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Build 9 - WB5 build for Dave

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by reverendrally, Jun 21, 2014.

  1. I don't do copies. However, I do build stuff that you can't get. Like 32" NR t-birds for instance. A while back I offered to build a fretless for a good mate, Dave. Dave is a pretty terrifyingly good pro player round these parts. Turns out he didn't want a fretless. He wanted a 5 string version of the famous Maton JB-4 bass... only with some other mods.

    34" scale
    Reclaimed kauri pine/pine body
    Victorian Ash neck
    Jarrah fingerboard

    Initially I was gonna build all the bass, but as Dave got more excited, I figured, you know what, he should build it. For the most part he has too. He was afraid of cutting off his fingers, but once we got past the "don't touch the bitey bits" part, if was all good.

    Here's some pics to document where we're up to.
















    It was about this time that I cut the first neck pocket and realized it was ALL WRONG. Read, totally crooked. I ended up thicknessing 15mm off the top of the body slab (I thought it was too thick anyway) and we tried again. To thickness the blank, I had to cut the sides off too. You can make of my fixes what you like.






    Keen to get it finished soon. Will keep you up to date as I go.
    Splods likes this.
  2. Some more progress...

    Hoeing into the body with a rasp and plane = lots of fun + good arm workout.

    Testing out positions for controls.

    I spent about 45min fine tuning the neck socket this morning. It was 99% there, but needed a little sanding and the like. For the final bit I used an old trick. You put the neck in the socket and put a piece of rough paper between the neck the part of the socket you want to remove. Rough side against the socket. Hold the neck in the socket firmly and them pull the paper out. Do this over and over until the socket is right.

    The body is now mostly carved, radiused and rough sanded. I've also drilled the holes for the controls.

    Next comes the control cavity.
  3. Headstock veneer glued on.

    Headstock template ready to go.
    CholisGuitars and Splods like this.
  4. Last day of hols so back to the shed and try and get some things done...

    Started by sharpening my profile router bit and changing the bearing. Took 5 minutes but made a huge difference. :)


    Stuck the headstock template on with double sided tape. Finished off the shape with the router. This is actually more fraught than it looks. Depending on which way the grain is going, you can get bad tearouts or burns. Bill gave me a few tips on it last week. Between that, the sander and a sharp router bit, it turned out really nice.


    Then I drilled through the template using the drill press to get the hole centres for the tuners. I was all ready to drill the tuner holes and then realized all the bits I had were either too big or too small. Hmm... off to the shops.
  5. Well, off to Masters. To be honest I wasn't holding out much hope for a good bit. I was hoping for Brad or Forstner, but I came across this Bosch "Clean cut" spade bit... hmm.


    However, it promised smooth machined edges and a good cut. And it delivered!

    Which is a relief, because headstock holes are not something you get a second shot at really. The practice piece looked boss with the tuner in it too.

    So it was time to drill the rest of the holes... which was when I noticed an issue.

    The G string tuner was too close to the edge of the headstock for my liking. I'd not encountered this issue before with this headstock because it's been used with guitar style tuners before. After a bit of measuring and re-centering, I came up with a solution I liked better.

    I drilled all but the G tuner hole...

    Then I called Dave to confirm the change I'd planned. With consent it was all done.

    I've done three different mock ups of angles here so you can harass Dave about which one he should use...

    1. Straight

    2. Following the angle of the headstock top edge

    3. 45deg (or there abouts)

    All would work well enough. The straight one is very retro, ala the Maton JB4 look. The one following the headstock angle looks more like the new Gibson 5 strings to my eyes. Personally I like the 45deg. I reckon it looks a stack better than the others, but then I'm biased from the six string headstock I guess...

    The next trick is to drill the neck mounting screws I guess.
  6. Dave came over this morning and we dived into more work on the bass. We were already to start carving the neck, but then realised we needed to get the dot markers in. For now, just the side markers are done. Dave is keen for some front dot markers as well, but they'll need to wait for next time...

    A different approach to the 12th fret marker.

    While the glue was drying, we got onto the control cavity template. After some hogging out with a forstner bit, it was time for the router again.
  7. I got the cavity all done...

    Then it was time to start thinking about how to attach the neck. There's been a fair bit of back and forth between Dave and myself about the possibility of gluing on, him being very keen for it. The debate raged (seriously) for the last week and I asked all manner of people. In the end, he conceded today that bolting on would be the go (after I'd finally given in and was ready to glue it).

    So onto the bench to try and figure out where neck screws would go. I looked up Jens Ritters neck bolt page...
    Then I pulled out a stack of screws and went to work...

    Was 8 too many?

    Where should I put them all? Should I avoid grain lines?

    Then it got out of hand...
    and of course...

    Yes, I've lost my concentration and my mind... look a rabbit! :hyper:

    Who know's what it will look like when I get my act together? :rollno:
    natw42, ctmullins and rebelscum like this.
  8. After all the hilarity faded, I figured I should actually do something. So here is what I came up with. Blow by blow...



    There should be a pic here of the pilot holes I drilled but whatever, you can see the lay out on the back. The inserts are over the holes.

