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First Build - 5 String Fretless!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Essen, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Got a package from LMII today, marking the beginning of my first build. This will be a five string 24 "fret" fretless with an alder body, walnut set neck, pau ferro fretboard and a redwood top. I'm talking to a luthier who might be able to get me an alder blank. Hopefully I won't have to import the body wood.


    I have been trying out different designs on various mock-ups and prototypes which were all based of existing designs (Fodera, Alembic etc), but now that I'm doing this properly I want to create my own design.


    This was actually based on a Strandberg guitar, and I have ended up with a Wal-Warrior kind of thing. It's not quite symmetrical, and probably not the best design ergonomically, but I'm not building a copy of my Ibanez SR either.
    I still need to make a full scale template of this just to see if it will work with the materials I've got. But don't worry! Everything will be properly planned out BEFORE I start cutting away! ;)

    Will also be purchasing a band saw and a press drill this week.
  2. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Cutting the body template. I couldn't find my double sided tape, so I stapled it to the board:)

  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Looks nice! I like the body shape.
  4. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008

    I've been playing with the idea of making this a headless bass. By making it headless I have more room to make get a good neck joint with plenty of contact area.
    Plus, the upper horn reaches to about the 14th fret, which could very well lead to neck dive.

    I don't like the typical Steinberger design, so luckily Strandberg makes single string headless tuners as well as single string locking nuts! :D
  5. James Mobius

    James Mobius

    Feb 28, 2011
    not a bad design, people obviously should make whatever shape they want, but I can't understand why someone would make a shape that's commercially available. why build a P bass when you can buy one? I'd rather make someone no one else has.
  6. Max Pratt

    Max Pratt

    Mar 10, 2011
    I agree that it is far nicer to have an original shape design, not to mention far more classy, but as the owner of two basses (P and fretless J) that I built I believe that it is simply a way to get a P bass that you could buy, but for far cheaper and more customized to what you like in a bass. My J bass, for example, is a flame maple topped J bass with bartolinis that I made for just over $500. The only other fender J bass that is remotely close to how this sounds is the Jaco bass ( 2400 dollar bass), so it is mostly just for those of us who want a custom bass which you could buy, but have small wallets :(


    P.S. this should be a new through so as not to derail this build thread, sorry about this post if it is to long.
  7. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    I don't see anything wrong with building basses based on existing designs, I'm only doing my "own thing" because this is the kind of bass I "need" right now.
    I like the idea of building a "perfect" vintage design, or just something that you couldn't just buy in a store.
    For me that would be a hollowbody 72' p bass in a yellow finish, I have no idea why:p
  8. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Bingo. There are so many "close, but no cigar" basses hanging in stores. If the neck profile is good, then the pickups are in the wrong place. If the pickups are good, then the inlays are dots instead of blocks. If the inlays are good, then the body contouring is all wrong. If the contouring is right, then the string spacing is too narrow. Etc...
  9. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    *small update*

    I bought some new tools, a lot clamps, rasps/files and this:

    Got this nice top of ebay:

    I have come to the realization that this build will take a long time to complete; I have to buy all the tools and machines. Press drill, planer, and probably a belt sander. I also had to order the correct routing bits for the truss rod and neck reinforcements.
    The good thing is that once I'm done with the first build the second one will only require the actual bass parts (wood, hardware etc).
  10. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008

    After much waiting I have now ordered pretty much everything I'll need for this build;
    *Ash body blank
    *Bartolini P2 bridge pickup
    *Oil and filler
    *Headless single string system + locking nuts from "Technology for Musicians"
    *Shinto Rasp
    * Various routing bits

    And this:


    I also bought a pretty nice router. Well, turns out it was defective, but it still looks nice lol. Will have to get a new one next week, but I still had this little thing:

    Feels good to finally make some saw dust!!:D

    Took a long time to decide whether or not to go with the headless design, mostly because single string bridges are extremely expensive. The ABM's were about 90$, Strandberg's were about the same. I found an Italian company that makes them at a more reasonable price.
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Cool, congrats on getting started!

    Those tuner-bridges are interesting. How much do they charge for them, and how long was the wait?
  12. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    30 euro per string for the bridge and 15 for each nut.
    Total 240 euros with shipping. They said it would ready to ship in two weeks.
  13. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Shaping the neck:
    I used stew-mac's 1/2" ball bearing bit.

    Routed the slots for the carbon fiber rods. This part (along with the truss rod routing) was something I really feared initially, but turns out it was really easy to do! The rods are glued in, I've put in the truss rod and glued the fingerboard.

  14. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Fretboard has been glued and tapered with the neck. I tapered it
    after I glued it, but I think next time it would be better to taper it first in case of tearing.
    But I must say, Stew-Mac's bearing bits cut really nicely.

    Btw, for those of you who work with pau ferro, have you noticed how good it smells when your routing/sanding it?
    Smells like honey down here!:D

  15. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    My Ebay-redwood top was a bit too rough, so I invested in a
    jointer/ planer to even out the surfaces before joining it and gluing it to the body wood (which still hasn't arrived).
    Here it is all done, never mind the pink chalk.

    Last night I noticed my neck had developed some rather extreme
    back bow. This morning it seems to have gotten a lot better, it's
    about 2mm right now. I read online that this can happen because
    of the water content in the glue.. Is this normal? I just pray I
    didn't do something wrong!

    Here's how it is right now, gonna leave it to dry in my room for now.

  16. Do you sticker the neck? I store all my pieces of wood, and also my parts that are in progress, stickered. Especially if you have recently glued two parts together, it may be useful not to have the wood lying on a flat surface, unable to breathe and unable to repel or attrack any moisture.
  17. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Yep, should have plenty of air. I store all the wood in my room where it's nice and dry, just in case.
  18. Then I guess it'll sort itself out during the build. Removing wood while carving could also introduce some relief, fretting bends it back a little again and putting the strings on will put tension on the neck bending it forward again. And you have the truss rod. Don't worry :)
  19. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Thank you for saying that:) If all else fails, the string tension will hopefully pull the neck straight.
  20. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Got a nice little package from LMII: A shinto rasp, the drill bit for the side dots and a thin sheet of maple veneer.
    That means it's time to put in the fret lines:) I haven't decided if I should wait to shape the neck until I have made the neck pocket or not..

    Messy, I know!

    Sanded to 180: