First neck through

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SpankyPants, Jul 25, 2013.


  1. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    HALLO!

    I'm building my first neck-through. Heck, I'm building my first solid body. I have a design sketched out in Rhino, and I'll be posting updates as I go along. It's supposed to be a violin-style body that has one side asymmetrically "stretched" forward.

    My first question, though, is about setting a neck angle on a neck through. How necessary is it? I was figuring one way would be to shim the neck ~2˚ when I glue on the wings. Any better suggestions?

    Disclaimer: Unlike many of you, I am not an engineer... Just wanted to let you know before I start to make a fool of myself.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Interesting take on a classic shape! I was thinking of that neck through - neck angle problem on my next build, but I figured out, that because the body on the bass is only 32 mm thick, there will be an extra 6 mm on the neck before the fretboard (If I make the neck through part 38mm thick and plane the body portion level to the 32 mm wings). that way it doesn't matter if the bridge is high. What kind of a bridge are you gonna use?
     
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    You can build a bass (neck thru or bolt on) with or without neck angle. It's your choice, and it mostly depends on what you think is comfortable to play. Some guys like the neck tilted back a few degrees because it keeps them from leaning forward as much with their left shoulder. Their back stays straighter and they are comfortable on stage for longer. I should mention that this is usually heard from guys with larger waistlines. Others disagree and find that their posture is better with a "flat" (no neck angle) bass. Most mass production basses are flat, because it's cheaper and simpler to build them that way.

    One of the tradeoffs of putting in neck angle is that the strings end up closer to the body at the neck heel. That may be uncomfortable for your right hand, or it may not. You can compensate for that by raising the bridge up on a platform. But, you may find that uncomfortable too.

    Most commercial bass bridges are designed for an "offset" height of 3/8". That is, with the saddles at a normal adjustment height, the underside of the center string will end up 3/8" above the surface of the body. Most basses use that 3/8" number and also set the fingerboard surface at 3/8" above the body surface, with no neck angle. That seems to have become the standard for basses over the years. Guitars are lower. We bassists like to have more clearance around the strings for plucking.

    But, you can do whatever you want with your own design bass. You can set the strings higher, lower, flat or with a neck angle. Start with figuring out what bridge you are going to use, measure its height, and decide how high off the body surface you want the strings to be at the neck heel. That will guide you to your decision about the neck angle.

    Don't be afraid to make mockups out of cardboard, foam blocks, chunks of scrap wood, or whatever you have. You'll learn a lot from holding a full size mockup in your hands that you can't tell from a computer model. Mockups now will save you a lot of wasted time later.

    One other thing to consider with neck angle: If you have significant neck angle, and a tilt back headstock, and a raised bridge, you may have problems fitting the bass into a standard case. Most commercial cases are made for basses that are fairly flat. It's just something to look at and consider before you commit to the design.
     
  4. gbarcus

    gbarcus Commercial User

    Jul 20, 2008
    Minneapolis & St.Paul, MN
    Owner of Barcus Basses barcusbasses.com
    I've built them both ways and found the lack of height for my fingers to get under the strings too annoying with the neck angle. It wasn't too complicated to do a neckthru this way though. I glued the wings on at the angle I wanted, then taped mdf on the wings and routed out neckthru area flat.


    IMG_7094.jpg

    IMG_7104.jpg
     
  5. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    I suppose I should have been a bit more specific about.... Everything. I've made a handful of parts basses, and I've built two acoustics and one archtop from scratch. I plan to build electric basses and archtops, but the most work I've done on an electric is finishing a Wishbass. EDIT: This Wishbass is a fretless 6-string bass B-c

    I'm 6'1" and about 185lbs, so waistline is not an issue. The neck through Wishbass I play has no neck angle, and I like the feel of it just fine. I'm using a floating bridge with a mammoth tusk saddle. My action is unreasonably low. Like less than 2/64 at the 12th "fret" on the B string. I want the action so low that just looking at the bass will fret the string. A brisk wind could play this bass. My current bass has a very deep cut that allows for a board with 38 stops. I also added a slap plate at one point but removed it because it left such little room for my right hand to actually play. I'll upload some pictures to demonstrate. The only area my right hand has is less than an inch between the pickup and the end of the fretboard. On the other side of the pickup, there's also about an inch or more of string, but they're just like playing metal rods when you're that close to the bridge.

    All that being said, I do slap on this bass. It has the tightest string spacing of any bass I've ever played. This makes many techniques pretty difficult, but I've adjusted. It's my main bass, and it's a workhorse.

    This new design will replace the Wishbass. All I will use from the Wishbass is the mammoth tusk saddle, so the string spacing will still be the same. The board will go to 24 "frets"/stops, and part of it will taper to 29 stops. The pickup will be roughly in the EBMM "sweet spot" instead of right next to the bridge. I also have a q-tuner v2 as a pickup, so ostensibly I will be able to keep the pickup height lower, thus allowing my fingers more room under the strings in the playable area.

