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Cy's first build - a fretless

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Cy_Miles, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    Hi there,

    My first post here at the Luthiers corner, though I have been a part time Talk Bass member for a couple years. I just signed up for a guitar building class at the local community college and I do not want to experiment too much on my first build.

    But I do want a fretless, and I love the way the my Ibanez Roadstar II (RB888) feels and plays. So my plan is to borrow the basic design from the Roadstar, making the body a little shorter so I can get a full two octaves on the fretboard.

    This is a picture of the RB999, My RB888 has the same body but has a single passive humbucker.

    The Plan:
    Neck thru: 3 pieces of 1" maple alternating with 1/4 strips of purple heartwood.
    Fingerboard (and headstock faceplate?): African Blackwood
    Body: Alder

    Tuners: Gotohs or Grovers
    Bridge: Hipshot Brass Style A

    Pickups: Undecied:
    Single Humbucker with a variable coil tap, 1 volume.
    J/P combo with 2 volumes (no tone)

    I hope to get pictures of the process and post them here.

    If anybody has any comments or suggestions I would be more than happy to hear them.
  2. vbasscustom


    Sep 8, 2008
    sounds like it should be cool. and nice choice with the neck woods. thats always a very attractive combo. oh and thats an awsome name, Cy.
  3. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    here is a scale drawing of what I want to build (and a pic of my inspiration)

    2z6840w. [​IMG]

    the inside line is more or less the lines of the Ibanez with the horns deepened for 24 frets...

    my teacher/guide suggested I make it a bit bigger, and at first I resisted, but I found if I added an inch or so on the top and bottom but not the horns or the rear... I like the lines and I realized the previously existing inner lines will make good contour lines.

    I always felt my Ibanez looked like a Jazz bass through a funhouse mirror... going through this design process makes me realize how true that really is.:bassist:
  4. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    I bought my maple and purple heart and have cut the lams for my neck-thru

    I went to Crosscut Hardwoods and dug through their lumber and found a nice piece of straight grained maple 1 1/4"x 6 1/2"x 48"with nice figure throught. not AAA or anything but very noticable ripple

    I also chose a piece of purpleheart 1/2"x 8"x 48". enough for my two stringers and left over for????

    I joined the edge and one face of each piece

    I then cut one piece of maple 5/8"x 2" (for the center) and two pieces 1 1/4"x 2" for the edges with two pieces of purpleheart 1/4"x2" to alternate with the maple....

    I've sanded 1/16" to 1/8" of an inch off of the inner pieces to remove blemishes and pullouts... that is good though because I want more of the two oustide maple stringer down the edge of the neck. (purple heart takes FOREVER to sand)...


    As I was walking home with MY WOOD :p (I am a public transit denezin), and singing a spontaneous little song ("I'm'onna-build-me-a-gtaaaar" :bassist:), and feeling good that I had only spent 26 dollars it dawned on my that I have enough of the purple heart wood to also make a fingerboard.

    ...and as if it were meant to be, the purple heart wood has a couple little knots and a nice face pattern that would look perfect down the center of a fingerboard...

    I am a little concerned about being able to plane/sand the purple heart for the fingerboard with knots in it. If the wood works well it should work out great, one knot has a tiny hole in the center and will line up between the A and D string and between the nut and where the F fret would be.

    I'll post pics of the wood when I can
  5. JC Basses

    JC Basses

    Mar 12, 2009
    Rocklin, CA
    I personally like your drawing more than the inspiration picture. Looks like it will be a sweet bass.
  6. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    Thanks for the compliment.

    well the real inspiration was my bass, that looks like the one in the picture. It is an amazingly comfortable bass to play and virtually every one who ever picks it up or straps it on likes the feel.

    I did not want it to be a copy, but I do want the same feeling... the way it hangs off my shoulders and tucks into my belly. And the way my right hand rests without having to reach over a tall bout.

    that is what I like the best about the design, I was able to customize the look, and get access to two octaves, but the front and back strap hooks and the top/rear bout are virtually in the same positions.
  7. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    Here are some pics of some of the design ideas I have been playing with. (opinions welcomed).

    Note: since this is my first build I do not want to experiment too much. I have my hands full enough as it is. If all works well I will be building more and can be more creative as I build my BUILD skills)

    On top is my Ibanez I am very in love with. My idea is to come up with a (semi) original design with out moving the front and back button or the top rear bout where my right hand rests... I also did not want to increase the weight very much since one of the things I like about the Ibanez is that it is light. And I want to reach two octaves.

    Here are some other designs I played with. I was intentionally trying to stretch a little bit.
    This first design was thinking of Mosrites and Alembics.

