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Blingray build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rubis, Jun 27, 2012.

  1. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    The idea behind this build, my first bass build, was to try to make a bass which would remind me of the beautiful fretless Wal custom I had back in the 80's, and which I really regret parting with.
    I didn't see the point of making a Wal clone when there are no aftermarket electronics available which would achieve that unique sound, so I turned my attention towards my other favourite bass the Stingray.
    There are plenty of bits and bobs available to get the Stingray sound so I decided to make a Stingray-type bass with obvious styling traits from Wal, and as Mr Wal is quoted as saying that walnut was his favourite wood for a fretless, I decided that's what I would (over)use.
    I intend (eventually) to make two necks with threaded inserts so that it can be swapped from fretless to fretted with the flick of a screwdriver, but I will be doing the fretless neck first, as that will get most use.
    As it's NOT a Stingray clone (I understand Sterling gets a bit tetchy about those sort of things!) the dimensions may not be completely authentic, and for various reasons some have been altered, so put your calipers away!
    Hopefully, when I eventually finish it, I will get a good sounding/playing/looking bass which I can be proud of.

    I have entered it in the competition on UK Guitarbuilders Forum

    I started this a little while ago but I don't get huge amounts of time to spend on it so I didn't start a diary as I thought people would probbly lose interest, the build is actually nearing completion and I took quite a few pictures so I can do some quick updates.
    As far as hardware goes it will have a Duncan SMB4a, the preamp which EmmettC on Basschat kindly sold me which I think came from his Stingray 5 when he updated it ( otherwise I would have gone for an East pre ). Tuners will be Schaller BM's and the bridge and control plate are generic ones, which to be fair are quite good quality. As you all know MM don't really sell spares so getting a genuine bridge and string tree (which has a smoother profile) is nigh on impossible and therefore expensive!
    I originally got some nickel BM's but then subsequently got some gold ones and after trying the gold ones against the walnut they actually looked much better, so gold hardware it will be...........it is a Blingray after all!
    I will be incorporating some design departures into it, not because I think the Stingray is lacking in any way but because its a personal build and I admire these features for one reason or another.
    I hope it entertains you and look forward to your views

    I began to squirrell away bits and pieces for this build some time ago and I took lots of pictures so here goes;

    One piece American black walnut body blank. This blank is slightly narrower than I would have liked, ideally, and it means that the body will turn out about 1-1.5cm narrower than a MM Stingray but I can live with that as it's so nicely figured
    1970187[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture413.
    Claro walnut top imported from Oregon Wildwood, it was so nice when it arrived I ordered another set with a consecutive cut
    1970189[/ATTACH]"]http:// 1818.
    Two figured maple neck blanks, one will be fretless and one will be fretted. They will be 5 piece laminates and will have walnut stringers.
    1970191[/ATTACH]"] Picture449.
    Two Maccassar Ebony fingerboards from Andy at Prime Timbers, lovely, as always
    1970193[/ATTACH]"] Picture412.

    Attached Files:

  2. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    I'm really looking forward to this!
    One piece walnut body. Damn..
  3. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    I work at a school and so I have access to some machinery which makes these projects much easier.
    While the body was going pear-shaped I got the two neck blanks cut for laminating. They will be in the Wal style, 5 piece with, in this case, walnut (what else?) stringers. If I remember rightly Wals have Hornbeam stringers.
    The necks will have carbon rods for added stiffness
    1970617[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture461.
    1970619[/ATTACH]"] Picture464.
    The headstock was thicknessed and then I used some offcuts from the facings to make headstock veneers, it was laborious sanding them down, I'm sure there's an easy time saving way but I've always done things the hard way.....it's good for the soul!
    1970621[/ATTACH]"] Picture466.
    1970623[/ATTACH]"] Picture469.
    Once the headstock veneers were the right thickness I microwaved them and stuck them to the headstock, this was tricky as they were only just big enough to cover the outline of the headstock shape. As well as using loads of clamps and offcuts from other necks to keep it in place and flat, I pinched one of those tubular metal stuntpegs from my daughters bike which was just the right radius to press the veneer into the headstock radius, sorry Ruby, but I just might have saved you from injury!
    1970625[/ATTACH]"] Picture470.
    Next step was the fingerboard, I've had both lined and unlined fretless basses in the past and while lined ones are undoutedly (for me at least) more convenient and easier to get up to speed on, I do much prefer the uncluttered elegance of an unlined board. My ex-Wal had a gorgeous black ebony unlined fretboard with just the mother of pearl side dots.
    However that was nearly 30 years ago when I had unlimited time to practice at it, now things are different so a compromise was in order and I decided I would have a go at doing quarter lines.
    Given the choice of body woods I thought Maccassar Ebony would look better than black and couldn't resist the two I got from Prime Timbers......well named as we all know!
    I cut up some offcuts of veneer from a previous Tele build and made cuts into the fingerboard, marking these out was a headache to say the least and I still don't know if they will end directly under the E string.
    1970627[/ATTACH]"] Picture465.
    1970629[/ATTACH]"] Picture474.
    The fingerboard was then glued on and the next step was to glue on a second veneer on the rear of the headstock
    1970631[/ATTACH]"] Picture516.
    1970633[/ATTACH]"] Picture517.

