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5-String Fanned Hybrid Headless

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Dave Higham, Jul 13, 2012.

  1. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    I’ve hesitated about posting this as, although I’ve already started on it, it might turn out to be a very long thread as I work very slowly and there are numerous other things I should be doing instead. Still, we’ll see how it goes.
    I’ve made a few basses but each one has been totally different from the last because I don’t like making the same thing twice, I make them for fun, I make them for me (even though I’m a crap bassist) and I’m not interested in making Fender copies.
    It will be a ‘fanned fret’ because I like the idea (but I’ve never tried one) but not a very exaggerated fan at 33.5” to 35” scales as I don’t think my old fingers could cope with anything longer and I never go up that end of the fretboard where they're closer together.
    A hybrid headless as I’ve been admiring Maurizio’s creations and I think that ‘headless’ basses do look better with some sort of head.
    It will have a Glockenklang 3-band preamp and custom pickups by Aaron Armstrong, partly because they’ll be a non-standard shape and will have covers to match the body wood and partly because of his reputation.
    Just for the fun of it, I’m going to try to make almost everything else myself.
    Oh, and the body will be chambered to try to keep the weight down.
    This is what it should look like. Wish me luck.
  2. Great Dave, was looking forward seeing a new build from you.
    So, are you going to make the bridge/tuners system yourself?
  3. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Yep, mostly.
  4. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    I’m going to start with the tuners as I’d look pretty stupid if I got all the rest done and then made a cock-up of the tuners.

    I have a small metalworking lathe and milling machine (model-making size really) but I don’t know where to buy blocks of aluminium in my neck of the woods or where to get things plated or anodized so I’ve decided to make the tuner block from ebony with small brass and steel components where I think they’ll be needed.

    I’m starting by drilling some holes in a piece of brass bar. I draw all my plans in an Autocad clone and often print out a plan of the piece I’m working on and stick it to the piece in question. In this case it was just as a safety check so that I didn’t wind the table along a millimetre too far at some point (easy to do).


    Here’s a very fuzzy photo of the brass bar :)o)with its holes drilled and countersunk and the ends trimmed and a radius on the corners.


    I then moved on to the tuner block. This was milled from a piece of ebony. By the way, there’s no CNC involved here. This is milling the old fashioned way; counting the number of turns and divisions on the hand-wheels. There are no photos of chips flying off the cutter as I was rather concentrated on what I was doing and didn’t think about taking any. The five large slots are where the string anchors will slide.


    Here’s a view from the other side. You’ll see what all the numerous holes are for as we go along.

    I intentionally over-exposed some of the photos as at normal exposures you can't see any detail in the ebony components. (At least you can't on my monitor.)


    If you have been, thanks for looking.
  5. Great design, very balanced and well-thought out. Beautiful machining, too-- my wife (an art school-trained metalsmith) and I were just talking this morning about how there are lots of people who can design, and lots of people good with tools, but it's less common to see someone who is good at both. I'l have to show her this build later. Subbed!
    Triad likes this.
  6. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Thanks for the kind words.

    Although this looks like the last-but-one photo, if you look carefully you’ll see that four of the holes have little brass locating pins in them for the cover.


    And here’s the cover with its corresponding holes.

  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    That loks great, Dave.

    Magnets to hold the cover, or just press fit on the dowels?
  8. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Thanks Pete.
    Yes, you guessed right, magnets. But you're about 4 steps in front of me. So here's a bit more.

    For want of a better description I’ll call these friction pads, made from a different size of brass bar.


    This is where they go. There’ll probably be some friction between the string anchors and the bottom of their slots. How much should depend on the string angles, so that’s the reason for these pads. The other brass bar fits over the slots so there are bearing surfaces above and below the anchors. There are no lateral forces on the anchors to speak of so they’ll slide on the ebony.


    Here the pads have been glued in place by wicking a drop of thin CA around each one and holes drilled and countersunk for the screws which will fix the whole shebang to the body.