    I cannot remember the name of the guitar that inspired this design, but I loved the fact that it looked like the winged fender of a 1950's Cadillac. In fact I am really infatuated with the "Sapce Age" or Aero type design. The design below should be 10% to 20% longer but my paper was not big enough.

    This design is is inspired by the JagStang (the Fender designed with Kurt Cobain's idea of blending a Mustang and a Jaguar. Once again, there is that 1950s Aero-Age look.
    I am designing this body to go on a 32" scale bass as a second build (for a close friend,). I really like it and the more I look at it the more I am thinking of using it for my current build.

    And here are some headstock designs I have been playing with. (I also am toying with a logo after getting the idea on an other TB post)
    This was the first draft. A simple copy of my current bass.

    I am currently leaning towards the top one below. (with or without a logo)

    My friend /builder teacher likes the bottom one below best.
  8. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    Here are some pics of my wood for my Neckthru blank and fingerboard. To see the rest of the photos go to my flickr page.

    On the left the maple and purpleheart laminates cut and sanded, and on the right is the piece I plan to get my fingerboard and tow body stringers.

    A close up of my future fingerboard. My plan is to fill the top knot hole with ebony dust and glue. (Q: Am I crazy to use a flatsawn fingerboard with knots down the center?

    Bondage and humiliation. (note wax paper to keep clamps clean and keeps blocks from binding to neck)

    The purpleheart fingerboard after surfacing and cutting to shape. Not that the wood is beige/brown when first cut. I don't know how long it will take to turn purple.

    The neck blank after gluing and surfacing and fingerboard.

    I was a little troubled to see the curve in the piece I want to use as a fingerboard. But as it happens it might be a good thing.
    My instructor was concerened about the fact that the fingerboard is flatsawn and willnot help strengthen the neck, though I feel the laminate that I just glued together is very strong.
    I plan on gluing the concave curve onto the neck so it can add to the resistance of the string tension.
    (Q: Again, am I crazy or does this make sense?)
  9. jordan_frerichs


    Jan 20, 2008
    put the ph in the oven for a few minutes
  10. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    what does that do?

    and what temp, time?

    150F? 200F? 350F?
  11. It gets warmer :smug:
  12. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    Thanks for the response to the PM Jordan.

    I did some searching in TB and google and found a few articles about using heat to bring out the purple in purpleheart.

    I had noticed that the darker sap rings seemed to seep a dark resin, and apparenlty when the wood is heated that resin becomes thinner and is soaked into the rest of the wood. You can see that in the first of my pics.

    I decided to test this with a freshly sanded piece of PH scrap that I had. I cut it in two so that I would have a control piece to photograph,

    This first photo was after heating at 300F for 15 minutes.

    This was taken after 90 minutes at 300F. (I did not hear the timer at one hour and was happily sanding.)
  13. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    The piece of purpleheart I want to use as my fingerboard has a small knot that will be between the A and D strings and between the nut and the first fret.


    At the suggestion of my build instructor I am filling the little crack in the knot with ebony dust and Titebond.
    First I saw a small piece of loose wood inside the knot so I dug it out with a dental tool. I then realized the knot was brittle and so I dug out the rest of the knot. It left a nice little hole an 1/8 of an inch wide that will fill nicely.
    I think this will be better then taking the chance of it breaking up with time, and it will look nice.

    And here it is after filling it with a paste made from ebony dust at Titebond. I'll sand it off after 24 hours.

    On the bass side of the board somewher around the 15th fret is another knot/burle section that is more solid then the other knot, but does have a couple small micro craks. My plan for these is to inject CA into them when I am doing my final sanding. If they were any larger I would fill it with ebony for effect but I just want to make sure there are stabilized. (It is currently stable and has a beautiful tap tone)

    Is this nuts?
  14. Hey, Im only on my first bass, so not that experienced, but I would considder looking for a new fingerboard as I think that one may cause you trouble.
  15. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    too late Mikey, thanks for the reply though

    I have come quite a ways, but have not taken the time to post new pics yet.

    I'ts bad enough that building this bass has taken away from the time I normally play, I can't let posting pics take time from building the bass!

    So here are a few pics of my progress.

    I found some western maple for my body. Woodcrafters had some lacewood I desired but I would have had to buy a whole board which was $70-80 for 3 times what I needed. While browsing their shelves I found this piec for $20. It has some nice flame and fit'sin my shoe string budget.
    That makes a total of $56 for all the wood in my bass!


    Here is that purplehear fingerboard glued onto the neck blank

    And here is the neck after cutting out on the band saw:

    I used my friends japanese "Shinto" sawfile and japanese rasp to shaped the neck. I can't say enough about either of these tools I plan on buying one of each before I start my next build.

