Black limba P-bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jeff Siddall, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. I have built a kit guitar and a customized kit bass in the past but this is the first time I am building my own body from scratch. I have always loved black limba, and never owned a P-bass, so decided that would be a good combination. My goal is to end up with something at least as good as a Fender American. Unfortunately I only have a few standard woodworking tools (table saw, jig saw, drill press, belt sander and router) so I am going to need to be creative.

    Here is the board I started off with:
    Edit: for some reason TB keeps dropping this attachment, but the next post has a picture of the cut board so you get the idea.

    8/4 10"x7' piece I found at my local hardwood store. I liked the black half and decided I would find something to do with the white half eventually. There was enough length to make two bodies so I decided to do that. Having never built a body before I figured I could make one the practice piece and hopefully keep all my screw-ups on that one.

    Because the black/white transition is not parallel to the board edges, and there is actually more white than black at one end, one of the bodies will have a white stripe up the middle

    For the neck I found a nice 3A flame maple piece with carbon fiber rods, stainless frets and MOP dots from a small shop in upstate NY. The fretboard is... purpleheart. Might not have been my first choice but I think it will be interesting. I like the dark look of limba and will go with cosmo black hardware, a black aluminum pickguard, and will black lacquer the headstock. Pickup is Fender 62 original.

    Next step is cutting the board up. I don't have a planer or jointer so will take the board to a friend's place for that.

    TLDR: See this post for pictures of the finished bass
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020
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  2. Boards cut. Here are the upper boards from the two bodies with the neck overlayed:
  3. Gotoh hardware:
  4. Headstock after 4 coats black lacquer and 5 coats of clear. Will get wet sanded and another 2-3 coats of clear after the vinyl logo to partially bury it, then another wet sand and buff. The logo will be black but I am going to try sanding the top surface of it so rather than a different color it will be a different sheen. Never done that before so will see how it works out.

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  5. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    That neck looks an awful lot like a Warmoth neck.

    Good luck with your build!
  6. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    Intriguing. What is it about limba?
  7. Agreed, and thanks!

    I like that it's dark, and that there is a lot of streaking in the grain.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
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  8. I planed and jointed the boards, and glued them up, but was not happy with the tightness of the joint:

    I definitely could have done better. First, I jointed the boards all facing the same way, instead of jointing one piece with the top facing the fence and the other with the bottom on the fence. That meant the angle of the joint was not a perfect 90 degrees. Even then, this was a very small jointer and having the table smaller than the board will never result in a perfect surface.

    I tried to fix this a few ways. One recommendation I found was to cut down the glue joint on a table saw and re-glue. I did this a few times and it did fix the angle problem but the resulting joint still wasn't perfect. For some reason this resulted in a decent joint in the middle but gaps at the end. It was also somewhat variable and I could never get it perfect. I suspect the boards were slightly warped and as the boards moved through the saw they could rock somewhat.

    I then tried to fix it with a sanding block and shooting board but that inevitably resulted in the joint face being slightly convex -- meaning there was always a gap at the top or bottom surface. If I had a big hand plane I could have used that, but I wasn't about to go out and spend several hundred dollars on one.

    Instead I built a jointing jig for the table saw:

    This gave me a results that varied from good to unbelievably good. There was still some gap at the end of the boards, which I don't have a good explanation for, but I plan to cut those off anyway.

    Take this joint for example. It was so good I had a hard time finding it to use as the center line when aligning the routing templates: joint_with_arrow.jpg

    The joint is at the very tip of the arrow. There is a distinct line to the right of the joint that looks like it could be the joint but is actually just a natural grain line.

    Also, I have never tried a scraper before but decided to pick one up and give it a go on this project. Works quite well:
  9. Wet sanded the lacquer and started cleaning up the transition between lacquer and maple. I decided to leave a small maple "pinstripe" between the lacquer and the purple heart. I still need to tweak that transition a bit as even a few thousandths of an inch of variance in the width of that stripe make it look crooked:

    I don't think I stated it earlier, but my plan for the bass is a medium sheen tung oil finish. What I hadn't considered, when I decided to lacquer the headstock, was how much work that was going to create in the finishing process. Sanding around the lacquer invariably generates some grey dust that makes it into the unfinished flame maple pores and just makes it ugly. To prevent this I had to sand the perimeter of the headstock on a shooting board by using sandpaper wrapped around a piece of large diameter dowel, but sanding only from the fingerboard (thick) side towards the end of the headstock (thin side) to avoid getting any dust on the maple. After each stroke I had to clean all the lacquer dust off everything, including the paper, before repeating. Aieee. I can see now why you never see a lacquer and oiled wood next to each other!

