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First build - 6 String Fretless

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by lightbulbjim, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Hello all. Thought I'd post some progress pics of my first build. I have built a couple of bodies before but this is my first from scratch. It's been going kinda slow (started July 2007) due to other time commitments but it's getting there...

    Oh and this will be kinda picture heavy, being several months of pictures and all.

    Anyway so it's a 35" scale six string fretless, neckthrough. Got the timber from Todd at Exotic Wood Brokers. Great bloke to deal with. Here's what I got along with template of my body shape:
    Neck is Bloodwood, Maple and Wenge. Body wings are swamp Ash. Fretboard is Ebony. Being my first build I ordered a little too much wood. Better too much than not enough though I guess.

    I also got most of my hardware at this point:

    - Stewmac Hotrod truss rod.
    - Hipshot A style bridge (brass).
    - Hipshot Ultralight machine heads.
    - Seymour Duncan pickups (phase 1 for the neck, phase 2 for the bridge) and 3 band preamp.
    - Graphtech nut blank.

    I got Todd to thickness the neck pieces for me, as I don't have access to a thicknesser. This meant all they needed was a light sand and then they were ready to glue:
  2. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Lesson one that I learned after removing the clamps was to make sure the grain was going the same way on all the neck pieces. Kinda made hand planing impossible with the Bloodwood and my plane fighting it out (the plane tore chunks out of the bloodwood and in return the bloodwood tried to eat my plane). So I cleaned it up with the electric hand plane and it came out alright. A jointer or something would have made it easier, but it worked well enough by hand with a little patience.

    Next up it was scarf joint time. I made a jig for the router that I've seen various people use. I decided on 14 degrees for my angle (I did plan *most* things out beforehand, by the way :ninja:). I used a 20mm straight cut router bit as a facing bit, and took off 1-2mm at a time. Oh and don't get too mad at me for having a messy shed, it actually belongs to my father :eyebrow:

    I neglected to take a photo of the headstock piece, but I also ran it through the angle jig prior to gluing it up. Once I pulled the gluing clamps I trued and leveled the whole top surface of the neck to use a reference for everything else. Once again no pics. I kinda got excited here and there and forgot to photograph :bag:
  3. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Routing the truss rod channel was almost too easy. It was my first major non-reversible routing job on this project, and I was worried about messing it up. But it proceeded without any drama.

    It fits!

    Here is the adjustment area at the body end of the neck. The two pencil lines represent the end of the fretboard and the 24th fret (if it had frets):
  4. firebass6


    Feb 14, 2008
    looks like its coming along well. Nice job. I enjoyed building my 6 strings and I really learned alot . Keep the pics coming
  5. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    I bought a Safe-T-Planer, and it's hands down the most useful tool that I bought for this project. The drill press I have it on is kinda small (ok, really small) but it works well. I had to label my table I made to stop people drilling holes in it :smug:


    I used it to get my neck into the right thicknesses for the various sections; body, neck and headstock. Here's some pics of what I ended up with:




    I then rough tapered the neck to within a few milimetres with a jigsaw. The bloodwood and the jigsaw had a bit of a battle but the jigsaw won. Final taper will be done later when the fretboard is on. Here's the rough taper, along with my taper template and full size plan:


    As a last part of this step I drilled the tuner holes and cut out the headstock. For cutting the headstock I again rough cut with a jigsaw and then used an MDF template and pattern-following bit on the router to get it nice.


    The two ears on the headstock are some scrap bits of Queensland Maple from another project. I ended up not using them and just making that part of the headstock a few milimetres narrower.
  6. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Fretboard time! I took the ebony down to a hair over 6mm thick on the Safe-T-Planer and cut it length. I found the best way to get a really accurate cut for the ends of the blank was to use the router and a guide. The taper I just rough cut (a few mm past the line) for gluing. Before I glued the board on I put in some fret markers on the edge. I'm not really into the look of lined fretboards, but this will still give me some cues. Then I glued it up:



    And fresh out of the clamps:


    I was worried the fretboard was going to slide with gluing so I tried to get the clamping pressure as even as possible. It paid off, and it slipped less than half a millimeter. Here's the end as it came out of the clamps. The fret position markers are just veneer glued into slots in the fretboard. I couldn't even tell you what kind of wood the veneer is :ninja:


