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A Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Big B., Jun 10, 2012.

  1. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Any of you guys that have built more than a handful of basses know what it feels like to have that body or neck sitting around that you invested time and material into but just didnt turn out the way you wanted. It sits there constantly reminding you that you arent perfect. :crying:

    Well frankly I'm not ready to believe that I'm not perfect so I decided to take drastic action. :bassist:

    The instrument in question is a neck through 7 string guitar.
    Its got a wenge body and neck, 28.5" scale and a beautiful madrone burl top.


    Unfortunately the fingerboard height to the body is off, the shape is'nt quite right, the top seam is not perfect and several other things are off to the point that it just wasnt going to work out as built so it's been sitting in my shop taunting me for 2 years until I finally got tired of it's attitude and decided to show it who's boss.


    Well, a few seconds with bandsaw took care of the attitude problem.:ninja:
    I then picked a wenge/maple/bloodwood neck blank that has been sitting around because its just to small and narrow for a 34" 4 string and established a plan.


    The bass will be a 4 string 30" scale with either a bolt on or set neck. First thing to fix is the bad glue line in the madrone top. When I first made it the glue line was fine but I left it in my car on a hot summer day and the top seam split and left a small gap. I sawed the body in half down the seam of the top using the bandsaw and then jointed the 2 sides. I also removed about a half inch of width of the body in the process. With the wenge neck and body I want this bass to be as light and streamlined as I can. Once jointed the body is glued back together.


    As you can see the body has a madrone top, a wenge/maple/bloodwood core and a wenge back. The cover plate was cut from the back before it was glued to the body.


    After a little gentle persuasion from the belt sander the body arrives at a pretty workable shape. Next time we'll add a larger roundover to the body and probably work on the neck as well.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  2. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    threads like this keep popping up here....makes me cringe to see necks being chopped off instruments....LMAO Looks like you have a killer plan Brandon, will definitely watch this one come back to life ;)
  3. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    JC, if you had heard the trash this thing was talking from the corner of the shop for the past 2 years you wouldnt feel bad at all. :smug: As a guitar it was a disaster but its going to redeem itself by being a killer little short scale.
  4. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Is it a trick of lighting and camera angle, or is that the lightest, reddest wenge ever?
  5. BassCycle


    Jan 6, 2006
    Temecula, CA
    Builder: Classic Bass Works
    I have all kinds of failed/unfinished projects, and random bass parts floating around my shop. Occasionally, some of those parts get together as a whole new project. There's definitely no reason to let that gorgeous wood go to waste. I'm looking forward to see how this one works out.
  6. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Next up the new body needs a new roundover. The orignal roundover was not big enough to show off the shape of the body so i'm going with a full 3/4 roundover.

    First pass:



    And after the final pass:


    A bit of sanding and we've got a reasonably attractive body.


    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  7. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I think it's the light it was shot in. If I remember correctly the sun was probably going down and casting an odd color.
  8. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Next up it's a little quality time with my neck blank.

    The truss slot needs to be routed before I glue the ears onto the headstock so I set the router up with a 1/4" bit and route the slot in 3 passes. A line is drawn on the fence where the cut ends and a line is drawn on the neck blank to know when to stop.



    The next step is to glue on ears to allow the headstock to be wide enough. The ears are left over from cutting the scarf joint so they fit perfectly.



    Once the ears are attached its time for the headplate veneer. I am using some madrone burl veneer on a eub so a piece of the scrap will go on the headstock. Instead of gluing and clamping it I'll use a clothes iron to attach it.


    First use a foam roller to roll an even amount of titebond II to the head and to the veneer. Let it sit 30 minutes or so till the glue is tacky but not wet. It should begin to look clear instead of milky. Place the veneer in place and turn the clothes iron high with no water or steam. The heat from the iron will flash the glue and it will stick immediately just as strong as if clamped for hours. You will probably get a small amount of burning on the surface but it doesnt go deep and sands out easily. The benefit is that if you have a bubble you missed you can come back later and repress it. It takes a little practice to get it right but it can be a very useful tool in your bag of tricks. I used this method to glue a sheet of veneer to an arched eub body and it worked great. But anyway, hear is the veneer after gluing.


    Now I can cut out the headstock shap and using a file clean away the veneer covering the truss rod access.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  9. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Next the taper is cut on the neck:


    And I can start on the fingerboard. It's a nice piece of ziricote and here it is attached to the slotting template. You can see the indexing pin in the board it sits against. That board slides in the miter slot of the tablesaw and as each slot is cut the templates slides down one position.




