1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Bliss. Claro Walnut Body, Cherry Fretboard 4 String Single Cutaway

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Deep Cat, Oct 21, 2018.

  1. When I got married a few years ago, I developed the idea of building a bass from the same timbers our wedding rings are made from. Well, more or less the same. Our rings are made from walnut with a cherry center band and a juniper heartwood inner sheath. I decided to build a bass with a Claro Walnut body, a gummy cherry fretboard, wenge neck and eastern red cedar accent bits.

    Trying to track down juniper heartwood was a bit of a thing. It seems (and I could be wrong here, it’s wood, so the names can get dodgy) that juniper is (or can be) pretty much the same as red cedar (which isn’t even really a cedar at all).

    I’m also well aware that Walnut and Claro Walnut are different species, but really, if you have the option of going Claro, over regular black walnut, jump at it, if you like lovely wood.

    The little town of Mendocino on the Northern California coast is a really lovely place to vacation or get married. Also, they have a shop that specializes in reclaimed lumber as that part of the country was (and pretty much is) all about logging. Companies cut the trees down and float them down the river to the coast and then mill them up or ship them out. Sometimes the trees would get loose and roll around in the surf on their own. It’s hard not to start making plans to try to bring one of them home. Pretty much all those trees are species used in regular guitar building.

    In said shop, I found a pretty nice board of Claro Walnut the week I got married and happily took it and my new wife home. In honor of my nuptials, I’ve named this bass “Bliss.”

    The build plan for this bass called for me to build it as quickly as I could manage. I used the build as a way to organize and accelerate my building. There aren’t a whole lot of glue joints (relative to my other builds) and I used aftermarket pickups and bridge instead of making my own from scratch. Also, I figured I’d use nice tuners, because I planned on this bass being my go to player.

    I tend to build instruments in one (or more) of three modes: 1, to play 2, to experiment in building techniques 3, to satisfy a specific creative impulse.
    I guess Bliss hits all three, but primarily my focus was on #1.

    My build order lists Bliss as being #11. Based how I build it’s not really accurate to say it was my 11th build completed. At the time I started Bliss I’d built something on the order of 20 bodies and maybe as many neck blanks, but not matching. Some of which I’ll be using in other builds, some of which are errors and might have reached the end of their road. It gets weird. I would say that when I started to build Bliss last February or so, I’d reached the point that I kind of know what I’m doing as far as building my own bass designs is concerned.

    Thank you for enduring this rather long build thread intro. I believe context is important.

    The reclaimed claro slab had some cracks and splits along the end, so I cut it to try to prevent splitting. I also flooded dark titebond into every crack I could. The pic also shows a little bit of denatured alcohol so I could try to see what I was working with. Lots of flame and compression figure.


    I cut the headstock taper on the neck, the headstock and the stinger at pretty much the same time with a jig on the table saw.


    I dropped a steel slug into the neck to anchor the truss rod on one end. I wouldn’t say it’s even close to required, but I can’t shake the idea of the truss rod slowly cutting or compressing the end of the channel over time. I used to cut the slug with a hacksaw, but a dremel with a cutting wheel is much faster.


    I glued up the headstock (wenge) and the stinger (red cedar). I used a bit of blue tape to keep the pieces from sliding around too much. I fund the tape method to be almost as effective as the toothpick method, but required me to drill fewer holes.


    I marked out the spot for the slug hole on my neck blank and drilled it on the drill press.


    I rough cut the body shape on the bandsaw (not pictured) and then final shaped the edges on the disc sander and the spindle sander. This method is so much faster and safer for me than using a router and template I can’t even say. If I was trying to rock out an industrial method to make every bass uniform, I might have other notions, but for my current building, it’s all about bandsaw, disc and spindle sanders. I can live with the slight variations it produces, and in some cases works out to be a feature, not a bug.


    I routed the roundovers at the router table.


    My method of cutting the truss rod channel features a dado cut. I made a jig from mostly flat and straight and flat scrap that holds the neck blank and uses the fence as a guide. I like double action Truss Rods from LMII because they can be installed in a single channel without having to rout or ream the access for the nut. Lmii rods are more expensive, but being able to basically rip the channel with a dado stack in a single operation instead of ay two or three operations is worth the extra money to me.


    I installed the anchor (tone!) slug with a bit of CA and filled in the end of the TR channel with a properly cut and fit bit of wenge.