    Here, the darker lines are the neck profiles from my Ibanez and my Thunderchief. The pencil line is what I am started with. Drawing this was invaluable in helping me visualize what I needed to remove.
    I ended up with a profile that is about just a skoash (1/16" +/-) thicker then the profile of my Ibanez.

    Cleaning up the body pieces on the disc sander.

    More bondage and humiliation. :hyper:

    Now it's looking like a geetar!

    Here are the updates specs.

    4 String 34" - 1 5/8 @ the nut
    Neckthru eastern maple and purple heart
    Body western maple
    Pickups EMG J Set
    Black Wilkinson cast body tuners and black Oversized Bridge from guitarfetish. (I am not sure of the quality of these, but I am on a shoestring and the sizes are standard J sizes so I can upgrade later)

    total cost so far
    $56 for wood, $30 for pickups and $81 hardware.
    And then I've probably spent an equal amout on drafting supplies, calipers, countour guide, glue, sand paper, my first two clamps and two book (I recommend "Make your own electric guitar")
    We'll call it an even $300.
  16. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
  17. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    I am now done shaping my bass and am pretty happy with what I have.

    One thing I wish I had done better is my fingerboard. It turned out ok, but the bass side is a 1/32 or so thicker then the treble side. I shaped my own fingerboard blank and while I was using a belt sander to dimension the blank it started to get thinner on the treble side faster then the the bass side. So I stopped using power tools before I got one side to thin. I then spent a N hours with the radiusing sanding block and 80 then 120 grit, putting more pressure on the bass side then the treble side. I evened it out within about 90% of what I was hoping for.

    Another challenge sanding the purpleheart fingerboard is that there are knots at both ends of the boards. and it seemed that the wood around the knots was harder then the wood in the middle of the board, so at one point I had a belly developing between about the 3rd fret to the 12th fret. So I had to spend time sanding on either either with every few strokes running the entire length in an attempt to avoid waves.

    Here are some pics of the shaping the body.

    Profile lines marked and the fierce and awesome 'Shinto' sawfile. The lines scribed around the edge are an even 1/2 from the front and back. I then sketched lines on the front and back of how far in I wanted the taper.

    I used the fierce and awesome 'Shinto' sawfile to cut a rough 45 degrees until I was just shy of the line around the edge. After defining the line around the edge, making sure to keep the cut flat, I started using the fierce and awesome 'Shinto' sawfile to extend the beveled edge back towards the center of the face. (as pictured below.) I did find that the fierce and awesome 'Shinto' sawfile is dangerous when pushing away from edges because it can catch and pull out loose grain. But cutting in towards the edge, it was a dream to work with.

    After getting close to the finished edge with the fierce and awesome 'Shinto' sawfile, I completed the job with a couple sanding blocks and 80/120 grit sandpaper.

    Here is the final shaped guitar sanded up to 180/220.

    Since these pics I have cut pickup slots, mounted the bridge and tuners, cut a nut and strung it up. I'll post more pics later, but I don't want to spend too much time posting pics of building a bass that is taking too much time away from playing. :eek:

    Here is the new girl with her inspiration (while I was shaping the body.)
  18. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    lookin great!
  19. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    I have my pickup slots cut. And I bought 3 used '60s Fender control knobs from Oldtown Music here in Portland. They wanted $10 ea, but gave them to me for $5.



    I cut my own nut out of ebony. I made several blanks and this is my first draft. I used a round pointed diamond coated file. I held the file in the nut slots of an existing bass nut to judge how much of the file to use to cut that slot. then tested the slots with the strings themsleves.
    I then filed down the back of the nut to get close to my desired string hieght. I can still lower it when I finalize my setup.

    I got my hardware I ordered from Guitarfetish.com. I am very happy with the bridge, but the screws that came with it were pices of crap. I probably used too small of a tap hole and twisted off the first screw trying to screw it in. Instead of waiting to get new screws, I wanted to mount the bridge so I could line up my tuners, so I drilled bigger tap holes and then proceeded to strip the philips heads in two of the other screws. :mad::mad::mad::mad::mad:

    It was the second lesson in the last week to slowdown and remember I am doing this as a recreation, and that rushing only wrecks things of hurts people.

    So after spending a day with easyouts, here is my bass with the bridge, tuners mounted and strung up with Fender nylon tape wound strings.



    The nut I cut and the knot I filled.


    Next step: make templates and route the control cavity and then drill the cable routes.

  20. Dark-Moon


    May 18, 2009
    dang dude, this is looks super nice, wish i had the tools ans knowledge and courage to try to make my own bass! Awesome job man!

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