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Drake Custom 5 string build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Drake Custom, Aug 20, 2012.

  1. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Hello all, I have been working on a customer build for a few weeks and I thought I would share the build with the LC.

    This bass is a 5 string 33 inch scale with 24 frets (25 with zero fret) on the Ebony fret board. For the body the top, back, and peg head veneers are going to be Walnut and the core and neck will be 5 A grade curly Maple.

    This bass will get EMG 40P and 40J pickups and will have a piezo loaded Hipshot bridge. She will be string through the body and will have glow in the dark side position markers only.

    As you can see, this bass is in progress but I will go back to the the starting point so you all can see how she got this far.

    In this photo you can see that I have made the body and neck, slotted and fretted the fret board, cut the neck pocket and completed the pickup routing. Still a lot to go.

    Here is some of the Walnut I will be using. I have wiped some naphtha on to show off the color of this wood. The Walnut does have some figure but it is very slight. What I love about this wood is the colors and the fact that it is from very large Walnut trees harvested near my shop.

    This curly Maple has been around my shop for some time. I have been waiting to use it on a special project and when this order came in I was pleased that I would be able to use it.

    For the body...after working the top and back woods to the correct thickness I need to layout the body. Since this is what I call a laminated stack type construction, I first trace the shape of the body (using a template) onto the face of each of the layers starting with the back. I trace my shape onto the face of the back and then pencil some index lines so that I can see from the side showing me where the end of the body and the edge of the neck heel area are. The goal is to have all of the tracings line up on each level of the stack. I then place the pieces of the core wood on top of the two pieces of the back. I line up the template with the lines I can see from the side. I did show this process in more detail on my last 5 string LC post if you wish to see this better. Note that I do not glue the two halves together until I have the two sides completed. That will be done later.

    I do this same thing to the top pieces until I have all of the layers marked with the basic shape.
    I then cut the basic shape out on the top only. I leave the core and back somewhat blocky so I can glue the two completed sides together easier. This gives my pipe clamps some flat surfaces to work with. This may look ugly now but the end result is what is important.

    I glue the backs onto the core pieces. I used my toothpick method to help line up the two layers so that they do not slide out of line when going into the clamps. This method has been depicted in all of my builds so far. Don't want to bore anyone by repeating too much.

    After the glue is dry I route out the chambers in the core. I do this on the bass side as well. This removes weight and gives the bass a nice warm tone. More acoustic properties. I went ahead and routed some channels for the piezo and pickup wiring. Easier to do now than later.

    Then I glue the top pieces on. After the glue has dried, I will glue the two halves together with pipe clamps.

    Here is the body after the glue dried and I cut out the shape. I leave some meat around the neck pocket so that I have some area to stick my template to.

    Thanks for looking at my build.
  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Nice. I like the pre-routing. Walnut has become my favorite domestic wood.
  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Pretty body shape. I'm interested in seeing why the center section is raised.

    Seems odd to use such a pretty piece of curly maple as the core - usually this is top wood. Customer preference?
  4. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Thanks guys for the replies.
    I don't usually use such nice wood for the core but I have a lot of it around and the customer wanted some nicer woods.

    As for the center cap detail...that is something that has evolved over a few builds in the past. A couple of years ago I had a customer see a picture of a bass I made that had some relief carving around the center section.
    He liked the effect and was wondering what it would look like to have contrasting woods layered instead of the carving so that the contrasting wood could peek out under the top that matches the body.
    This is the bass where I did that on. I call it the "Pirate Bass" because of all the gold and diamonds...looked like a bass a pirate would have if prates played bass that is.
    Anyway my new customer saw the Pirate Bass and wanted something similar for his bass.
    The Pirate Bass had that detail added later on so I had to counter sink the bridge to get it to the correct height. For this bass, since it was planned to have this detail, I added the cap before I cut the neck pocket. The bridge will rest on top of the cap. It will be a Hipshot B style and will have a lower profile. So in short, the raised area is just some decoration and does not serve any functional purpose.

    Thanks for the questions and comments
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Thanks, Drake! Mmmmm, such eye candy....

    (that's my pirate's impersonation in case you where wondering)
  7. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    Thats a really cool effect! I guess another benefit would be that on a bass with no neck angle, it would reduce the height of the fingerboard above the body at the heel of the neck, giving a look as if it had neck angle with the fingerboard being flush to the body.
  8. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    You are correct Meatrus. This bass does have a slight neck angle and the fret board does sit almost flush with the center cap section.
    Another possibility is to have the center cap raised even higher for those who like a ramp-like structure under the strings. Maybe add another laminate that puts the surface of the cap almost flush with the surface of the fret board. I have thought about this before but have not tried it yet.
  9. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Next, after cutting out the basic shape......

    ...I routed the rear cavity with a template and bearing bit in my router. I will do the same with the recess for the cavity cover. You can see the wire routes in the cavity.

    Here you see the core wood sandwiched between the top and back. A bit blurry but she has got a lot of figure that will show around the edges when carved.

