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Build planning: Some questions

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by scolba, Dec 14, 2011.

  1. scolba


    Mar 24, 2009
    Bloomington, IL
    So I am currently in the research/learning/planning stages of my first pseudo build. I would like to start it after the first of the year if possible. I say pseudo build because for my first foray into building, I want to start with the body only. I figure if I try to do too much, too fast, then I will get overwhelmed or discouraged and not finish it.

    The plan is still in progress, but this is what I know so far. Jazz body shape, bolt-on neck, rear cavity. The wood I intend to use is an alder back, with a burr oak top. The oak actually came from my wife's grandparent's farm. It was a very old tree, likely around 150 years old, that sat in the middle of their field. [sappy] They would each lunch under it while working the farm, and my wife also has many memories of playing under it as a kid. (they lived next door) The tree was struck by lighning a number years ago, kind of sad really. [/sappy] My father-in-law had the biggest limb (it really was a monster tree) sawn into boards. Its been drying for last 4 or 5 years. [sappy] I actually already used one of the boards to carve 'the big question' in, and had it displayed for my then girlfriend, now wife, so it has some meaning to us both. [/sappy] So hopefully there will be some interesting grain to work with, and even though its not exacly a great wood to work, I want to give it a shot.

    So this brings me to my first set of questions.....what is a good ratio to go with for top thickness vs. back thickness? Is there a rule of thumb or a starting point? I'm pretty sure the rough cut is 4/4, so less than that to work with once surfaced.

    My 2nd set of questions has to do with the veneer between front and back. Will a sheet of any veneer I choose from the local woodworkers shop do, or are there specific woods that work best in that secenario? When you buy them, they seem somewhat wavey. Do they flatten out appropriately when glued and clamped, or is there some additional prep needed for those veneers?

    Then finally it has to do with the number of strings. Is the Jazz body the same size as a Jazz V body, and then only the neck route and pup routs are different? I am planning on using a Warmoth Deluxe 5 neck, if a 5 is possible on this body size.

    Thanks a lot for the help! I'm really excited to get this process started! :bassist:
  2. Greg Johnsen

    Greg Johnsen

    May 1, 2005
    Hickory NC
    You won't get overwhelmed as long as you plan, go one step at a time, and double/triple check every measurement before you cut.

    There's a lot of great advice in the stickies, if you haven't read through all of those I highly encourage it.

    As far as your questions, and this is all just in my experience/opinion, but the body back will range between 1"-1 1/2" depending on your top thickness, and the overall thickness of the body that you're going for. Standard jazz basses are 1 3/4" thick, I can't imagine that a 5 string would be any different. The only adjustments that you would need to make for the 5 string version would be the neck pocket, I'm sure warmoth has dimensions on their site, but I would recommend waiting until you have the neck to actually route the neck pocket.

    Veneer will flatten out as you clamp, you just have to make sure you clamp from one end to the other so that the pressure will flatten out the veneer as well as let your glue spread evenly. As far as what you should pick for a veneer, oak is a lighter color, as is alder, so a dark veneer would be preferable because of the contrast. Dyed black veneer would be fine, wenge would have a nice look, but its really up to you.

  3. scolba


    Mar 24, 2009
    Bloomington, IL
    Thanks Greg! So pretty much I can make the top whatever thickness I think will look good, then, eh?

    As for the Jazz body size, I don't think I was very clear. I was wondering about the size along the overall width of the body, rather than the depth. But as it turns out, its a moot point anyway. This is going to be something that I want to keep long term, and I'm not sure about 5's yet. So this one is going to stay a 4 banger. :)
  4. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Top thickness is up to personal choice. On my first build, I used a 1/4" flamed maple plate. On my second, it's 5/8" thick. It's all about what you have to work with.

    As for the body size, I am pretty sure the Jazz V is a slightly wider body than the standard Jazz....probably in the neighborhood of 1/2 to 3/4".

    But if you're staying with a 4-string, no worries.

    Veneer will stay curly unless you force it flat. To do that, you just clamp it tightly and evenly. As for the type of wood....pretty much anything will do. Contrast is nice, so if your body woods are of a similar hue, it might be good to go with something very dark, like wenge. I am building a guitar soon out of walnut and mahogany. Mahogany is a nice rich red color, and walnut is a dark brown, so instead of going very dark (like ebony or black dyed maple), i'm going with a 1/8" layer of white cedar. It'll set the colors apart nicely. Point is, pick something that you like.
  5. scolba


    Mar 24, 2009
    Bloomington, IL
    Cool, thanks! I really am getting jazzed to get this thing going! Have my body pattern on the way, and am about ready to pull the trigger on the neck. Looking like bubinga, so I think ill try to get that for the center veneer. I suppose i should probably start a build thread, rather than keep going on this one eh? lol
  6. JoeDeF


    Apr 15, 2009
    You might consider a contrasting color for the veneer layer. Although the burr oak is probably somewhat darker than the alder, they are both basically in the "tan" part of the color spectrum.

    Often, things that are somewhat close to matching but which do not really match can look discordant (think of a solid jacket and solid tie that don't quite match). You can could delineate the boundary between them with something dramatically different, such as wenge (or even black fiber) or a fairly thick layer of walnut. Those would make it clear that there is a contrast here, and separate the "tans."

    When considering the relative thicknesses of the top and back (and the thickness of the separator/veneer as well), consider how the roundovers, arm relief on the upper bout, and the belly relief will reveal the separator layer and/or the different front/back wood. Do you like it when the contrast(s) are visible, or would you prefer that someone looking straight-on at the bass will see only top wood?

    If you use a contrasting veneer and a relatively thin top, for instance, the roundover and arm carve will reveal an irregular "racing stripe" of veneer plus some of the alder when seen from the front (especially irregular at the arm carve). Do you like this look?

    If you used a top of roughly the same thickness as the back, you might basically only see the top wood from the front and the back wood from the rear (depending on the depth of your carves and roundovers). Do you like this look?

    It is often helpful to open some pictures of the wood and also the outline of the bass body in a painting or drawing program to play around with the possible contrasts and juxtapositions.

    If you glue up the sandwich all at once, the top will serve as a clamping caul for the veneer (assuming a reasonably thick top). If for whatever reason, you glue the veneer to the back before gluing on the front, you will have to use a clamping caul. A piece of MDF covered with wax paper will work. Either way, the veneer will flatten out fine if you apply plenty of well-distributed clamping pressure.

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