1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Drake Custom 4 string bass build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Drake Custom, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    As some of you may have noticed, I have changed the build specs a bit. I was going to be making a 4 string bass for a customer but the customer has bought another bass from me instead. I have now decided to make this bass a 5 string as I do not have any around at the moment.
    The original build plan was to make an instrument to fit a certain budget. That no longer applies but I will be using much of the same materials so this project should not run too high in price.

    I needed to get an exotic top that would please my customer but not go over the budget. After trying several ideas out I went with with making a top out of a scrap Black Limba block that was 4X4X24 inches. The block was left over from a Black Limba project I did awhile back on TB. The block was fairly plain with just a thin dark striped area running the last 1.5 inches along edge of the block. The striped area ran all through the thickness of the block to widen slightly at the bottom. I am sorry I lost the picture of the original block but no matter, it did not stay a block very long.

    I sliced it into thin pieces across the block so that each piece had some of the striped area on it.
    These are some of the pieces laid out together. Kind of bland.

    Here are some more pieces cut from the bottom of the block where the striped area widened out. I like the looks of the wider stripe parts but want something down the center as well. I set about slicing the striped areas off of some of the other pieces.
    I then glued the dark pieces to the dark edge of the other Limba strips.
    More slicing and gluing.

    Ok, here she is starting to look more like I want her to but I need to even out the lighter part a bit more.
    Back to the bandsaw Batman!

    Here is what I decided to use as the top. I lucked out that the center area tapers just right to match the taper of the neck. Sort of looks like a neck through or a center block style construction. I have enough wood on this top to get a peghead veneer out of it too.

    Until next time, thanks for checking out my build.
  2. Nice to see another Drake build!!!
  3. crazygtr


    Mar 4, 2011
    Puerto Rico
    Damn! more attention to detail is going on on this top only than a lot of other completed builds I've seen. This one is going to be special. subbed.
  4. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks guys. The top turned out well. The glue lines hide nicely in the dark stripes.
  5. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Ok, with the top completed and some more digging around the shop, I have gathered the materials I will use for this 5 string bass. I will be doing a 33 inch scale with 24 frets plus a zero fret.

    As you can see, I have the top I made from Black Limba, a neck blank made from Jatoba, A slab of Hondo Mahogany, and a dark Indian Rosewood fret board.


    The fret board is from Exoticwoods in NJ. They have sent me some very nice wood over the years. It is usually dry, nice colored, and generous in portion size for the money. I think I paid $9 for the fret board. I bought more than 5 to get a discount. It is plenty thick so that I can clean it up with the planer and run it down to my ideal thickness of .25 inches.
    This is Jatoba that I bought from Corey Young, who contributes here on TB on a regular basis. He had me build him a bass a while back and during discussion of the build progress, we talked about some old Jatoba he had. I bought it from him and have been waiting for something to use it on. When I recieved it I found that it was rift sawn so I had to do some slicing and dicing. One edge was mostly vertical in grain but across the width of the rest of the board, the grain sloped away. This is old and very dry wood but I still like to get as close to quarter sawn wood as I can.

    I sliced the vertical grained part off and made it the center. Then I sliced the remaining pieces and glued them back together in this configuration. The bottom in the picture will be the bottom of the neck. If I had some stringer wood laying about I would have put it in between but the grain matched up nicely and the glue lines do not show. This stuff is very heavy and hard. I could almost feel my blades getting dull while cutting it. I have used Jatoba from time to time and I find it to be a great neck wood.

    Here is the top again with some naphtha wiped on to show the color of the wood. It is more golden brown in person but my shop lights do not help the color much.

    Since I have the can of naphtha out, I might as well see what eveything will look like under finish. The Jatoba is darker than the stuff I normally get but it is different enough to work well with the Mahogany. I mostly use Jatoba in place of Mahogany for necks as the color usually is pretty close to Mahogany. Here though it is very rich in color but I like it.

    And here we have a close up of my Black Limba headplate that I will use. This is cut from the topwood.

    Next time I will be making the scarf joint and maybe some chambering of the body before I glue the top on.

    Thanks for stopping by my post. Now I get to surf around looking at your builds.
  6. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Ok, I know I said that I was going to leave the neck blank as it was. Well things change and I decided to add some Wenge stringers.

    I sliced the neck back apart with the table saw. The neck blank was thick enough that I still will have plenty of width.

    Next I had to come up with some Wenge strips. I have another build getting started and there happened to be a wide enough Wenge neck blank that I could cut off some thin stringers from it. With carpet tape, I had to stick the thin pieces on to some thin Maple strips to be able to run it down to the correct thickness with my planer. My planer only goes down to about 1/8 of an inch. The added thickness allowed me to bring the Wenge strips down more and clean up both sides for gluing.

