Finishing a bass I started 20 years ago

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by monsterfiddle, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. Hi all,

    About 20 years ago, I started building a bass. It was never completed, mostly because I haven't had access to a real workshop since then, but also because I wasn't very happy with it.

    I did a little restoration project last year, which was really fun, and made me think about finishing this bass.

    A wood and metalworking makerspace is opening near me in May, which should have all the equipment I need. I don't have much spare time, so I expect progress to be slow, but I'm in no rush. It's been 20 years after all.

    Here's the plan so far:
    I want to turn this eyesore:

    into something maybe a bit like this:

    So, obviously the wings have to go. Does someone have a european hardwood source they can recommend? Or at least someplace with low shipping rates to Europe? I haven't been able to find anyplace near me.

    Any other thoughts/comments/suggestions/recommendations are of course very welcome :)
    Bassbeater, ctmullins and chinjazz like this.

  2. Subbed! I'd love to see that body shape come to life :) Looking forward to your progress!
  3. Thanks :)

    There won't be much progress to report until May, and the design may change a bit. I have a number of different sketches, but the one above is the one I'm most happy with.
    I'm fascinated with the Ric-style oval between the upper and lower horns, so I'll keep that. I was amused to see someone else on here point that design feature out on another thread recently.

    Everything else might change though. Still don't have a headstock design I'm happy with
  4. Hout


    Jun 17, 2015
    Leiden, Netherlands
    That looks like a big improvement on the shape! :thumbsup:Love to see how it'll turn out, subbed!
  5. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Subbed, and here I thought I held the record at 7 years.
  6. Well, it's not quite 20 years, but close enough. I think I started in '99, so that should make it 19.
  7. While waiting for may to come, I'm trying to learn some CAD. I'm using a free online tool.

    I made this, based on my drawing above:
    Screenshot 2018-02-18 13.02.26.png

    I'd be very interrested to hear your thoughts, especially from those of you with design skills. If anything seems off, I'd rather hear it now. Nevermind the headstock for now, I'll deal with that later.

    Any suggestions you might have are most welcome. I'm not married to this design in any way.
    Bassbeater and Jon Clegg like this.
  8. I'm probably the last one who should be commenting on design and style, but I don't like the point on the bass side part of the body. I would move the dip in that wing toward the back a little, make it a bit deeper, then round over that top point.
    monsterfiddle and Jon Clegg like this.
  9. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    I'll second the point about that point:cool: While it does look cool, it's going to be uncomfortable.
    JRA, monsterfiddle and Bassbeater like this.
  10. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Personally I like to see the lower bout width of the body wider then across the two upper horns. To my eye shows better aesthetically. The point you have on the upper body doesn't bother me but maybe there needs to be a way to tie it into the overall design. Not bad overall!
    monsterfiddle likes this.
  11. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    I know you said something about "no headstock comments!" but after looking through the current headstock thread, it seems like the issue with your build. Guitars with tuner layouts that bind the strings at the nut suck - fact. Come up with an inventive solution for the headstock and you can use that design to inform the style of the body.
    monsterfiddle likes this.
  12. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Don't worry too much about strings breaking straight off the nut. They break at an angle anyway so which direction is not the issue. Correct forming of the nut slot to accommodate the string is. I have built both ways and found the straight string thing a myth in my experience. You could pay more attention to tuner spacing and clearance to the edges so as not to interfere with fingers trying to turn them. Again overall I believe you are progressing nicely.
    JRA and monsterfiddle like this.
  13. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I love it, I think it's unique, but has some references to other instruments that also allow it to feel familiar in the design. I'm not as worried about the point on the upper bout, I'm sure that will soften when it's actually built, and can be tweaked to permit an arm relief in the body shape anyway. You definitely need to rework the tuner positioning on the headstock though. :D Cool design... :thumbsup:
    monsterfiddle likes this.
  14. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    How about a counter point on the lower horn to reflect the point on the bass side lower body? Also I would consider slightly reducing the size of the upper horn as it comes across as being a little too large. Again widen the bass side of the lower body as well. I think you have something original there and I like the way you mind is going.
    monsterfiddle likes this.
  15. Thanks for the input and kind words folks, I really appreciate it, you've given me lots to consider.

    There definitely is a nod to some well-known basses in this design.
    Originally, 20 years ago, I was inspired by Les Claypool's basses, hence the number of strings and the CT-inspired headstock. I wanted something a bit more aggressive looking though, which the body wings reflect.

    In the current design, the ellipsis between the horns is obviously Ric-inspired, and the asymmetrical lower bout makes me think of J-basses, although that wasn't my intention. The bass side lower bout on Ric basses seems a bit off to me, so I drew a point instead, following the curve. Looked cool I thought, a hint of RD.
    Then I remembered the Hammersmith K also has points on the lower bout, but symmetrical. That one is inspired by Rics and the Guild B-301 if I'm not mistaken.
    I've ordered a K, so I don't want to get too close to that design. I'll keep the bout asymmetrical or remove the point.

    @saabfender, I would have loved to have an awesome headstock and derive the rest of the design from that, but headstocks are hard... I must have over a hundred sketches that I'm not too happy with. Straight strings, bent strings, 4+2, 3+3 2+4, 5+1... I'll keep sketching.

    @Slidlow, interesting idea to reflect the upper point in the lower horn, I'll explore that a bit I think, thanks.

    Also, a bigger lower bout (or maybe smaller horns) seems to be one of the things I've been unable to see for myself, thanks for that.

    I'll play with some curves, and post back when I've made progress
  16. DeltaDelta


    Feb 17, 2018
    If you don't know them yet, check out Dictum GmbH, located in Germany.They have a decent selection of woods and don't get me started on the tools....drool
    You might want to look into the shipping expenses though.
    Good luck with your build!
  17. Oh wow, they certainly have tools available... The wood selection seems geared towards acoustic instrument making though, but I'm sure there's something usable there if I just dig a bit
  18. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Here is a suggestion. Just a rough sketch and if you like I will leave it to you to refine.
    saabfender, monsterfiddle and JLW like this.
  19. @Slidlow, thanks for the sketch! I wanted to see how it compared to my design, and it's pretty close:
    Screenshot 2018-02-20 07.58.47.png

    I see your point about the upper horn being a tad big, I still want it to touch the 12 fret line though. I'll work with this a bit, I'll probably end up somewhere in between
  20. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Yes I didn't scale it right and meant to reach around the 12th. As a note on my four, five and current six I am building the upper horn reaches just to the 14th and that design balances well. Reaching the 12th is not the only aspect that can be used to achieve balance.
  21. I overlaid some known basses, and saw that my design is too skinny. All others had thicker bouts and larger wings overall. A tiny body will create a balance issue. Fattened it up a bit:
    Screenshot 2018-02-20 14.14.08.png

    Improvement overall I think.

    I was surprised to see how big Rics and J-basses are, my updated version is still small compared to those
    Matt Liebenau and bastav like this.
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