Simple 5 string bolt-on

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by stevetx19, Dec 29, 2013.


  1. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    Hello all

    It's been a few years since i finished my last build, and I found some time over the holidays to start (and hopefully finish) a new bass. I'll just be doing the body - I want to build a body to accommodate a beautiful neck I had made by Michael Dolan.

    I'm going for a very simple build for a for a few reasons:
    1. I need to get back to basics - my last few were overly complicated, and I still have a lot of growing to do. The challenge is to have an excellent bass at the end, despite simple features/design.
    2. Time - i've been planning this bass for a few months, gathering the wood, making design decisions etc, but build time is under 1 month before I will not be able to give much attention to it.

    OK here are the specs:
    2 piece Swamp Ash body, double cut, bolt on, no lams or figured top.
    -5 string, 18mm spacing at bridge
    -finish will be clear satin poly

    Neck -(made by Michael Dolan)
    -lam'd maple with indian rosewood board
    -24frets + zero fret
    -graphite reinforcement

    Electronics - Delano sbc drivers + glock 2band
    Hardware - black, hipshot A, brass, and ultralights, dunlop straplocks


    Lots of planning in the last few weeks - today I started with my ash body blank; we'll see how much can be done in one day.

    Ok - that's all i'm doing on my lunch break - i'll get some pics up tonight - back to the shop for now!
  2. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    OK - pics as promised. Today was Day 1 of actual woodwork; the past few weeks have been spent with design, mdf template making, prepping my body blank, etc.

    Also, before I started, I searched around the LC to find tips for the best order of operations for making a body - there are a lot of little jobs, and they could be done in a few different orders. After thinking about the problems with my past builds, I decided on a specific order that I think will make the build much easier. I will present this build with that in mind, so hopefully this will be useful to someone planning their first build!

    Sorry, didn't grab a pic of the body blank, but here it is rough bandsawed, which was step 1.

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    Next, I used double sided tape to attach my MDF template to my bandsawed body.

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    Once the template was firmly attached to the body, I ran it through my router table with a 1/2" flush cut bit, template side on the bottom to catch the bearing.

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    It needs several passes to get the entire thickness of the body, so half-way through the template has to come off. In case anyone was thinking that the double sided tape isn't strong enough, I promise it is!

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    Needs 1 more pass!

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    Next step - measure and mark rout depths for neck pocket and pickups.

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    I use those lines to set up the drill press first...

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    ...and then the router depth for the neck pickup.

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    Next, same thing, bridge pickup

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    Ok, next is the neck pocket rout. I made a template for this a few days ago using the neck, setting flat pieces to each side and then routing the result into the mdf. I then tested the template on some scrap wood to make sure it was a tight fit - it was. Today, however, my fit is slightly loose - just a tad. Frustrating, 'cause I put a lot of care into making that template; not good enough. Easy fix, though, i've got a bit of white veneer that I will glue in on each side and re-rout. That will be done another day. Anyway - pics of the neck pocket rout:

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    During this process, my router bit lost a chunk. I didn't notice until i brought it back up to change the depth. Good thing i've got extra bits, and goggles!

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    Ok, last job for today was to cut off the extra bit of the neck to fit the neck pocket. Had to carefully clamp it in place to get the line - making small adjustments with the loose neck pocket. Once the line was marked, with my shop setup, the best way I could do the job was using a flat block as a fence with a Japanese hand saw.

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    pretty clean for a hand tool!

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    That's it for today - I have tomorrow off, so I should get quite a bit more accomplished.
  3. pfox14

    pfox14

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2013
    Looking pretty good so far.
  4. lbridenstine

    lbridenstine

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2012
    Location:
    MI
    Haha, this is exactly how I've been getting my templates off lately. It's still really difficult! I've found that trying to twist it helps (the template, not the ruler).
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  6. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    i'll try the twist next time; i really hate to use my nice drafting tools so crudely.
  7. pushifier

    pushifier dB basses Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Location:
    Netherlands
    I use a hair dryer for this... it works great and no fibers of wood are taken by the tape
  8. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    hair dryer? Neat. I'll keep that in mind too.