    Here is the neck balnk I used. I got it from Exotic Woods out in NJ. They send me some very nice figured, very dry, neck blanks and fret boards. This is their 5A grade Curly Western Maple.

    You can see my jig I use to cut the scarf joints. This example is from the last bass I made. I did not get a pic of the current neck so you can get the idea from this.

    Most of you know that I am fond of using toothpicks to help hold the peghead in place during glue up. I did this again here before applying the clamps.

    Next time I will show the fretboard slotting.

    Thanks for checking in.
  10. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Here is more progress. I am in the middle of a run of 4 string basses so I apologize for the delay in posting.

    So far I have the body blank made up and cut with the basic shape. I also have the scarf joint on my neck blank completed. Time for the finger board.

    I used an Ebony blank from Exoticwoods in NJ. I like their FBs as they always send them rough cut but with enough thickness to machine to the right specs. Price is good too. I use my miter box and scale template together to make the FB. This is the Stew Mac version. I have shown it before but it works well and I don't mind advertising for things that work well. Their fret wire is another story so I use Dunlop.
    The completed FB. I like to add a little thumb rest on the end of my unbound FBs. With the humbucker pickups I use this allows a lot of thumb rest points for tone hunters that play all over the bass looking for the sweet spot that brings out a certain tone to fit the part being played.
    Next, I have cut a piece of the Walnut for the veneer. I use my toothpick method to center it during glue up before adding the clamps.
    After the glue dries I inlay the truss and carbon fiber. I use an edge guide on my router to do this. No big deal.
    As you can see I had a litte bauble on end of the carbon fiber route. No worries, I add some epoxy in and around the carbon fiber to keep it from rattling around. You can also see the truss tab I use to lock the truss in place and cover the channel (at the business end of the truss) from glue and allow some more surface for the nut to rest. I use soft woods to make this for two reasons. One, so I can easily slice it off smooth with my chisel before gluing on the FB. And two...on one occasion I had a truss foul up and had to be removed from the neck. I found that with the softer wood, I was able to dig it out with drill bits and a exacto knife allowing me to slide the rod out of the neck without taking the FB off. It was a lot of work but easier and cleaner than a FB removal.
    After the carbon and truss are planted, I align and use my toothpicks to hold the FB in the correct position for glue up.
    Then just add a ton of clamps, stir, and serve.

    Until next time. Thanks for taking time to look at my post.
  11. Quick (possibly stupid) question. When you're routing for the Carbon fiber support rods; how do you route those channels? Do you pre-drill and then run them on a table, or do you have a sled you use from above?

    I've been working on a neck and I'm worried about getting a nice true route for the support rods, and I wanted the rods to follow the lines of the sides of the neck.
  12. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    A good question. I probably should have shown that process as it has been awhile since I have.
    I use a router with an edge guide to cut the channels for both truss and carbon. I use a 1/4 inch bit for the truss rods. I use .200 inch wide fiber and I use a Stew Mac bit, they sell just for that purpose, to make the channel.

    Here is a picture of the basic setup. My girlfriend Rosie is using it for her guitar's truss. Her right hand is griping the edge guide. Most decent quality routers are capable of accepting an edge guide.
    In the picture we had to clamp a piece of wood along the edge of the table due to the fact that she has attached ears onto her peghead and the edge guide could not get past it. The piece of wood is notched out to box around the ear on the bass side giving the guide a smooth straight edge to follow. For most of my builds, I have a neck blank and headstock that are flush along the edge. I stick the neck onto a flat surface like the table saw (with carpet tape) and with the peghead hanging off the end (I use angled pegheads). When I stick the neck down I place it so that the edge of the neck blank extends past the table edge. This is so that my edge guide can follow the actual neck. So if your necks edge is true you can easily make the channels exact.

    Good luck with your build.
  13. curbowkid

    curbowkid Guest

    Jun 27, 2011
    Brooklyn, New York
    I have that same router! Where did you get the guide from? I need one for mine. I hate having to build fences for every single straight route.

    Beautiful build btw!
  14. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Nice build!

    I hope you'll entertain a question:

    I normally rabbet the opening of the control cavity to accommodate an inset lid.

    How will you fit the lid to the control cavity?
  15. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    As usual AD, another classy build, looking good.
  16. What is problem with Stewmac fretwire? Don't they sell dunlop stuff?
  17. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    I will try to clear up a few questions.

    First question was about my router guide. The guide was purchased at Home Depot when I bought the router. It is the Ryobi brand guide made to fit the router. I think it was something like $20.

    The second question was about the recess route for the control cavity cover. I do use an inset cavity cover on most of my instruments. I cut it later on using another template that is slighty larger than the cavity template. I do the cavity first and then I line up the recess template over the completed cavity so I can center it better. I do not have a picture of the template at the moment but it is just a piece of thin Plywood with the shape cut out of it. It will look like this when routed...

