Custom design and build for a young bassist

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by zorgzorg2, Aug 4, 2021.

  1. After having discussed wood thickness issues with a bunch of very helpful and talented people in Build with 1'' body?, I'd like to continue with some history, design and build log of a custom bass.

    So this bass is going to be for 12-year old son, who started playing bass a couple of years ago and has already made his way into a couple of bands with success. He plays now on my very old and cheap Jim Harley P-Bass that I got from a friend about 20 years ago. While it works nice right now, I think that it would be fun to build something for him, and maybe even with him.

    DISCLAIMER: the build will take some time as many things are happening for us at the moment, but we will get there eventually :D
    I-Am-The-Slime likes this.
  2. The first step was the design. I wanted something that looked a spaceship while staying functional and at a reasonable scale for his size (even if he is growing - fast!). I liked the design of the bottom end of the billy bass:

    At the same time, I wanted a more traditional front, but not as traditional as the P-bass. The Jaguar bass fits the bill quite nicely.
    From there, after quite a few hours of designing, I came up with this:
    Quite happy with it, but after some discussion in the aforementioned thread, since the body is going to be quite thin, the need arose to make the heel longer:
  3. Now, this is all very nice, but I needed some reality check: the dimensions were not at all correct for the PJ pickup set up I want (the neck pickup is way too close to the neck), the neck scale was off by a couple of inches, and the bridge didn't have the correct dimensions.
    So back to the drawing board. Putting everything back in its place created some weirdness with the pickguard, so we reshaped it. At the same time, the longer neck heel, with more frets on the board meant that a deeper cutaway on the lower bout would be quite handy.
    Here is the drawing as we worked on it (in inkscape)
    Screenshot from 2021-08-04 11-17-35.png
    And a colorized version
    So that's were we are now.
    Parts and woods are starting to come in, so I'll talk more about the planned construction in the next post :D

    Feedback is always welcome, and all my designs posted here are licensed under CC-BY-SA, so that anyone is free to use and modify them.
  4. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I like the retro vibe with the body design you have going on!

    Have you thought about lower strap button placement? With the big horn I wonder how a strap would sit - would you put it on the horn or at the usual place right on the centerline?

    Personally, I would be a little worried about the bridge being right at the very edge of the body. Most bodies have a roundover on the edges, if they're not bound, so I'd think you'd want room for that, at least. Having the bridge flush with the very edge of the body would mean you'd need everything to work out perfectly, which is a challenge. And it might make it hard to swap to a different bridge design if you wanted to try something different down the road.
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Remember: making the neck tenon longer doesn’t mean you have to make the fretboard longer too.

  6. Thanks, all good points here! The strap button placement will be in principle on the centerline, I don't think the big horn will be in the way. If it does, I'll put it higher up.

    Re the bridge, I recognize the risk, but I think I can wing it... I'll make sure to measure everything three times before committing :D
    Of course, as you say that means possibly loosing the flexibility to change the bridge in the future, but we (my son and I) really like the way it looks.

    Thanks! and good point too. I already got a slotted 24-fret board, so it's going to be long though.
    ctmullins and dwizum like this.
  7. OK, so I promised some wood, here it comes.

    For the body, I have some Ash left from my previous project Jagbass balance
    It's a bit thin as we talked about before, so I'm going to put a a flamed Ash top on it. I haven't received the top yet, but here is the back part:

    For the neck, my son and I decided on a sandwich design: maple on the outsides, than thin walnut strips around a cherry core:
    And as for the fretboard, I received in the mail yesterday: Pau ferro

    Attached Files:

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  8. The flamed Ash top actually prompted us to make the pickguard smaller, so as to show more of it. Maybe we will even end up without a pickguard if we find the top to be too beautiful to hide. In which case I will have to go through the back for the electronics.
    mikewalker and Matt Liebenau like this.
  9. Ok, I got a crazy idea: replace the pickguard with leaving a part as uncolored wood... I can't imagine how difficult this would be to do with stains, but it should look like this:
    What do you think?
    Barticus, J_Bass, mikewalker and 5 others like this.
  10. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I think that would look amazing. And it wouldn't be that hard to do. More or less a "burst" finish but with the lighter center shifted off to the pickguard area. What a cool idea!
    J_Bass and zorgzorg2 like this.
  11. Yes exactly. I never tried a burst before though, any recommendations on what kind of stains to use for that ? the idea would be to use oil on top of it for a mate finish, like this:
  12. rwkeating


    Oct 1, 2014
    Or you could not cut/shape that part of the body until the bridge is in place making alterations as need be.
    zorgzorg2 and ctmullins like this.

  13. I don’t know what’s available in Sweden but I’ve done a few finishes with Feibings leather dye. Angelus leather dye is another good choice. I prefer the dyes to stain. Look up BigD guitars on YouTube. He has a number of videos on burst and fade finishes with dyes.
    zorgzorg2 likes this.
  14. yomichi


    Aug 3, 2021
    Dad's house
    I am 15 and would be happy have a bass like that. Your son is lucky boy.
    zorgzorg2 likes this.
  15. Oh yeah, I've seen a few BigD videos, good stuff indeed! I'll check out what leather dyes we have here, thanks for the tips!
  16. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I like the shape but think the bridge looks awkward.
  17. Interesting, how so? I think of it as the propulsion of the space ship :)
  18. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    To me it doesn't look 'part' of but rather an imposition on the overal design of the instrument. Stops the 'flow', is 'too loud' if you will...:)
  19. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    I agree that the bridge looks like the rocket engine for the spaceship.

    So you really need to take some time and pick out the right one.

    Modern high mass bridges are cool, but might throw off the retro vibe.

    You might want to consider cutting your own piece of bent metal into a really nice custom shape and then sending it out to a chrome shop to be coated. - it’d be a nice piece to have engraved as well.
  20. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I don't find the bridge to be an imposition. The original billy-bo body shape was designed for a tailpiece or a bigsby, both of wich aren't really what you want in a long-scale bass ;) I think it looks good as it is, but with the modern vibe of the "faux pickguard" and the black pickups and knobs, the same bridge in black could look really stealthy!
    /\/\3phist0 likes this.