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First build. 4 string fretted, neck through (wenge/maple), body (wenge/ash/maple)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Hpsound, Mar 28, 2015.

  1. Hi,
    this is my first thread since I started as a member of TB some time last year.

    I have recently started my first build, after gathering inspiration and methods from particularly this site. So many awesome builds. Thank you all for sharing.

    My build is going to be a long stretcher, since my day-job as a consultant, a two year old daughter, an extra son in four months (my wife is pregnant!) don’t leave much room for this hobby. Besides this I'm working in my fathers workshop, (whom I visit about once a month). So don’t expect this to be over anytime soon :)

    The planned specs:

    4 strings
    34” scale
    21-24 frets (TBD)
    Neck through

    Wenge/maple laminated neck
    5 pcs. wenge/maple/wenge/maple/wedge
    Wenge/ash/maple laminated body
    Wenge top (5mm), ash core, maple back - veneers to separate
    Wenge veneer on headstock
    Maple fretboard

    Hipshot A style aluminum bridge (.750) Black
    Hipshot Ultralight Y-key tuners Black
    Dunlop frets (TBC)

    Nordstrand BigMan pickup (MM position)
    Nordstrand Fat Stack (Neck position)
    Aguilar OBP-3 (Vpp;blend;tone (passive);Mpp;T/Bstack) 18V

    The design is my own (of course with inspirations from around) , but I’m reconsidering some aspect of it at the moment. I’m not satisfied yet.




    So far I have made a lot of drawings, a full scale mockup (with an old neck I had lying around), watched a lot of youtube videos, and spent 100s of hours reading TB threads.

    To get some chronology into this it started out about 6 months ago when I got the idea that I could build my own bass. I started sketching on a piece of paper. Later I cut it up, since it was so bad and my proportions looked like something my 2-year will draw better in a couple of years. I then had some bigger paper, spent some more time, and soon it looked like a bass.

    I searched a lot on the internet to get a feel with what people are doing about purchasing wood. I live in Denmark, and I weren’t able to find any dealers "around the corner” that carried exotic hardwoods.

    I ended up getting the wood from a cabinet maker. He cut them, to my specifications at a reasonable price. For my first build the wenge/maple/ash is exotic enough - We’ll see if I’ll ever expand into "burl-land", "flame-heaven" and "quilt-sea" and so forth after this build.





    I’m supposed to do all the wood work myself, just didn’t have the big jointer/planer available at that point to cut a big plank. The cabinet maker cut up a few extra pieces for me, so I had a few to pick from. That showed out to be really good. All the pieces where good, but to have the grain pattern "flowing” the right way down the neck only one combination worked.

    Enough for now. Soon I'll write about the neck lamination
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2015
    Robert Canfield likes this.
  2. Looks good! Sub'd!
  3. thebassbuilder


    Mar 7, 2012
    Spartanburg SC
    guitar builder, Meyers Guitars
    Looks good so far!
  4. michaelwayneharwood

    michaelwayneharwood Builder of the Wastelands Commercial User

    May 1, 2014
    Owner Melodious Resonance Constructs
    That design is slamming - love it! Can't wait to see how this one turns out!
  5. SmidgeBass


    Jan 5, 2015
    Nice! Looking forward to it.
  6. Yaal


    Feb 12, 2015
    Montreal, Canada
    Cool design. The wood layout looks great too! Looking forward to see the progress on this one.
  7. I love the dark top with the light fret board! Smukke!
  8. Lonnybass


    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Everything looks great, but your headstock design is REALLY great. There's only so much you can do with what is essentially a six inch rectangle, but you found a way! I wish my headstock designs were as original as that one.

  9. To all of you - Thank you so much. Some very inspiring designs and builds among those of you who replied here, so I'm really flattered!

    Full scale mockup
    Scripling ideas on pieces of paper is one thing. Another is to actually see it, and feel it in it’s full extent. So I decided to make a full scale mockup in some scrap wood from a kitchen top.

    To help me do this I have made a template of the fingerboard (the scale for the bass), placement of brigde etc. and printed it in full scale on a plotter. Then I can draw my designs in full scale. Hope that this will help me make the right decisions.

    I traced my drawing onto the wood, used a jigsaw to "free” it (a couple of millimeters outside the line). Then I used a belt sander to get onto the line. Simply clamped a belt sander lying on its side - worked perfectly.




    After sanding the sides I routed the edges. Not the way I’m going to do on the real bass. I think I will freehand that.
    Routed for neck pocket (Mine will be neck through)




    A picture of me with the “bass" :)


    I have now been looking at the mockup for a while and have decided to change a few things. There’s a bit of an unbalance between the bass and the treble side, but I think I can even that out design wise - move a line here and there 5 mm.

    Will post new drawings when I’m i progress.
    Tenberge and SmidgeBass like this.
  10. Neck Lamination
    So it was time for starting the process of actually building the bass.

    First step for me was to laminate the neck.

    Made a couple of dry-fits, and decided to drill a hole in one end, with my drill press, to make sure I wouldn’t get any slides as I glued up the neck. I have plenty of length so no problem.

    Dry fit neck 02.

    Dry fit neck 03.

    2015-02-15 16.08.49.
    2015-02-15 16.30.01.
    2015-02-15 16.30.09.

    Got plenty of squeeze out (a lot!) and scraped most of it off, so I wouldn’t have too chisel it or sand it away later.

    2015-02-15 16.40.56.

    2015-02-15 17.01.37.

