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1st build questions - 6 string

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by dingfelder, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. dingfelder


    Feb 27, 2008
    Hello folks,

    I am feeling adventurous and am messing around in the workshop, with the goal of making a 6 string bass.

    I have a couple of questions:

    I am making the body out of some new zealand native timber that folks outside of nz may not know about. Hopefully it is not a bad idea. I have joined 4 pieces of 100mm wide Heart Rimu with 3 pieces of 20mm wide beech. I thought alternating the different woods would give a cool striping effect. I have this joined wood glued and clamped but have not yet cut out the body... Not sure if I should do it freehand or find a template for the outside shape. I will definately use a template for routing out the interior cavities though.

    As far as the neck, I am wondering what the normal width for a 6 string neck is.

    Additionally, I need to consider what kind of neck radius to go for. I do not have access to a neck radiusing machine, so I need to either build one, do it by hand with blocks or perhaps use a flat fingerboard. Can anyone comment about whether a 6 string flat fretboard would be a good idea? or if not, what would be a good radius to go for? I assume a non-compound radius is not a good idea?

    I am considering making the neck out of Matai, which is a pretty hard wood. (used for window sill plates and flooring in a lot of old nz homes) I also have access to some mahogany if that is a good option. Would it be crazy to make the fretboard out of this as well? or should I purchase a piece of ebony or rosewood or something?


  2. Jonsbasses


    Oct 21, 2006
    Fort Worth, TX
    Builder: Jon's Basses
    Stop now and draw everything out in full scale size. I guarantee you will not regret taking this step. There is no specific size for a 6-string neck, your string spacing at the nut and bridge will determine what the width is.

    I do not recommend using Mahogany as a neck wood for basses, laminating it with other more dense woods will be fine, though. I suggest you try and locate some Hard Maple, Purpleheart, or Wenge, if I am not mistaken all of those are relatively common in NZ. The same goes for the fingerboard, density is a plus.
  3. dingfelder


    Feb 27, 2008
    ok, I will lay out a design, I agree it would be a good plan.

    Regarding neck width, I understand that the string spacing will affect the width... so I guess my followup question is how do I know what string spacing I should use :) Anyone have a good suggestion for a 6 String?

    Having read a few manufacturer websites now, I think I would like to make my bass something like this:

    Scale length 34
    Nut width 2
    24th fret width 3.125
    dual (body adjust) truss rods
    Body depth 1.750

    Does anyone see any gotchas with that setup?

    I really like the sound I have heard from Alembic basses, does anyone know anything about their necks and what sort of radius they use?
  4. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I'm not a fan of dual trussrods on 4/5/6-string basses. a pair of carbon fiber stiffening bars epoxied into slots on each side of a single trussrod will work just fine, and you will have significantly less weight (and more wood!) in your neck

    instead of indicating the width at the 24th fret, I'd recommend deciding upon which bridge you're going to use and reference the string spacing from there. you will definitely be glad you did it this way, and you'll be more accurate for your first build. once you have determined the outside string position, add roughly 1/8" of extra neck width on each outside string edge ... bingo! now you know how wide your neck needs to be at the nut all the way to the last fret

    all the best,

  5. dingfelder


    Feb 27, 2008
    having asked that, I found the motherload of info on alembics:


    body material:

    neck material:

    seems to me that 12" is not a very flat radius for a 6 string bass. or am I wrong here?
  6. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I use a 16"R on all of my 6-string and most of my 5-string basses. IMO 12" is fine for a 4-string or a narrow 5-string

    all the best,

  7. dingfelder


    Feb 27, 2008
    just found a cool link to neck building:


    this site
    and others I have seen talk about using mahogany as a neck wood... sounds like it is pretty common.

    I am thinking that perhaps that doing it with alternating laminated matai/mahogany would be better than doing it from just Matai. If I make both quarterswan, it would be strong and rigid.

    I think I should change my mind and make something like this:
    a double setup, perhaps 5 string fretless/ 6 string fretted :D
  8. Marcury

    Marcury High and Low

    Aug 19, 2007
    Mid Hudson Valley, NY
    Mahagony is much more commonly used on guitar necks like in the link you posted than for bass necks.
  9. allenhumble


    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    Any reason why it should not be used in a bass neck?
  10. Jonsbasses


    Oct 21, 2006
    Fort Worth, TX
    Builder: Jon's Basses
    Guitars have less string tension than basses. While Mahogany is fine as a guitar neck, it's being pushed to it's limit as a bass neck. 6 strings is a little too much for the Mahogany to handle, although it might be fine with carbon fiber rods.
  11. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Properly quartered mahogany would probably be just fine with just a truss rod.

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