    The third question was about Stew Mac fretwire. Over the last year or two I had issues with the Stew Mac fret wire not fitting into the fret slot that their brand of saw cuts. I used their wire for years with no issues but then suddenly every batch I got would not seat into the wood without major force. The wire would often pop back out or tip over instead of going into the slots smoothly as it did before. I checked and rechecked depth of slot and I checked and rechecked for obstructions but there were none. This was happening to every fret job at the time. Once I finally got the frets in...the compression was so great that the neck had way too much backbow. I junked the wire and started buying from LMI and more recently, Dunlop wire from Warmoth. Both went in smoothly and with minimal compression and backbow. I do have some Stew Mac wire for refret jobs where some compression can be useful when the slots are oversized and worn.
    In their defense, Stew Mac did send me another batch of fret wire that they personally checked and even included a new fret saw free of charge. I had the same issue with that wire and saw. I can't explain it but when I ran a side by side test with Stew Mac wire and actual Dunlop wire, the Dunlop wire worked great and the Stew Mac wire did not. I am thinking that the barbs stick out much more than Dunlop barbs. Stew Mac sells a "Fret Barber" to adjust the barbs. Coincidence? Anyway, I do not want to buy another tool just to have to modify their wire to use it.
    In short I don't use their wire any more but they did try to make it right with me so A+ for customer service. I still buy many things from them that work well.
  18. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
  19. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    With the fret board glued on I then cut out the shape of the neck with my bandsaw. I have a 3/4 inch pattern bearing bit that I use with a plexiglass template to shape the neck profile. The template sticks down onto the top of the fret board and the bearing of the router bit rides along the edge shaving away everything that is not a neck. With the bandsaw I had cut up to within 1/16 of an inch so there is not much material left to remove. In this pic you can get the idea of what she will look like. Or I guess you can go back to the begining of the post to see it.

    I fretted the neck in the same way demonstrated in my last few builds. Tools: Stew Mac fret press that chucks into my drill press, Stew Mac end nippers to cut the frets, and a hammer that I use to start the frets in.

    I like to have a nice flat surface on the back of the neck during fret pressing but with that completed, I can now laminate the rear of the peghead and hide this nasty glue line.
    I have to carve away and sand back some material so that the neck has a nice even curve blending into the peghead.

    Once prepared, I glued on a thin piece of Walnut that matched the front piece. I use more clamps than pictured obviously. In the picture I was just dry fitting and checking that the transition from the neck into the peghead was smooth and slight enough that my veneer would bend without cracking.

    Here is what the end result is after glue up and then trimming of the excess. Sorry, a bit blurry.
    Now for some carving of the peghead. Next time I will join the body and neck.

    Thanks for taking time to view my post.
  20. Drake Custom

    Drake Custom Commercial User

    Aug 24, 2010
    Builder/Owner:Drake Custom Bass Guitars
    Back with some more progress shots of this bass. I have the body made up and the neck assembly made so now it is time to join the two together. This build has the extra detail of what I call a center cap. This detail is a raised area down the center of the body. The first time I did this I routed the pocket and then added the cap. That was not so easy so this time I am going to try something else.

    As you can see here, the center cap is rough cut to the basic shape. To make the center cap, I just laminated a piece of Walnut to a piece of figured Maple. I left both pieces thick so that the glue would not make it cup. Then after the glue was dry, I ran it down with the planer. I also made the cap wider at the neck heel end so I had some room to mount my template. My plan was to cut the neck pocket through both cap and into the body. I centered and fixed the cap in place with some wood screws that were sunk into the area where the pickups will be routed. I screwed it down so that after routing I can remove it and trim it to shape. The screws can also be put in later to help hold the center down during the glue phase. I just have to make sure I remove them before routing the pickup cavities.
    Here you can see my basic pocket template. The two pieces of quarter sawn hard Maple that I use as a template. They are tapered so that I get a slight neck angle to the floor of the neck pocket. I hate shims. I fix the template pieces down with carpet tape but since there is a possibility of movement of the whole set up during routing, I decided to also add some wood screws through the template pieces into an area that will be a pickup cavity. You can see the screws holding the cap down near the plexiglass piece. Next I bulked out some of the pocket area with a forstner bit to save my bearing bit some work.
    After the first pass the pocket is deep enough to remove the plexiglass piece and use the pocket as the template. After taking a chisel to the corners of the neck pocket, I can slide my neck into place to check the depth. I placed the bridge where it will go on the body and used a strightedge laying on its side on top of the frets to check how well the angle is lining up with the saddles of the bridge.
    Once the neck pocket is cut I have essentially a dove tail joint that fits nice and tight. I then was able to remove the screws and take off the center cap. I trimmed it with a bandsaw and sanding block. In the picture you can see how the cap blends into the neck pocket better than it was. I then glued the center cap into place with clamps and some screws in areas that will be routed out later. I cleaned the edges up a bit with a scraper after the glue was rubbery.
    Next it was just a matter of routing the pickup cavities.
    Since I had some time while the glue dried, I drilled the tuner holes.

    Thanks for looking.

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