Condor 5/3 - Flamed Maple, Ash and Cocobolo

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Geoff St. Germaine, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Hi all!

    It's been a couple of years since I did a build thread, and I've been pretty excited about this one so I thought I'd share it here.

    This one is the bass design that I've been evolving since my first real bass build in 2005. It's been through 3 iterations, which I may post at some point later. The basis of the design is the offset Jazz Bass shape, which I've tried to modify to look a bit sleeker, modern and organic. I've also wanted to create an instrument that is comfortable to play sitting or standing. The reversed lower bout horn is really the result of that thinking.

    The design is this:


    The 5/3 signifies 5 strings and 3 pickups. The standard specs for this design are:

    890 mm (35") scale length

    19 mm bridge string spacing

    45 mm nut width

    42 mm body thickness

    24 fret, bolt on neck

    Hipshot D bridge

    Hipshot Ultralight tuners

    Specifics for this instruments are:

    5A Flamed Maple Top

    Ash body with Ash/Black contrast laminates

    Maple neck with Ash/Black contrast laminates

    Cocobolo fretboard

    Black hardware

    Bartolini X55 split coil pickups (3)

    Bartolini NTMB preamp with custom 6-way pickup switching


    Black MOP/Brass position markers

    Black MOP Logo

    Gold EVO Frets

    Black anodized and engraved control cavity cover

    Gloss Polyurethane Finish – Blueburst – colour subject to change.

    Onto the wood:

    Here’s the body blank. The blank for this one is the Ash blank on the left. It’s shown in the slip matched orientation I chose. From this blank I also cut the top 6 mm off in my bandsaw in order to use a grain matched accent layer of Ash.


    The top is a beautiful set of Flamed Maple. The supplier I mostly use for Maple also supplies PRS and I was told this was leftover from a run of “Private Stock” Flamed Maple they’d done. I have a few more sets I got with this one.


    I have no progress pics machining or gluing the neck, but it’s the Maple/Ash on in this image. The middle laminates are Ash (5 mm and 10 mm) with dyed blank veneer for the accents. The idea is to mirror the body laminates.


    I'm a bit further ahead than it shows here, so I'll look to get this updated to where I'm at now in the next couple of days.

    Thanks for looking!
  2. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Meadow Vista, CA
    WOW! Great Maple. Is that sanded already? What grit do you usually sand to with flames like that to make the most of it? Just gorgeous. I'm working on my first build in the Winter Build Off and have some flamed maple but nowhere near that level.

    Looking forward to this build!
  3. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Yes, in the photo the maple has been through my thickness sander, so it's at 80 grit. Very rough at this point. For finish sanding I normally go to 220 grit on hardwoods and 320 on softwoods before shooting finish.
  4. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I recently got a vacuum press/bag setup and used it to good effect on this body's laminates. I couldn't be happier with the capability of this system for applying even gluing pressure and it's ability to work with odd shapes that cannot be clamped with a bar or c clamp. The trick with it is to make sure you have a way to keep things lined up in the bag or to factor in sufficient overlap. Unfortunately I don't have a good shot of this body in the bag, but here's one of another walnut body with similar accents (you see Maple veneer going on here , while the Ash body of this bass had a dyed black veneer going on at this point):


    I wanted to reduce the weight of the body slightly. I've done this method in the past, but it's a series of holes drilled into the body in locations that are clear of any other feature (pickup cavities, electronics cavities, neck pocket, etc). I use two depth for these, one in the slab area of the body and one around where the belly carve will be, which are drilled 10 mm shallower than the rest of the body. The total for the drop in weight on this ash body is 320 g (0.7 lbs). I also routed the wiring channels from the three pickup positions.

    The body prior to cutting it out on the bandsaw:


    Then I cut it out:


    The Maple top was cut to rough size on the bandsaw and finished on the router with a template bit against my master template.


    You can spot a couple of 1/4" holes in the Flamed Maple top and in the body blank (if you look closely). These are used to keep the parts aligned with the master template I'm using as a pattern template for the router and will also serve to keep things lined up when the top goes into the vacuum press (hopefully this weekend).
  5. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Looks great so far!!
    Geoff St. Germaine likes this.
  6. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Meadow Vista, CA
    A vacuum press is one of my unfinished projects. :facepalm: After I finish my first bass that project may rise to the top again. I bought most of the stuff I need for one of the kits. Your and MPU's CF build are getting me motivated.:thumbsup:

    Also, our family went on vacation to Victoria and Vancouver a few years ago. Love them both! Beautiful places. One of my daughters decided to go to UBC and is a sophomore now. I'm thinking she's never going to move back!

  7. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Yeah, Vancouver Island is great. I've only lived here 6 months and I love it. The unfortunate side of my day job is that I'll only be here for about another 2.5 years!

    The vacuum press is something I really now wish that I'd had a long time ago. I keep thinking up ways it can simplify a lot of the things I'm doing. The latest thing I've been working on for it is adapting my acoustic guitar side laminating molds to work in the vacuum press.
    SLivinghouse likes this.
  8. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Meadow Vista, CA
    Alright. You talked me into it. LOL
    Geoff St. Germaine likes this.
  9. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Meadow Vista, CA
    I don't know if you play double bass or are aware, but James Ham is in Victoria. One of the top DB luthiers in the world. Was classical virtuoso Gary Karr's luthier. You might want to check out his shop sometime if you haven't. Official Website of James Ham - Luthier
  10. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I completed routing the body to the templates. I'll glue up the body this week. I'll give the body perimeter a quick sand and then I'll move onto working on the neck.