    Then gluing and clamping in the clamps. The second pic is after running the blank over the jointer. The last picture is how the neck will be oriented.

    Here is a good shot of my neck sled. It is just an angle cutting jig that I modified by cutting the sled off at the correct angle for my neck's scarf joints. I cut the sled so that the neck blank can ride across the table surface thus allowing me to cut neck widths up to 3.5 inches. All of my designs will fit into these specs. This method usually cuts nice and clean but with me messing about with the camera, the blade burned the wood a little. It won't hurt anything but I looks kinda like the saw doesn't cut well.
    I then set up the saw to cut the peghead piece down to .5 inches thick before sending it through the planer. I plane it down to a little under 3/8 inch. Less if I have thin accent veneers to slip in between the head plate, which this bass will have.

    You may all remember me for my constant use of the mighty tooth pick. I use these tooth picks to pin everything for gluing. I use them on tops, veneers, pegheads,..etc...
    I do sand and sometimes run the face of the scarf joint over my jointer to true it up if the saw leaves too rough of a surface. Most of the time I can use a hard sanding block with coarse grit stikit paper, to score the surface of the neck and peghead where they will be glued together. The scratch pattern seems to allow the water inside the glue to raise the wiskers which inter-lock and hide the glue lines nicely.

    I have completed my scarf joint. As you can see, my field expedient peghead process makes angled headstocks pretty easy.

    Next time I will be slotting my new Rosewood FB blank and gluing it on after I install my carbon fiber and truss rod.
  7. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Back today to clean up the neck blank and inlay the truss and carbon fiber rods.

    First I needed to glue on the peghead veneer. I used a piece of Black Limba from the body top wood excess. Since I usually overlap the fretboard over the peghead veneer I had to do this step first. No reason in particular that I overlap like this...I just like it this way. There is also some thin Walnut veneer in between to form a bit of an accent line between the layers. A great way to hide glue lines.
    Next I cleaned up the area where the peghead veneer and the face of the neck blank blend together. I used a wide sharp chisel to slice the peghead veneer off flush with the neck blank face. I then used a hard sanding block to clean it up before running the whole mess over my jointer. Now after laying out the center line and drawng out the shape of the neck, I am ready to inlay the truss.
    This is my homemade trus slotting jig. It is just some Red Oak wood glued together and planed down so that it is squared off. I clamp it to the side of my table saw. It does not need heavy duty support as the router does not ride on it. It is merely a surface for my edge guide to follow in order to keep my router true. The edge guide is an after market purchase that fits onto my router. The cut out part near the headstock area is for when I have to have ears glued onto the side of the headstock that would stick out and prevent the edge guide from being able to travel along the side of the neck. This lets the router still ride along un-impeded. I don't know why I forgot to snap a shot of the edge guide but I think it is pictured in my last build if you want to see it. The neck itself is fixed to the surface of the table saw with carpet tape. This tape is strong tack and is very thin so that the neck is pretty stable and does not float around.
    To check the depth of my router so that I cut the slot to the correct depth, I stab the bit down onto the face of the neck and lock it in place. Then I open my depth stop and wedge the truss in and close the stop down onto it and lock the stop. Now the router will only cut to the depth of the truss rod. Easy peasy. Oh, I just use a .25 inch router bit bought at a local hardware shop. My truss rods are .25 inch wide.
    This is the first slot.
    Next I needed to route the wide slot for the working end of the truss rod. I use this bit as the bottom of the slot should be rounded a bit.
    With the bit, I routed this part of the slot.
    As you can see, the slot allows the truss to sit in there flush with the face of the neck blank.
    Then I routed with a larger bit of the same shape to make this truss access. I made sure that the wrench fit into the slot.
    I used the same pratice for inlaying the stabilization rods as I did with the truss rod. For that I used a Stew Mac bit for their carbon fiber bars.
    I masked off the area around the carbon fiber rods as I will be applying epoxy to the slots so that we don't get any buzzing from a loose rod. The tape is so I do not mess about and get it on the surface of the neck face. That would prevent the wood glue from holding fast when I glue on the fret board. I dont epoxy the truss though. Maybe a dab of silicone at the end.
    Now I pealed the tape away and the neck is ready for the Fret board.
  8. looks good
  9. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    With the neck blank inlaid with carbon fiber and the truss rod I was ready for the next step in my building process....to glue the fret board on.

    In this first picture you can see that I made a small plug out of Limba to cover over the working end of the truss rod. I simply made a rectangle shaped piece that was 3/8 of an inch wide and cut to the correct length. I used some thin super glue to hold it in place while I used my sharp chisel to slice off the top of the plug flush the surface of the neck blank. This plug holds the truss in place and keeps it from moving about after the FB is glued on.

