8-string build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ctmullins, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    New build - an 8-string to replace this bastard.


    African mahogany body
    Mahogany/maple/wenge laminated neck
    Pau Ferro fingerboard, 32" scale, 22 frets, 20" radius, 44mm nut width
    Les Paul double-cut body shape, arch top
    Single Dark Star pickup
    Either an Aguilar OBP-1, or a passive volume with a varitone

    The body started as an 8/4 slab of African mahogany. I cut out the shape, cleaned the edges with my 2" straight router bit, and rounded over the back. I then terraced the top of it with the router:



    And then power-sanded the terraces down:


    So it's not a true arch top, perhaps just an "arc top"? :)

    Neck has been scarfed, routed for the truss rod, and tapered - here's the rough taper done on the table saw (careful!):


    The fingerboard is from LMII - I paid them to slot it for me; not ready to tackle that yet.

    So here's what we have so far:


    (Sorry for the crappy iPhone pictures; my good camera is packed away...)
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  2. vbasscustom


    Sep 8, 2008
    neato, should be cool.
  3. BassCycle


    Jan 6, 2006
    Temecula, CA
    Builder: Classic Bass Works
  4. Bump?
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Sorry; re-doing a bathroom right now...

    I hope to have some time in the next few days to do a bit more work and snap some more photos.

    BUT - I've been pondering in my head - should I do a bolt-on neck or a set-neck? I'm very comfortable with bolt-ons, as all of my builds and most of my factory instruments are bolt-ons. But, as this will be something of a "traditionalist" instrument, I'm considering trying my hand at making it a set-neck. My neck blank is 7/8" thick from end to end, so I would have to glue up a heel block if I go set-neck. But I think a set-neck will look better, as well as provide a much smoother neck heel...
  6. Zombbg4


    Jul 15, 2008
    Why would you have to glue a heel block if you went with a set-neck? Personal preference or something I'm missing?
  7. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    You're right; I wouldn't have to. But I do if I want a smooth heel transition, like the Gibsons and Hamers have:

  8. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    So here's how the progress has been going on the very first neck I've ever made from scratch:

    Got the fingerboard rough tapered, then inserted the truss rod and glued the fingerboard to the neck blank - used scrap strips of maple as cauls:


    Matched the fingerboard taper to the neck taper with my flush trim bit on the router table. Then I affixed a piece of 60-grit paper to my radius sanding block (from LMI), and many drops of sweat later (it is August in South Mississippi) I had my fingerboard rounded to a 20" radius.

    Next, the inlays. I'm using 8mm black pearl dots (from LMI). So I carefully lined up the pilot holes with an awl, and used a 21/64" brad point bit to make the holes. I mixed up a bit of JB Weld epoxy, and dropped a dab into each hole, followed by a dot. The black pearl dots are very dark on one side, and much lighter on the other side; I decided to use the lighter side as the visible side.


    The next day I took my radius sanding block to the dots, and sanded off all of the excess epoxy. I was glad to discover that JB Weld sands away quite easily. I ended up with a nice set of dot inlays that, alas, are not quite straight - my bit must have wandered on a few of the holes. Oh, well...


    Even though I paid LMI to slot the board, I remember reading here on the LC about how the top of the slots should be chamfered a little bit, to allow the fret wire to fully seat. So I took my little fret file and carefully chamfered each slot. Then it was time to hammer in my first fret!


    The frets are Dunlop Jumbos, bought either from someone here in the TB Classifieds, or on eBay; can't remember which. I also got a fret hammer from the same person. The frets came pre-cut in a package, and were all the same length and straight across. I carefully bent each wire in the soft handles of my Channel Lock end-nippers (from LMI), and hammered each one home.


    Then I used the end-nippers to trim the excess off, and did a rough first dressing of the ends with my file. It's starting to look like a real neck!


    For this body style, the neck joins the body at the 17th fret, and there's not much in the way of easy access past that. I'm okay with that, though, since it's an 8-string, and I seriously doubt that I'll need to play past high C on the G strings. Even so, this neck is winding up with a couple more frets than I would have liked. I had to make the neck with 23 frets, due to the length of the truss rod - remember, it's a 32" scale. So I'm going to wind up with an oddball number of frets on this one. Oh well!

    Next steps are to do the side dots, final shape and sand the headstock, and shape the back profile of the neck. I'm thinking that I'll use Mikey's tip of rough it out first with a roundover bit, then I'll final shape it with my Shinto rasp (love that thing).

