can finish the routing and carve the contours. After that it's on to the finishing stage. So here's where I am currently.

    [​IMG]


    So far I've learned some good lessons on how I could do things differently next time, to be more effective and efficient. That was the main point of doing this and it's been very productive in that regard. There was almost no planning put into this. I pretty much decided to build something, walked out into the shop and started building. If I were to start over tomorrow I would plan things out in advance more, acquire all my parts and materials ahead of time and change up some of my methods and the order I did some steps.

    More updates to come, hopefully by the end of next week.
  9. Meddle

    Meddle

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Likes Received:
    0
    You could mill a bit of the end of the heel, stopping under the fretboard? This would create the same sort of overhang as you get with a 21 fret neck. You might need to move the bridge back a wee bit to compensate, but surely not much!
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Likes Received:
    10
    If it were me, I would take the rounded end off of the neck on my disk sander so the neck fit the pocket. Of course, you would also have to re cut the pick guard to fit the neck pocket as well. This can be done with a short flush trim bit and a router with minimal effort.
  11. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    I don't think I'm going to make any changes to the neck itself. The way I look at it, this pine body is a practice build to learn every step of the build process. When I'm done I'm either going to end up doing another build, sorting out all the issues that have come up during this one ahead of time, or I'm going to end up building a neck from scratch to go with this one. Either way, the neck can be reused as it is now and the pine and my time were free. If I really wanted to I could wait until I have all my parts, cut a new piece of pine (I have a lot left), start from scratch and catch up to where I am now in a solid day on the weekend. If I did that I'd make my templates differently, route the neck pocket and cavities first, then do the body shape, then the roundover.

    I could still fill in the end of the pocket with some drop off material and rework the pocket shape to be more exact. Either by hand or I could spring for the StewMac template. I'm going to wait until I have the pickguard and I get the neck bolted on before I make any decisions on that. I've got a little down time until I have more parts in hand to chew on the idea a bit.
  12. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    A quick update before the weekend. First off, more parts trickling in...

    [​IMG]

    Secondly, long story short...the neck pocket is slightly crooked. I had a long piece of hardwood drop off that was perfectly suited to use as a straight edge, so I double checked my center lines from bridge to pocket to nut. The centerline at the neck heel was off by a strong 1/8" and after a lot of fussing around with thing, I figured out that my centerline was off by as much at the bridge. I took the time and redid all my markings, triple checked everything, aligned the neck properly and marked how the pocket needs to be fixed. I'll need to take some more material out of the long horn side and shim up the short horn side. Normally this would be pretty frustrating, but I had a nagging feeling this was the case as soon as I did my dry fit. I ordered a neck pocket template from StewMac while shopping for additional parts, so I think I will do as previously suggested, move the pocket and bridge down a bit and route the proper neck heel radius while I'm at it.

    I was leaning towards a transparent finish, but I think at this point a solid color would allow me a lot more latitude to cover my mistakes and fixes. This also reinforces that next time I do a body build I will change up the order of my build steps.

    So far my steps have:

    Thickness body blank
    Rough cut shape
    Route shape
    Roundover edge
    Mark centerline
    Route neck pocket

    What I should have done was:

    Thickness body blank
    Mark centerline
    Route neck pocket
    Rough cut shape
    Route shape
    Roundover edge

    All that and the super obvious bits about double checking measurements, taking the time to get the proper templates (and make your templates properly) and all of that. Those are things I should already know, the build process order...well, now that I've done it one way and figured another way will be easier. That may and probably should be revised after a second build.

    The rest of my parts should be in next week. So hopefully a little less rambling and lot more sawdust then.
  13. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    Got in the pickguard today. I did a little mock up of where everything will sit if I move the neck pocket down a bit, to straighten it out with the StewMac template.

    [​IMG]

    Looks like I should be ok with the pickguard and bridge location to do that. If for some reason I change my mind though, the pickguard does cover the gaps in the corner of the pocket. The template should be here by Wednesday, so I'll most likely finish the routing by this weekend. Then it will be on to the contours, then finishing.
  14. JMac4strngr

    JMac4strngr 4th degree Slacker Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    0
  15. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    Thanks, much appreciated. I'm spending as much time fixing my mistakes as anything else, but it's still fun.


