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Am I on the right track with these woods?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Frank Martin, Apr 12, 2005.

  1. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Hi everyone!

    So after long contemplating, I've decided to build my next bass! :cool:
    As I'll probably be gigging more, I'll need a back-up bass, and I only have one 6-string now, the Corvette. As a lefty, I can't get many basses around here and even less that can fix the one thing I'm not too high about of my Corvette: the weight...
    I'm a very tall and very skinny guy (194 cms/over6'4", ~66-67 kgs/~145 lbs), and though I can handle the 4,8 kg/11-pound Corvette, it gets a bit tiring... also, my back is a bit bad.

    So the aim with the next bass is: the tone of the Corvette in a lighter package. Maybe a bit more clarity in the low-mids and lows would not hurt, also, but the main thing is that slightly agressive, very punchy and growly tone, which is very responsive to playing technique.

    What I've come up so far is:
    • thick (figured ;) ) bubinga top - 3/4"
    • medium ash wings, maybe even sort of chambered/hollowed to reduce weight
    • wenge-bubinga 5-piece neck, 2 TRods, 3 graphite bars, in-between J and P shape; six-bolt

    I'll have the neck made by a luthier, but I'll do the body myself - or at least with some help ;) The shape will be similar to the Corvette (it will be very scientifically planned: I'll draw the Corvette 'round :D ), but with a longer (maybe also different shape) upper horn for better balance and a deeper cutaway and shorter lower horn for better access. Some of my drawings so far ended up looking like Jerzy Drozd's Obsession shape... :oops: :cool:

    I'm still thinking about what to use for a centerblock and a FB.
    Should I use a walnut centerblock? On Ken Smith's page, it's defined as "Articulate High end w/ clear Lows" - this should help with the clarity of the lows.
    Or mahogany?
    Or should I just forget about centerblocks? (That would make building a bit easier ;) )

    As for the FB, a nice black piece of ebony - "Smooth, Strong Low End w/ Definitive Highs", again according to KS. Or wenge? Or morado?

    Other features of the bass will be (most probably, of course):
    • Bartolini P4 dual coils with series/parallel/single switch
    • Passive preamp (just vol, bal, VTC-style treble rolloff... and maybe passive mid-rolloff)
    • ABM 3566 high-mass, solid brass bridge - black (goes well with bubinga! :cool: )
    • Tuners? Most probably Gotoh GB7 blacks, since they are much easier to get... and I prefer sealed vs open, but the Ultralites would add to the balance... still not decided on that.

    What do you think?
    What do you recommend?

  2. mrelwood


    Dec 15, 2004
    It was a bit funny to read your post since I am very much in the same situation! 194cm, getting the neck built by a luthier, making the body myself, bad back, ash body... My current bass is also close to your warwick, weight-wise.

    I don't know much about warwicks, but I'll try to share what I've learned. All opinions presented are what I personally think right now, and I'm sure they will change. I am no luthier.

    I'm going to make the whole body from ash, I just love the sound. I will make large cavities and cover the body with a ~1cm maple top. It was a good point that I was told: Forget the pickyness, make the bass as light as possible. A person with a back problem can't have a bass that's too light. And no matter what You do, it's not going to be a feather. Also, the cavities will not affect the amplified signal too much, no matter how large they are.

    I think that the bass body is not like a soup where you add a bit of saltiness, a bit sweetness... etc. I believe a body made completely from one wood is a lot easier in achieving the wanted tone. If different woods are combined, it will be like rolling a dice. I would recommend ditching the centerblock (it is going to be a bolt-on?) and make the body from big slobs of the wood you decide. Ash is funky. :p

    A neck made from wenge-bubinga should help bringing out the Warwick growl. Ebony is bright, but perhaps a bit sophisticated on a bass. I went for maple, but pao-ferro or wenge could be marvellous for the growl. I want more snap and attack, less low-mid growl.

