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First build project

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by JustinBehling, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    Recently decided to start building a bass with no woodworking skills to speak of. It's an original design with a 5 piece hard maple and walnut thru neck, quilted maple top, maple back, and wenge fingerboard.

    I'm using Bartolini pickups and preamp. The tuners and bridge are gold. I will be using single string bridge pieces.

    I may need some help with some upcoming steps. But first... Here are some pics of the mess I've made so far.

    First off, design.

    Truss rod.



    Starting to come together.

    Fingerboard 12 in radius

    Fret slots cut using a makeshift miter box and augmented flush cut saw.

    Headstock veneer and routed to shape.

    I still have quite a ways to go and I'm sure I've made some mistakes along the way. I'll have plenty of questions and any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you and good night! I'm going to bed...
  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Ooh, that's pretty! You must be an incredibly fast learner...
  3. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Damn you're good!
    That's looking real nice.
  4. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    You sure make mighty fine jigs for someone with no woodworking skills to speak of! I think you're doing just fine!

    I do have on question: how did you tackle the neck angle for the neck through block? Or will the fingerboard thickness alone be enough to work with whatever bridge you've selected?

    I've always wanted to try a neck thru like this, but the whole angle thing always put me off--couldn't figure out how i would do it with my tools.
  5. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    Thanks for the encouragement. I've made some mistakes and done some things probably a little out of sequence, but overall it seems to be working out alright.

    Out of necessity I have had to use a good amount of ingenuity. I'm working on a limited budget so I have to make due as much as possible. I've come up with the inspiration for several of the jigs I've made by lurking the TB forums over the past several months.

    As for the neck angle: I just kept it straight. The fingerboard is thick enough with the bridge in this design to give me adequate string height. I hope. That's how it should work based on the tutorials and other info I've seen.

    I do have a question or two for all you experienced luthiers out there. 1) How much space should there be from the strings to the pickups? 2) Once I have that figured out, how much deeper should the cavities be than the base of each pup?


    Drilling the body cavities will most likely be my next step so any info will be very helpful.
  6. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Usually the reason to give the neck some angle is that you will have *too much* string height without it. For example, take a look at the spec on a standard Fender style bridge:


    You'll see the minimum height is basically .580 inches or so. That means if you've got a finger board that is .250 thick (i.e., standard quarter inch of wood) then your minimum possible string height is .330. That's a third of an inch! Not really a playable action. To get even action of 4/32 of an inch (.125), which is what most players consider playable but still a bit high, your maximum bridge height would be .375 (.250 fingerboard plus .125 of string action.)

    Ideally you'd want to the bridge to be even lower so that you can get the action as low as you like. I've never been able to find a bridge that was only .375 -- please tell me what you're using if you found one, because I'll finally be able to build a neck through bass!

    If your bridge is to tall, you're options are either angle the neck by a few degrees, or recess the bridge till it has an acceptable height. Or if you're really stuck and on a budget, you could just make some kind of bridge piece out of wood, sort of like the saddle on an acoustic guitar. That way you could shape it however you want, and it'd probably get a cool woody sound.

    As for your pickup question: Pickup height is mostly a matter of taste. The only objectively "wrong" height is when the magnets are too close to the strings and pull them out of tune when playing in the higher registers. And if you the pups too far away from the strings, you'll get a weak signal. In a similar vein, the bridge pup needs to be closer to the strings because they vibrate less there, and the neck pup can be farther away and still get a the same "hotness" because of the greater string vibration there.

    For objective measurements, Fender's factory recommended settings are a good place to start if your pups are in those positions.


    If it were my build, I might just cheat and route the cavities as deep as my chosen pups so that I can make them flush with the body if needed. You can always use foam, springs, etc. to raise the pups toward the strings, but if you can't get them far enough away from the strings, then you're going to need to bust out the router again and make a deeper cavity. Better to go a little deeper at the outset and avoid that.
  7. SaintMez

    SaintMez Commercial User

    Jan 3, 2010
    Meridian, idaho
    Blood Brothers Guitars - Luthier, Porter Guitars - Contractor
    +1 to this. A slight back angle on the neck provides for much better action. Recessing your bridge will also be necessary if your strings sit too high over your fretboard. Looking good by the way! Keep it coming!
  8. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    The string action over the pickups is often a matter of tonal and technique preference. Some people like the pickups very close, and some like them lowered.

    Most pickups seem to be in the neighborhood of 3/4" deep, so I generally go with a 5/8"-3/4" deep pickup cavity, depending on how high the strings stand off from the body top.
  9. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    Thanks for the info on the string height and cavity depth. That helps a lot.

