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Black Limba 33 inch scale 5 string bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Drake Custom, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    It has been quite some time since I posted a build on TB so I thought I would do so now. I have been busy building 4 string basses for the last couple of months so I thought I would do a 5 string bass this time. I have found some very nice wood to use and I have a design that I like. I will decide on hardware and electronics as I go.

    To get started, here is the woods I was talking about. There is Black limba that I made into thicker tops. Or rather, a top and a back. I plan to use this Purpleheart for the core of the body. I know that the Purpleheart is quite heavy so I will be chambering it out a bunch. For the neck I will use Wenge with some Purpleheart peghead ears and Limba veneers. I have an older Wenge fret board that I will use for this bass. It is not from the neck blank billet so I hope it matches grain and color when finished. I usually am pretty lucky that way but we will see.
    This neck blank that you see is one that I made several weeks ago so that it will be used to the shop's climate by now. I use very dry wood but I like to make my blanks and let them settle. Sorry I don't have pictures of me making the scarf joint but I have done so in past posts if you are wanting to take a look at that. When I made this neck I wanted something to tie the core wood (Purpleheart) to the headstock in some way. I figured a splash of color would do nicely so after slicing off the peghead I then cut off the edges and laminated some of the purpleheart. This way the headstock will mimic the body.

    In these pictures you can see the color of the woods after I wiped some napatha over them.
    In the next picture you can see my last TB build which was a 4 string bass that I will use as the basic design for my 5 string bass. This is a design that I have modified over the years to the point where I feel it is just right. It balances well and is very playable. I would like to see if I can bring those attributes to my new 5 string bass.

  2. devo_stevo


    Aug 2, 2006
    Northern Utah
    Builder: Brumbaugh Guitarworks
    Awesome. I love your work. Looking forward to this one.
  3. Love your stuff too, Drake. Can't wait to see this one come together.
  4. There should be something like an auto-subscribe-on-new-drake-build-thread-option :bag:
  5. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    This is Awesome, looking forward to it!!!
  6. Can't wait to see how it turns out. Your basses consistently look outstanding.
  7. Thumpin_P


    Nov 26, 2006
    Limestone, TN
  8. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks everyone for the kind words about my builds.

    I am back today with some more progress on the Limba 5. You may remember from other builds that I am not afraid to share my techniques with anyone so in this build I will show a bit more than just the completed steps.
    I decided to use some of the limba for front and back peghead veneers to match with the body. Today I will show glueing the veneer on and routing for the truss and carbon fiber.

    As many of you know I use toothpicks to locate and hold pieces together during glue up. I can't remember where I learned this trick but it made my whole life easier since I did. I use this for glueing on headstocks and when glueing on tops to bodies. It works well for glueing stringers together when you are using lots of pieces and can't have them slipping and squeezing out of the clamps. If you have not tried it I would recommend it.
    So anyway, I first position the veneer on and clamp it into place. Then I drill some small holes in the waste area to insert my toothpicks. You can see the little light colored dots in the Purpleheart from where I used the toothpicks to mount the headstock.
    I then apply a thin layer of glue and use the toothpicks to align and guide the veneer back into place.
    Then I apply clamps starting at one end and working my way down.
    Her is what she looks like after the glue is dry and I have sanded away the extra glue. I further prepare the neck blank for the truss route and fret board by running the whold blank across my jointer to square up the veneer, peghead, and neck.

    Then I use carpet tape to stick the whole mess down onto a flat surface like my table saw. It is important that the neck is square and that the neck is nice and flat so that your routing is precise.
    I then use my edge guide to route the truss slots. I use a 3/8 carbide bit for the truss adjustment end and 1/4 inch bit for the rod length. For the carbon fiber I use a 3/16 bit for them. I like dual action truss rods and I use the carbon fiber I get from Stewmac.
    Here is the inlaid truss and carbon fiber. I make a plug to hold the truss in place and glue it in. Next time I will cover making the fret board, glueing up the FB, and shaping out the basic profile of the neck.
    Thanks for checking out my build and for the positive feedback I am getting from you all.
  9. Thanks again Drake for sharing!!!
    Keep em coming!
  10. Thumpin_P


    Nov 26, 2006
    Limestone, TN
    Still awe-struck! Thank you for the countless moments of inspiration!
  11. BTW: How has your experience been with your Ryobi router?
  12. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    Great stuff as always!