    I had heard a few people mention neck angles on neck throughs, but since I haven't had a problem so far, I suppose I'll just build it straight. It is a prototype after all, so I'll see how it feels without an angle.

    Now my next question: neck carving. The upper horn extends to about the 10th fret area... I've always used rasps and files to carve necks, but this single cut has me stumped a bit. I could go at it with some chisels perhaps? Small planes? Or make some sort of router jig?

    Any suggestions?
     
  6. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Pictures of current bass:

    At a festival last year:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    In the studio last week:
    [​IMG]

    See how little room there is to play near the bridge?
     
  7. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    So yeah... any tips on carving a neck on a single-cut neck-through?

    I know many people at least rough in the neck before gluing, but then I run the risk of having problems gluing the upper horn on... I also plan to use a thumb carve like in the attachment. Router? Chisel?
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    My favorite tools for shaping into concave areas are:

    A 4 1/2" disk electric angle grinder with a 60 grit disk on it. You've got to be careful with it, because it will rip off wood quickly. But with a little practice on scrap wood, you'll find that you can rough out concave shapes like that very nicely.

    For small areas, I use an electric die grinder. These are like a big industrial version of a Dremel tool. I use it with a 1/2" bullet shaped cutter bit.

    Bent files: Using a propane torch, it's actually easy to bend a standard file into any shape you want. I've got a whole row of files I've bent into curves, hooks and even rings that I use for shaping concave areas. The handiest bent file you can make is a fairly coarse round "rat tail" file bent into a "J" shape. You hold it by the handle and the tip and work the rounded end down into the rounded concave area.

    To bend a file, clamp the tip in a vise, with the file standing straight up, handle up. Light up your propane or MAPP torch and start applying heat to the area that you want to bend. As the metal starts to change color and get towards dull red, apply light pressure with a finger or two on the handle. Don't push hard. Just a light pressure. As the metal gets dull red, you'll feel it begin to give way and start slowly bending. Work slowly, moving the flame around and applying the light pressure. Keep it at dull red. Don't let it get up to bright red, or you risk breaking it. You can bend the file into any shape that you want, even a complete circle. Let it cool down, and it's ready to use.

    This technique is great for old files that are partly worn out. The process of heating and bending it tends to clean out and open up the teeth on the outer side, giving them some fresh life. Many of my favorite bent files are made from "worn out" files that otherwise would have been thrown away. The shapes that I use the most, I've replicated with new files.

    A whole lot of the Luthier business is about learning to make your own custom tools from other tools.

    If you haven't seen it before, here's a sequence of web pages showing the whole process of how I build one of my Scroll Bass necks. You'll see all these tools in use:

    http://www.xstrange.com/Building/Buildingneck1.html
     
  9. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    I was actually looking at that the other day. Someone else suggested an angle grinder too.... so it looks like I've got more tools to buy.

    Also, I would assume that it would be best to have a wooden handle on the file rather than one of the "ergonomic" style handles?
     
  10. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Gonna start adding some pics:

    I'll have neck stringers of purpleheart, wenge, and birdseye maple with a black walnut core. I'll have stringers of maple, walnut, purpleheart, and two large strips of bocote in the body. Copied this post from the "raw lumber" thread.

    Most of the lumber.
    [​IMG]

    Check out this bocote once it's been planed!
    [​IMG]

    Close-up: http://instagram.com/p/beuoLcFgis/

    Here are the neck stringers. I have yet to cut the birdseye maple stringers though.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. 49sfine

    49sfine

    Apr 20, 2008
    Austin, Texas
    Well, thanks you guys. I just visited the Bruce Johnson link and looked at the scroll neck tutorial. Utterly jaw-dropping! Only problem is now, right after I felt completely uplifted and inspired, a very strong urge to commit hari-kari rushed in - am I'm not even Japanese! I don't even know what to say, except at 64 years old, I don't have nearly enough time left to catch up with much of ANY of that. I think a quick shop tour would give me a fatal heart attack!
    Just incredible ................
     
  12. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    What I do doesn't involve hereditary brilliance, black magic, or prostate worship of Zen Luthier Masters. It isn't that hard, and any of you can do it. It just requires some careful thought and a bunch of homework. Building a complicated bass requires you to solve a few hundred problems of how to bring a chunk of wood or metal to a particular shape or dimension. Take these problems on one at a time and figure out a way to solve each one. There are many different ways to solve each problem, and often it takes several tries to figure out the best one.

    That's what bass building is all about: A whole lot of experimenting and making up special tools and fixtures to allow you to make the parts that you need for your ideas. There isn't some machine that you can buy where you stick a block of wood in one end, and a bass comes out the other end. It takes a lot of individual steps, and each one has to be figured out. The further you stray from commercially available parts, the more new problems. That's the challenge and the fun of it. Trying to make something new and better. For wackos like me, that process isn't just fun, it's a hopeless obsession!
     
  13. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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