    Thanks LMI! :bassist:
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  9. nice job, I like it, tight fretwork man. BTW that body is looking quite thick in the pics no?
  10. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Yup. 8/4, so it's 2 inches thick at it's thickest, but only 1.5 at the thinnest edges. I may do a bit more carving; dunno.
  11. Epic!
  12. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I generally dislike pickguards. I dislike screwing a piece of plastic down over a slab of pretty wood; I just think it looks trashy.

    That said, I made a pickguard for this bass today. I was musing about the instrument recently, and I was thinking that it might look a little plain with just the single pickup (though the DarkStar is a beautiful thing) and the bridge on the big slab of mahogany. At first I was considering trying some binding, but the complex curves along the upper edges of the body made this a bad idea, at least for a beginner like me. I was trolling the Internet looking at photos of Gibson double-cuts, and I noticed that a good number of them have pickguards. I am planning on staining the instrument some shade of dark red, and a deep cherry red looks pretty good with a black pickguard.

    Then I had a pretty neat idea: Instead of a tacky black plastic pickguard, why not a nice wooden one? And while we're at it, why not inlay it into the body?

    First I made a template out of corrugated cardboard, to make sure I liked the shape and placement:


    Then I used the template to cut the walnut. I gently rounded the two lower corners on the belt sander. Then I traced the outline of the pickguard onto the body. I then routed out the body to accept the pickguard, using the router to bulk it out, and chisels to clean up the edges. This bit was tricky due to the curvature of the top of the body, but carefully shimming my router rails and going nice and slow made it work out just fine.


    The placement leaves room for the volume and tone knobs:


    The pickguard sits a bit proud of the body, and naturally is a good deal prouder near the edges. In this way it is reminiscent of a Les Paul or 335 pickguard.


    Once I route the neck pocket and the pickup cavity, I'll trim the pickguard to fit.
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  13. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Dude, I am sooo stealing your pickguard idea. :ninja:

    Looking good man, I built myself an 8 string a couple years ago. I'm curious to see how the 32" scale works out, have you considered any issues with strings hitting?

    Looking very good man!
  14. ogcaleb


    Jul 12, 2010
    Washington, D.C.
    subbed. les paul double cutaway is one of the sexiest bodies of all time. love that/prs look.
  15. Once again I say epic!
  16. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Subbed. You had me already at "8-string", but that inlaid pickguard idea is just too epic to pass. :D
  17. foq1978


    Aug 7, 2009
    Rio de Janeiro
    bump for updates, please!
  18. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Been a while since I've updated this one. Besides being ridiculously busy at work and frankly lazy at home, I've been leaving this one to simmer while I ponder my neck attachment choices. At first I was convinced that I wanted to do a set-neck for this one, but as it turned out, this one will be a bolt-on. With a twist, though...

    First step was to create a neck pocket template out of some scrap MDF shelving, then route the pocket:


    Then I test-fit the neck in the pocket. I was disappointed to find out that the pocket was a bit too large for the neck. I guess I should have shimmed the template a bit for a tighter fit. I may line the pocket with some mahogany veneer that I have on hand. But because of this, I decided that this was going to be a bolt-on neck instead of a set-neck. I just feel better with a solid mechanical connection at this point, rather than relying on glue in a less-than-optimal neck pocket.

    With that decided, it was time to shape the back of the neck. First I glued on a small block of leftover neck wood to use as a transition block:


    I used a combination of belt sander, palm sander, and Shinto rasp, and carefully and gradually profiled the back of the neck. I shaped it asymmetrically, with the bass side of the neck thicker than the treble side, just like my Tobias - I love the feel! I also carved a small headstock volute, and shaped the transition block:


    I then notched out the pickguard to match the neck pocket, first with a jigsaw, then carefully trimming to fit with the rasp and sander. Then it was time for neck bolts. I marked the bolt positions on the back of the body, drilled a pilot hole, drilled for the ferrule with a Forstner bit, and clamped the neck in the pocket. Then I put a screw through each hole to mark on the neck where to drill for the inserts. Installed four 8/32 inserts (Rockler part number 33209) and bolted the neck on.

    So here's where we are now:


    It's exciting to have the neck bolted on - I can actually hold it like an instrument now, instead of just pieces of wood!

    Here's how the transition block came out:


    Nice and smooth, like a set-neck would be. Yeah, you can see the glue line, but that's okay. I have more sanding to do anyway.

    Next up: Side dots, headstock final shaping, tuner hole drilling. And I really need to find a better place to snap photos...
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  19. trayner1


    Jul 1, 2010
    La Jolla,CA
    Umm...sub'd. This is sparking my curiosity.
  20. I might be stealing that pickguard idea in the future as well..