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Build Thread: Just a simple 4-string bass.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by HaMMerHeD, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Good evening, LC.

    This build thread will document the creation of a relatively simple 4-string bass guitar. Diving right in, here are the specs:

    2-piece White ash body
    1-piece Hard maple neck
    Indian rosewood fretboard

    34" scale
    12" radius
    Flat neck/head construction
    1/2"r body roundover profile

    24 frets
    Abalone fret markers (1/4")
    Aluminum side markers (1/16")
    Dual-action truss rod (heel adjustment)

    Graphite nut
    Carvin tuners
    Carvin bridge
    Switchcraft panel style output jack
    Dunlop Straplok ready strap buttons
    All chrome hardware

    Single MM-style humbucker
    Passive 500K volume and tone pots
    0.047uf tone cap

    Here's the design:


    Should be pretty straight-forward, yes?

    This weekend, I started on the body. I started with a piece of 7.25" wide and 41" long 8/4 ash. First I chopped it down into a 22" long piece and a 19" long piece. Then I planed them down to 1.55" thick pieces and jointed an edge of each so that they would glue nicely together.

    That left me with this:
    (view of rear)

    I like the grain and fit, so I glued them together:
    The smaller clamps on the edge are keeping the pieces from sliding apart in the center, as these things are wont to do. The deep throated (giggty) clamp in the middle is doing the same thing.

    After letting the glue harden overnight, I unclamped and traced the top template onto...the top:
    I had a system of templates made for this bass by a local sign company. You'll see several of them in this build thread.

    After tracing the design, I rough-cut it out on the bandsaw...

    ...and hogged out most of the neck pocket with a 3/4" forstner bit.

    Then I firmly attached the top body template. The way I do this is by first using masking tape on the template, then attaching the double-sided tape to that:
    This is really just to make clean-up easier. It can really suck getting that damn tape off these plastic templates.

    After re-attaching the template, I routed the neck pocket and most of the body edge:
    body_06_neck_route_zpse18c4c50. The remainder will be routed with the aid of a second body template...

    ..which looks like this. I turned the body over and positioned and traced the rest of the body profile and the control cavity...

    ...giving me this:

    Then I rough-cut the remainder of the body meat off with the bandsaw, bored out the control cavity with that 3/4" forstner, and stuck the ready body template on with the same masking tape + double-sided tape method as before:

    ...time passes, and the chronicler forgot to take some photos. Imagine that at this point he routed the control cavity and the body horn edges, leaving him with this:
  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    And we're back.

    Using another black plastic template, I made a plywood copy for the pickup route. I did this because I need to be able to use a 1/4" bearing-less straight cut router bit to sharpen up the corners of the pickup cavity. I don't have any of those swanky Amana 1/4" top bearing template bits yet, so I needed to use a template material that would stand up to the friction caused by the router bit shaft rotating against the template.

    Void-free baltic birch plywood was a ready made and easily-obtained solution. So I made that and attached it to the body.

    First I hogged the bulk of the material to be removed from the cavity, then used a series of router bits to route the cavity. I started with a 1/2" diameter top-bearing template bit with a 1/2" cutter depth. After taking the cavity to final depth (11/16") with that, I switched to a 1/4" straight cut bit I got from Grizzly ages ago (http://www.grizzly.com/products/Double-Fluted-Straight-Bit-1-4-Shank-1-4-Dia-/C1001). It's super cheap and still works beautifully. The only thing I did with that bit was sharpen up the corners of the pickup cavity.
    (Sorry for the blurrycam photo. My phone's camera sucks sometimes.)

    Then I drilled a tunnel to the control cavity with a 12" long, 1/4" diameter drill bit (this one). So here it is with the pickup fitting nice and snug.

    The next steps were....time consuming. I did a lot of hand and machine sanding on the body sides to get it ready for the 1/2" roundover bit for the body profile. It is critical that the edges be smooth and flat, because any wiggle or inconsistency will be copied to the edge profile.

    So I did that, then routed the top and back to get this profile:

    As of now, it looks like this:
    (Oh yeah...somewhere in there I routed the recess for the control cavity cover. I used a 1/2" diameter dado cleanout bit with a 1/4" cutting height [this one], and a 1/2" thick MDF copy of a machined black plastic template.