    The next pictures are of how I made the fret board.
    I made my fret board from some nice Indian Rosewood that I got from LMI. I use the Stew Mac miter box and saw to do this. If I ever get a second table saw I will most likely buy the fret slotting blade and make a sled to do this step, but for now I only have one saw and use it for much more than fret slots.

    Next, I took the completed FB and center it onto the neck blank. I used a square to double check that the fret slots are at 90 degrees from the center line. They were and I clamped the FB in place. I then drilled some small holes off into the waste area of the FB. These holes allow me to use my toothpicks to help center and align the FB after I have applied glue. They also keep the FB in place during the clamping phase.
    Before I spread glue over the neck surface, I cover the area behing the plug with masking tape. I do peel this off after I have spread glue. The tape is to prevent glue from getting into the working bits of the truss rod. I apply the glue right over top of it and then peel it off. The glue does sometimes squeeze into the cavity a little but so far it has not ever caused the truss to freeze up. I also applied some lube to the threads of the truss to help it work smoothly and to help keep any glue from sticking to that area.

    I applied the glue and used the toothpicks to center and align the FB back onto the neck. Works every time unless I get too aggressive and break off a tooth pick while pressing the FB on. It has happened before but with some care it happens rarely.
    Here the neck assembly is all clamped up and will stay this way for 24 hours.

    I have a lot of builds going on at the moment so I will have to try to get some more progress shots later this week.

    Thanks for checking in on my 5 string bass build.
  10. Wil_Couch


    Mar 12, 2013
    Sign me up!

    Really like how you "created" the perfect limba top. Well done
  11. TimBosby

    TimBosby Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2004
    Omaha, NE, USA
    Can't wait to see how this one turns out!
    It was nice to meet you today in Omaha.

    Anyone thinking of a new custom should check Andrew's stuff out... he's a very cool guy and a a very skilled builder. I've played a couple of his basses and they're awesome.
  12. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Awesome work as usual... Hey Mr. Drake, which stiffening rods do you use?
  13. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks guys.
    Sorry about not posting too often lately. I have a lot of custom orders and repair work going on so this bass has stalled a bit. A good problem for a builder to have I guess.

    The type of carbon fiber I use is the .200 X .25 inch stuff. You can get them at Stewmac but if you search the web for them you can get them for half of what they charge for them. The truss rods are dual action rods I get from Grizzly. I believe they are Nordstrand rods but I am not sure if it is the same company as the pick up maker.
  14. Corey Y

    Corey Y Guest

    Jun 3, 2010
    I want to see more of this, your builds are always interesting to see come together, but I'm glad you're busy Andrew!
  15. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    It has been awhile since I have done any work on this bass as I have a mess of custom orders to fill. Custom orders always take the lead but I am waiting on some more materials and have an afternoon to kill so I blew the dust off the Limba 5 string bass.
    I have the neck blank routed to the basic profile so I am now going to switch over to the body work. This is a pretty simple design for this bass but there is some prep work to.

    I have some Honduran Mahogany that I am going to use for my body. This stuff has a nice orange-brown color and will look nice with the Jatoba neck wood. It is of medium weight and there is no major defects.

    The first thing I do is to plane it down to the correct thickness. This bass will be overall 1.75 inches thick. I planed the Mahogany down to a little shy of 1.5 inches as I will add some thin Walnut in between the top and back. Then I cut each side so that A. I will be able to get clamps to the edge of the body shape when gluing the top on, and B. to leave some flat edges so that my pipe clamps will have a place to bite onto.
    To remove some weight and to give the bass some warmth I cored out a "honeycomb" of holes. I do larger hollow areas on brighter sounding woods like Maple but for Mahogany 5 string basses, I find that the holes work better for tone. Just my opinion and others may not agree. That is fine.

    You can see I left the area untouched where the control cavity will be. This will get routed out from the back. The area in red is about the size and shape of my control cavity. For basses with piezo electronics I would also route the wiring path now.

    Here are the layers I plan to glue up today.

    I have traced the template onto each layer of the body. I mark the inside edge of the body sides where the template line cuts the edge. This gives me a reference point so that the layers are somewhat lined up.

    Then I clamped the whole mess together dry.

    This is so that I can drill some small holes though the top and into the back. I use the holes to stick some toothpicks to use as guides to align the layers and to keep the top from moving about when applying clamps and glue.

    I put the holes for toothpicks in the waste area that will be cut away. Sometimes if the top wood does not have much excess area, I will put the toothpicks where the pickup cavities will be.
    I apply the glue to the back first.
    Then I applied the thin Walnut layer and added glue to the top of it. It wanted to curl up but the tooth pick kept it in place.

    Next the Limba top. I do both sides this way.

    Here is the two halves in the clamps.

    Thanks for reading my post.
  16. Thumpin_P


    Nov 26, 2006
    Limestone, TN
    Subbed! I love your work!!!
  17. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks P.