    Ok - so I got called into some family obligations this afternoon, and tomorrow too, so work on this will have to wait a day or two.

    I did get some sanding done today - took a block and a piece of PVC(for the inside curves) to the outside of the body. This is my first build using a router template for the body shape, and boy is it much easier! Maybe a total of 45 min hand sanding to get the machine marks off the side of the body and get it smooth. All my other builds have been bandsaw + hand sanding - hours and hours and hours of hand sanding. Templates are way better.

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    Also, there's a local sawmill that lets me run my wood through drum sanders occasionally - get my wood prepped on big machines that I otherwise can't afford to have. Anyway, they normally are very interested in what I bring in - wood wise, but they wouldn't run my body blank through their machines. They said having ash in their woodshop was too risky - might have bugs that could infect their stock. I can understand not taking the risk and have no problem with keeping my ash away from their shop - but have any of you guys had problems with your ash lumber? My understanding is that kiln drying takes care of any bugs that might be hiding in there. Seems pretty crazy that the big makers would have thousands of body blanks hanging out with their other wood if it was that big of a risk.
  9. Ol'Bass'ead

    Ol'Bass'ead

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2004
    Location:
    Medford, Oregon
    Regular Ash might be a problem, but Swamp Ash shouldnt be-its been submerged for who knows how long. As for getting the template off, I prep it so its easier. I use blue or green painters tape on both surfaces and sandwich the two sided tape between them. Never moves, never pulls up wood, and never leaves residue.
  10. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    Ok - got a pretty good day of work in before family arrives -

    Here's what i'm starting with after yesterday's sanding-

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    Next up is making room for electronics. Measure and mark where the pots will go...

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    ...and then use super high tech lasers to drill some holes.

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    I drill smaller pilot holes first, then come back in with the 3/8" forstner bit.

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    Holy burnt ash!

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    and some tear out - all be routed out anyway. Pretty neat how consistent the tear out is, though. Must be the bit.

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    Ok so I go to grab my control cavity templates and as i'm setting up, I notice that there's a huge gouge in one of them - must have jipped it with the router last time I did this. :(
    Anyway, I needed to make a new one, and decided to document that process too. Starts with a drawing on trace paper that was taped to the bass to get the right drawing, then taped to mdf for my template.

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    Use an exacto knife to carefully cut the inside piece away...

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    With that gone, it's easy to transfer the drawing to the mdf, forstner away the bulk, and then use some sand paper on a stick to clean up the rest.

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    Once i finished the template, I had just enough time to to use it!
    I like to use the cavity template first, and then come back in with the cover lip - much easier to line up the templates. Forstner away the bulk, then rout - pretty straight forward.

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    in order to get the cover lip with the 1/2" bits I have, My template had to be doubled - lots of mdf dust this evening.

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    and done!

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    Tomorrow should be fun - if I get some time to work on this, the next job will be drilling holes for all the wires, drilling neck screw holes, and then round-overs and contours. Coming together pretty quickly!

    Happy New Year everyone
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Location:
    US-NY-NYC
    What the heck kind of bit is that?
  12. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    Forstner bit - not particulary nice ones, and they're probably 15-20 years old.

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  13. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    OK - Got a lot of work time today, interrupted only by my decision to watch the Winter Classic and eat.

    The day started with my least favorite part of bass building - drilling holes for wires. I measure 5 times (ish), and still can never be sure that my holes will end up where I want them, and the margin for error is very slim when doing this. Today went well - all my holes are where they should be. ;)

    I use a hand drill with an extra long bit. Going through the neck pocket for the neck pickup, and through the control cavity for the bridge ground. I use a stick of scrap wood in the cavity to protect the bass from the bit - i've definitely made the mistake of doing this without protection before, and paid for it.

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    Everything in its right place...

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    Next up - drilling my neck screw holes with recesses for the ferrules. Measure, draw, use lasers again for precision. Also, to prevent and chip out, i put my mdf template underneath the body before drilling.

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    Next - switch to forstner bits for the ferrule recesses. I first adjusted the height of the stand so that maximum position for the drill bit was the depth of the ferrule - consistent results for each without having to sweat it.

