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First Build(s) Two basses at once!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by u2Fletch, Jun 2, 2007.


  1. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    Greetings,

    Here's the motivation behind this project. My main bass is a Variax 705 (which I love) but I got the idea to build another bass and swap Variax electronics into the custom job from this gentleman's amazing build: http://www.exit45.com/VaxIV

    Before I launch into that complex of a build I decided to do a "test" build. One thing I've learned over the years is that for me, 80% or my time is spent finding tools, setting up jigs etc. So I figured that I would expend very little extra effort by building two at the same time. So I am making one 4 string and one 5-string.

    Specs:
    Seymour Duncan Basslines pickups. Actives for the 5, passive for the 4
    3-band active EQ for both.
    BadAss bridges, Schaller BMG Lite tuners and all black hardware.

    I also decided to use locally obtainable woods. It is of course cheaper that way, and a little more meaningful to me. Both basses are thru-neck designs.

    I visited the local lumber yard and found a nicely figured Birch plank for the top, and a slab of Mahagony for the back. Neck on the fiver is Alder with slim oak strips for contrast. The Four is a Poplar neck with Oak strips. I wanted a Walnut layer in the body... more on where I got that later.

    So here's the progress so far.

    Neck Layup. I scored a whole bunch of cheap (2 for $10) bar clamps at Tractor Supply that work just fine for this project
    [​IMG]

    Out of the jig and machined flat, the Alder neck grain looks nice
    [​IMG]

    Here's the neck scarf joint jig I made for the table saw. The saw BTW is my new Bosch portable that folds up nicely into a corner in about 5 seconds.
    [​IMG]

    Here's the results of the 4-string neck. The headstock of the 5 is in the jig to the right. Thankfully I made the blanks plenty long since my first cut on one of the necks left me with a neck that would be over two inches too long (marking error) I am building both in 35" scale, but an extra 2" would be over the top.
    [​IMG]

    Headstock clamping. This went much smoother than I expected. Careful clamping sequence prevented any slippage. I used small indexing pins on one, but found those to be unnecessary with the second.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    I dont think I would use poplar in a neck, its somewhat soft. The oak may stiffen it up though. Wow the bass in the link you provided is very stunning. I wouldnt suggest spraying poly indoors though.........:p
     
  3. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    I was wondering about Poplar myself. I did some searching and found some other examples of Poplar in necks, so I thought I would give it a try, and with the thinking that the Oak would stiffen things up a bit. This particular bass also is getting a Martin style truss-rod from Stew-Mac that has the rather large Aluminum box section. Hopefully still more support.

    Worst case, if things go awry, I was wondering if anyone has wrapped glass fiber on the back of a neck? The glass cloth I've used in R/C aircraft and boats can be very thin and transparent when applied. I suppose that could make for a nice torsion tube style stiffener.

    Cheers,

    Jeff
     
  4. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    Here is a pic of the truss rod used in the Poplar neck 4-string

    [​IMG]

    This is a portion of the Birch plank that will become the body tops.

    [​IMG]

    The nicer grained sections will go into the 5-string, and the remainder will be used in the 4. The 4-string is primarily going to be a practice bass, so it gets the cast-offs, although I do like the look of the lighter wood in the neck.

    Jeff
     
  5. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Not all poplar is created equal. Not all woods trading with the common name poplar are even of the same genus. Some poplars are on the low end of the stiffness scale so you might want to investigate.

    Is it too late to inlay carbon rods? Carvin uses stiffening spars in their alder necks.

    The Variax transplant came out really nice, btw. Good job on the finish especially but the poor rug!
     
  6. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    I was looking for some Walnut for the middle section of the body. I noticed Scott French's location is Auburn, CA which is not far from where I live, so I went to his website and he had some links to local hardwood suppliers (Thanks Scott!). I called California Walnut Design up in Grass Valley and talked with Michael Kimmes. I drove out a couple weeks later and we wandered around in his "cave of wonders" and picked out some nice pieces to provide 'filler duty'. Then it was off to a friends garage and we ran the whole lot through the planer to get the sections down to size. Here's the result of that operation:

    [​IMG]

    I selected the best pieces for the five string, and the others for the 4. Here's a pic of the laminate stack with an insane number of clamps.