    I may have misspoken before about the neck angle. I said that I had adequate height. What I meant was that the strings should be at an acceptable angle to the neck. Action not too high or too low. If my calculations are correct that is.

    If anything, the action may be too high. In that case I would just recess the bridge pieces slightly. I've seen this on a few bases and I don't mind it.
  10. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Sounds like you have a plan! What bridge are you using? If it works for you, I might just have to give it a try!
  11. DannyBob


    Aug 28, 2013
    You have made a very good use of a tree. Well done. :)
  12. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    Thank you.
  13. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    senp5f, these pics are of the bridge pieces I'm using.



    They are single string bridges. I don't know if they are taller, shorter, or about the same height as the average bridge. I found them for a good price online and thought they would give the bass a more custom look, so I went for it. Now I just have to figure out how to ground them all...
  14. I would have given you one advice: work on the neck profile _before_ adding the body wings. It's a LOT easier to work on, as you don't have the horns in the way...
  15. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    The easiest way to ground those bridges would be to use a drilled hole from the control cavity to the individual bridge closest to the cavity (the traditional way) and then run a think (like 1/16 to 1/8) strip of copper foil tape along the bottom of the rest of the bridges to get them grounded as well.

    You won't be able to really see it, and even if you do, it'll fit the color scheme with the gold bridges you've selected.
  16. Hi Justin, Nice build,

    My current build uses the same single bridge pieces, and I also had the issue of how to ground them.

    First if you use a brass nut, you only need to ground one bridge piece,

    On my build I had to recess the bridge to get a reasonable action, I routed a square area for the recess but went a few mm deeper than required, then I ran a ground wire/braid to spread on this area. Next I used aluminium foil tape to ground plane the recess, A veneer over the top of this hides the ally foil (if you have any left over headstock cuttings these could be used. Then when you screw the bridge pieces in they automatically ground themselves as the screws go through the ally tape. By using a Brass nut you electrically ground all of the strings so if you have a poorer contact on a bridge screw it doesnt matter. Impressive for a first build buddy:hyper:

    PS A Brass nut would compliment your gold hardware
  17. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    Thanks for the advice. I'll look into getting a brass nut. It seems like it would be the easiest solution. Plus it would go nicely with the rest of the hardware, like you said.

    I made a bit more progress this week. I routed the pickup cavities, inlaid the fretboard with maple fret marker dots, and made a cover for the truss rod adjustment access.

    This picture shows a little bit of each of those things.


    I made my pickup cavities too large so I lined the walls with walnut. At the time the picture was taken I still hadn't leveled the walnut to the top of the body.

    A friend of mine is building a staved snare drum along with my build. Here are the two pictured together.


    I also routed the bridge pup cavity too deep so I had to use an off cut from the neck to raise that some. The lines don't match up but you won't be able to see that with the pickups in anyway.
  18. One way to get a through neck angle is to plot where the body wings will go on the body end of the plank. Pencil in where they will go at the desired angle. Carefully cut the wood from the end of where the fretboard meets the top of the body at the same angle towards where the bottom strap button at the bridge end will be. Hopefully the plank is thick enough to cover the recess in the back of the body at the bridge end. If it is, just cut the back at the same angle to accommodate the body wings. If not, take the remnant of the wood cut at the angle off of the top, and simply place it on the back in the hole. Because the wood is the same size from top to bottom and front to back (presumably) it should pop right in with no major modification. Make sure the back of the plank/body wings are the same width at the back as they are at the front.
  19. CSchuette815


    Oct 17, 2013
    Very nice work! I'm not sure I want to post anything regarding woodworking skills, (as I claim to have some. :) after seeing your work...
  20. JustinBehling


    Nov 2, 2013
    Haven't had much time to work on this but I finished up basic carving of the tummy cut on the back of the bass.


    I still have to shape the transition from the neck to the body wings but it's coming along.

    I've been trying to figure out how I want to do the output jack. I have seen this type of jack on a few basses http://www.richtonemusic.co.uk/data/Product_Images/IBANSR500-BM4.jpg and I really like it. I just don't know how to do it. How does it all work out? How do you route the control cavity in the back and access portion on the front in relation to each other? What type of jack do you use? I know there are long jacks used for flush mounting through the side into the cavity and there are short ones for use with a jack plate or straight through the top. I haven't been able to find anything on how to do this. :help:

    Hopefully I'll have more time to spend on this build soon. I'd like to get it done so I can finally play it (and maybe get started on another build).

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