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    With that done - the last bit of machining needed for this bass is with the router table - roundovers! I'm doing a middle-of-the-road roundover of 1/2" - I think my body was too thick for anything bigger to look good, and this is the biggest bit I have on hand anyway. The body you see in the background is my "test" body that I keep around to try something out on before I do the actual work on the current bass - in this case I used it to find the right height for the round over bit.

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    I celebrate the end of the roundovers - as far as I can anticipate, it's the last time I will need an electric tool for this bass, i guess until the soldering iron comes out. On to the part I love the most about building - hand carving the contours. I got out my table belt sander thinking I would use it, but I ended up really enjoying hand carving with the spokeshave, and block sanding to clean it up. It took several hours for 2 very modest, subtle contours - and i'm very happy with them.

    The trick to the spokeshave is catch the wood at the right angle - if you don't, you get big gouges in the wood. If you do, you get luscious curls of wood.

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    I didn't take photos after sanding - each of those above is just with the spokeshave. I'll add some pics of the sanded contours tomorrow.

    Last task - remember i mentioned my neck pocket was a bit too big - just a hair. To fix that, i've cut some white veneer to go in the neck pocket. I cut the strips with a ruler and exacto knife, then super glue them in place. Strips are on both sides of the neck pocket. Once dried, I use the exacto knife again to shave away the excess, and block sand smooth. It's more apparent in the photos than it is in person. With the neck on, it won't be noticeable. This will actually make the neck pocket a little too tight, so i'll need to sand it back tomorrow. Always better to be too tight than too loose. :)

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    After that, I spent about 2 hours sanding with 80 and 120. I'm pretty happy with it's current state and plan to sand up to 300 tomorrow in prep for finishing, though i'll give it a look with fresh eyes in the morning to make sure.
  14. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Location:
    Houston Tx
    I know in this case it didn't matter because the tear out was routed away. But for future reference, if you put a scrap piece under the wood you are drilling, it will cut all the way through and you wont get any tear out.
  15. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    totally - you're right, it didn't matter for this one, so i didn't bother. When I was drilling the neck screw holes, I used some mdf underneath to prevent that from happening as those holes need to be clean.

    cheers!
  16. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    Got the bass finish sanded to 400 this morning, and set up my ultra-advanced finishing rig:

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    LOL.

    Anyway, got the first coat on, should get 2-3 more today, and 3-4 more tomorrow. I will lightly sand with 400 in between each coat. It's a satin finish - and, I know, it's Ash, and no, I didn't grain fill. I built some boxes out of ash for gifts this year, and finished them with the same stuff and really liked the results - super easy, very forgiving, no grain filling, no week+ to harden, and a finish that feels satin, but looks better than rubbed oil. I like the look and feel a lot, and I know not everyone likes ash without a thick glossy layer on top.

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    I won't post any more pics/updates until i'm satisfied with the finish - so Sunday or Monday at the earliest.
  17. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered 8er Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2008
    Location:
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm really liking this one. Elegant design, clean execution, simple but classy.

    Are you just wiping that on with a clean rag?
  18. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    Thanks! I'm enjoying it as well - I needed to work on simple execution, and i'm getting a lot of benefit/joy from thinking clearly about each step and completing each task with focus, done as properly as possible with my setup. Appreciate the support!

    I am applying with a brush - directions say use a foam brush, which I may purchase later today for future coats, but right now my brush is synthetic hair. It's extremely forgiving - whatever streaks there are when wet magically disappear when it drys, leaving only very light sanding needed between coats.
  19. Meatrus

    Meatrus

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2009
    Location:
    England
    Good tip but I don't think thats the issue here, it looks like his bit is spinning way too fast, Forstner bits shouldnt ever burn. Use your slowest drill setting.
  20. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2006
    Location:
    Denton, Texas
    ah - now that makes a lot of sense. I'll give that a try next time I use them. My drill press has a band on the inside that can be adjusted to a few different speeds, so I should be able to slow it down a little.
  21. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Location:
    Houston Tx
    Forstner bits have a max RPM, they work best when turning as close to that number as you can get without going over. The slowest setting will not make as clean of a hole. Usually if they are burning it is because they are dull.

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