    I still need to do the tummy cut and forearm relief. For a finish, I am going for a black and red dyed finish with a gloss clear coat on top.
  3. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    Looks good! How long did it take you to do all of that so far?
  4. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I forgot to take pictures of the beginning of the neck construction. Imagine if you can, a 3" wide and 36" long maple plank about 13/16" thick. You're pretty much caught up. RIght, moving on.

    OK, first thing is to do is to draw some lines on the neck. I marked the center line first, and then traced a black plastic template I had made onto the blank. Then I marked it up so that I could route the truss rod slot.

    I do this in two stages. I start with a 1/4" diameter round-nose router bit and route a channel roughly 3/8" deep from the heel to...22-5/16" north of the heel, because that's how long the truss rod is, plus the sixteenth of an inch that I want the adjustment nut inset from the end. Then I change to a 3/8" diameter round-nose route bit to widen the first 2" of the slot to 3/8", and to deepen it slightly for the adjustment nut.

    Here's the 3/8" bit:
    The MDF stick is a straight edge along with the neck blank runs while I route the slot...to keep it straight. Someone told me that's important, so I try to stick to it. I use the method described in this video from LMI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLY3iN1Atn4

    Here's the slot:

    And with the rod:

    Next, I glued some ears to the headstock:
    The ears came from...some other bits of maple. More on that later.

    After the glue dried, I traced the headstock:

    Then I rough-cut it out on the bandsaw and attached the template:
    (Also used the masking tape + double-sided tape for this. It works well.)

    The next step is to route along the template. So I put my handy new Whiteside 1/2"x1/4" template bit in the router table:

    I made two passes with that bit to get about halfway up the neck:

    Then I switched to a 5/8"x1" template bit...

    ...to get the rest of the way up the thickness of the blank:

    After marking the tuner locations and removing the template, I drilled the tuner holes:
    My 9/16" Forstner bit was apparently too dull for this, so it smoked and burned the entire time. It has since been replaced.

    I glued on the fretboard...
    ...then trimmed it up on the router table. Forgot to get pictures of that.

    I want the headstock to be 9/16" thick, so I marked off the approximate thickness of material I need to remove:

    After spending a few minutes with ye olde Safe-T-Planer and the oscillating spindle sander, I had this:
    It still needs some touching up, but it's pretty close.

    Thanks for watching. I'll hopefully have more next weekend.
  5. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    The body slab came out of clamps yesterday morning. The work on the neck was done last weekend. It took about the same amount of time.
  6. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    I wish I could work that fast!
  7. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    It just takes planning.
  8. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Very nice work so far. I like the design a lot. Great choice of woods.
  9. stevetx19


    Sep 28, 2006
    Denton, Texas
    looks awesome
  10. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Last night, I drilled a bunch of holes:
    I did this with....drill bits.

    And I carved the forearm relief:
    I prefer a rounded slope to a hard shelf. It feels pretty comfy. I did this with a big rasp and some 80-grit sandpaper on a hard rubber sanding block.
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Your headstock shape is awesome man, I am still trying to come up with a good looking 2+2 head stock shape. I swear its the hardest part of bass design
  12. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Thanks, Hopkins. It is really stinking hard to come up with a new, distinctive, and attractive headstock shape.
  13. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Yep, all around nice design there hammerhed, lookin good... :)
  14. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Yes, very nice. I'm looking forward to more updates.
  15. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Ive come up with a pretty nice looking shape for a guitar but I don't know if it will transfer well to bass.
  16. Nice work. Can't wait to see the rest of the build.
  17. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Sweet. What's that shallow hole between the bridge and pickup?
  18. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    That's where the bridge ground wire emerges. I find it easier to drill the hole if I drill a shallow recess with a forstner (3/8") before I drill the wire tunnel. The bottom...."corner" of the recess gives the long drill bit something to push into without skidding across the surface of the bass.

    It is entirely concealed by the bridge, so it won't be visible.
  19. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I did the neck heel last night...

    Should be pretty comfortable with the neck bolted on.
  20. Dark Horse

    Dark Horse Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2008
    Austin, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Eastwood Guitars, CHC Guitars, GHS strings
    I do the same thing.

    Great looking bass so far, BTW !