    The fingerboard is long enough so I slotted it to 29 frets. With a hipshot detuner it would be one note shy of the range of a six string.

    Next the fingerboard is tapered to size so the veneer markers can be added.

    IMAG0143.jpg [/IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  10. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Being the pro that you are, you probably know about the bandsaw trick for a bad centre seam if you want to lose the minimum amount of wood.

    For those who don't, you simply bandsaw along the seam and without touching the surfaces of the two pieces, glue them back together. As long as the width of the saw cut takes out the whole of the gap this can result in a join that is almost invisible.
  11. Nice work B! I've got some mouthy troll builds in the basement that could use some taming, too... this is inspiring.
  12. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    I believe my completed builds would constitute a mouthy troll for yous who knows what yous is doing.
  13. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Well I just spent an hour creating a nice post of all this stuff but my damn phone reset itself seconds before I posted it so you'll get the short version and you'll like it.

    The fingerboard is tapered so I can install my veneer position markers. Using the slotting blade and miter slide I cut a reference line in the center of each marker.



    Once the reference slots are cut its just a matter of widening the slots till the marker can slide in. The one dot frets (3,5,7 etc.) Get a simple white/black/white marker and the 12th and 24th get a more festive marker with bloodwood added in.




    Once the slots are cut the markers are glued in with CA glue and sanded flush and a piece of maple veneer is glued under the fingerboard because I can. Then Before gluing to the neck I add the cutout at the end of the fingerboard. Notice the "B" in the cutout.




    Finally the fingerboard is glued to the neck.


    IMAG0168.jpg [/IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  14. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    With the neck glued up it's time to radius the fingerboard. I like a compound radius and more and more I find myself using my jointer to make it. My jointer is an 8" Grizzly and has a Byrd spiral cutterhead. Its the most important tool in my shop. It can surface a piece of curly maple or a burl with zero tearout and I've even used it to thickness poplar veneer thats already glued to a headplate. I set it to a tiny depth of cut and work the board against it at the proper angle and create the radius as I go. Think of many small facets that widen as the neck widens. Once it's roughed out I can come back and sand the facets into one smooth radius. Notice the nut and bridge ends have distinctly different curves.



    Next the frets are set and the open ends are sealed with CA glue.


    The ends are filed clean and then beveled smooth.


    Next time the neck pocket is cut. Thanks for checking in. :bassist:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  15. troy mcclure

    troy mcclure Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Central Florida
    subscribed !!!
  16. JoeDeF


    Apr 15, 2009
    Hi Dave,

    I have never done this. However, I am assuming that you have to have your bandsaw really tuned up well, with the blade guides set rather tight for this to work well. Is this correct?

    The reason I am asking is because a bandsawn kerf can be relatively uneven due to blade deflection on a poorly tuned saw, especially where there is a change in feed rate or direction or workpiece density, which would result in occasional gaps in the joint.

    Just asking for a little clarification.

    To the OP: sorry for the hijack, back to our regularly scheduled Silk Purse (which I am enjoying).....
  17. mikebpeters


    Aug 29, 2011
    NS, Canada
    thanks for all the pics! your markers are most excellent
  18. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Thanks Mike, I created them for last year's fretless 5 competition and it's become standard since then.

    The next thing to do is route the neck pocket. The neck is layed on a piece of plywood and blocking is attached around it to create edge guides for the router. Here I drilled out a starting hole and cut the template on the router table.



    The template is attached to the body with double sided tape and the pocket is routed out in 4 passes. After the last pass you can see the wire channels meant for the guitar pickups.


    Next the square corners of the neck are rounded on the belt sander to fit the template and the neck slides in to a perfect tight fit. Aaaahhh... That feels nice. :cool:

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  19. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Here's a little sneak peek of the finished product. As you can see in the second picture I'm using 3 bolts with metal inserts in the neck. If I find a perfect angle for the neck I may glue it as well and have a bolt on/set neck. Only time will tell...



    So, it's not exactly what I would design from scratch but it's got a cool look and should be just perfect for some people. It would make a nice tenor bass tuned A D G C with a detuner on the A string. Hmmmm...
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  20. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    That is looking just fantastic.

    I usually don't like it when the neck lams at the heel assert themselves at the front of the body, but that looks great.

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