    It could be a good idea to ask a luthier to make the neck pocket to the body blank. After that, the body shape is very forgiving and You can get artistic without spoiling the instrument... ;)

    Gotoh now makes a "Res-O-Lite" tuner that weighs less than Hipshot Ultra-Lites. It is otherwise similiar to GB7. I ordered a 3+2 set already.

    Passive preamp? Do You mean the controls are before the preamp?

    Oh, one thing. Passive mid roll-off is not that easy to make. If You can reach Bill Lawrence (they haven't replied any of my e-mails), they have a "Q-Tronic" that might go in the right direction. Costs about $20. It is a combination of a coil, caps and resistors. But if You have a series/parallel/single switches for the pickups, that would do the trick.

    If You didn't know yet, a balance pot kills a lot of the sound in the center position. If You had a two volume system, it would be like having the both at about 8 or 9. I like a master volume and a linear push-pull pot that regularly works as a neck pup roll-off, and is a bridge pup roll-off when pulled. (The pup not controlled is full on.) Both-on position is a lot clearer this way.

  3. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Thanks for sharing!

    I'll rather stick to lots of bubinga and ash because I really like the tone from the Corvette, which has a solid bubinga body. Also, I've heard some who had this combination and it worked with wonderful results.

    As for FB, I like the look of black ebony. Bubinga has some strong highs in the lower kHz region, but it is not that bright; however, the ash can change the things a bit, so then it really might be a bit too bright.

    The neck pocket will be made when I already have the neck on hand. Also, the body woods will be drying till then.

    Tuning keys are not really easy to come by over here. I'll be happy if I find 3 left and 3 right GB7s in black. :rollno:

    The electronics are passive, like in Fenders. No active preamps onboard... yet. I'll leave the space (and even put in a battery box) for a preamp like the OBP3 for later on. There's a calculator somewhere where you can get the resistor and cap values for the desired freq.

    I don't really like vol-vol. Balance is better for quick changes.

    Anyway, thanks, and good luck to you, too! ;)

    Keep it coming, guys, I know this is a popular topic :D
  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU


  5. mrelwood


    Dec 15, 2004
    If You use the spieces from Corvette, You shouldn't end up too far, so go ahead! Just make it light, I have sympathy for Your back!

    With my current bass I feel like the the Ebony treble is in a range that doesn't get heard thru a regular bass amp, so my bass can sound quite muddy. Could be better with other pickups though.

    Where do You live?

    Ok, so no preamp. What I meant with the push-pull pot, is that the pot replaces the balance pot, and you still have the master vol. It's like having the other half of balance pot activated when you lift the pot. You also get a lot more precise taper, so it's easier to do micro adjustments.

    Please enlighten us!! Where? There are so many variables, I hope you're not talking about some passive speaker crossover frequency calculator, it doesn't help in this situation. The frequency will be way different when you have both pickups, etc.

  6. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Thanks again!

    Yeah, making it light was the only reason I decided to use a chambered ash back ;)


    See Location. ;) It's hard to get stuff here. There are not too many shops, and even fewer carry parts. For example, I'll be getting the bridge from Musik-produktiv in Austria.

    I'll try to find that page again. I think the ones for Fender-style basses would work also, wouldn't they? Anyway, I use the vol and bal pots much-much more than the eq, be it on my active, or passive bass. I prefer to use my fingers and hand for tone.

    I have to go now, sorry. I have an exam shortly... :spit:
  7. mrelwood


    Dec 15, 2004
    Blimey, I'm blind... :smug:

    If You're ordering from MusikProduktiv.de, I think they will also be offering the new Res-O-Lite shortly. They do cost over twice the GB7's, but I believe it is worth it.

    Umm, I have never seen a bass with a passive mid-cut, so I think You mean a passive tone control, which is only cuts frequencies above a certain frequency point. The frequency point will be doubled when both pickups are on, compared to a single pickup. So if the tone would affect from 1KHz and up with a single pickup, both pickups on it would affect at 2KHz and up.