    Anyway, I got it done and put on the first coat of tung oil sealer. Gotta say, that flame neck is something else. I don't think I will ever get tired of looking down at this:
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  10. Cut, weeded and applied the black vinyl headstock logo. I decided to clean the lacquer with pure isopropyl alcohol before applying the vinyl and promptly discovered that is a good way to dissolve the finish. Fortunately there is more lacquer going on so that wasn't a problem but definitely do NOT use alcohol on lacquer!

    Edit: Naptha is the right thing to clean lacquer but for whatever reason VM&P naptha is very hard to find in Canada. Hmmm.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  11. Both body blanks glued up and ready for turning into bass bodies:

    My original plan had been to use the all-black body (on the left) since the whole idea was to use black limba for this build. But the black with white stripes (on the right) is growing on me, and at this point I am undecided.

    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
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  12. 5tring


    Sep 16, 2018
    The stripes is certainly more interesting. I guess once you cut it to shape the outermost stripes will be gone? Would look cool with a light-coloured fingerboard with the central body stripe continuing the look into the body
    Jeff Siddall likes this.
  13. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    All black gets my vote.
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  14. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    All black ftw.
    100 %, Regis. :D
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  15. I-Am-The-Slime


    Jan 8, 2010
    SW VA
    I'm afraid you'll just have to build two identical basses and see what the tonal difference is between all black and striped Limba ;):roflmao:

    I would choose the striped one, nice contrast and the bookmatching will really show
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  16. Haha, thanks for the comments. Seems like public opinion is about as divided as mine. My plan is definitely to build both, at least to the point that I screw one up, or until I am ready to install the hardware. I doubt I will do the tone comparison, as much as that could be a fun thread to watch turn into a flame war.

    So far so good. I'll post up the pictures of the shaped bodies and see if that changes anyone's opinions.

    To be clear, neither of these is a true bookmatch. Rather, they are just cut strategically and then flipped to make the grain lines symmetrical.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
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  17. This will be a big post with lots of pics...

    Laser cut template for marking the perimeter and routing:

    There will be a little bit of white on the top of the body at the forearm cut so I guess I won't be able to call it "all black" after all.

    Next marked the lines:

    I tried using pencil for this but it is virtually impossible to see on the black limba so switched to sharpie. I should end up cutting/routing all the lines off later -- I hope!

    Started by hogging out the cavities with a forstner bit on the drill press:

    Then cut the perimeter with a jigsaw:

    It is tricky to do the tight curves in the bouts, and the blade tends not to want to cut perpendicular when doing that, so this will need some work on the disc and spindle sanders later:

    Speaking of which. I didn't actually have a spindle sander so I bought some attachments for the drill press and built a board for the table with a hole in it:

    Next up: routing
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  19. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    That must be one beefy jigsaw.
  20. Interesting, I have never seen one of these before but could definitely be useful. I mostly just used a disc sander on the perimeter and used the spindle sander where I had to. Turns out it is easier to get good results by hand on the spindle than I thought but this looks like it still would have been easier.

    Hah, no, just my old Craftsman from probably 20 years ago:

    Let's just say it took a while -- in fact it took so long that the tip of my trigger finger was numb for a few days after from lack of circulation. With all the noise and vibration I hadn't noticed while I was doing it, but the trigger lock would have saved some discomfort. Still, with a long blade and enough patience it worked quite well.

    Also, I don't think I have ever used the scroll capability more than I did on this project. It would have been very hard to get good results around the widest parts of the perimeter with a non-scrolling jigsaw.

    Here's a few more pictures...

    Last of two more coats of clear to flood the vinyl:

    That shot is intentionally very bright to attempt to show the logo. That black-on-black is going to be subtle for sure but hopefully in a good way.

    I have a small disc/belt sander I was using to cleanup the jigsaw cuts and discovered the hard way that it is a bad idea to set one body on the belt when you turn on the sander to use the disc on the other:

    The gouge and dent pictured is what happens when it flies across the garage and hits a tool box. Not pictured are the other dents around the perimeter where it bounced off and hit the concrete floor. This could have been a disaster but actually all of the damage will be taken off by the roundoff or tummy cut so no harm done. Whew!

    Ready for routing:
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