    [​IMG]

    After trimming in the table saw They were starting to look very nice together.

    [​IMG]

    After the necks took a brief visit to the router to cut the channels for the pickup leads it was time to meet the wings. I chose to cut the body shape after attaching to the neck because I was still finalizing the design and wanted to be sure of my total dimensions before cutting.

    [​IMG]

    After the band saw and with 1/2" roundover.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Still some shaping on the bodies to do yet, working on the fretboards next to get them ready to attach. The 4-string bass I milled off about an 1/8" off the top face of the body so the fretboard area is slightly raised. The fretboard is about 1/4" thick so the overall height will be where I want it. The 5-string I am leaving the body and neck area the same level, and using a 3/8" thick slab for the fretboard. Just to see which way I like better I guess.

    Next up... Fretboard follies.
     
  7. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    Okay, in keeping with the go cheap, use local wood theme I found a wood called Apiton. The guys said that it is commonly used to line truck/trailer beds because of its toughness. They also said it was not fun to work with, but did not say why.

    I liked the look of the grain and bought a 1x6x6' board. To them, it was expensive stuff ($2.60 or something a board foot) No problem. I did find some info on the net about the wood and the stuff is supposed to have a high silica content which will quickly dull blades. Well we'll see about that.

    I set up a jig on the table saw and was able to mill the 1x6 plank into usable sections 3" wide and from 1/4 to 3/8" thick.

    Here's the results of my efforts:

    [​IMG]

    The piece in the foreground was a test piece where I was trying out some different thickness saw blades. I used CA to get a quick idea of what the stuff would look like.

    Here's a pic of one of the fretboards after sanding to shape and slotting. I used some teak oil finish I had handy and was surprised to see the nice finish it produced.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I made another couple fretboards, with (improved fret spacing precision) and have attached it to the four string bass.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the pickup cavities are routed, but I have not cut the electronic cavities in the back of the body. I have some walnut that I've cut to use for covers, 3" in width, so I need to re-check my control layout to see if I can get everything into a hole a little smaller than that. Not sure if I want to make a separate battery box or not. If I don't use a seperate battery box, then I will use magnets or some such mechanism to get the cover off without tools.

    At this point I decided I need to finalize a headstock design. After many attempts, over many days, nothing interesting or appealing came to mind. Then one day, a shape occurred to me, and as soon as I put it down, I realized that this was the one. Because of tuner layout, the five string will be a reverse of this shape with 3 tuners on top.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, I am stuck away from home for 3 weeks attending training in Dallas so I am looking forward to getting back home and completing this project.

    Jeff
     
  8. Ditto on the poplar comments...

    Having said that, the rest looks pretty good. Never heard of Apiton.

    I personally loath tilted tuners...but I can see why y'all do 'em that way, so OK.

    What finish are you going with?
     
  9. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    Still investigating specific finish options, so am open to suggestions. Tried a couple of oil based stains I had handy and am looking for something similar to this sample. Nothing too dark, just enough to accentuate the grain a bit.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    After a very lengthy delay caused by divorce, moving, etc. the time had come to finish the build. Went to work last week and tackled the neck shaping which had previously made me very nervous.

    Turns out the poplar/oak laminate neck is quite stiff. No need to touch the truss rod at all. Still needed to install some frets here. Misplaced my fret wire bender which took some hunting to find.

    [​IMG]

    Used a Tung oil finish which is providing just the amount of darkening of the wood I wanted. I really like the feel of the wood finish.

    [​IMG]

    Need to pick up a set of long scale strings. Very happy with Basslines pickups and EQ. Volume knob has pull-out preset for slap EQ setting.

    [​IMG]

    For my first build I am very pleased with the results and am looking forward to finishing the sister-bass which is next in line. Need to build fingerboard and finish neck on the 5-string. Thanks to all on the forum who have provided great inspiration for completing this project.

    Jeff
     
  11. u2Fletch

    u2Fletch

    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Those are some pretty good lookin' bass pics.
     
  13. Very nice builds... the bass in tha link is tighttttttttt