    Probably a stupid question, but is there a reason why you have the headstock facing extend into the neck shaft (rather than just having it end before the nut). I'm going to be doing it soon and imagined I would just have it end at the nut/end of slope, but I have never used a facing on any of my builds yet so I obviously wouldnt know!
  13. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    I hadn't noticed that, but now I'm wondering too. Could it be so as not to reduce the break angle of the strings by the thickness of the headstock facing?
  14. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks everyone. I do really like my Ryobi router and find it works perfect for what I am doing. I like the fact that it has a .5 inch collet and a .25 inch collet. For shaping pieces (which you will see later) it is a must to have the .5 inch collet able to take the large bits. Less vibration and chatter. The router is powerful enough to do most jobs.

    As for the reasons that I layer the peghead veneer under the FB. One I like the look of it and. 2, yes it is better for the break angle for string tension. 3, I like to think of my instruments as players. These instruments are to be played and played hard. Things wear out and need to be replaced once in a while. Nuts do some times wear down to the point that they need to come off. I have had to work on many basses that have had the peghead veneer butts up against the nut (usually on parts basses where someone has glued a paper thin veneer on) making it difficult to remove without damage to the thin veneer. Also it is harder to match a nut to the slot if it is not standard. My nut specs vary as I make them out of larger stock.

    On to the build. This time I will make the fret board and glue it onto the neck blank. The truss and carbon fiber is inlaid and ready to go.

    Here is my fret board making jig. it is the Stewmac model and seems to work well. Their saw is Ok but I an going to look for a better one. Anyway, I made this small table bracket so that I can mount it into my vise. My shop is small so I go for the modular thing. I use good quality carpet tape to stick the FB onto the template.

    The metal template under the FB is the Stewmac 34-35 inch scale bass template that works with the miter box. Since I am making a 33 inch scale bass the first fret becomes the nut cut off and I have to cut an extra slot to make 24 frets. I use the clamps to secure the template and fret board flush up against the wall of the miter box so that the slots are 90 degrees from the edge of the fret board. I cut my board so that is square and flat before doing any of this.

    With the FB completed I can move on to prep work for glueing it onto the neck. I use a sharp chisel to remove the part of the plug that sticks up above the glueing surface. I use a ruler to make sure everything is flat.
    I then mark the center line down the top of the neck at the nut and heel area. I make sure that from the heel end I can see the line wrap over the edge. Using my homemade neck profile template, (which consists of a piece of plexiglass cut with the neck profile and with a line scribed down the center) I line it up with the center line and pencil my profile shape. This is to see where the neck shape will be so I don't spread glue in areas I don't need to. I also mark the center of the FB at the nut end and mark a center line for the last 3 inches on the underside of the heel end (this is because I use an over hanging FB and have to look up from below to see the center line to match up to the line on the center of the neck heel). Once that is done I center the FB onto the neck using the center lines and marks to make sure that the FB is on straight. I then clamp the FB into place and use my template to trace the shape on top of the FB. Using my drill and famous toothpicks (pat pending), I make guides for the FB to go on right. I use the pencil lines to see where the neck profile will be and drill in the waste area that will be cut off when shaping the neck profile. I then can apply glue and use the toothpicks to guide the FB into place.
    Next I use about 1001 clamps to squeeze the whole mess together.

    When it is all dry I can saw out the basic profile. I just rough it out and will true it up later. Since Wenge is darker I have a hard time seeing the lines so I attach my template back on the FB so that I have a guide. Again, I am just roughing it out so I do not want or need to get to close to my precious template.
    Here is a closer look. See....plenty of room between the saw and template.
    One side down one to go.
    Here is a shot of how the FB and neck look after the saw.
    For my next trick I will use this .75 inch bearing bit chucked into my router to shape out the actual neck profile.
    I keep the template on the neck and stick it down to a piece of scrap wood to keep my bit off of my table saw. Made a mistake once and got to see fireworks and sparks galore.
    I just run the router down each side trimming away the excess wood. Be careful of the nut and heel area where you can go too far off and give yourself a funky looking headstock. My template has little ears at the end that I can feel with the router and stop in time.
    And here she is all sleek and sexy and ready for radiusing.

    Sorry for the longer post but I wanted to get some process details for everyone to check out. I know my techniques are pretty low-tech but they work for me and they can work for you as well.

    Please check back soon for more progress shots.
  15. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    Got it, thanks!
  16. CH Design

    CH Design Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2007
    Ottawa, ON
    I love that plug! When I built my first two necks I used painters tape under the fingerboard to keep glue out of the truss rod. I wasn't sure what to do over the adjustment nut, so I just ran the tape over it too. It worked, but you can just see the end of the tape right over the nut. I like your method much better! Thanks for posting it.
  17. Awesome stuff ....
  18. So grateful for your sharing. Keep it coming and never ever apologize for a long post!
  19. RobertUI

    RobertUI Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    Wow, this is stellar.
  20. Great looking stuff! I'm gonna watch this one come together and drool a little.

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