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First build - Rickenbacker '4330' Style

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Verkton, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. Hi Everyone - been lurking here for a while learning, and started my first build about a month ago. I hadn't even thought about luthiery until I saw JohnK's excellent thread on his 325 bass - he inspired me to give it a try, and as I love Rickenbacker guitars (I have a 330) I wanted to build a bass in that style. Later I found Betyouaint's 4005 build which has been equally informative :)

    I'm primarily a 6 string guitarist, but as I record music at home I play bass too, and quite enjoy it. I've always wanted a Ric bass, and after reading JohnK and Betyouaint's builds I felt it was worth having a go at. I don't have a lot of woodoworking experience aside from building Radio controlled aircraft when I was younger, but I have done a lot of model making and I do tend to pick things up quickly - after reading what was involved I felt I'd be able to give it a decent attempt!

    I'm aware of RIC's 'enthusiatic' defence of their Trademarks/IP/Copyright - please not that this bass is purely for my own use and I have no intention of selling it, or making them for other people!

    After getting some maple from the local timber yard, I made myself a template based on my own Rickenbacker 330/6:


    At the start of the build I had no access to any woodwork tools - however my father is a toolmaker and has a lot of equipment for metalwork which can be adapted - sort of - to the job. Here I am thicknessing the maple for the body on a milling machine using a flycutter...


    Unbelievably it took 3 days to go from rough lumber to having the blanks for the body and the back! I know how much quicker this is with a proper jointer/thicknesser, and as I've decided to do more builds when this finishes I am about to invest int he proper tool (as I know it takes a much shorter amount of time with the correct tools...)

    Once the wood was ready I marked out the body on the blanks. I placed the hardware from my 330 plus a Ric Hi-gain bass pickup I'd already obtained for the project.


    I got a cheap bandsaw from B and Q - not the greatest machine, but good enough for what I'm doing here. Next thing to do was to cut the blank to rough body shape.


    Using my router and the template, I smoothed the edges of the body using a bearing guided bit. Then I began to hollow out the sound chambers:


    With the sound chambers done, I added the slash/f-hole:


    That brings the build up to date so far. I was about to start on the neck yesterday, but made the decision to get the jointer/thicknesser yesterday instead of using the milling machine, so hanging on a while. Today Ive drawn up my design for the bridge and tailpiece, fairly faithful to the 4005 by using my 330 as a guide. The metal parts I will be maing from scratch, not only because I want to make as much as possible from raw materials, but also because it seems to be impossible to get replacements!

    I think I'm going to have to look at the R tailpiece. I don't want to neccesarily copy the R anyway, but I think I might have to make it shorter than the original one anyway.

    I hope to keep the thread updated as the build progresses!


  2. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
  3. rocmonster


    Oct 31, 2011
  4. skullservant


    Aug 15, 2011
  5. tmoney61092


    Sep 15, 2009
    Since you mainly play guitar you should make it into a Bass VI, now THAT would be awesome!
  6. This has serious potential! Subscribed!

    If I may suggest, winfield vintage sells a bass harp tailpeice and a bass bridge. Pretty much the rick tailpeice without the "R" on it. I{ve never tried any of their products, but it may be worth looking into.


    Hope this helps!

    Also, what scale will this be? 30" shortscale?

    Looks good so far!
  7. soflbass


    Mar 2, 2013
    S Florida
    Nice! Subbed
  8. It's going to be 33.25", i'm trying to get as close to Ric specs as possible. Hopefully when it's done it will have a sound close to that of a 4005. Thanks for the link to the hardware, but I got a load of metal last week to make the bridge, saddles and tailpiece with and I hope to be doing some work on it this week.

    One thing I'm a little bit concerned with is that I've made the body exactly the same as a 330, and the longer neck is making me think it's going to neck dive. All along I've planned to do a second build afterwards applying whatever I learn so I might have to redesign the body slightly.
  9. Def subbed!!!
  10. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    OP - suggestion for thicknessing a body blank. Make a router sled. It really can turn out spectacular results. In the picture you can see where I skated across the bridge area on a Steinberger I modded with a close enough tolerance that you can see THEIR original routing/milling marks fairly consistently. I use a piece of heavy Formica counter-top that is very flat(I store it carefully for future uses) and make my "sled from pieces of oak 1" board I both glue and screw together so there is no flex to the whole deal. Sometimes I've used toe clamps like you are doing there, other times I've screwed down from below at a few corners. Just Google router sled you'll get the idea immediately.

    Attached Files:

  11. Hey edpal thanks for the suggestion - I really wished I'd thought of doing that in the first place! Since I last posted I've got hold of a planer/thicknesser which should fulfill my needs for the next builds I have planned.

    I've used the new machine to prepare the blank for the neck, and as soon as I get back off the road (away for a week) I'll do some more work and post photos of my progress.

    Still somewhat concerned about the possibility of neck dive - I've considered going to a shorter 30" scale but I really want to preserve the Ric feel. Guess I'll just have to get a high friction strap...
  12. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Use lightweight tuners. Gotoh Res-O-Lite or Hipshot Ultralite are both good and popular choices. That should fix most of it for you.
  13. Hey everyone,

    I downed tools on this bass for a while - recreating a Ric bridge was proving too much of a headache to do. It would have been possible but would have been a massive amount of work. In the meantime I started on a strat/tele/jazz matching set.

    I thought it was time to begin work on it again. In a move likely to upset purists (including myself!) and after much consideration, I've decided to abandon tradition and incorporated some Fender elements into it. I got a Jazz bass style bridge , and decided to recess the pickups further into the body.

    I got a very nice rosewood fretboard from Exotic Hardwoods in Derbyshire and planed that last week.

    Other changes are that rather than having a perspex control panel on the front, I'm now going to go without a scratchplate, and will use the back for access (I'm using walnut to make a nice cover for these controls.

    I've just ordered a set of forstner bit as I'm not really comfortable harking out large amounts of wood with a router, and I'd prefer to use it just for trimming.

    Two things I'd like to get folks opinion on:

    1) The pickups are going to be further recessed into the body than the original plan, this is because I'm going with a Jazz bridge/fretboard profile so the strings will be lower. I guess this is somewhat similar to a 4003 also? The question is, the neck will be about 16mm thick at the point where the pickup cavity sits above it. Will this be strong ewnough do you think?

    2) What are your thoughts on me making this bass as hollow as possible? I'm thinking of removing all non-essential wood in the body (I.e. as much of the centre block as possible, leaving support for the bridge and of course around the neck as it comes into the body).

    Here's a photo of my progress up until today!


  14. Lots more progress on the 4330 in the last week. After Christmas I decided it was time to get back with a vengeance, so I've got all the parts and tools I need to finish it. Here is a photo so far:


    I've had to make a few changes, the Jazz bass bridge I got I know find out has wider string spacing than an actual rickenbacker, and so the strings wouldn't have travelled directly (or even near) the pickup polepieces. I'll be enlisting my fathers toolmaking experience to make a plate with smaller string spacing while reusing the various screws on the unit I bought. I also narrowed the neck to Ric specs while retaining the jazz nut.

    One think I'm quite happy about is that the upper horn is pretty much level with the 12th fret (actually a little further forward), so hopefully I will not have to worry about neck dive.

    The indian rosewood I was going to use for the fretboard I had thicknessed too thin for use. After some advice from folks in another thread last week, I settled on using the bubinga I had for another project. I've been able to reuse the indian rosewood though, you can see it here in use for the pickguard/control pannel. There should be ebough left over for the TRC too.

    My current stumbling point is the headstock and TRC. I was planning on having a 8 degree headstock angle, but now I'm wondering if I could just leave it flat instead, and the break angle from the nut to the keywinds will be sufficient. Reason being, the truss rod seems like it might be a little too long for the neck. I'll have to have a think about that.
  15. Hey everyone - just wanted to post that I did eventually get this finished about 4 months ago. For a first build I'm happy, it has a few problems but it is playable and it sounds great! Most importantly, it has inspired me to look further into luthiery and I'm currently working on a Jazz bass. Not posting that cos you've seen hundreds of them! Thanks to everyone on the forum whose threads I read to find out ways to do things.

    A little further down the line I will probably remake this bass, maybe with a different body design. I've never played a SH bass before and I really like the new experience.



    Attached Files:

    dukeorock and neeko like this.
  16. That's wonderful! And you stayed true to the design if the rick. Didn't mess with any proportions. Love the fretboard too!
  17. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    this is very cool....would love to see this type of bass on the open market.
  18. soflbass


    Mar 2, 2013
    S Florida
    Great looking bass! It must inspire you to play it more since it's your own build. Congrats!
  19. neeko


    Mar 24, 2013
    Rouen, France
    Cool to see it finished ! (I had sub'd to that thread for a while now). I've been planning to build my own 4005 copy (just finished another project before starting it). Like you, johnK 325 page & betyoutaint thread will be very helpful. Congratulations !
  20. Thanks guys. I would have liked to have documented the build but to be honest, I made so many mistakes and changed my mind about things so many times it would have been a pain to follow! My plan is to build a few F-style basses (Jazz, Prec and Tele) and maybe also a telecaster. Whenm I have these done, I'd like to revisit this ric-style bass and rebuild with a different and less derivative shape.

    So proud to have build my first instrument though, definitely have the bug for building!
    neeko likes this.