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6 string arch top bass, piezo, 33 scale, Claro, roasted maple

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Drake Custom, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    I am about to finish up the 5 string bass but rather than sitting around watching the oil dry, I have started on another bass that I have been commissioned to build. For those of you who have seen my posts before, you know that I have a passion for semi-hollow basses. I have been working hard over the years to come up with a design that will combine comfort and function with some of the more traditional aesthetics of semi-hollow designs. This current build is trying to blend upper fret accessibility with proper balance and keep some of the typical shape of a Jazz guitar. Most basses shaped like this seem to make it hard to have a full 24 fret access without pushing the nut really far out there. I plan to use a deep inset neck and a fully carved heel joint to make it easier to play all the way up. I want to have big chambers inside as the specs require it, and I want to see if I can make it so the bass does not weigh a metric ton. I have played several styles of this type of bass and always think they weight too much. I do know that to have bent sides and thin braced top and back would certainly be the way to go to reduce weight, but we don't want too much of an acoustic electric bass. One of the inspirations for this bass is JP's new Yamaha bass. His bass is a bit heavy too, but the tone is what we are trying to achieve, so there may be some weight. JP's bass has Mahogany a core and this bass will too but with some changes.

    Basic Specs:
    6 strings B-C
    33 inch scale
    Ebony fret board and peghead veneers
    Roasted Maple neck (5A figured) deep inset glued in
    24 frets with access to all
    Carved top and back (inside and out) made of Claro Walnut
    Mahogany core with Ash center block
    Hipshot D style bridge and tail piece (aluminum)
    Schaller mini tuners
    Aguilar DCB 6 pickups
    Fishman Power chip piezo
    Hand rubbed oil finish.

    Here is the basic design. I have made a mock up out of thin plywood. this allowed me to sit with the bass to check that I can reach everything and that it will be comfortable being played while seated. The custom plays mostly sitting. I was very happy with the reach to the lower frets. It actually was not much different from my Fender Jazz bass.

    We are using Schaller tuners but we are adding Ebony buttons......
    ....like these.
    The basic materials.

    This will be a very fun build. Please check back to see the progress.
  2. Jonny5bass

    Jonny5bass Supporting Member

    May 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Will do!
  3. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Sorry, I have been working on this bass and others and have not been able to take time to post but I will show some today and some this weekend.

    I guess the first step I took was to make the core of the body.

    I started with the Mahogany billets. They were not wide enough to make the body out of so I cut a tapered area that is about where the neck pocket is.
    Here the core is unglued. You can see the tapered area towards the top of the picture. Since I was going to remove most of the wood inside the core, I decided that if I tapered the billets and joined them so that the upper and lower horn ares fit into the shape, then the bigger area would be spread apart allowing the bandsaw in to cut the inside out. Part of the inside could then be made into a wedge to plug the open end. At the bottom of the picture you can just make out the plug piece.
    I should have used this picture as the glue shows the lines. This process made it so that I could use the smaller blank for a large 17 inch wide bass. The "Board-Stretcher" method.

    Next, I cleaned up the inside and cut the shape out. I used the flat surface of my carving table as a large inverted sanding block. I stapled down the abrasive belt material. I was able to level everything out nicely. I let the core "ring" sit for a week so I could monitor if it was warping or twisting.
    I then needed to make something to support the pickups, bridge, and to give the hollow bass some strength. To use Mahogany would make it too heavy, so I opted for light weight Swamp Ash.

    I glued on some ears to support the Hipshot D style bridge which rides on posts like a large Tune-O-Matic.

    I mapped out the internals and began to drill relief holes to reduce weight and let more "air" into the body. We want this bass to have some acoustic tones.
    We started calling this the "Cheese Block". As I said, this is the first instrument like this I have ever attempted, so I get to make up names for stuff as I go. I call the Mahogany part the "Ring" as it resembles....well.....a ring or sorts.
    I will be carving the inside of the top and back as well, so I made this template to help me lay it all out precisely. I made this by fastening a piece of Plywood over the ring........
    ....and using my router to make a perfect template. I purposely cut the ear sections out as the backside of the bass will not make contact since I will trim the ears up some. Also the ears will glue right onto the top of the bass.
    I don't have a depth tool to keep checking on the thickness of the top and back plates so I improvised by laying out a grid.....
    ...and drilled holes to certain depths in certain places. My thought is to carve until the holes disappear.

