51 P-Bass build featuring nothing new (probably, hopefully)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Verner, Dec 5, 2019.

  1. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    I have wanted to do one of these for a while, and this year an opportunity came up when a student asked me to help build a bass. I said absolutely, and brought out the 51 plans I had in my stack of things to get to eventually.

    So the plan is two basses, I take a step and demonstrate and my student takes a turn on their instrument. My bass will have a few more details from the original, like a string-through body bridge setup and two saddles, while my student will have a top loader 4 saddle. We may wind our own pickups if we have the time, but if we run out they are pretty reasonable. I plan on a bridge and pickup cover, black guard, and butterscotch blonde finish. My student's will have no covers and I assume a much less predictable paint job. Maple neck, alder body, all wood I have had laying around for many years so it should be seasoned and stable.

    The neck wood is actually a flamed home depot find that I grabbed about 3 years ago. It unfortunately developed a bit of twist and cupping in the lower half, so I will use that part to cut the fretboards out of. The straight part will be used for neck blanks. I will probably include pics of my build only, at least until the final reveal. I will attach some terrible shots I took today of the basic progress.

    We already cut out my student's neck blank, so I am using what was left of the straight section of board. It is flatsawn and has lots of character. Planing the figured wood will probably be awful, so I am betting there will be more sanding than usual. Being that there is a student involved, I suppose the less blades the better. I tried to get some shots that showed the figure a bit. I cut it close with my scroll saw and then planed a flat with my #4 to attach the 'nub' for the last bit of headstock that didn't fit the blank. Apparently I took that pic while running.

    Oh, and to save time I bought templates for my two builds. I usually make them from plans but I want to make sure they get done on a reasonable timeline (before my student graduates).
    IMG_2965.jpg IMG_2966.jpg IMG_2967.jpg IMG_2968.jpg
    I have another thread up at the moment, Harrison inspired 4001 ric build, A rosewood tele inspired 4001 project. The '51 will be worked on every other weekday with my student, and we only have 30 minutes per session after school to actually work on it. The other days I will work the ric thread. Hopefully this will give me two working basses by spring to finish when the temperature rises.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2020
  2. Sounds like fun. Nothing like leading a youngster down the road of questionable life choices like being a bass player and building instruments. :laugh:
  3. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    My student has already named the bass Loretta, and has created an entire tragic backstory. They also sign every glue joint even though it will never be seen, it is a secret only the two of us know that must never be divulged. Wonderfully twisted kid.
  4. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Sounds like a great opportunity for all involved. I've successfully assembled a couple slab builds but starting from scratch is out of my league.

    Best of luck and look forward to the results.
  5. BishopJP


    Apr 5, 2019
    North Carolina
    Cool, that should be a fun project!
    I just finished a build using those same templates, though I used them to make new templates so as not to damage the originals.
  6. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I signed glue joints on the first two basses I started building 20ish years ago, and when I rebuilt one of them as a short scale with my son last spring we found some of the signatures as we pulled the fretboard off. I had forgotten about signing it but it was a nice surprise. So, you never know!
    John_Nicholas, El Rabino and Beej like this.
  7. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    Ok, so I haven't been able to post on this in a while as the school year gets crazy this time of year. My student and I made an executive decision to start over. The figured maple is just too much of a challenge to work with considering our timeline. Bladed tools just chip and tear, and so I will save them for later. IMG_3117.jpg IMG_3118.jpg I picked up some clear maple and we will be cutting them out tomorrow. Fortunately, the skills my student is learning regarding cutting tools and other techniques means that we can catch up to where we were in just one after school session. So I am gluing the nubs for the headstock hangover and we will cut the necks out tomorrow. With any luck we should be moving pretty quickly now.
  8. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    So we have gotten through concert season, winter breaks, regents week, and all sorts of other time obstacles. We are finally able to resume some bass work after school. It does go quite slow as we only are able to meet once a week after school but I think we can get to a finish state by summer. Then it is my student's problem.

    Decided to work on the body a bit, and I happened to have some 7 year old alder blanks that I had in the garage. Still have one left in fact. The boring beetle larvae apparently found them tasty. I used a freud glue line rip blade for the sides and it worked pretty well. I did some light cleanup but the body halves joined quite nicely. I tested this to see about using it for my body wings on my other build, the Harrison inspired 4001. Leo was certainly on to something with his instruments. Building a ric and fender style side by side really highlights the efficiency of the fender design. Not better or worse, mind you, but certainly more efficient.

    IMG_3226.jpg IMG_3227.jpg
    Lots of wormholes that weren't there when I bought the wood. This didn't occur to me at all, now I know. The planer brought out all the tracks on the interior.

    IMG_3228.jpg IMG_3229.jpg IMG_3230.jpg
    There is a strange spot here, sapwood I suppose? It looks like it has holes but is solid. This will be on the back of mine.
    Mine at the bottom, student's on top. I offset the pieces to avoid knots. Only one couldn't be avoided, but it happily sits in the control cavity rout area.