    Attached Files:

  4. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    Next job was to to get the facings on the body and stabilise everything. I did the back first so that I could get the control cavity sorted out. The facings had warped slightly as well as the body, maybe it was the damp Devon climate and/or my not storing them properly (more likely) but I gave them a quick wetting down and stored them for a few days pressed between weights while I put a cherry wood veneer on to give it more of that Wal look, like this
    1971369[/ATTACH]"]http:// WalBass3.
    I jointed the facings on a homemade shooting board using a plane but I have always had mixed results with this method, due to my poor technique I'm sure, so in this instance I finished it off with my trusty sanding stick
    1971371[/ATTACH]"] Picture513.
    Then I glued it up using the method described in Melvyn Hiscox's book (how many people got the bug from reading that?) where you place them on a large board with a spacer under the joint then put panel pins along the outside edges and remove the spacer. Just for good measure I put some weights along the joint to press it flat. I'm sure it would be a lot easier and quicker with the appropriate clamps but I don't have any and part of the satisfaction is from finding ways of getting by without.
    1971373[/ATTACH]"] Picture514.
    The next job was to cut out part of the back facing which will eventually form part of the control cover. this will be glued to the piece I cut off the body blank along with some of the cherry wood veneer. So, using my body template, I routed the back down to make a walnut veneer. I would like to say I have nerves of steel and I am an Olympic standard router-er but I would be telling lies! Any way, when I stopped routing and checked the depth I realised that what I had left was about 1.5mm thick.....never one to push my luck, I couldn't unplug the router quick enough,!
    1971375[/ATTACH]"] Picture476.
    1971377[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture475.
    All that was left was to carefully cut the veneer away form the facing with a craft knife
    1971379[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture477.
    and breathe a huge sigh of relief
    1971381[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture478.
    1971383[/ATTACH]"] Picture479.
    Once stuck together and cleaned up I was very pleased with the end result, the idea being that the grain on the cover plate is a perfect match for the facing and the cover plate looks like the rest of the base with the two walnut woods and the veneer between. I did a little battery compartment and finished shaping the cavity before I plut the front facing on so that I could get a cleaner finish inside.
    The cover will be held on with those little neo magnets (which the kids love) and I made a little finger recess to prise it off
    1971385[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture536.
    1971387[/ATTACH]"] Picture534-1.

    Attached Files:

  5. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I 'wood' not have believed it if I hadn't seen it....

    This looks like something special in the making.... subbed!:D
  6. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Outstanding work so far, rubis. Great wood selection, particularly that Claro walnut! Nice work with the control cavity cover. That's a brilliant technique!
  7. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    The next job was to gllue on the front veneer and topset, same method as before, nothing new learned there.
    Then came one of the more enjoyable parts of the build, doing the contours. The edges were given a slight roundover with the router and will be finished off later by hand, I feel safer that way!
    Then I made the most of a rare sunny day and went out into the garden, clamped it to a workbench and went at at with rasps, files and 80 grit.
    1972289[/ATTACH]"] Picture515.
    My original idea was to emulate the Wal contours as it was an extremely comfortable bass for my shape, slightly rounded on the forearm part and quite sharp and deep on the back. However this just didn't look right so I altered it for a more generic look. Its still a comfortable shape.
    1972291[/ATTACH]"] WalBass5.
    1972293[/ATTACH]"] WalBass3.
    I didn't do the little cutaway for your leg when you are playing seated, I don't recall whether it made any difference to be honest. I suppose I could add it on, what do you think?

