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First bass build - trying to use only recycled native New Zealand woods

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by joppo, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. Hi all

    I have been a lurker here for a long time, and have wanted to build a bass from scratch for a a number of years. I have built a kitset ukulele and guitar with my son over the last few years, which were fantastic father/son projects. But being inspired by bass builds I have followed here, I have finally started on a bass for myself.

    I have been working on it for a while, and so will share images I have taken to get up to date, but it has been evolving as the build progresses, so have really only got recently got clarity about what it is going to be. The aim is to use only New Zealand native woods, and if possible using recycled pieces I can find around (my Dad is a bit of a hoarder of wood, so I have some good choices).

    Hope you find it interesting - the woods should be quite different to ones I have seen here. Still a few decisions to make, so may be asking for some opinions along the way.
  2. So here is the inspiration. I love the body shape of Veillette basses, so wanted to use that general body shape. When I started, I knew I wanted to build an unlined fretless bass, but hadn't decided what pickups/electronic/headstock shape I would do.
  3. Woods
    I went digging through the piles of old timber in my Dad's shed to see if I could find some neck and body wood. I found a 4x4 that was once a veranda post in a house. Didn't know what the wood was at this stage, but it is definitely a fine grained native, pretty heavy and stable, and quite red in color. My father is pretty sure it is over 100 years old because he remembers the house he 'rescued' it from when it was demolished.


    For the body wood, I wanted to use Kauri (Agathis australis), a very slow growing native conifer. the wood has a really nice fine grain, is a nice honey color when varnished and is used a lot by luthiers over here. I found an old church "pew" (bench seat) made out of kauri. Dad grabbed it when the seats were upgraded to something more modern with some padding. Again, the wood is over 100 years old given they were the original seats in the church. Sadly I didn't take a photo, but it had been stored outside and you couldn't see much until it was planed.
  4. Looking forward to seeing this come together!
    joppo likes this.
  5. More on the wood
    So after cutting into the 4x4 and asking friend in the know, the neck is going to be made from Matai (or Black Pine, Prumnopitys taxifolia), another native conifer. I dressed up bits of the Matai and Kauri and rubbed some French Polish in o see what the woods would come up like. You can see from the photo that the Matai is quite red and the Kauri is a warm honey color. The Matai is pretty dense so there will need to be a lot of wood in the body to balance it up.
    IconBasser likes this.
  6. I've put two carbon rods in the neck and I'm using a truss rod that can be adjusted in the heel of the neck.
    moonshinegtrs likes this.
  7. Here is the rough shape of the neck with the carbon rods sitting in place. I've gone for a 2 tuners up and 2 down to save a bit of wood in the headstock. The wood is pretty dense so doing what I can the reduce head dive.
  8. JSC


    Mar 25, 2016
    Daaaaaaaamn. So pleased to see another upcycler/recycler, and those woods are gorgeous.
    ronaldpdbrandt and joppo like this.
  9. fenderfour


    Sep 3, 2015
    Seattle, WA

    Most of the reclaimed wood in the states is Hemlock/Fir. It's a bit too soft for my taste.
  10. JSC


    Mar 25, 2016
    So, being a little behind the curve on knowing about wood's characteristics: are NZ conifers harder than what we typically have here? You can practically chew USA pine/fir. Is it dependent on growth rate?

  11. tbrannon


    Jun 11, 2006
    Love that you're using native timber. I was lucky enough to live in NZ for anout 5 yrs. Kauri is a beautiful wood, as is Matai. Will be watching this build closely.
    joppo likes this.
  12. Both are very slow growing, Matai for hundreds of years and Kauri potentially for thousands. Lots of our natives aren't really suitable for instruments as they aren't stable enough and warp a little over time. Both of these are very stable so get used by local luthiers. The Matai is dense and hard, but good to work with. Kauri is softer and lighter and the piece I got is very resonant. It is stable and very resistant to rotting, so got used in boats. It is really nice to work with so got used all over the place.
  13. This is the headstock now to shape with guide holes for the tuning machines
    Matt Liebenau and Old Blastard like this.
  14. Fingerboard
    Searched long and hard to find a native timber dense enough for a fretless fingerboard. After quite a few enquires, I was recommended Puriri (Vitex lucens). It is very fine grained, grey in color and the grain is nicely figured. The photo shows the dressed wood on the left, and an off-cut with lemon oil applied to show what the finished wood will look like. I started to radius it using a radiused sanding block, and realised it was never going to get done that way. Careful use of a scrapper and the sanding block reduced it to 4 hours work. The finish is glassy, so looks like it will work and wear very well.
  15. This picture shows the whole board with some nice patterning
    moonshinegtrs and tbrannon like this.
  16. A bit of detail around the truss rod adjustment
  17. And after trimming and sanding and shaping... the fingerboard is being glued in place
  18. J.D. Detroit

    J.D. Detroit

    Nov 12, 2015
    Love reclaimed projects, and keeping the build to native wood species is even more exciting.
    Have you decided on a body design yet?

    Will be watching your progress. :thumbsup:
    joppo likes this.
  19. This is the first sketch of the body shape. The bottom half is pretty good, but haven't quite nailed the top yet. Sometimes it is easier to sketch with a pencil than on the computer!
    J.D. Detroit likes this.
  20. And back to work on the neck - the fingerboard is now glued in place, the headstock taken down to its proper thickness, nut slot made and I've fitted the tuning machines to see what it is going to look like.

  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Feb 24, 2021

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