    This is as much as we could cut in our short time after school. The bandsaw in our technology room just cuts small pieces of pine in general, and the blade is over two years old. Some burning and screaming. It was not a happy saw. IMG_3233.jpg
    Oh, took my kids out last weekend to an indoor playground, and got this neat-o free glue spreader!
    I am sticking with my home depot flame maple for a neck, although it doesn't show up well in this pic.

    Unfortunately there was a bit of tearout on the heel end, should be able to contour most of that out. IMG_3236.jpg

    And that's it for now, more to come soon hopefully!
  9. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    Oh I couldn't help it, took the body blank to the garage and finished the rough outline. I don't own a bandsaw yet, but my first shop tool was an old craftsman scroll saw my dad gave me many years ago. He also offered me a 12" bandsaw, which I will take him up on as soon as I can get it to my place, but this little scroll saw is perfectly capable. In fact, it is much better than the bandsaw I used today (only because it is poorly set up of course). For anyone who looks at these builds and thinks they have to wait for the tools to start, a scroll saw and a fresh hook tooth blade will cut a 1 3/4" alder body with no issues whatsoever. I am familiar with the tool and most of the cuts are within 1/16" of the line, ready for the router. A garage sale scroll saw can run you $50 or less, is useful for many cuts in a build, and blades are dirt cheap. IMG_3237.jpg IMG_3238.jpg

    No burns, horn curves done in one pass. IMG_3239.jpg IMG_3240.jpg

    Results of the glue line rip blade. Looks pretty darn clean!

    IMG_3241.jpg IMG_3243.jpg
    And you have to do this shot, right? Almost obligatory I would think.
    zie, John_Nicholas, BishopJP and 3 others like this.
  10. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Not sure if you or the school have any budget for that bandsaw, but if it's one of the typical 9" mass market brand bandsaws, a good quality blade is probably only like $10. Actually, I just looked up the last one I bought for my 9" bandsaw, it was $12.66 on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EHITR0/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 You may already know that but I figured I'm mention because of how depressing those burn marks are!

    And I think you're right about Leo, his real genius was in industrial engineering more than in musical instrument design!
  11. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    The school bandsaw is actually a 14” delta, not a bad saw. In the last few decades any kind of trade education has been shifted to off campus facilities, and equipment like the bandsaw is used more for small part prep. Cnc and additive manufacturer is the primary focus. I just don’t think it is used enough to be a priority. Our middle school still has a nice wood shop, but the high school is more stem focused.
  12. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Interesting. My high school had an amazing wood and metal shop when I was going there a long time ago. Now my kids are in high school and I'm pretty sure the shop is still there even though the curriculum has shifted similarly to what you're saying. Although, my daughter mentioned using a bandsaw. I want to stop by the shop some time and see if it was the same bandsaw I used when I was there (which was also a 14" delta). I'm surprised they still let kids use "dangerous" things like bandsaws.
  13. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    Our middle school still has mostly the same wood shop setup from many decades ago, the thing could be a small production shop. Three unisaws with extended tables, three 18" bandsaws, a 24" planer, 8" jointer, etc. All heavy duty shop grade tools. There is also a full metal shop in the basement where they used to have a car repair course up into the 80s I think.
  14. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    Hey everybody, I don't have much of anything new to post but hope to soon. Not too long after my last post, as many of us did in the education community, we felt like something was coming. My wife is also working on a masters as a nurse practitioner, and her statistics professor was plotting the spread earlier than most, so I used most of my free time to start getting ready for things just in case. At this point, most of my time is spent teaching my 7 and 5 year old and trying to remotely teach 180 of my public school students. It is stressful and frustrating, but at the same time I am enjoying the extra time with my family and the community around us is really coming together. My wife is now working with covid patients so there is always a lingering uneasiness as parents, especially as protective equipment stockpiles dwindle. We have had to have surreal conversations about what arrangements need to be made for our three kids if both of us end up with this and need to be hospitalized, which due to her work is a real possibility. At the end of the day I know I am still pretty lucky comparatively, we have stable jobs and even my little private business teaching lessons is doing fine remotely. I hope everyone out there is doing as well as they can, and finding some diversion in this hobby.

    So the only thing remotely related I have done is try my hand at riving some wood for a future build. Last year the power company took down one of our maple trees, and I cut up a 3 foot long chunk while I was working the firewood. I don't have a chainsaw mill or even a bandsaw, so I stood the trunk up and scored some lines with my kindling hatchets. Then I drove wedges in and split it down the middle. There is some twist in the grain, so I will try and follow that as I process it. I am hoping to get a few necks and maybe even a body blank out of the log, but it is my first time so who knows. Just took some time to chop this since I was chopping firewood anyway. Not long enough for a bass unfortunately, but maybe I will get a super heavy all-maple tele out of it next season. Finished it up with hand planes and the thickness planer, some very interesting grain. Here are some pics, maybe some of you will find it interesting.