    Me too! My bass is a modern hifi-bass with active pickups, but no preamp. Controls are vol, bal, tone. A BIG and LOUD sound would be achieved by a switch that would connect the pickups in series. Could be good for some stuff.

  8. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Thanks again, Aki! You seem to be the only one who cares... and I thought this topic would be interesting for the regular TB crowd... :eyebrow:

    Since my aunt lives in Vienna, I think I'll visit Musik Produktiv myself. :) She gets me my favourite strings (DR LR 6) which are not available here (actually, DR strings are available, but the shop didn't want to order it for me :rollno: :mad: ), and she already said a few time if I wanted to go to the shop myself, she can take me there. How sweet of her :)

    Villex does a passive mid-cut. As for the shelving high's freq. point, that's also why I prefer bal. vs vol-vol. Though I'll calculate things later on. First I have to get hold of the wood, which proved to be much harder than I though. Also, if I happen to find a good deal on a used OBP-3, then that may be what I'll go for ;)

    I'd be still interested in the opinion of others who have something similar whether this centerblock is worth the trouble. And also, which wood to use for the FB.
  9. mrelwood


    Dec 15, 2004
    I think I'm the only one here with nothing else to do... :smug:

    ... inside the pickup. It is a part of the Villex pickup structure, and it doesn't work with anything else.

    I just found that Torresengineering has a passive mid-cut AND boost for $14! I've tried to do that on a electronic simulator program, and I've got something I will try. The mid-boost will cut some treble, but I think it could be cool, kind of a "vintageizer"... ;)

    These don't have anything to do with eachother. The frequency changes when you add pickups no matter how the volumes and balance are connected.

    I think Wenge or Moraldo (same as Pao Ferro, right?) Would bring more growl than Ebony.

  10. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU

    :meh: It shows that I haven't learned Physics in the last few years, doesn't it? :smug:
    At least my Dad is an electro-engineer and knows this stuff

    Yep, Morado = Pau Ferro = Iron wood, but I think morado sounds cooler :smug:
    Bubinga and a wenge neck will get a load of growl, but I'm looking to add a bit more clarity. Also I soon will be playing and recording with a funk band with lots of slap&pop requested. But if ebony's brightness is out of the range, then I'll go with something else. If morado's tone is in-between wenge's growl and ebony's clarity/bightness, then that should be the ticket.
  11. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU


    So the questions, still:

    Centerblock - with the purpose of adding clarity to the lows
    • Walnut
    • Mahogany
    • Other - suggest
    • None, just forget about it

    Fingerboard - for definition, punch and clarity; if possible, dark wood
    • Ebony
    • Morado/Pau Ferro
    • Wenge
    • Other - please suggest
  12. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    I'm pretty sure Iron Wood is Lignum Vitae, a *VERY* heavy, dense hardwood, not the same as Pau Ferro, which is real nice stuff, BTW.

    That's gonna add weight, which I thought you didn't want.
  13. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    I thought Pau Ferro translated means Iron Wood... sorry for the mix-up

    As for the bubinga, I'm not looking for the lightest-weight bass ever built, but trying to still get the tone from bubinga but with a little less weight.

    Bubinga is 4,8 lbs per bd. ft., ash is 3 - 37,5% less. If the back half is ash, then it will reduce the weight by 1/2 * (1 - 3/4,8) = 18,75%.
    By chambering the body (like making a bigger electronics cavity, adding a cavity for the battery box and making a chamber in the upper part of the body), there will be a reduction of probably 5-10%.
    So then this adds up to 25-30% less body-weight then now. The neck will probably be heavier, though, because of the denser wenge and an extra truss-rod - but it will have a thinner neck, lighter neck-reinforcement bars (graphite instead of steel), smaller and lighter frets. If I can get lighter tuners, then there's another few gramms.

    All that with a longer upper horn for better balance will be great... I hope! ;)

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