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Build #1 – hippie sandwich-ish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BenTheBassGuy, Sep 3, 2020.


  1. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    I’ve been excited to get my first build going for a while now but decided I needed to get my shop in some sort of working order first. It was really messy, the tools needed maintenance, and nothing was set up to be very functional. This project turned out to be the impetus for me realizing what I now consider to be my dream shop. I’ve gotten everything organized, I reworked the layout of my shop and gave every tool a station of sorts, I rerouted the dust collection so it’s much more functional and I even bought a shop apron so my wife can roll her eyes at me when I’m in there working. It’s not quite done and I’m waiting on a few tools and parts to arrive but I’m really happy with how far it’s come over the past couple of months.

    I’ve been a bass player for 30+ years and a woodworker for around 20 but it never dawned on me to put the two together until recently. I’ve built a number of parts basses which has been fun but have never considered doing a scratch build. Also, I’ve always been a power tool vs. hand tool woodworker so this is going to be new territory for me. I’m really looking forward to learning some new skills and using some of the hand tools that have looked so pretty on my shelves for so long. I welcome and want all feedback, suggestions, criticisms and commentary as I progress. I called this thread Build #1 intentionally because I can already tell I’m gonna get hooked… Ok, I'm already hooked.

    So, for this first build, I decided I’d only use woods that I already have in my shop but I want to use the less expensive pieces in case I completely mess things up. That said, I’m a big fan of natural finishes rather than stains, tints and paints so I want to use woods that look good with a natural finish. And I’ve really wanted a hippie sandwich style of bass for a long time so I want to use at least some layers with different colors. I’ve done a body and head design for this first bass. If the head turns out nice I may make this my go-forward design. And I want to do a neck-through since I really like the feel of my current neck-through basses and that fits the hippie sandwich look I want.
    20200903_122348.jpg 20200903_122536.jpg

    I picked out some woods that I’d like to use though they’re a bit uncommon from what I’ve seen. For the neck I have some curly maple and some makore that I think will look nice. Makore doesn’t have the best weight to hardness & stiffness ratio but it’s not bad, it’s here and it looks really good. So, unless someone points out some horrific characteristic, those will be my neck woods. For the finger board I have a piece of jatoba that I’ve had for about 17 years waiting for a project. I hate working with this wood (why it’s sat for 17 years) since it’s really hard, dulls blades and can get kinda wonky while being cut but I want to use it so I can feel sweet revenge every time I play the bass. It looks pretty cool too.

    For the body I have some African mahogany and a wider piece of curly maple that I will probably resaw into top and bottom body caps. Together they aren’t thick enough though so I need to find something else to layer in. I may just add another layer of mahogany but I’ll dig through my wood stash to see if I have anything darker that will look good.
    20200829_181636.jpg
    This will be a 4-string and the hardware will be no-name stuff I have laying around unless this turns out amazing and I feel compelled to order the high-end stuff. I haven’t ordered the pickups yet but I'm planning to go with two Bart quad-coil, 4-wire soapbars (can’t recall the model number). I’ll wire them with 3-way toggle switches for serial/parallel/single-coil each and will go passive with vol / vol / tone knobs. I’ve always wanted a bass with this configuration so I’m looking forward to experimenting with the different tone possibilities.

    So there you have it. I’ll do my best to document all of my successes and failures. Again, please weigh in whenever you see me doing something that makes you cringe or shake your head. Thanks!
     
  2. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    Some initial cuts
    20200903_124151.jpg 20200903_124009.jpg
     
  3. Zoffy

    Zoffy

    Jun 7, 2020
    Sacramento CA
    I'm looking forward to seeing your progress. I think that your selection of woods look good together!
     
    BenTheBassGuy likes this.
  4. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    Thanks! I sure hope so. I need to pick something dark for a thin layer between the mahogany body core and maple caps. Maybe some wenge or shedua?
     
  5. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    Shedua would have to be just the right piece - IME it can have a bit of a yellow/tan tint and I'm not sure how that would look next to the stuff you already have (i.e. the mahogany). Wenge would look great. Or what about black walnut?

    I like your headstock shape, very original!
     
