Ash and Acrylic Bass Guitar Body Build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by gmjhowe, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. After a rather successful project fixing up, repairing and repainting an old precision bass, I decided to move onto a slightly more sophisticated project.

    A friend of mine picked up this lovely slab of Ash a while back, when I mentioned I was thinking of making a bass guitar body he offered some of it for me to use.

    As Ash trees are in severe decline due to disease, I figured it would be a great wood to have a play with while it was still reasonably cheap.

    First up, here is the design

    Next, after printing off the design to scale, I cut out the inside, this means I can use the offcuts from the print out to layout the pieces inversely, meaning I can see exactly what grain I am going to get.

    Here is the progress so far, I have roughly cut out the shapes using a bandsaw, here you can see where the layer of acrylic will sit as an insert clean through the body (but cut and sanded to match up)

    Here is a bit of the wood sanded up to show off the grain. Its got some really nice figuring. I managed to accidentally cut clean through a really nice bit of grain. Really excited by the grain along the edges, its going to look awesome.

    Finally, I found these nice tarnished copper/brass audio plugs, I would love for all the hardware to have this same finish, does anyone have an suggestions for brands or shops that might stock such stuff?
  2. ArtGuy9516


    Apr 10, 2012
    Richmond, VA
    If you can't find what you are looking for you could always get brass hardware and learn how to formulate a solution that you could apply to said hardware to obtain the desired level of patina
  3. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I have no idea where to find hardware like that, but if you find it be sure to post a link. You could probably find brass bridge and age it, but no clue where you can get brass tuners, control plates ect.
  4. Ok, so I have done a little research.

    I found these machine heads, they have a similar feel, but its not an exact match.

    I also found these DB machine heads, which are a much more similar colour.

    I also found these relic bridge/pick up covers. Which while they aren't copper, do match the kind of aesthetic I am after nicely.
    Also, a bridge cover would be fairly easy to relic myself using chemical attacks etc. So that would be one way to get around the issue of finding a bridge that works.

    What do you guys think? I think if I settle on the worn silver hardware I am going to have a much easier time finding stuff to relic myself, or already relic'ed for not a expensive amount.
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Those DB's are really cool looking, but how will they work on a non scroll headstock
  6. Update. I spent some time sanding down and shaping the body.

    Also the first time I had a go at planing the surfaces with a hand planer. Which actually worked really nicely.

    Here you can see the progress so far, the figuring on this piece of ash is beautiful.


    Here is a close up of the furniture bolts I am using to fix the two halves together. 'Why?' might you ask? I am going to have the cavity accessible from the join between the two pieces, to give it a nice seamless finish. These fixings are probably way over the top, but I figured I would want a nice solid bond between the two pieces. The 6mm ply is a spacer for the 6mm acrylic.


    Then a few more shots showing off the figuring in the wood.
  7. marko138


    May 24, 2013
    Perry County PA
    Cool stuff. Can't wait to see the finished product.
  8. BeeTL

    BeeTL Commercial User

    Sep 26, 2006
    Oldsmar, FL
    Brad Lowe, Lowe Custom Guitars
  9. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Inactive

    Jan 20, 2011
    body somewhat looks like usa.
  10. Thanks for those suggestions, very helpful. I hadn't thought of contacting a company to see if they could plate them either.

    I tried a google search for this, but found a lot of different basses, any chance you could share a photo of the one you were thinking of?
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    I think he was saying it looks like the map of the USA
  12. So, I spent my last session working on this fixing up a small mistake a made, mainly with my fixings getting stuck and holes not being deep enough.

    Essentially I had to drill a small hole through from the other side to push out the fixing. Should be easy to fill and won't be visible.

    Otherwise I have decided to give this bass a musicman style pickup and pick guard design. While doing that I made a mock up with the grain visible, so I could see exactly what was going to show once the bridge etc are on.

  13. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    Will there be a gap in the guard for the LED to shine through? or will it just be transparent.
  14. Yesterday I did one of the most complicated parts of the project.

    One of the bolts that will hold the two halves together is going to be sunken and hidden behind the output jack.

    This involved drilling a 120mm deep hold clean into the edge of the body.

    I am starting to enjoy this seamless finish I am creating. I am starting to think if its possible to mount the pick ups hidden in the body at all?
    I imagine the strings will be too far away.


    Also, here is the latest plan, including a spartan pick guard, kind of inspired by the iOS game 'World of Goo'.
    You can see how the bolts fit the two pieces together, including the sunken section.
    You will actually be able to unbolt it by putting the allen key in through the output jack.

  15. Ok, I think I am going to need a bit of advice on the artistic direction for this bass. Below are a few of my favourite ideas for the bass so far. Because the wood is so nice, I wanted a fairly minimal pick guard. Ideally, the pick guard's main function is a thumb rest, and to cover the pick up cavity, there are also a couple of small holes for the fixings that hold the bass together.

    I have three designs, a modification of the 'goo' theme. A more reserved radioactive theme (the acrylic strip is going to be lit up remember). Then finally an idea to go entirely without a standard pick up, to drill out a series of long chambers into the body and adding in a series of peizo pick ups instead.

    Thoughts and new ideas much appreciated.

  16. I've been researching brass hardware myself lately and I just wanted to let you know that Schaller makes their whole line in that vintage copper finish. Tuners, bridge, control knobs, straplocks, pickup rings and covers. Not exactly what we are looking for, but it would work, especially if you want everything to match.

    I've come to the conclusion that what I want is not available commercially and that I will either have to machine my own parts, have them made, or have commercial parts de-chromed.

    Cool concept. I vote for radioactive, use a sick green LED and hack up the body a little more to make it look like it's disintegrating. You could then pickle standard hardware to make it look corroded...
  17. Interspace Station

    Interspace Station Director at THE SPACEPORT Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    New York
    Radioactive immediately made the most sense when I read it! Nice shape too, great contrast against the body curves.
  18. TheJoshinator


    Sep 23, 2012
    In my very humble opinion, I like the goo-inspired PG the best from an aesthetic perspective - it seems to mesh better with the curvaceous body to my eyes. I like the concept of a radioactive-themed guard, but that particular one is just too rectilinear for my taste. That may be just me, though. Oh, and I would also cast a vote toward a set of piezos, because of the clean look that doesn't distract from the lit-up stripe.
  19. So, my plan is, get the neck pocket done first. Then I can bolt the neck on and get a feel for the weight of the bass.

    If it feels too heavy, then I can go ahead and drill out some of the weight. Regardless of my final choice.

    That does mean I can wire up some peizo pick ups, give that a go. If I don't like it, it is easy enough to put the Music Man style pick up in instead.

    I am working on an idea to 'hide' the pots inside, then have dials/wheels inline with the acrylic to adjust.

    I think giving it as few external marks as possible is gonna produce a really nice finished item.
  20. Thanks to everyone for the support so far.

    I bought this neck off ebay for £26 from a lovely pensioner (who it turns out builds and restores guitars etc).

    Its a really nice maple neck, it has some nice flaming on the head, as well as general flaming(?) along the neck.

    The fingerboard itself has some really nice figuring too.

    The seller says he thinks it is Japanese or Korean in origin, but it arrived to him with no markings. It feels pretty hefty. Truss rod is working great.

    The head is slightly bigger than the usual size, and the width at the nut is fairly large at 44mm. I may try and squeeze a high C string in. Anyone know what width a 5 string with a high C normally is?

    If I make it a 5 string, I will likely leave the head as is, with the 5th tuner. However if not I will likely shrink it down to a musician style layout. I never understood the reason for the standard larger fender style heads, just seems like unwanted weight.

    Opinions on reshaping the headstock welcome.