    Unfortunately, I gave myself AC arthritis in my right shoulder, probably due to bad form at the gym. So that makes the day after pretty sore. But it is satisfying seeing and hearing a long log split in half. B56B63F1-20C0-4734-B17D-8CA96028B459.jpeg 433BA896-2141-41E8-BCE9-495E5ACBEC0F.jpeg 75833750-AA4E-4697-A399-3E6EBC85C641.jpeg 322D0194-D0F0-4A22-9A87-79FD5BA48C84.jpeg E72EF8C5-F794-41C0-8C97-CF9659A8EBA3.jpeg 140DF4D0-6FA2-4019-AC81-282142DA4D66.jpeg B8642E6B-B654-41FA-BE0B-AAAFE4BCD60F.jpeg
  15. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    Well, I hope everyone is well and has not faced any personal or financial loss during this Covid pandemic. Unfortunately my wife has seen a sharp uptick in cases in the emergency room here in upstate NY. My school district has done well with schedules and protocol, so we have not shut down as of yet. The workload as an educator has been pretty daunting and up to now I haven’t built anything, but they just approved limited after school time so we have started up our dual p-bass build again. I have to do the power tool work at home, the school shop isn’t equipped for this kind of work.

    so I dug our the bodies we roughly cut last year and routed the sides, hogged out cavities, routed them, and rounded it over. Gave my body a quick sand with 80 grit and it looks like it will clean up nicely. EA7FC732-8C5C-4451-86D9-C99FA115D8BD.jpeg C7D2FC49-2ABC-4F6E-B9E2-8BEDBB4C3074.jpeg 17BF5FB6-C8D0-4165-B5E6-1962D7A59EDF.jpeg The alder has been in my garage for years, and had accumulated lots of wormholes (or as we like to say, character). I am sending my student home with sandpaper, sanding blocks, and wood filler to begin the never ending sanding work. Had to test fit my highly figured Home Depot maple neck, looks good! We will start on my student’s neck next week, have to rout it and then we will rout for a truss rod. Feels good to get back to work, even if it is only a few hours here and there.
  16. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    Great thread if a bit harrowing because of the disease. The basses look great.
    Verner likes this.
  17. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Looking good!
  18. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    Thanks! It has been so long I felt nervous! Weird, like playing a gig after some time off. Maybe it is because this gig can rout a lot of my finger off...
  19. Verner


    Dec 24, 2018
    So these alder blanks sat in my garage for years, still have a few bodies’ worth to go. I found someone selling them for $15 per set and bought his whole stock, have to jump on deals when you can. Made a ric 325 with one set. Unfortunately we have boring beetle larvae that love this stuff and have been making tunnels that really showed when I routed. Some of the holes were surprisingly deep. I suppose I should thank them for chambering the bodies free of charge...

    I probably should have checked here first, I wasn’t sure how to approach it in the best way. I decided to use regular wood filler putty. I did consider two other products, epoxy or water putty. I decided against epoxy because a lot of the holes were on the edges, so it seems like it would have just made a mess and I don’t know if I could have gotten the epoxy to stand proud of the holes to sand back. Water putty seemed like a good idea because it is not supposed to shrink as much, but my main concern is it dries pretty hard and the alder is very soft. I just didn’t think it would sand evenly with the wood around it like plain old wood filler. I made this mistake in an old bass I refinished, and ended up sanding a dish around the water putty fill. 04643D16-A16A-41E0-914C-4BCA1FEEE9F8.jpeg 2C933325-EC7E-4A59-A6B3-062EF5E586D7.jpeg 25CD0B69-8CFB-4DEA-9F27-3EA36D8D7A99.jpeg FCFCCC86-C0C2-428A-8F7A-91C3E45FB1C1.jpeg

    So I started using toothpicks and credit cards, but it seemed to work best just using my fingers. I left a bit of buildup as it sands pretty easily and I wanted to make sure nothing sunk below the surface.

    Anybody have any experience with wormholes? I am sure there will be somebody interested in alternative solutions. I’ll let this dry for a few days and see how it sands back.

    In addition, you will probably notice the sapwood streak on the back. It looks rough but is actually pretty smooth. Thinking of sealing with superglue, any thoughts? I want a blonde finish, but not crazy concerned about grain showing as it is only alder anyway. Thinking my other option is to seal with the BINS primer.
  20. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    If not trying for clear (or if you don't mine white fill) epoxy + "fumed silica microballoons" makes a nice filler that will stand up if asked to.

    Closer to home you can also use the accumulated dust from your sanding activities (or you can call it "wood flour" if you want to buy someone else's dust, or sell yours to someone else.)

    Leaving them alone is also an option for the more rusticated / organic / natural "yup a bug chewed this hunk of wood, so you should pay extra for it" approach.

    The streak looks more like pith than sapwood, but I don't see an end-on shot to judge the rings and be sure. In either case I would not expect it to bleed, being alder, so I'm not sure it needs sealed in any special way - it's not like a pitch pocket on pine/spruce/fir, say.
    John_Nicholas, Five String and Beej like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 21, 2021

Share This Page