    The rest of my parts came in a day ahead the tracking ETA. I didn't really have enough time to do everything required to fix the issue with the pocket, but I knocked most of it out.

    I tightened up some of the slop in the template by putting on some double sided tape with the backing paper still on and some 3M painter's tape. Next time I think I'd use a different bearing to get some offset or different material, but this is what I had on hand. I checked my pickup and bridge position and the screw holes in the template were in just the right spot. So I put on some double sided tape and then tightened some screws down to hold the template on, after lining it up with my revised centerline.

    [​IMG]


    The green tape got shredded pretty quick, but it held up long enough to get two passes and get me to the proper depth. The pocket didn't clean up perfectly, so I ended up using a wide chisel to clean up some spots, cleaning up some material in the corners and using it sort of like a plane to smooth out a few bumps that were making the neck rock. I also hit it with a little sandpaper. I didn't have to worry about taking away too much material and leaving the pocket loose, since I'm going to have to shim up the short horn side anyway. At any rate, the neck is straight now and it fits tight to the long horn side of the pocket.

    [​IMG]


    Here you can see the gap on the short horn side. I still need to glue in a shim with some more pine and then clean up the side, so it's flush with the neck. I'm going to attach my template to the top of the body, line it up with a pencil mark I made along where the neck sits when it's tight to the top horn side of the pocket, then flush route it again. Then I'll probably have to touch up the roundover a bit on the cutaway as well. No time for that today, hopefully tomorrow.

    [​IMG]


    I took a quick shot of the body, with the neck in place and the pickguard on. Starting to shape up. Fixing the neck pocket is eating up a lot of time I could be using to finish the routing and doing the contours. Seems like everyone points out how much time is spent on their first build fixing mistakes and this is no exception. Still, I'd rather learn how to fix a mistake on a piece of free pine...it's a cheap lesson.

    [​IMG]
  16. TheJoshinator

    TheJoshinator

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2012
    Likes Received:
    1
    Looks nice! Truth be told, I'd leave it natural if it was my project; once you get that shim glued in, it looks like it'll be practically invisible right there by the neck. I like the look of the pine with the black PG (granted, I'm a sucker for wood grain anyway, but still...). For a practice build it's lookin' good!
  17. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    Thanks, I agree the grain looks nice enough for a transparent/clear/oil finish. The original idea I had was to do something amber or vintage yellow looking. However, I did dent and scratch up the back a bit. Nothing I couldn't fix with some sanding and maybe steaming out a few spots. Even if I couldn't make it look flawless, there's worse things than some dents in the back of a body. I'm still debating the finish options right now. I've done some finishing in the past, stained wax, airbrush and rattle can, but never on instruments. I just bought some bench cookies from Rockler, since they're on sale. I should have been more careful or used something similar in the first place. I've been looking up as much info as possible on clear/amber finished on pine, mostly gets TDPRI forum results, but there's such a wide variety of suggestion and opinion that it's difficult to figure out where to start. Eventually I'll just have to pick something and go with it.
  18. noiseguy

    noiseguy

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    Likes Received:
    0
    My 2 cents. Soft body... would be tempted to finish with oil vs. clear hard or paint.

    Paint or clear hard (polyurethane or varnish) will crack when the body picks up inevitable dents. An oil finish would still dent, but finish wouldn't crack / flake, and easy to touch up.

    No idea what I'd use for an oil finish for an instrument that wouldn't wind up on your hands and clothes... but assume such a product exists.
  19. Corey Y

    Corey Y Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    25
    After giving it some thought, I'm leaning towards a shellac finish. Easy to apply, easy to clean up, easy to tint if I want to, but a "clear" or "amber" shellac will probably get me that light yellow color I was considering. At the very least I could use a dewaxed clear shellac as a sealer, stain over that, then clear coat with whatever I want. The more I think about it, the less inclined I am to do an oil finish. Given how soft the pine is, might be best to avoid something that would be soaking in a lot. I'm no expert on it though, just my gut feeling. I think I'd prefer the glossy look of shellac over a more matte finish anyway and I read a lot about how Tru Oil is a pain to get glossy and consistent looking.
  20. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Likes Received:
    10
    Use a hard finish like poly or nitro On a soft wood like pine with rubbed in type finish it will get dinged up pretty quickly.

    I would go with a solid color using an automotive urethane.

Share This Page