    Since I’m not at my parents house a lot, the neck was left to cure for a few weeks. When revisited I found out I had to plane it on the top and bottom, to clean up a little bit of unevenness and the excess glue that hadn’t been scraped off. It gave some lovely shavings of wenge and maple. Now it's complety flat and ready for me to move on.

    Dust wenge ash 04.

    Planer 01.

    Can't wait to start up on the body lamination. Veneers have just been ordered.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
    Gabbs likes this.
  11. New design for the body and consequences hereof
    I have had my doubts about my first design for the body. It simply doesn’t match my headstock (that I like a lot). Since I made my full scale mockup I have felt that the body wasn’t wide enough and too “spacy” looking. Therefore I have rethought my ideas and come up with a new design.


    I have kept my original headstock design, which I think compliments the body shape.

    It’s really different (a whole new look) but I like it so much better. As you can see I'm thinking of some constellation chambering.

    But now I’m having so much trouble deciding on pick-ups. I have been leaning towards Nordstrand Bigman and a Nordstrand Fat stack, but recently found out that the Bigman 4 is only made in a “normal” MM cover whereas the Bigman 5 come in a cover without the ears. And i really like that! I have written on Nordstrand’s Facebook (or directly on Carey’s - I don’t remember) and he replied that I does come in a cover without ears. But it’s the 5 string size!

    So now I’m exploring all pickup options again. From a tone perspective I’m really into the MM sound (I have a Stingray ’94 3 band EQ) but on this build I think that it’s a bit dull doing just that. So I have explored these options the last couple of weeks.

    I really like their big pole piece design, plus every Sandberg bass (+ others) with Delano pickups have sounded really good to my ear. "Aggressive" with a tight low end.

    Primarily their AG4 MM replacement. I going for an Aguilar OBP-3 pre, and generally like the brand.

    Bigman, Dual Coils and FD3 (DingStrand)

    I’m not a big fan of soapbar-style pickups - not for this bass.


    Hang in there… I am actually a little further than written here. But more about that in the next post ;)
  12. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    I hope congratulations is in order, did your wife deliver the baby?

    Also, I like the new design
  13. Thanks Charlie. Today she's due in 2 weeks. So we're waiting for him to arrive anytime :)
  14. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
  15. Sawdust, constellation and control room cavity
    As stated in my last post I have broken the first real sawdust in my body wood (ash) (bodycore) doing some chambering - constellation style.
    I have seen a bunch a builds with constellation and really like it. I have made cone like constellation with different sizes / depths.

    I have no idea about my final weight on this bass. A bit on the heavy side with the all the wenge. I weighed the wood before and after the chambering and it removed about 100grams (the chambering alone).

    It's made with forstner bits that I bought on a recent trip to New York (found a Home Depot on Manhattan)




    Then I made a template for the control room cavity. I could remove this material completely since I’ll have both a front and back. Removed most material with forstner bits, and then routed with a flush trim bit (bottom bearing). I have now ordered a few with top bearing for later use.

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  16. New design - new pickups
    So since I have decided on the new design and started breaking sawdust, I really needed to decide on pickups since they influence the design.

    I ended on Delano MC 4 FE (MM style) and PMVC FE/M2 (P-bass style). I have played basses with Delanos many times (MM style and Jazz-style), and always liked them for their aggressiveness (much like my MM Stingray), clarity and tight low end. The P-style pickup is new territory, but it gets good words on its way. I’ll have to try it :)

    These pickups compliments my idea about this bass with the MM-style pickup mostly used active, and the P-style being able to use passive. It will be sort of a swiss knife for the music I'm playing :)

    I have also ordered the preamp - custom prewired from bestbassgear. Aguilar OBP-3 with the following layout:
    5 knobs + 1 switch
    1. Volume (push/pull for active/passive)
    2. Blend
    3. Passive tone
    4. Mid (push/pull for mid freq)
    5. Treble/bass (stacked)
    +switch for parallel/series on the MM-style pickup

    I did some prints of the different pickups and tried out on my design before deciding.


    with the top wood but different pickups that I considered. Nordstrand Dual Coils.

    With top wood and Delano mockups.

    A shot that catches the beauty of my Birdseye Maple fretboard. (Yes that’s a new thing as well! :hyper: Upgrade)

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
    Tenberge likes this.
  17. yoshi


    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    Great build so far. I really loved the initial body shape - quite sad to see you ditched it!

    I dig the crop circle chambering, very snazzy1
  18. Hi @yoshi - Thanks. Glad you liked my first design. I ditched it for this build, but I'll keep it in the drawer :)
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  19. Fretboard upgrade :)
    Initially I wanted to use Birdseye maple for the neck. I couldn’t find any. I was probably looking the wrong places, plus in Europe I still think it’s hard to find. Finally I found a supplier in Germany (espen.de) and decided to buy two fretboards (I only need one, but now I have two to choose from, and an incentive to build another bass!!!!!)
    They were really helpful and emailed me pictures of 10 different boards to choose from. 6 white and 4 brown/white.

    Here's some photos of the two I have bought





    I’m going with #12 on this build.

    I have read somewhere to be careful when radiusing birdseye - tearouts etc.
    (or is it called radiating? my spell check comes up with that!).

    I have planned to build a router radius jig like seen here on TB. I started making a radius block but thought that it would be easier to get a conform result with a router jig. I’m going for 11’’ radius like a Stingray.

    jg42 likes this.
  20. Amazing figuring :) love it!

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