Customizing my Spalted Maple bass top...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sundogue, Dec 27, 2014.

  1. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I bought this bass a while back and it's been my main player. So much so that I've gotten rid of most of my other basses. I love the bass in almost every plays beautifully, the action is nice and low, it balances well. It's a joy to play and I love the looks of it. But...

    I'm going to replace the pups with Seymour Duncan NYC-5's. I already have the pups, but before I replace them, I am going to finally get around to creating a work of art on my bass by wood burning images into the top. It is a spalted maple top, but there is hardly any spalting.

    This is the bass as I got it...You can see the only spalting is between the pickups.


    I'm going to put quite a lot of designs into the body, but along the top of it I am going to woodburn an eagle, from the arm contour all the way to the end of the upper horn. Below is a photoshop image of where the eagle will go.


    Since I have to replace the pups, and add switches (to wire the pups in Series/Single Coil/Parallel), now is the time to sand off the finish on the Spalted Maple. Once the pups go back in and it's all wired back up, I can use the bass while I work on the wood burning.

    One of my concerns is the neck being off for a while. I'm thinking of loosening the truss rod until the neck is straight while off the bass. Should I bother with that? I've had the necks off other basses for as long as two weeks without messing with the truss rod, but want to be sure with this one.

    I've also redone the headstock. I hated the pointy end so I cut it off and reshaped it. I also sanded off the LTD logo and burned in an Om symbol.

    old.jpg headstock.jpg

    I'll post progress pics as I go along. Busy time of year for me, so it will be slow going but I'm hoping to at least get it taken apart and sanded in a week or two so I can put the new pups and switches in and put it back together.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2014
  2. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Before looking at the rendering, I would have said 'Holy Mother of Mercy, NO'. But it looks awesome. Totally dig the headstock too. It appears that you know what you are doing with that iron.
    bholder likes this.
  3. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Thanks. Yeah, I've been a professional artist for over 35 years. I've done quite a bit of woodburning art. I have an adjustable iron with many different specialized tips, from fine detailers to wide shaders. The actual woodburning is a piece of cake. Coming up with a pleasing design that incorporates many different things into one body is the tricky part. And it may change from this, but this is my starting point. I may incorporate cloud formations, lightning and sun rays around the eagle so below it the design can go in many different directions.

    If this were a really nicely "spalted" piece I wouldn't do it, but it really is just basically maple with almost no spalting at all.
    StreetScenes and vmabus like this.
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Very nicely done. The way you added the eagle actually uses the spalting, looks to me like he's flying low over the waves doing some fishing! (I love to see them do that!)
  5. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Still thinking on what to do. I love symbolism. I have tattoos that are very symbolic of my life. The Tao symbol (Yin/Yang), the Om symbol (like on the headstock). I've been an artist for a very long time and have literally drawn and painted thousands of bald eagles. There is a pair of eagles a block away from me that live on the river by me and I've watched them for almost 12 years now. Prior to that I studied a pair closely for seven years. I have a permit and have many eagle feathers. Just something about bald eagles that mean alot to me. Of course, this image will be woodburned into the top so there will be no color. Just the wood.

    Overall, the body top will have many intricate symbols and designs in it. It's just a matter of how to integrate it all into the overall look.
  6. JACink


    Mar 9, 2011
    It's crazy how much difference there is between these basses in the same finish. This is the one I got (bought unseen):


    I really like you idea on adding artwork to the body. I personally wouldn't want to cover up my SM, but the finish is completely different.
    mark beem likes this.
  7. Cornel

    Cornel Guest

    Aug 8, 2011
    Cordoba, Argentina
    Very nice! :thumbsup: just do it.
  8. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Yours looks fabulous. Since mine has almost no spalting whatsoever, that's the reason for the artwork.
  9. Nice! I like the way you positioned the Eagles wings. I have to agree I have always wanted to do some type of illustration on a bass but it's so hard picking one thing :)
  10. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    You keep saying this, but it's not actually true. Spalting consists of more than just black lines - there is considerable spalt showing all over the top - those lighter and darker patches (yea, even where you plan to park the eagle) are not "plain maple" and there's all sorts of nice action going on in the control area. Spalt is, by its very nature, a crapshoot - catching the fungal boundaries when they are interesting, but not completely gone to rot. It's your bass and you can do what you like with it, but justifying that by claiming it's not spalted anywhere but between the pickups is disingenuous.
  11. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    OK. To clarify, the spalting on this maple top, IMO, sucks and I don't care enough about it to concern myself with covering it up with something I consider far superior and more pleasing to me. :)
  12. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Another Photoshopped composition...I think this one gives me a bit more room for symbolism. And I like that it isn't as obvious. Trying to make the tree trunk, branches and roots appear at first to just be patterns in the wood where the object of the tree isn't noticed as much. It's just photoshopped for planning right now.

    Luke19Boarder, JACink and mark beem like this.
  13. JACink


    Mar 9, 2011
    I like this even more than the eagle!
    Ajapses likes this.
  14. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Half and half... keep the bigger eagle, add the tree.
  15. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Yeah I like the big eagle, but I want more pattern to it and less noticeable objects. Keeping the eagle the same size as it was by itself gets in the way of the tree pattern. Still messing around with the composition. I may have the tree branches extend out into the upper horn and morph into an eagle's primary feather.

    I'm more interested in an overall pattern with symbolism intertwined into the patterns so at first glance it looks more like an odd figured wood until you begin noticing objects within it.
    scourgeofgod likes this.
  16. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Interesting how things turn out. While I was going to woodburn into the spalted maple top some kind of design, the process of sanding the finish off revealed to me that the finish was nearly as thick as the laminates.

    I ended up sanding through the spalted maple in places (no loss to me anyway) down into another slight, thin dark brown laminate under that. I ended up finding some really beautiful ash underneath and decided I liked the ash itself so much better. Now of course the ash was not one solid piece and the pieces were not intended to be seen, yet I found it to be so appealing that I left it as is and only used wipe on poly right over the ash with no staining.

    Pics to come, but it turned out even more beautiful as an ash body and top. Rather than the muddy, mustard colored non-descript "spalted" maple, it is now a beautiful, light natural ash.
  17. gpx1200

    gpx1200 Supporting Member

    Apr 24, 2013
    spencer mass
    wow I was going to vote big eagle flying away from a smaller tree before I got to the end of the post but I love the look of natural ash myself, the deep grain can be accented nicely with colord grain filler as well
  18. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Sundogue - I have tremendous respect for your artistic abilities and sensibilities. I'd never think up or visualize this kind of stuff.
    I look forward to seeing what comes out of this.
  19. JACink


    Mar 9, 2011
    I am looking forward to pics!!
  20. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I also installed some SD NYC5 pups. Can't wait to get the strings on it and test it out.

    I also treated the rosewood fretboard with shellac to seal the oils and then topcoated it with the wipe on poly. So now the fretboard is a beautiful glossy rosewood that looks fabulous as well. The whole project completely changed the look of the bass.

    I might be able to snap a photo after work, if I get the snow cleared away before I go off to another job.