    I used the template to layout the plates but I also used it to route away the bulk.
    So then I spent some time with this item. I put on some soothing music and zoned out while I carved.
    Not even close to being done but I make some progress in this shot. It is hard to see the depth, but it was just under .5 inches at the deep point.
    I laid out the sound holes and took to the bow saw for that.
    Got them roughed out at least. More shaping to do.
    But first I need to carve more. Easier to fine tune the sound holes once the thick top has been worked down to near the final thickness. The planes can sometimes chip wood away along the edges and so I leave the sound holes narrow and rough til later so I can fix anything that happens.

    More later this week.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2016
  4. Bassmanmike1

    Bassmanmike1 Sittin' In Limbo

    Jan 13, 2011
    Marysville, CA
  5. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    I can't believe I missed this thread. This is going to be the best bass ever built :woot:
    emjazz likes this.
  6. PDX Rich

    PDX Rich

    Dec 19, 2014
    Portland, OR
    Good stuff man! Looking forward to seeing this evolve. :)
  7. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks guys.

    Today I will see if I can show some neck work.

    I start with this nice roasted Maple neck blank. I have been favoring this wood for the last few builds and think I may just switch over to it as my mainstay neck wood.
    Pros: It arrives at my shop stable and ready to use. It sands easy and does not move after being cut on the table saw. It has a beautiful color to it without the need of a dye or stain. Also, it does not need a finish to remain stable, though I do like to apply three coats of my oil/varnish to keep the wood from looking dirty over time.
    Cons: Price tag, chip out prone, and it is not readily available through most suppliers of wood.
    5A figure.
    I usually use my table saw to slice the scarf joint but this neck is too wide for that. So I used my band saw.

    There are two ways I use to do a scarf joint. An overlay style where the cut off peghead is flipped over and mounted on top of the angled portion of the neck. This shows a glue line back into the playing area of the neck. The second way I call the "toe" joint where the cut off peghead is mounted under the neck. The advantage of the "Toe" style is that the neck blank is longer in the end which is useful for a deep inset style heel joint. Also the glue lines are moved forward to the mid section of the peghead rather than up into the first fret area. I add ears later on to hide the glue line at the mid point.
    This method works fine but there is more clean up work to do to prep the glue surfaces.
    To keep the pieces aligned during the glue up I dry clamp, drill holes, and install toothpicks to act as cleats to keep it all from sliding around.
    A better picture of what I call a "Toe" style joint. The peghead is under the main neck blank.
    I apply glue and clamp it all up for a few hours.

    After the glue has set up, I cut the peghead to be able to add ears to it. I misfiled the pictures of most of that process, but the reason I do this is to hide the glue joint at the mid point of the peghead. I dislike glue lines.

    So I lay out what shape my peghead will be and then draw lines to cut the peghead into an angle that will allow me to add some ears. I then bandsaw the sections off of the headstock. I use a hand plane to make the edges smooth for gluing.
    This is only picture I found from that process. I basically made the peghead into a sharp point. Then cleaned it up with a small plane. Onto that I glued ears to make a peghead that hides the scarf joint lines.
    This is obviously a picture from later on, but I show this to display the reason for the pointy peghead idea. Like I said, I add ears of the neck wood scrap to make the peghead the correct size again. I add the Walnut stripes as an embellishment and to hide the glue lines of the ears. The trick to making this all work is to make the cuts so that the outer perimeter of the peghead shape fall well outside the path of each of the Walnut stripes. If I did not make sure of this, when I cut the final shape, some of the Walnut would show at the mid points.
    You can see in the mid area, where the scarf joint glue line was. The ears have hidden that nicely. Once the front and back veneers are on, you will not see any of the scarf joint lines.

    This bass will have a deep inset neck as in the neck will have a longer "Tongue" that reaches into the neck pickup cavity. So some prep work for that is needed. My version of the deep inset neck requires a piece from the top wood to be laminated into the neck blank to help hide the tongue.

    The end result is something like this.....
    The goal is to have a tongue to run into the neck pickup cavity and be somewhat blended in.
    To achieve this feature, I had to cut a piece from the top and laminate it into the neck blank.
    I used my table saw to do this.
    Now the neck blank is ready for the truss rod and carbon fiber install.

    I use this set up for that.
    I bed the carbon fiber into epoxy to keep them from rattling and to eliminate air pockets around them. To bed them, I simply tape over them ans use an exacto knife to trim around the carbon. Then peel the stripe out and mix up the epoxy. I remove the tape immediately after the epoxy is down so that it does not get stuck down. This leaves the cavities around the carbon fiber filled with epoxy but the wood around it is nice and clean.
    I make plugs for the truss rods. This adds glue surface for the fret board but also keeps the rods from working loose and rattling around. Note that I have toothpicks placed in the waste areas. These correspond to holes in the fret board excess and act as cleats to hold the fret board in place during the glue up.
    The aforementioned glue up.