    Today I am going to glue the two body halves together.

    The two halves are out of the clamps and I have used the band saw to trim some off the edges. I want the flat edges to help place my pipe clamps.
    Probably the most sensitive part of this operation is to make sure the accent line and top line up correctly. There is nothing more frustrating to me than when the pinstripe doesn't run straight into itself. It makes the effect look half-assed. I admit that it sometimes happens to me but I try to take precautions against it. To counter the offset, I saw away some off the waste area right up to the edge of the actual body shape. This way I can see the pinstripe where it will actually meet in the center. I then dry fit everything in the clamps to make sure that, when locked in, everything lines up. In this case everything is perfect and I will be able to just use a clamp at the end to keep this in line. I have had to shim once in awhile to keep the accent line true. It is difficult when I do the lines on both sides of the body. As long as the accent line (pinstripe) lines up at the butt end, we are good to go. The other end will be routed away with the neck pocket and will not show. If the body halves ever have to be offset in order to line up the top and accent line, I can always sand everything flat later.
    I then apply the glue and put her into the clamps. Before I tighten the clamps I place the clutch clamps at each end to hold them true to each other as the glue and pressure from the clamps tend to make the two halves want to move about. You can see why I wanted to have squared off edges of the body blank. The pipe clamps hold the halves well.
    After a few hours I can remove the body from the clamps and scrape away excess glue with a scraper. I then use the bandsaw to cut out most of the shape save for the area around the neck pocket. This is so I have a place to support my template to cut the pocket. After the pocket is cut, I saw the area away.
    She is now ready for the neck pocket. I will do that next time I get the chance to work on this bass.
  18. DiAnnoMih


    Feb 7, 2012
    Oh boy, this is so nice!
  19. SaintMez

    SaintMez Commercial User

    Jan 3, 2010
    Meridian, idaho
    Blood Brothers Guitars - Luthier, Porter Guitars - Contractor
    That's a great looking top! Nicely done as usual. I always like watching your builds. Very informative stuff.
  20. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Last time I had just glued the two sides of the body together. Today I am getting the neck fretted and the neck pocket cut.

    First I have to get the neck assembly prepared. I use carpet tape to stick the neck down to the flat surface of my table saw. I then use a Stew Mac radius beam with a 20 inch radius and 3M Stikit sandpaper on it. I start with 100 grit and go through 240 and 320 before moving to fine abrasive pads. The abrasive pads are to polish the wood a bit and make the FB feel smooth.
    Here the FB has been completed and checked that there is no low spots or bumps.
    I did not go into great detail with the fretting this time as I did something different than what I normally do. Since the neck was on a nice flat surface and well adhered to the table top, I decided to used my old fret hammer to do the frets this time. I normally use my new arbor press and caul to do this but the caul is a little short for 5 string bass frets and the hammer works just fine. I do open the slot with a triangular mini file so that the tang slips into the slot well.
    OK, now with the frets in and side dot inlays installed, I am ready to cut the neck pocket. I do this only after the neck is fretted so that I can take the bridge, that will be used, and check the angle and depth as I route the pocket. I use many different styles of bridges and need to make the neck pocket and angle work with the specific bridge being installed later. I like to cut a pocket so that the bridge in the lowest setting allows the strings to lay on top of the frets. That way there is complete adjustment up from there.
    I used to long straight edges and a ruler that has a center 0 set up. I have drawn a center line down the body and marked the heel of the neck so that I can see it form the end. I also make sure that the heel is in the right place in relation to the intonation line where my bridge saddles will be (place the neck on the body and measure from the nut or zero fret. This case it is 33 inches). I line up the center mark on the neck heel with the center line on the body. I use the straight edges along the neck to bring it into alignment. The zero on the ruler should be on the body's center line with equal distance on each side to the straight edges. My neck is centered.
    Carefully I take my neck template blocks and stick them, with carpet tape, up against the neck. There is a slight angle to the template blocks so that my pocket creates the neck angle as I hate shims.
    I also stick a heel chock up against the heel end before carefully removing the neck.
    I then find the markings where my pickup cavities will be and drill a toothpick sized hole through my template and into the cavity area. I then hammer in some toothpicks to keep the template block in position. the toothpick and carpet tape work very well this way and I get good tight pockets. I sand off the top of the toothpicks so my router can slide across easily. If/when my template gets to drilled up, I will make another.
    I use a forstner bit to remove much of the wood in the pocket area....
    ....and a Stew Mac bearing bit to route the pocket. Once I route along the heel chock, I remove it so that I can check the depth with the neck. the chock would get in the way of the FB over hang it left in place. I do have to chisel the corners to allow the neck to go all in.
    Once I completed the pocket I can remove the template blocks.
    Like a Glove!

    Thanks for viewing my post.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.