    I installed the truss rod with a bead of caulk (not pictured) and glued up the fretboard.



    It occurs to me that I don’t have pics of milling the lumber. I kind of think it’s not that interesting to see. For this build I bought my cherry lumber from CR Muterspaw in Xenia, Ohio and the wenge from Macbeath Hardwoods in San Francisco, California. I mill the lumber myself to dimension in my garage. I find I can get access to more interesting wood combinations if I mill the stuff myself than if I rely on the ‘luthier” sources. The results tend also be pretty idiosyncratic as well. Luthier tops and whatnot (even with all the A’s their keyboards can type) tend to look about the same to me after a while. I like to be…different.
  2. Looks great so far. I do my bodies the same way. I often find that while at the spindle sander the body shape changes to fit better with the wood grain or figure.
    Deep Cat likes this.
  3. Thank you!


    I cut to a pencil line and then work out the curves and whatnot until it "looks right."
    Jisch likes this.
  4. I resawed a bit of Claro for the headstock face and back plate veneers.


    Here’s what the oyster looks like on the outside. One of the things I love about building and wood working is seeing what you get after you clean up a bit of really rough lumber.


    I penciled out the shape of the top contours with a white graphite pencil.


    I used an angle grinder with a Saburrtooth (fine) wood carving attachment to rough out the contours and shapes. It’s currently my favorite method of removing material on bodies. I haven’t been bold enough to give it a go on necks yet, but I can see it in my future.


    To get the contours to final shape I used a random orbital sander with 80 grit. I find the method of carving using the angle grinder and then the random orbital sander to be really effective and quick relative to other methods I’ve tried.

    This time, however I burned out the random motor on the Black and Decker. I consider it to be $25 well spent. I’ve since replaced it with a Bosch, which is a gentle whisper dream by comparison. If you are just getting into this thing, I’d say if you have unlimited money that you get the best tools you can, but if you are like me, and have limited resources, start with the cheap stuff to see what you are going to use, how you are going to use it. Then when it’s time to replace things, you know what you’re about.

    Uh, also the tool probably isn’t rated for the abuse I put it to, so there is that.


    I used the random orbital sander one last time to get the whole thing to 80 grit.

    (Good Night, Sweet Prince, your last run was glorious.)


    I found the centerline again and dropped a bit of denatured alcohol to see what I was working with. I was not disappointed.


    Attached Files:

  5. IMG_2241.JPG

    Aaaaaand it turns out I mismeasured the end of the fretboard by about a quarter of an inch.


    So, after a small amount of cursing I built a new neck blank. The good thing is that it only costs me a few hours to get back to where I was. I think I spent more time weighing how I should proceed than I spent rebuilding the blank.

    I resawed and planed a new fretboard.


    I recut the TR channel (only more on centerline this time) , installed the slug and end bit. Pictured you can see the steps on two different blanks.


    I installed the TR and glued up the fretboard, but it doesn’t look any different from how I did the first one.

    Aaaaaaand now I was back to where I was before. The fun part about some catastrophic mistakes is that you can’t always tell exactly when you are making them. I made my mistake with the previous neck blank a while before I discovered the Fretboard was too short

    Slotted the blank for frets.



    I planed the blank to taper off the thickness of the neck.



    I lined up the headstock with a laser and glued it up


    A note about glue ups:

    A few years ago I wanted to really speed up my building process. I realized that I was going into the shop without a clear plan of what I wanted to do during the day and then kind of went for it. I made progress, but also spent a lot of time improvising or running out of time. I started making lists of specific things I wanted to get done in the day and doing so cut down on the amount of time in the shop spent staring at the floor figuring out what was next. Also, over time I’ve learned roughly how long it takes me to do things. Now I tend to make a list of tasks I’m pretty sure I can get done. I always include bonus actions for when/if everything goes right. It’s pretty rare everything goes right. I still improvise to my druthers, but I don’t go into the shop without a least the start of a day’s plan. At this point, the plan is part of the fun.

    Seeing task lists and things and working out how long each thing takes led me also to start trying to end every day with a glue up. Glue ups themselves don’t take a long time, and the glue can dry while I’m off doing other things. I tend, nowadays to think of every bass in terms of number of glue ups. Each major glue joint takes me roughly a work day (give or take) to accomplish.

    Bliss has like six or so glue joints, so it should take me about six days (non-consecutively) to complete the major wood work. Because I wound up having to rebuild the neck, it took me seven or eight work days.