    Thanks for taking time to read my post.
  8. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    I have been busy working on this project so I have not spent much time posting. Since I have some time while the glue dries on many projects, I figured I would post some progress.

    Got the clamps off the neck and am ready to cut the profile.
    Next I have some body work to do.

    I glue up some thin stock of Sapele and Walnut so I can make lamination layers on the core of the body. This will create some nice accent lines around the perimeter of the body.



    With the router and a bottom loaded bearing bit (lam trim bit) I re-created the chamber areas.
    Like this.
    I double checked the positions of the bridge and pickup and where the neck will be placed.

    Once I was sure on everything and made some notes on details that would be covered up and unable to view again, I set about gluing on the top. I take pictures of the insides before I seal anything up inside. This will be handy if I ever need to make repairs or mods later on. Also, to assist me in the build as it progresses.
  9. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    I forgot to post a picture of the stripes I created with the laminations.

    Anyway, now to some more of the neck details.
    I made a veneer out of Ebony. I pre-drilled some holes where the truss access will be. I will clean those up later.
    I carved a bit on the neck. I never go for the complete carve in one sitting. I like to take time with it and spread the carving sessions over a couple weeks. Even though I am using tempered neck wood, I let the freshly exposed wood acclimate to my shop for a few days after each carving session.
    Then I prepped the back of the peghead to receive the Ebony veneer plate. I use veneers to cover the glue lines, add strength, add to the appearence, and to add another tone wood to the pegheads.
    PETE16-5. PETE16-5.
    Gluing on the rear plate.
    After another carving session. I blended the veneer and the neck that creates a volute of sorts. This also strengthens the truss access area of the neck.

    All for today. More when I have some time. Thanks for looking.
  10. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Gorgeous build!
    peterpalmieri likes this.
  11. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    I am the future steward of this wonderful instrument and let me tell you I have never been more excited. I am so thankful for seeing Andrew's work on the luthier's forum and his enthusiasm to create a very unique and beautiful bass.
    twocargar, emjazz and mikezimmerman like this.
  12. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Here is some more progress pictures of the bass.
    So with the top glued on........
    .....I moved on to getting the neck pocket cut. This set up is what I have been using to cut neck pockets. The pieces of wood are tapered at an angle to let my router cut an angled neck pocket. They are held in place by carpet tape and toothpick cleat sunk into the waste area out side the neck pocket and into the area that will be a pickup cavity. The ruler is also taped down and is a zero type ruler. Zero in the middle and it counts out to 6 inches each side. This is centered so the center line down the body cut the ruler at the zero line. I can make sure my neck is aligned this way.
    I use a forstner bit to remove bulk from the future neck pocket.
    Using these bits......
    .....I cut this pocket. I like the deep inset neck as the heel of the pocket does not matter as the neck pickup cavity will encompass it all later on.
    Since I am using a Hipshot D style (Tune-O-Matic style) bridge that is rather high, I need to do even more of an angle to the pocket. A lot of the top will get carved away so the pocket has to go much deeper. To do this I needed to bring the top down at the correct angle. Since the hole method worked for the inside, I figured I would try it for the top too.
    Once I brought the top down and leveled the area. i used the bigger router bit to cut the pocket deeper. The angle to the body top and the existing pocket, acted as the router guide. It is not perfect and if i build more of this style of bass, I will make specific jigs for it. But in this case, it worked.
    Using the bigger router bit and a large base plate, I cut a series of contoured cuts in the top to remove the bulk of the wood.
    Let the blending begin.

    With the bright shop lights, it is hard to show the carving, so I use low light to see that the lines are even and blended well. Still more carving to do but these next pics are of the low light carving process.

    About ready to glue the neck in.
    chapito, CatSquare, BassHappy and 7 others like this.
  13. gsnad2000

    gsnad2000 Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2011
    Owner of Wrong Way Customs
    Beautiful, inspiring work.
    Randyt likes this.
  14. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Love that carved top, and the ebony facings on the from and back of the headstock! (Heck, I love the whole thing!)
    peterpalmieri likes this.
  15. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
    Looks great!
    peterpalmieri likes this.
  16. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    previated devert
    Sub'd, as always.
  17. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Some nice looking work, Andrew. Reminds me of the bass you built for Daniel Diaz, though with some differences, of course.
    Diaz Custom 5 « Drake Custom Bass

    Peter, I'll be interested to hear your impressions of the bass after you've had some time to play it.
    peterpalmieri likes this.
  18. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    previated devert
    Something for your new music room? :)
    peterpalmieri likes this.
  19. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    I built the room for this instrument
  20. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    previated devert
    Appropriate, by all appearances. :D
    peterpalmieri likes this.

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