Ergonomic bass build "Twisted Sister"

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by TFM94, Jan 20, 2022.

  1. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    Hello Luthier's Corner,

    some of you might have already seen my attempts at routing a twisted neck blank here: Planning a twisted neck

    Now it's time to build a bass out of this. As the title suggests, it's a twisted neck bass, similar to the ones made by Torzal. I should point out that there is a patent on twisted bass necks1, and I am building this for myself only, without selling or exporting it. The thread linked above also has some info on twisted necks in general and on the jig that I'll be using.

    I first thought about throwing this one into the winter build off 2022, but I decided not to. The twisted neck design is new to me and there might be many unexpected challenges. I don't want to rush it.

    Now let's talk about the main parameters:
    -5-string, probably tuned C-F-Bb-Eb-G or C-F-Bb-Eb-G#
    -twisted neck, -20 degrees at the nut and +15 at the bridge
    -fanned fret, 36"-34" scale
    -24 frets
    -17mm string spacing (bridge)
    -one Nordstrand BigRig humbucker somewhere around the P-position
    -one volume knob, that's all!

    For my "woodpile" I have:
    -maple neck blank
    -wenge fretboard
    -Swamp ash body wings
    -wenge top

    For the design I have made a mockup using a Strandberg neck and an Alembic Balance K body to give you an impression. This graphic does not show the twist, so it might look a bit different in 3D.
    Alemberg II.jpg
    What do you think? Design ideas are always welcome. I'm not sure about the headpiece shape yet, I will be using ABM single headpieces, so I can get a little creative here. Any suggestions?

    I have already routed the twist into the neck blank, but apart from that it's still a square piece of wood. I routed the twist in an MDF router jig with two opposite inclined rails. The plan is to do as much routing in this jig as possible, including:
    -routing the twist
    -routing the sides of the neck with a pattern bit (square to the fretboard)
    -routing the back of the neck to the desired thickness (if possible)
    -routing the fretboard radius

    Here's the jig with the neck blank in it:
    I know it's a bit crazy, but let's get started! Ideas and suggestions always welcome.

    1Edit: As @Max Bogosity pointed out, the patent on twisted necks expired in 2017.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2022
    swink, Cal03, funkinbottom and 19 others like this.
  2. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Definitely needs a little real estate at the headstock if we can call it that on a headless. An abrupt end doesn’t jive well with the curvy body in my opinion. Oh and dual pickups with this body as well.
    Justinian and TFM94 like this.
  3. This is a cool looking project. Now you have me thinking about how I could get my CNC router to do this!
    TFM94 likes this.
  4. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    To be honest, a CNC is probably the best way to do this. I don't have one and I'm not gonna buy one just for this project, therefore I'm going to use router jigs. If you want to figure this out for CNC, more power to you!
    Jeff Siddall likes this.
  5. RichterScale


    Feb 21, 2021
    I think you're a madman.
    I love it.
    Can't wait to watch this come together.
  6. Figuring it out is probably pretty easy actually, just adding a linear offset to end each end. My bigger issue is that my CNC can only cut about 700 mm (about 27.5") of length so I would need to build a bigger CNC, or make a bolt-on version. Hmmm...
    TFM94 likes this.
  7. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I have 4.5cm of "real estate" on the bass side and 7cm on the treble side. Rounded shapes at the end of the neck are a bit of an issue. I don't want to make it a cutoff like Strandberg either, but maybe I can find a compromise.

    The single pickup design is less based on the body shape, but rather on myself fiddling with the control knobs and pickup selector all the time. I built myself a LP Junior DC with a single P90 pickup, and I am very much enjoying the simplicity of that. According to Nordstrand the BigRig is "a dual 51P hum-cancelling pickup", that's why I thought it might work well as a single pickup in the P-position. For more tonal variety I could make it splittable.
  8. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I'll take that as a compliment!
    mb94952 likes this.
  9. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I don't know what things your CNC code is already compensating for, and maybe you already have this covered, but this is not a linear twist. I came to this realization when my first router jig failed ;) The string paths have to be straight, and because they are not parallel, they require a non-linear twist. If I put a straight edge along the edge of the neck blank, I have a bow of approx. 1/4", and that's on purpose.
    Durham52 and Jeff Siddall like this.
  10. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Cool project, this will be interesting to follow! But... and I mean this in the least offensive way possible (probably too late); are you a masochist? :laugh: Or do you play circus music? I just don't get that type of tuning and don't understand the benefit... please educate me. :thumbsup:
  11. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I am not. This is not just to make the build harder, but has a purpuse. It doesn't involve the circus at all.

    The benefit of the twisted neck is in its ergonomics. It helps to keep both your wrists straight both at the fretting hand towards the nut and also your plucking hand close to the bridge. This helps during long sessions and also prevents tendonitis and carpal tunnel problems. Check out the Torzal website, it explains the ergonomic benefits very well. Torzal Guitars

    The tuning is not that weird, it basically corresponds to C-standard, more specifically C1-F1-Bb1-Eb2-Ab2. I play in a stoner metal band and the guitar is tuned in C standard as well. If needed, I can tune down all strings a half step down and end up with 5-string standard tuning B0-E1-A1-D2-G2.
  12. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    So first off, you're taking me waaaay too seriously. This post was 99% tongue in cheek. Having said that... I get the twisted neck. I was asking specifically about the tuning. I still don't get it. Why the different interval with Eb to G??
    TFM94 likes this.
  13. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    Sorry if I was a bit defensive. I get it ;), it does sound a bit crazy in my first post.
    The G instead of Ab is just an option. It basically copies guitar C-standard tuning, just an octave below. I'm not sure if I'll tune it G or Ab, whatever works :bassist:
    ryan pate and SlingBlader like this.
  14. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Gotcha, thanks for the explanation, I get it now. Sometimes I'm a little slow. :thumbsup: :laugh:
    ryan pate likes this.
  15. 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
    I really like it. You're a bit far away but I'd love to try it out. Wishing you success with this wild build!
    ryan pate and TFM94 like this.
  16. I'll be following this for sure!
    TFM94 likes this.
  17. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Holy cow! I was taking with someone at work this afternoon about Torzal basses, and we also talked about fanned frets. I had never seen a fanned fret TWISTED bass before and said it would be cool if someone builds one.

    Then I go home and I see this thread - and you're going a step farther and making it headless! Subscribed.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2022
    Why Nautilus‽ and TFM94 like this.
  18. mb94952

    mb94952 Endorsing Artist : SFARZO STRINGS Inactive Suspended Supporting Member

    I've always wanted to try a Torzal. I am NOT a luthier, so I feel like I'm walking into a poker game already in progress.
    Looking forward to seeing the evolution of this...
    TFM94 likes this.
  19. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Whenever I see a Torzal or a Fanned fret instrument, I think "kind of a good idea, but maybe overdone? My mind things maybe 1 degrees of twist and an inch of fanning might be nice, and les disorienting. Just my gut speaking.....
  20. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Im building an Alembic Balance K clone right now, so I love the body shape, obviously. I had noticed years ago that the "Omega" cutout made this body shape a natural for headless tuners, but never did anything about it. I like headless (Steinberger Owner here), but that sculptural body needs a counterbalance. Would you even consider a faux headstock of sorts with string through retainers instead of headstock tuners?
    TFM94 and Slidlow like this.