    Next I attached my taper template to the fretboard and ran the pattern-following router bit down both sides, to take both the fretboard and neck to the final width/taper. Came out pretty nice:


    I ended up with a small amount of glue squeezeout on the body end. Routing (as I did at the headstock end) wasn't possible because of the truss rod wheel, so I just ran a chisel over it. Here it is before cleaning up:


    I ran the router across the end of the fretboard to clean it up. This way the nut will be able to sit snugly against the end of the board:


  7. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Next I started carving the back of the neck and volute. Pretty self explanatory, here's some pics (as if you aren't sick of them yet :D ). The volute to headstock transition was done on the idle roller of a belt sander btw. Worked really well.







    Very satisfying carving the neck, just like everybody says. The fact that the grain direction isn't consistent on the stringers did make the spokeshave a bit tricky. I actually ended up doing a lot of the shaping with course metal files.

    I know I know, messy shed...
  8. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Very nice so far. I see you're in Queensland. If you're around Brisbane you can save money on the next build by buying Maple, Wenge, Bloodwood and some other exotics from Lazarides Timber Agencies in Banyo, Brissie northside. You won't find Ash or figured tops there though.
  9. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Next was radiusing the fretboard. 400mm radius (~16 inch). I started off with homemade block (pictured) but after sanding a while with poor results found it wasn't quite true. I tried making another and had the same problem. In the end I broke down and bought a couple of 16" blocks from Stewmac. I got some aluminium oxide paper while I was at it, which made a HUGE difference with the ebony.


    Starting to get a curve. This is before I got the Stewmac blocks, hence why it is a little wonky:


    Once I was happy with the fretboard I started on body wings. I took them down to thickness with the Safe-T-Planer (love that thing!). I wanted to leave the cutting out of the body shape for now so that a) it made clamping easier for gluing the wings to the neck, being square and b) it would mean that I have a nice large table to do my body routing from. I did however cut out the inside of the horns with the jigsaw, as this would be difficult to do once glued up:


    Before gluing I also routed a channel connecting the pickup cavities, for wiring purposes:


    I then glued it up. Here is the bass after declamping:


    I then levelled the body both sides (by hand, with sandpaper on a large sanding block :help: ) ready to do some routing. The levelling was hard work and took half a day just by itself. Fortunately that's all over now and it's time to route the pickup cavities. Here's my routing template:


    As of this moment I have the pickup cavities routed, and the control/preamp cavity mostly routed. Unfortunately I won't get a chance to work on it until this weekend, but then it's full steam ahead!
  10. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Thanks for the tip, I'll have to check it out. I'm in Toowoomba, so a trip to Brissie for supplies is definitely doable.

    Since I started a bass a friend of mine has started working at a custom joinery in Brisbane where they make "windows and furniture for rich people" (his quote). He said they get exotic timber in all the time, so I'm going to check that out next time I'm building something.
  11. that looks great! I wanna build my own bass someday...

    I love your choice of bloodwood for the neck - that is a cool wood.
  12. JLBW


    Jan 15, 2008
    Bavaria, Germany
    Looking really good! Keep the pix coming :)

    All the best
  13. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    Very impressive work so far!
  14. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Looking mighty fine, there... keep up the good work!
  15. Bassisgreat


    Feb 23, 2008
    Dallas, Tx
    The bass is coming along beautifully! Looks like you're working like a pro and getting great results.

    Also, I must now have a safe-t-planer. :)
  16. wow what a beautiful bass, and its not even done yet! love the wood choices, i have to say one of the most aesthetically pleasing basses i've ever seen, cant wait to see it done!
  17. lightbulbjim


    Mar 17, 2008
    Thanks for the compliments guys.

    Bassisgreat: Yep a Safe-T-Planer is well worth the money. The neck timber was way too hard to do the reducing by hand; it made it easy.
  18. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Cool wood on that neck. Take that surfboard out for a little break. You deserve it? ;)
  19. El-Bob


    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
  20. Jonsbasses


    Oct 21, 2006
    Fort Worth, TX
    Builder: Jon's Basses
    Very nice work! Follows the color scheme of my 6-string bass. :D

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