    Here's how things look:


    smithcreek likes this.
  11. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I glued up the top in the vacuum bag today. It went pretty smoothly.

    Set up for the glue:


    I put the glue on using a roller, which I've come to prefer for pretty much everything.


    The top goes on and you can spot the locating dowels to keep it lined up when it goes in the bag:


    Into the bag:


    I left it in for about an hour. When it comes out you can see the very even glue squeeze out:


    I gave the sides a quick shot with a scraper so you can see how the accent lines will look:


    I'll do a bit of clean up on the sides of the body before I move onto some neck work.

    Thanks for looking!
  12. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Been a bit of a delay... I've had some out of town business lately, so I haven't been around home too much.

    I got the rest of the body routed to shape and did a quick run around the outside with my spindle sander. Unfortunately my sander had a part failure and as best I can tell there aren't replacement parts available. Given what I paid for it probably 10 years ago it's not the end of the world, but it is a bit annoying that I'll have to replace it over such a silly part.

    Anyway, I also ran the body through the thickness sander to bring it down to 42 mm thick. The last thing I did is mark it up for the bridge/tailpiece and pickups.


    I have had some aluminum covers made with my logo engraved. They came out very well.



    I'll be moving onto the neck before returning to the body once the neck is essentially complete. I'll look to get more process pictures of the neck work.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
    Frederiek, smithcreek, afa3 and 4 others like this.
  13. When you use a vacuum bag what happens to the excess glue that drips into the bag? I guess because it's plastic it doesn't stick and you can just empty out the dried glue? I want to get one of those as well.
  14. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Yeah, most adhesives won't stick to the polyurethane bag so the little bit that gets into the bag can be easily peeled off. I've used a couple of kinds of epoxy (West System and Smith's) and PVA glue and they all come off the bag with no issue.
    Jisch likes this.
  15. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    I haven't been on TB very much in the past years, and it suddenly seems like everyone is in Victoria. My wife's from Victoria, so we go about once a year. It's quite nice, but I sometimes find the pace a bit slow compared to Montreal.

    Very nice build, by the way. Looks super professional. I like the body shape and those necks look amazing.
    kittywithabanjo likes this.
  16. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Phil! Nice to hear from you. Yeah, I haven't seen you around much.

    I'm in Victoria flying the Sea King helicopter with the Royal Canadian Air Force and this is the end of where they'll be flying, hence why I moved here this past summer. They'll be around for a little under 2 more years, so that'll keep me here until then and then on to other things.

    Thanks for the comments on the build! Are you still building?
  17. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I'm now working on the necks. I build my blanks to be around 930 mm x 100 mm x 44 mm (about 36.5" x 4" x 1.75"). This lets me get two necks out of a blank and I'm able to cut the headstock, that I attach with a scarf joint, off of the end of each neck.

    I had been using a table saw jig to cut my scarf joints prior to cleaning them up with a plane. I built a new jig to run the neck through my bandsaw and it also doubles to allow me to run the main beam of the neck through my jointer to clean up the joint.




    With these jigs it took me about 40 minutes to cut a clean up scarf joints for 8 necks. Not too bad a certainly a lot quicker that my old method.

    Next up I have to glue the scarf joints. I'm going to use 1/4" locator pins to hold them up. I bought some plug cutters from Lee Valley to make some plugs that I may use. I'll see how they fit once I drill the 1/4" locator holes. Otherwise it will be poplar dowels.

    (Sorry this image is Sapele I'm using for two of the guitar necks)




    The lower piece is the headstock and the surface of it will be glued proud of the fretboard surface and machined flush when I do the entire fretboard gluing surface. I'm working on some fixtures for this (thanks Bruce Johnson!) so this is why some of my instrument progress has been a bit slower than normal.


    Did a quick mock up with the headstock veneer (not machined to final dimensions) and the Cocobolo fretboard blank.


    I'm still leaning toward a blue burst on this one. The Cocobolo fretboard is slightly pushing me toward warming it up with something more in the amber/brown range.
  18. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    Love those stripes. Two questions:

    It looks like you're feeding that very acute leading feather edge into the jointer knives. This does not lead to all hell breaking loose?

    How do you clean up the joint surface on the headstock piece? It looks like it would be too short to reach and clamp to the jig.
  19. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User


    I feed the leading edge through with a very shallow depth of cut - about 0.5 mm as best I can measure it. It comes off of the bandsaw pretty accurate so it only takes 3-4 passes to get the whole face level. I've not had any difficulties with bits of wood exploding with this very shallow pass and a pretty slow feed rate. I've done it with this neck plus some Sapele one-piece guitar necks, Cocobolo two-piece guitar necks and the Walnut/Cocobolo/Bloodwood necks that for other basses in this batch in the past week. No issues.

    For the headstock section I do not clean that up on the jointer. I take care of that portion when I take the fretboard surface to the final specs before doing the truss rod slot. You can see in this photo that the headstock portion of what will be the fretboard surface is above the rest of the surface of the neck beam as they appear misaligned, though when viewed from above are in alignment (parallax). When I used my No. 5 plane for all of this work I did the headstock at the same time but found that it just caused difficulties in the end as a fraction of a degree error in making the 10 degree angle too shallow on the headstock meant that the headstock plane would dip below that of the main neck beam which required removing a considerable amount of material of correct.

    pilotjones likes this.
  20. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    Thanks for the info.

    Side note to self, must start a prog band named Parallax.
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