    Thanks for watching.
  9. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    As Pete predicted, 8 neodymium magnets are glued into the block and the cover with thin CA to hold the cover in place. They were already a force fit in the holes so I don’t think they’ll move. They are slightly below the surface of the wood so that the cover is held shut and won’t rattle.


    I now installed the brass cover plate which is held in position by small (2.5mm) woodscrews. I know them as chipboard screws but they seem to be used for everything these days.


    Inserting screws into ebony isn’t quite as straightforward as it is with softer timbers. I did some trials with ebony scraps and even with a pilot hole larger than the core diameter of the screw I was afraid that I might split the ebony. You can see that with all those slots and holes it does look a bit fragile.

    So I made a primitive tap. Using a Dremel with a little Dremel cut-off disc I ground a groove in one of the screws. Then I did another trial in an ebony off-cut drilling a hole just bigger than the screw core diameter and gently screwed my ‘tap’ into it and out again. Then I fitted a normal screw and tightened it not-too-hard so as not to strip the threads. Here’s the ‘tap’.


    The block with the cover in place, the ends trimmed to length and a radius on the corners. (Is there such a word as ‘radiussed’? The spell-checker doesn’t like it.)

  10. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Awesome work!
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Outstanding workmanship, That takes some true skill.
  12. wow... you should be designing and building basses and bass gear full time. the bass community is missing out on some real talent... nice stuff!
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    That is fantastic!

    What are the last eight holes in the base for?

    Proper spelling is "radiused," maybe your spell checker will like that better.
  14. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Hmmm... Radius is a noun in any dictionary I've seen, probably why the spell checker doesn't like it.
  15. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    In Mech E it's a verb. My spell checker doesn't mind it, but that may be because it's been added to the custom dictionary.
  16. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Thanks everyone.

    I knew you'd ask me that.:meh:

    They were meant for more magnets. I didn't know if the 8 at the corners (4mm dia.) would be enough so I added some 3mm dia. holes. The ones in the corners seem to be enough to hold the cover positively in place so those holes will probably be superfluous. Although I suppose they might be insurance against any tendency the cover could have to warping.

    I shall add 'radiused' to the spell checker.:)
  17. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Moving on a little.

    I found these control knobs online at Axesrus in the UK. As my string spacing will be 18mm I couldn’t use standard 5/8” dia. (19mm) knobs but these are only nominally 14mm dia. I put them in my little lathe and drilled the holes out to 8mm diameter.


    Then I made some inserts from 8mm brass rod with a 3mm internal thread.


    Drilling a shallow hole as a location for the Allen screw in the knob. If the Allen screw loosens the knob will still turn the insert. I could ‘glue’ the inserts in with Loctite bearing seal or threadlock but I’d rather be able to get them out again if I need to.


    Here’s the full set.


    Thanks for looking.
  18. SUBSCRIBING! this is looking really interesting. thanks for all the details!
  19. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    This is fantastic work..!! I can't imagine how someone can machine wood so precisely without a cnc..
  20. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    OK here's another installment.

    Starting on the string anchors, made from mild steel bar. The only stuff I can find easily in the DIY stores is this hot-rolled stuff so I had a bit of machining and filing to do.


    String anchors finished. Sorry, no intermediate photos but it was just hacksaw, mill, drill, tap, files and belt sander.


    Here they are with their corresponding pieces of threaded rod. Stainless steel as it happens.


    Threaded rods fitted using threadlock. Again the only one I could find locally. The red stuff would have been better but I think this should be OK. If they unscrew I’ll have to try to get some red (or solder them).


    Finally here are all the bits and pieces together with 5 black nylon washers to go between the knobs and the ebony block.


    String anchors and knobs assembled.


    And cover in place.


    So far so good, I think, but before I put the finishing touches to this I’m going to have to start on the body, as I want to use the off-cuts from the body to inlay the cover and the pickup covers.

    So… back soon and thanks for watching.
    Beej and joseplluissans like this.