    Oh, and probably the thing that taught me how best to build expeditiously was watching Ben Crowe’s Nine Hour Guitar Build series. Holy crap that dude is quick (and also crazy highly skilled).

    Attached Files:

  6. Hey! I like that laser idea when gluing up a scarf joint. I think I'm going to have to steal that one!
    Deep Cat likes this.
  7. Steal away! I stole it from someone else. I'm pretty sure I lifted it from a youtube guitar builder who used a laser to line up his neck joints. The laser seems to solve the straight line to angle problem. It still seems a little bonkers to me though.
  8. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Nice wood.

    I’d like to see the wedding bands that are the inspiration
    StuStu likes this.
  9. Thanks! I designed them and they were built by the lovely folks at Touch Wood Rings up in Canada.


    The cherry has oxidized to a warm butterscotch and the rings need to be refinished after over a year of constant use, but they are developing the kind of patina over time I'm hoping our relationship will reflect.

  10. Novarocker


    Oct 12, 2015
    Really impressive. I'm not a coffee table guy, but I really like the wood choices and shape.
    Deep Cat likes this.
  11. Thanks! My builds kind of go back and forth from the classic car camp to the furniture camp. This one is seated firmly in coffee table.
    Novarocker and ReasonablyHappy like this.
  12. While looking for photos of our wedding bands I found pics of my scrap wood test for flame maple, claro walnut and flame cherry.


    Back to Bliss.

    I cut the neck taper at the table saw with a jig built for the purpose.


    You can see pretty clearly how the grain is running.


    Because I tend to use a finish cut table saw blade I’m able to pretty much glue up the ears straightaway.


    I hogged out the control cavity hole at the drill press (not pictured) and then routed it out.



    I seem to be missing photos of the step where I planed the headstock (router jig with a massive bottom cleaning bit) and then glued up the face plate, but I did so without drama.

    For this bass I experimented with cutting the heel at the tablesaw with the finish blade. More accurately, I cut the fretboard end with the finish blade and then shaped the heel to create a fretboard overhang with a dado stack.



    I didn’t set up the stack quite right, so there was a slight groove that looks more massive in the pics than it did in person. I sanded it down until it didn’t bother me.


    I routed the control plate recess.



    I hogged out the pickup hole at the drill press, routed it out, and squared up the corners with a chisel.



    I roughly laid out the neck pocket and hogged out the hole at the drill press and let the body relax for a week or so.

  13. I shaped the headstock on the belt sander. I also brought it to thickness and cleaned up the face and back veneers.




    I drilled pilot holes for the tuner holes and then drilled countersinks for the tuner’s washers where the thickness of the headstock exceeded the tuner’s specs.



    I double sided taped a bit of ply to avoid chip out on the drill holes. And then drilled the holes





    I rigged my neck hole jig over the hogged out cavity and routed the neck pocket.


    I carved the volute and stinger on the neck.


    I glued up the neck with great care and clamps.

  14. The glue up went pretty well.


    I used my angle grinder to cave a belly contour and shape the heel a bit more.




    It was at this point I realized that I hadn’t yet added the side position dots. I recommend highly that you did this step before you join the neck to the body. If you set your neck low on the body, it has a tendency to get in the way of the drill. It's not a big deal, it's just not optimal for ease of installation.


    I final shaped the stinger and volute area.


    I sanded the fretboard down to 320, and installed the frets (not pictured). I really like Jescar Gold.


    That fretboard overhand underside isn’t my favorite, but unless I spend a lot of time looking at it from this angle I don’t notice it at all.


    I tried to use my random orbital sander to final shape the back contours, which is where I noticed the random motor was dead. (*sniff. You were so beautiful. And loud. And kind of heavy. And not as ergonomic as you should be. And the vibration tried to give me carpal tunnel syndrome. I guess when I think about it I wish I replaced you before you died. In retrospect, I’m glad you’re gone. Your replacement is better at everything than you and has never tried to hurt me. In fact I might hate you now. Burn in hell. $25 Black and Decker ROS. Burn. In Hell.)


    The pic below is a line up of most, if not all, of the tools I used to shape the body contours.


    With all the carving and shaping done, I sanded the whole thing (except for the fretboard) to 220. Bonus tools used to get into the nooks and crannies to get out the carve marks, are the black and decker random orbital mouse sander and a dowel with a bit of cork glued to it and self-adhesive sandpaper.