    Blackjac97 and BenTheBassGuy like this.
  6. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Commercial User

    Mar 14, 2011
    Sales Development Manager NN Inc. - Polymet, USA manufacturer of fret wire
    Great choice of woods, love the curly maple wings.
     
    BenTheBassGuy likes this.
  7. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    I actually have some beautiful old-growth walnut that the guy I bought it from milled 50 years ago but I want to save it for body caps. Its too pretty to be an inner layer. Good feedback on the shedua, thanks! I'll see if I can find a piece of wenge or maybe some katalox.
     
    dwizum likes this.
  8. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    Yeah, no need to stuff nice wood in the middle where it won't be seen! I do love walnut against maple though, they pair well. I had the same problem you're facing on another bass and used it between a maple cap and a cherry core.

    7.jpg
     
    Freekmagnet, Chugit, robert43 and 4 others like this.
  9. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    Wow, that looks great! I may end up buying some walnut just for the trim layer. So many options! I suppose its a good problem to have. :thumbsup:
     
    dwizum likes this.
  10. turindev

    turindev Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2005
    Sarasota, FL USA
    Builder, m7bassworks.com
    Looking great, can’t wait to see your progress!
     
    BenTheBassGuy likes this.
  11. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    Count me in!
     
    BenTheBassGuy likes this.
  12. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    I made some progress since my last update. I was able to pick up a nice wenge board (and a number of other beautiful boards for future builds) for the body wing trim layers. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to resaw it since I have an old Craftsman bandsaw I picked up at an estate sale years ago. It’s fine for thin cuts but it’s pretty underpowered for resawing and wenge is a fairly tough wood. I bought a nice Lenox 3tpi 3/8” blade and made this simple resaw jig.
    20200906_154803.jpg 20200906_154739.jpg
    The resaw jig worked really well, I was surprised. I’ve tried, like many, to resaw using a fence and failed miserably as the blade wanders all over. I’ve seen videos of guys doing trial cuts, measuring the blade’s cut angle and setting their fence to match but that seemed like a ton of work and it still seemed like it wouldn’t solve the main issue. You need to be able to pivot the work piece to compensate for where the blade wants to wander at any given time. And the grain and varying density of the work piece can affect where the blade wants to go even when it’s properly tensioned. So I made this simple little jig which acts like a fence but only at a pivot point even with the blade. I’m sure I’m probably the last person to come up with this but, if anyone is struggling to resaw with a fence, give this a try. It cost me about 38 cents (made from scraps) and it worked great. Oh, one other key piece is the push block. I used it to keep the work piece pressed up against the fence.

    Anyhoo, after resawing the maple and wenge I now how proper hippy sandwich body wing blanks. I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out so far.
    20200906_154839.jpg 20200906_154921.jpg 20200906_164121.jpg
    I’d love to run everything across the jointer and planer and start glue up BUT I took the knives to get sharpened a couple weeks ago and I’m still waiting for them to get them done. The sharpener closed last week for their semi-annual machine maintenance and are holding my knives hostage. :meh: Oh well, I can still make progress in other areas.

    Next up will be making some MDF templates from my drawings. I’ve decided to make this a 33” scale for the fun of it. I was going to go down to 32” but I already bought my truss rod and I’m not sure if it’ll still fit. Does anyone know if the standard 24” truss rod will fit a 32” scale through neck w/ 24 frets? If it’ll still work I’ll go 32”.

    That’s probably it for today (maybe). Thanks for following along and, as always, please offer any suggestions.
     
  13. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Diggin' it :hyper:

    Sub'd :thumbsup:
     
    BenTheBassGuy likes this.
  14. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    Whelp, it seems my timing for starting my first scratch built wasn't so great. The weather has be gorgeous the past couple weeks which, of course, means I should probably paint the trim on my house since I've been holding out for nice weather. [​IMG] Oh well, at least that's done now. I have still made a little progress on the build. I had planned to make templates to help me with this first build and also for future use so I made some progress on them. 20200919_193712.jpg 20200919_165138.jpg 20200919_194027.jpg 20200919_200700.jpg

    I also finally got my jointer and planer knives back from the sharpener and got them installed. Good grief, what a pain that was! I’d forgotten how awful it is to get the jointer knives perfectly set up. With that headache done I started to clean up some of the body layer pieces. I’m a little concerned I resawed them a bit too thin so I may end up having to add another layer, we’ll see. I’ll add pics when done.