    Attached Files:

  8. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    Then I trued up the neck and began shaping the back of the neck, again using files, rasps and sanding blocks, nothing revalationary there,but a long winded process as you know.
    1973806[/ATTACH]"] Picture519.
    I did the side position dots and the nut slot then the radius on the fingerboard, the usual method of chalking, then sanding it off and regularly checking to make sure I wasn't going too heavy on one side or at one end
    1973808[/ATTACH]"] Picture518.
    Then came the neck pocket. I've seen and tried several methods with various levels of success, this is a distillation of the easiest parts (for me anyway)
    As this is a one off I didn't make a neck pocket template, instead I clamped two straight boards to the edges of the neck and trued it up with one of those laser levels you can get from diy shops, lining up along the seam of the top set and with an allen key which I stuck into a little hole drilled on the centrepoint inside the nut slot.
    1973810[/ATTACH]"] Picture525.
    Then I marked along the inside edges of the boards and removed the neck.
    I then clamped, rather than use carpet tape ( which has gone pear-shaped for me in the past) the boards back onto the body, lining up against the pencil lines and put in a stopper for the end of the neck pocket, before routing away.
    1973812[/ATTACH]"] Picture526.
    1973814[/ATTACH]"] Picture521.
    Back to work on the neck, more rasping, filing and sanding its pretty much where I want it now, a nice thick profile as I've got quite big hands and they cramp up on skinny necks.
    1973816[/ATTACH]"] Picture544.
    1973818[/ATTACH]"] Picture545.
    The only bit of this I found laborious was the bit where the fingerboard slopes down onto the top of the headstock, that seemed to take ages to get smooth
    1973820[/ATTACH]"] Picture.

    Attached Files:

  9. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    I did some more work on the body, making the contours a bit more Wal-like and adding the little leg contour for seated playing, I was in two minds about that but I'm glad I was talked into it, if nothing else it makes the waist look a bit more pinched in and curvy. I did the neck mounting holes and fiddled about a bit with the control cavity to get the pre-amp to fit in.
    1974670[/ATTACH]"] Picture538.
    I was fortunate enough to get an original MM pre-amp from EmmettC on Basschat and it came on the scratchplate from an SR5 and with the switch wired in, now the pick-up I have does not have the dummy coil, so am I right in thinking that I could still use the switch to get the series/parallel options but that the single coil position will not be noise cancelling?
    The pickup wires look the same as others on the Duncan website and I'm not sure it would get much use in single coil mode anyway
    1974672[/ATTACH]"] Picture510.
    I used the SR5 scratchlate to mark the pickup position relative to the neck pocket and routed that out then used a Dremel style doobry to do the switch slot. I still need to do the output socket hole but I had to do some modifying. I'm using one of those Telecaster style Switchcraft sockets because I think they look a bit more elegant than the square side mounted Stingray ones, but I had to re-tap the threads to fit the output socket on the pre-amp.
    1974674[/ATTACH]"] Picture543.
    1974676[/ATTACH]"] Picture542.
    One curious thing I noticed about the pickup I'm, using, it's a second hand Duncan SMB4a, is the tarnishing on it which you can see on this picture
    1974678[/ATTACH]"] Picture541.
    Now, the plastic cover I think will clean up with car dashbord cleaner of failing that acetone ( I don't mind if the Basslines logo comes off completely as it's already started to) but the E-string pole pieces have some odd burn-like marks on them.
    Any ideas what might have caused that?
    Or how to get rid of them?
    I've tried acetone and then thinners and neither did the trick.

    Attached Files:

  10. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    I've got to the point now where it's time to apply the finish. I'm using this range of stuff made by Trade Secrets Stock Care
    1977331[/ATTACH]"]http:// Picture548.
    It's similar stuff to Tru Oil and I've used it on necks before and liked the feel of it, as this bass is mostly walnut and this stuff is made for gunstocks, which I'm told are mostly walnut I should think it would be the ideal finish. It's too wet to spray lacquer here anyway and showing no signs of drying up.
    The first step is to apply the grain sealer, which looks like chocolate milkshake. You apply two quick coats then leave it for an hour before sanding it off using 400 wet and dry lubricated with the Alkanet oil. This stuff is a pale sort of reddish colour and is described as a gain enhancer.
    This is the grain sealer going on
    1977333[/ATTACH]"] Picture546.
    As walnut is such an open pored wood it took a few coats of grain sealer to get it looking smooth.
    This next step shows the Alkanet oil going on, it does pop the grain and deepen the colour somewhat. I did a couple of applications of this and stopped there because it was also deepening the colour of the veneer a bit
    1977335[/ATTACH]"] Picture549.
    Then the laborious task of applying the Rapid Oil. The claro walnut facings, despite being grain filled soaked the Rapid Oil up like nobody's business. I was intending to do a lot of coats on it in order to get a glossy finish, on the body and headstock at least, and it looks like I will need to!
    This is the cavity cover after 3 coats
    1977337[/ATTACH]"] Picture550.
    I have also drilled 'string through' holes in the bridge to give this option, but instead of using single string ferrules I made a brass ferrule block. This is an idea I saw on the TDPRI site and have done it on telecasters previously, I think its a neat solution as I find it easier to rout than to try to get individual ferrule holes to line up perfecly and also it allows experimentation with different materials......brass, steel or aluminium