    Oh, right. I drilled out the hole for the knob and cut the hole for the output jack before I sanded it.


    The finish line is in sight.
  15. I cleaned up the body with a bit of denatured alcohol.


    This slab has some cracks and random whatnot going on with it. I hit it with some of Birchwood Casey’s sealer filler taking extra care to flood the cracks wherever they appeared.

    The sealer didn’t fill in the cracks, really. I didn’t care much if it did. This build isn’t about making it a factory perfect final gloss. It’s about taking what you have, accepting it, and making something beautiful out of it, asymmetry and cracks and all. Like a marriage.


    And then on with the Tru Oil.








    Attached Files:

    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  16. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC

    And the belly laugh this generated, is most appreciated :laugh:
    Deep Cat likes this.

  17. Thanks! I aim to entertain.
  18. The great thing about using the Sealer before the Tru Oil is that it takes fewer coats to get to glossy. Usually on a project when I sand down to like 220 it takes upwards of ten (very thin) coats to get to proper glossy, but the after the sealer it only took like three.

    On the other hand I feel like the sealer cost me a little bit in the chatoyance category. Not a lot, but I feel like since there isn’t as much micro bits of amber color to bounce light around deeper into the wood, I’m not getting as much affect as I might otherwise. To be fair, it’s a really minor cost. There is still mad flame and crazy figure going on.

    On the other, other hand if the sealer keeps the bass from splitting or cracking over the next twenty years or so, it will have been worth it.

    I dropped Hipshot ultralight tuners into it because, well… just because. Usually I go for the super cheap generic tuners because I don’t want to spend another hundred dollars for every bass I build, but for this one, I figured I’d go with the good stuff. Out of the box, the Hipshots are so nice. They hold tuning really well and are a joy to use. If you were wondering if they are worth the money; yeah. Yeah they are. If your goal is to have a bass the plays well, looks and feels top shelf, you can’t skimp on the tuners.

    For the bridge, I installed a Babicz. I’m a set it and forget it kind of guy when it comes to my bridges, so quick adjustability doesn’t really matter much to me. Typically for bridges, I’ll use an offcut of some hard maple and work it till it’s right. I think wood bridges look cooler than bent aluminum and helps keep the wife from raising an eyebrow at my hobby budget.

    I like the fit and finish of the Babicz, but (unlike the Hipshots) this one hasn’t made me a convert. I’d really like to find a premium bridge that doesn’t look like every bridge that’s been made the last forty or sixty years. I’m looking into Schaller and Strandberg, but so far, I’m not as turned on as I am about some of the really artistic guitar models (which is madness. The bass market is smaller, but I feel like bass is the instrument where musicians are more willing to try the weird stuff.)

    My assessment is that Babicz looks great, feels great, sounds great, sets up pretty easily, and accomplished what I intended in this build, but ultimately I’m wanting something a little less conventional. Would repeat, but not as my first choice.

    I installed a Bartolini humbucker. I forget exactly which one. I ordered it from Best Bass Gear and there was a bit of a mix up with the humbucker being the wrong one (wrong part in the box) which they resolved quickly and most satisfactorily. Mistakes happen in life, it’s how you handle it that shows your character. The folks at Best Bass Gear are great.

    I also installed a killswitch pot. I haven’t used it a lot because, despite advertising, there is a distinctive popping whenever the switch is engaged. There is probably a signal chain remedy, but I don’t see myself getting more of the same unit. There is a chance I didn’t wire it perfectly…. If anyone else has experience with these things and getting them to work dead quietly, feel free to school me. There is also a chance I’m being a little too precious with the signal chain.

    Oh, and there are a few pictures of the completed instrument.







    Thanks for checking out this build thread. Your likes and comments and views are all very appreciated.
  19. Killswitch is a push/pull pit? How is it wired?
  20. Specifically, It's a Kill Pot, by Shadow. It's a spring loaded push pot that cuts the signal on the push. It's a pretty straight forward pot. Just takes a little grounding and wiring to itself and you're good to go. I'm really not electronically versed enough to tell you much more than that. I pretty much followed the directions for wiring. I may have not wired it up properly enough, though. Or it just makes a little bit of a pop when engaged because that's just how it is. Unfortunately, I'm not expert enough to be able to say which is which.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jan 27, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.