    So here’s my latest issue. I was planning to use a piece of jatoba for the finger board but it kept bothering me that the color is so close to the makore I’m using for the neck. I really want something that will contrast more so I decided to use a piece of katalox I was planning to save for a future build. I figured it would be pretty dark and look really good but when I got done dimensioning it I couldn’t believe how purple it was. It's actually a beautiful piece of wood and will probably darken and fade but I really don’t like how it makes the makore look orange. Ugh… 20200921_084945.jpg 20200920_152812.jpg

    I have some other woods I could use like bocote, bloodwood, bubinga and wenge that I could use which might look nice but I was really planning to wait till I cut my teeth on this first build to use some of my better boards. 20200920_152949.jpg My phone camera really makes the colors look awful, sorry. I'm kinda stuck on this so I'm open to any suggestions. Thanks!
     
  15. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    I think that wenge in your last photo looks great with the makore, it feels like it's in the same "family" of colors thanks to the yellowish hues. Plus you've already got wenge in the build. That would be my choice.

    I agree it can be a pain on a hippie sandwich type build to pick out stuff that looks good together. It's easy to just slap a half a dozen species into a hippie sandwich but it's really hard to pick a bunch of things that actually look like they belong together...
     
    BenTheBassGuy and Beej like this.
  16. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Makore and jatoba are similar in colour for sure... what about just putting a maple veneer under the jatoba fretboard to give a little accent, and pick up the maple in other areas? Might be enough to distinguish?
     
  17. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    That's a really cool idea. Or maybe even a thin layer of wenge. This is great and gives me a whole new direction I hadn't considered. Much thanks dwizum and Beej!
     
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  18. BenTheBassGuy

    BenTheBassGuy It's not that I "need" another bass... Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Iowa
    I’ve been making some steady progress with the templates and I’m really glad I’ve focused on them before moving too far into the build. I’ve made a number of mistakes with the templates and it forced me to think through many things that would have been issues before I started cutting the neck wood. This has hopefully saved me from adding to my already-too-full scrap bin. 20200927_173756.jpg

    I do have a couple of questions for the group of experts who so graciously support us newbs - thank you guys!

    1) The fingerboard of most basses sits about 1/8th or so above the body surface - if there’s a cool name for it please share. For a neck-through, what is the best way to carve away that ridge down the middle of the body? I’m sure there are 100 ways to do it. I saw I-Am-The-Slime used a pull saw to hand cut his before mounting the body wings which seemed to work great. I only have a flexible dozuki saw though which I wouldn’t trust to keep a straight cut. I’d really appreciate any suggestions that you’ve used and recommend.

    2) I planned to chamber the body core layers up into the top horn as you can see here in my body chamber template. After I finished the template I started wondering if this would weaken the top horn too much given it supports the weight of the bass. The woods are mahogany, wenge and maple so nothing overly soft or weak but I’d really like some expert input before a commit.

    I came up with some nice jigs as I was making the templates that I’ll share in case anyone can find them useful. First, I started cutting the chambers with forstner bits in the drill press and found this really slow and messy. I also had a really tough time smoothing out the bumps in the spindle sander. I decided to try cutting them using my scroll saw and it was 100 times faster and easier with significantly less mess. And the final sanding to size was a breeze. I finally have a use for my scroll saw! 20200927_172312.jpg

    I also made these sleds to cut the body wings and angled neck-beam templates. They're super easy to make and they worked great. 20200926_194814.jpg 20200926_194619.jpg
     
  19. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    I do this in a router planing jig. Makes jobs like this really simple. There's a big thread in this forum with a lot of info. Really, when you're just starting out, it's probably one of the most useful jigs you can build.

    I don't see a problem in terms of weakness with the way you have it designed. That said, peace of mind is probably worth the ounce or two of wood you might remove there, so if it makes you more comfortable, skip it!
     
    BenTheBassGuy and Beej like this.
  20. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    BenTheBassGuy and dwizum like this.
  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.

     
    Dec 2, 2020

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