Four-string fretless semi-hollow half-build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ctmullins, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm calling this a half-build, because I'm still pretty new at this, and I consider myself too inexperienced to build a neck from scratch. So this one is going to use a Carvin four-string fretless bolt-on neck, which is actually a very nice piece in its own right.

    This is actually the third iteration of this instrument. The first used a mahogany/alder/basswood solid body, but after I had it all together I was displeased with the aesthetics of the body shape, as well as the poly finish I used. The second iteration was a stillborn swamp ash attempt. Hopefully the third time's the charm!

    Body is a two-inch thick one-piece slab of sapele scored from eBay, with a quarter-inch bookmatched quilted maple top. A pair of Nordstrand Big Singles, with a piezo transducer under a macassar ebony floating bridge.

    I had originally intended for this to be a solid-body fretless, but since the sapele was extra-thick, and since I had the quilted maple top, and especially since so many of you have done so many nice semi-hollow instruments lately, I saw a great opportunity. This instrument is for myself, and my intent is to make a versatile fretless to replace my Yamaha RBX200F. The Nordstrands should help provide a modern sound, while the piezo (coupled with the semi-hollow construction and the Carvin neck's ebony fingerboard) will hopefully produce a reasonable approximation of an upright.

    Work will be slow and sporadic, as I am juggling a job, a home life, and am nearing completion of my MGB restoration. But for now, here are a few photos.

    Here is the basic body shape, with the chambering penciled on:


    Almost done with the chambering:


    The roundover is done on the back, as well as the sapele cavity cover:


    The quilted maple top rough-cut, with rough-cut soundhole:

    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  2. Very nice job! I like the body a lot!

  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    Thanks Robert! Your build is one of the main inspirations for this one. I'm not as much of a perfectionist as you are - I freehanded the chambering on mine, for instance - but I am going to take my time and do my best on this one!
  4. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett
    Freehand is the way of the world sometimes. I'm doing a walnut bodied guitar build right now, that's chambered. As thick as the body is, that'd be a really nice set neck project there.
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  6. Sardine


    Feb 2, 2009
    Nice, the body shape is very cool.

    I don't mean to hijack your thread, but how do you like that router? I'm in the market for one and I've heard both good and bad things about that model.
  7. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    Yeah, it's not the best router. My main beef about it is the sloppy fit in the bases. It's not as much of a problem with the plunge base, but using the fixed base inverted, you have to be careful to avoid it "settling" a bit.
  8. Well, for freehand it is actually quite smooth :smug:.. and you can't see it when you're done.. so I guess it doesn't really matter, as long as you feel comfortable with your technique.
  9. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    A tiny bit of progress - got the maple top glued and rounded over this weekend. Also started sanding the sapele a bit. It sure is pretty when wetted!


    This photo is meant to show a bit of tear-out in the maple during the roundover - not yet sure how to fix that:


    Also marked my bridge and neck positions on the top. Next step is to route my pickup and neck pocket templates.
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  10. Very, very nice!!! And uh.. don't want to be a wiseguy.. but about the tear-out: did you route the roundover in one pass?
  11. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    Two passes: 1/8-inch, then 1/4-inch. I think maybe I just went a bit too fast...
  12. Well, don't know.. I'm always a bit too careful and did a 1/8" in three steps.. the figured maple is a very soft wood actually.. but I am quite sure you can just sand this out to a nice round over. It might be a somewhat larger curve / radius, but not too much.
  13. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    That's really nice!!

    It also goes to show that with so many creative people around, there is nothing you can think of that somebody hasn't already thought of.

    I have a Patrick Eggle Milan V fretless with a really nice neck, but I'm not wild about the body or the position of the pups


    I have a very nice piece of quilted maple, and a nice old piece of mahogany (that I've had 30 years) that is plenty to make a body. My only problems with the mahogany is that it is only 3/4" (19mm) thick so it will need to be glued together in a double thickness as well as jointed down the centreline....

    However, my plan was to do exactly what you're doing and do a half-build using the Eggle neck, on a body that has the pup (probably a Nordy fat stack) in an MM sort of position.

    And my body was going to be....the above mentioned double thickness mahogany with quilt maple top, chambered, based upon my Ric, but modernised with a thinner longer top horn...sound familiar :)

    I realised that I might've had the comparison with Marleaux, but now I guess you'll need to go on the list of influences along with Robert

    I really need to get along with this though...I've had it in mind for over a year and haven't lifted a saw in anger yet.
  14. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    Got the neck pocket routed. I took my time and made a MDF template to closely follow the contour of the Carvin neck:


    It came out nice and clean! You can't really see it here, but there is a slight angle to the pocket, since I expect my floating bridge to be a bit higher than a flat pocket would allow. There is also a bit of extra wood near the top of the pocket that I will trim later.


    And the neck fits nice and snugly:


    The neck is a standard Carvin bolt-on four-string neck, with the (smooth and thick) ebony fingerboard. I paid a bit extra to have them inlay the fretlines, though I wish they didn't contrast quite so much. I dislike four-in-line headstocks, so I cut this one down and put the G string tuner on the other side, a la MusicMan:

    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  15. sofnlo


    Dec 29, 2004
  16. lposavad

    lposavad Supporting Member

    Carvin necks are very nice, and the 3+1 arrangement looks much better than their stock inline layout.
    Overall it's a sweet looking project!
  17. NateDogg


    Jun 19, 2009
  18. polydeathsphere


    Jan 12, 2009
    New York
  19. chuckocaster


    Apr 27, 2005
    manteca, ca
    i really dig that "f" hole. very different, tres cool!
  20. jmsjabb


    Jul 20, 2009
    Jools. If you do go ahead, please please don't destroy your Eggle body. I may well be up for taking it, sans the neck if you must...

  21. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    Thanks! The soundhole (can't really call it an "f" hole), the shape of the upper horn, and the sweep of the top half of the body are meant to be, in the most general terms, and as Jools has already surmised, evocative of certain Rickenbacker design elements.

    John Hall, you may consider this an homage, please.

    The lower horn is designed for ergonomics while playing seated.