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AG09: Fretless 6s with a twist

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by mark5009, Aug 29, 2018.


  1. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    After much dicking around, rethinking, and not a touch of experimentation, I've finally "decided" on a design for a six string.

    + 35" string length (maybe going to 33"... stay tuned)
    + 80mm bridge (16mm string spacing, monorails)
    + 51mm nut (was 44mm, oops!)
    + single ceramic soapbar passive VT
    + 14" fretboard radius
    + lightweight tuners, individual string bridges (not as shown)
    + laminate body
    + laminate edges (a la M. Lairat's Stega basses)

    Materials will likely be rimu and blue gum (for body and laminates), Qld mahogany and jarrah (neck).

    The laminating thing is interesting, though a touch tricky with these woods (or is it my complete inexperience with the process? :)). First step was building the bending iron. That was cool. Then making molds, cutting laminate pieces, gluing them up, and then cleaning the results. Basically I made the bottom curve as a test piece and it came out pretty well for a first effort (pics to follow). Hooray!


    ag09-v0.6.0.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018
  2. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    Initial work on the edges meant owning a bending iron. Checked YT and decided to make one ($30 or $400? No brainer). It, after a few attempts, came out pretty well. The cartrige heater is a 400W unit and gets insanely hot. I have this thing at around 220C indicated and I am about at a 4/10, so 400W is overkill. At times more is not always better. The body is 2x4 pine, the holding parts ceramic pot stands, and the pipe itself some Al tubing I found lying around stuffed with alfoil. The controller unit I got from eBay and mounted in a jiffy box etc. It works pretty well, though I have nothing to compare it with. Its built big enough so I can play with side bending down the track.

    Here is the competed unit with my initial test molds in a half-finished state in the background...

    P1040505.JPG

    Pot holders doing their thing...

    P1040506.JPG

    A spring acts as protection for the cartrige wires

    P1040507.JPG

    and running it up for the first time (temp in deg C :) )

    P1040508.JPG

    Time to use it to create the bottom curve for the bass. Using a laminate of rimu and blue gum (floor boards and fence post repectively) to make a 300mm curve, 14mm thick, 30mm wide. I cut five laminate layers of around 3mm on the bandsaw, curved them to basic shape using the iron, then sandwiched them into the mold with copious amounts of Titebond (I was going to use hide glue but forgot), and then clamped it tightly, and left it overnight...

    01.laminate.bottom-01.jpg

    Mostly okay, though I'm going to have to work on my bending some (a few small gaps). The piece came out looking like this

    01.laminate.bottom-02.jpg

    A bit manky, and more uneven than I'd like, but I did make it oversize just in case. Off to the bandsaw, then the spindle sander, and then some light hand sanding and the technique seems to show promise...

    01.laminate.bottom-03.jpg

    This should come up nicely when oiled. Hooray! And it is really strong. I'm going to be monitoring it for movement over the next few weeks to see how the glue and all stands up but I suspect it won't move very much at all.

    Making the mold for the top piece will be interesting: It is quite a lot larger, though the curve isn't quite so tight. Still, if this piece is indicative, I may well be doing more laminations as part of future builds.
     
  3. Getaway Driver

    Getaway Driver

    May 31, 2009
    Omaha, NE
    This could end up looking really neat. I'm a fan of the shape and the long neck (who needs guitars, we can hit that octave). The electronics look like they're going to be pretty crammed in there, though. Even sticking to passive, I'd be worried about having enough meat to mount the pickups and bridge.
     
  4. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    This looks like an interesting build. I personally find a 35" fretless a bit of a hand stretch, especially considering the need to play on the lines and not the dots (as per fretted). The extra inch of scale length does little for the tone...neck rigidity has more to do with a clear low B than scale length. But your mileage may vary.
     
    BritFunk likes this.
  5. I bent the laminations on my current build with a steambox and no bending iron. It worked out great (so far).
     
  6. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    This may be a thing. The woods I'm planning on using are very tough, so I'm not too concerned about meat, but space might be an issue. I haven't got to that stage just yet.
     
  7. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    Huh. I've seen many folk mention the benefits of a 35" scale for the B but you're suggesting a well-built 34" will sound as good and make the lower portion of the neck more playable? My preference would be for a slightly shorter neck... hmmmm
     
  8. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    I've just seen that part of your build, @Jisch. That looks really neat. What gave you the idea to go down the steambox route? For me, I have have space issue that rule that approach out, but it clearly works well.
     
  9. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    The scale length does little for the low B definition, but seems to effect note sustain.
    There's quite a fashion at the moment among 6 string players for 33" short scale basses. Steve Lawson is a great example. It makes for an easier to play 6 string, especially fretless. I'm thinking of making a headless 33" scale 6 string bass myself, for my next project.
     
  10. I can't really say why I went the steam route. I guess I have always considered steam was the way to go for multiple plies, but I have no basis for that.

    I just got my body front dialed in, that took some careful sanding. I've got a couple days off so I'll get some work done on it in the next few days.
     
  11. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Is the nut really 44mm wide? I use a 45mm nut on my fives and it doesn't feel super wide... :D
     
  12. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    Cool! Thanks for the info and I'll look forward to see what you've come up with. So much fun, right? :)
     
  13. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    Okay. I can see, and hear, that. Given I am not a fretless player, and I haven't picked up a 6 string bass, I really have no skin in the game so going to 33" might be just the thing. Thanks for the info, @GMC
     
    GMC likes this.
  14. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    No! Epic fail on my cut-and-paste job! Thanks for spotting the obvious, @Beej. The correct value is 51mm. Doh!

    As an aside, I notice you are from Vic. I lived there for quite a few years and miss the place a lot. Where abouts are you located? I used to live on Wark St after giving up a place in View Royal... sigh I still remember the air. It's a magic place...

    nutspacing.6sN.png
     
    GMC and Beej like this.
  15. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I live in Fernwood near the hospital. Not a day goes by where I don't thank my lucky stars that I live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful corners of the world... :):thumbsup:
     
  16. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    I do miss the place... Oh well, we work with what life gives us. I'm so grateful to have lived there for as long as I did
     
    Beej likes this.
  17. Yeah, there are a lot of strange things in this build, really fun.
     
  18. Steaming is a traditional and quite well understood technique for bending wood for snowshoes, tennis rackets, boat making etc.
     
  19. mark5009

    mark5009

    Feb 17, 2018
    Sydney, Oz
    The bending iron is simply another approach to steam bending. I was more wondering about the choice of a steaming box as opposed to the iron or something like a Fox-style bender. Working in a small shop, my choice is more limited by storage space, so I'm using the iron, but that doesn't make it the "best" option. Hence my question
     
  20. MichaelOz

    MichaelOz Commercial User

    Sep 10, 2014
    Melbourne, Australia
    Polaris Basses by Dr. Bass
    Re scale and 6-string fretless. I built a slightly more conventional 6 last year:
    28218258369_ca26ceabfd_b.jpg
    35". LOVE the B string, so defined and growly, all the way up the neck. Really don't appreciate the C string - there is a lot of tension on it due to the longer scale which means it feels stiff and (to my ears) sounds tinny. Your mileage may vary.

    Regards,
    Michael
     
    BritFunk likes 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.

     
    Feb 28, 2021

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