    I used my trusty Bosch 14mm spade drill again. This thing is awesome. Did a test piece first.

    And for the real thing...


    I should say, at this stage I haven't yet put any drill near the neck. I learnt this the hard way with the 6 string I build last time. Better to get all the inserts squared away first, then drill the screw holes in the neck. Thus far I'm super happy with what I have. Jens Ritter would probably have 6 more screws in there, but I figure 8 is 4 more than usual for most people. Should be interesting to hear if it makes the difference he claims it does.
    Jonny5bass likes this.
  9. Ok, for the NECK-XT phase. lol :lol:

    Drill out the holes and measure the screws. I had to grind the tips down a mm or two.

    Marked it out slightly off centre so that the screws would pull the neck hard into the pocket.

    Straight, straight! (don't ask me how I know this)

    A little soap to make it easier and stop the wood from splitting and screws from breaking.


    All together and looking good! I reckon 8 oughta do it. ;)

    This is the best neck joint I've done so far. :)

    I know there seem like a lot of steps here, but it illustrates how much hard work goes into hand building a custom instrument to get it right the first time.
  10. It being my day off, I had a quick conversation with Dave. Then we had a squiz at the warwick neck profile page to see what to do coz...


    It was time to carve the neck. Dave's request was what I'd call a "Deep C". Aka early fender/bassball bat, fat, rounded neck that actually curved over the sides of the fingerboard (that will come later). I've build another bass with this feel (3PU Fundabird) and it's very comfy for long gigs as well as being SUPER stable.

    First up I needed to find the shape at both ends of the neck. This is actually the first time I've done it like this. In the past I've just carved away, but I thought for consistency it would be good to try this.

    Nut area.

    Body end.

    Then I broke out the file, rasp, spokeshave, sandpaper etc and dug in.



    The bass side of the neck wasn't too bad, except I'm suffering a bit of tendonitis in the left elbow due to too many push-ups (true story, hilarious eh?). So I needed to find something faster and less stressful on my arm...


    Yep, that's right. An angle grinder. I saw Tom Clement use one on his necks a while back and slightly aghast. http://www.clementbass.com/web/
    Since then I've seen them used to carve archtops among other things. I'm using a flapper disk. Initially the disk I was using was worn out, but a newer disk helped a lot and sped the process up considerably. I was worried about taking too much wood off too fast, but it was fine. Now I need to even both sides of the neck up and do some fine tuning on the overall shape along it's length. This mostly comes down to lots of hand sanding with 120grit paper.
  11. Progress...

    The general shape is mostly there. I need to look a little closer but not just now. Time for transitions...

    Lots of little chisel work.

    Then the other end. You can see what I started with and how far I got...

    This is about 50% done. I'm actually trying something new here. With the zero fret where it is, I don't need to carve the profile right back to the headstock. So it will progressively square off as it goes back further... unless of course, Dave hates it.
  12. Frets all polished, Zero fret installed last. I installed the zero fret without glue just in case it needs to come out at some stage. All the others have CA (super) holding them in.


    Mocked up the bridge location and the string positions.



    Next up I marked out where the bridge screws would go. Note; the two outer bridge pieces have their holes centres drilled off centre to pull them in towards the centre. This makes sure all the bridge pieces are held tight together (for earthing) and look neat.


    Bridge on...


    Next up, I'll make a rudimentary nut and string it up.
    Deep Cat likes this.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Looking good.
    No need to worry about earth being carried through the bridges when you have a zero fret -- unless you use tapewounds.
  14. Wow, right you are! I'd never even thought of that. :)
  15. Some more progress... finally...

    Nut blank, black veneer/jarrah/veneer/vic ash/veneer




    Nut trimmed and marked out for string slots.



    Strings on finally.


    After a lot of mucking around with the nut, the bass is now playing quite well. Dave and I both agreed on 2 specs early in the piece. Firstly a very deep C shaped neck. With the width, I think it's a bit more of a D, but anyhow. The other spec was narrow spacing. The 2 things together have added up to a unique feel. To my hands, it feels like a Gibson. Lots of heft in the neck. In fact you can't help just wrapping your whole hand round. At the same time, the 34" scale makes for a really strong, sustained sound... and I haven't even put PUs in it yet!

    I think Dave is gonna enjoy it a heap. :)
  16. Awesome stuff ... Whats in that bottle marked 'poison' though?
  17. frnjplayer


    Feb 3, 2014
    ?????? You've found a way to attach the zero fret to ground?
    I think you still have to ground the strings at the bridge.
    Or is the issue having all the strings (electrically) tied together?

  18. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    No, his point is that you don't need to join all of the bridge pieces together or separately wire each one to ground with a zero fret. If one bridge piece is wired to ground then they all will be wired to ground through the zero fret. At least that's how I read it and PJ's a smart guy (and electrically it is correct).
  19. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I believe what he was saying is that you don't have to ground each individual saddle. If just one is grounded the zero fret will tie the rest of them into the ground circuit through the strings.
    Thisguy likes this.
  20. Shellite = Naptha

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