    Attached Files:

  11. Oooooooo. I want that when its finished:)
  12. skiscem

    skiscem Supporting Member

  13. garmenteros

    garmenteros Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    Dominican Republic
    Beautiful... congrats on your work... and fast progress at that...
  14. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    Thank you for the kind words, but it hasn't been fast progress, far from it!
    I actually started collecting parts for it a bit over a year ago but I didn't start a build diary because working so sowly in my spare time I thought people would lose interest.
    It is now, however, up to date, I am into the long and drawn out phase of oiling it. The walnut top absolutely drinks up the oil finish!
  15. jpatt2


    Jul 27, 2009
    Rochester, NY
    Beautiful work! I can't wait to see how it turns out all finished up.
  16. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    the work is just brilliant..!! congratulations..

    I have a question though, When you cut out the control cavity cover, it must have been really thin right, ~1-2mm thick ? The question is when you added wood to that, did you route the added wood with a flush trim bit ?

    Im just thinking how the bearing would run on such a thin edge, and how you worked around that.
  17. It looks great! that laser thingy seems like a great way to get things lined up!
  18. rubis


    Apr 14, 2011
    Plymouth, UK
    Sorry Suraj, I didn't mean to overlook your question, after reading it I noticed that I have missed out a couple of steps which may have made it a little clearer, and also my earlier reference to the body blank going pear-shaped.
    You are right, the piece of claro walnut which was cut from the rear facing was about 1.5mm
    I glued it to a piece of the cherry veneer and then to a piece of the walnut body wood which I had previously cut from the blank
    Here are the missing steps

    The first job on the body blank was to step it down with a router leaving a raised block where the control plate will be, and then cut out this raised bit off (the hard way) to produce a plate which matches the grain.
    This will form part of the control plate later.
    Then the outline was cut out and the original control cavity shape was routed, this was later altered to accomodate the preamp and selector switch.
    The body was flat sanded and deliberately left slightly thicker than usual. The reasoning behind this is that the body blank width was slightly too narrow, which means the finished width will be 1-1.5cm undersize. I don't want the bass to be neck heavy like some other basses I've owned so I'm taking no chances, also the blank is not as heavy as I imagined it would be. Another reason is that I have other basses of various thicknesses and weights and it seems to me (I may be wrong) that the thicker ones have a bit more sustain and (dare I say it ?) body to them. Maybe it will make no difference, who knows, but it won't exactly break my back finding out!

    It was at this point that a bit of misfortune struck, my fault I admit.
    The blank was laid up for a time while I worked on the neck blanks and I didn't store it properly. The result was that the body developed a noticeable cupping.
    I did bit of research into this and then tried a mixture of leaving it for a couple of hours on a wet towel
    and then wetting it and storing it wrapped in plastic between two sheets of plywood with heavy weights on top.......seemed to do the trick, a bit more sanding and it eventually went flat enough to put the top and back on

    Once I had the control plate 'sandwich' glued up I cut it on the band saw at the school where I work and then sanded it flush with the top piece of claro on a belt sander which I have at home and which can be vertically mounted on a bench. It then had to be thicknessed so that when it goes into position it is flush with the back of the bass

    Hope that answers your question Suraj, and thanks for reading my thread
  19. suraj


    Oct 1, 2008
    Mumbai, India
    Thanks for posting all the details :) really looking forward to this build.

    Thats quite a procedure you went through for the cavity covers.. although my question was only this -

    my question here was how did you route ? with a flush trim bit with the bearing riding against the 1.5mm thick walnut shape ?

    or a template ? or some other way ?

    sorry this question may be silly..:oops:
  20. Nidan


    Oct 31, 2008
    Duluth , Ga
    Great pics and detail , gorgeous claro , I picked up some from Oregon Wildwood that's due today . Nice folks

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