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Five string scrap pile build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Big B., Nov 11, 2012.

  1. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Hi folks. Unfortunately my 3 wood challenge build has come to a bit of a standstill but I still need a bass with frets for playing gigs around Austin. I have a body thats been hanging around for a couple of years and I'm going to use it to make a bolt on 5 string bass.


    5 string

    bolt on neck

    9 piece neck w/ scarf joint

    35" scale

    Delano soapbars and Delano preamp

    Hipshot hardware

    The body is made up of the result of cleaning my shop out a couple of years ago. I took all the small scrap pieces of wood I had and used them to glue up a body. The body includes maple, walnut, cherry, mahogany, wenge and azobe. To cap it off I used a piece of camphor burl.

    The body was initially made rather large thinking it would be a 6 or 7 string and the center seam of the top didnt look great so I split the seam on the bandsaw and rejointed the two halves for a clean glue line. I removed about 3/8" in width and got a great seam.




    After clamping and gluing the two halves back together.



    The only pre glued neck blank I have is a neck that was also originally meant to be a 7 string so it will have to be ripped down and reglued as well. The neck is curly maple, african mahogany and azobe.





    So, now that all the wood surgery is done we have the body and neck for our bass. To me birdseye maple is the perfect match for a camphor top so I picked a cool piece of birdseye with half heartwood.



    Now I need to taper my fingerboard, install the position markers and rout in the truss rod. I also may use carbon fiber support rods as well.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  2. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    The position markers can only be installed after the board is tapered so I made a quick little jig to cut the taper.



    Once the taper is complete I lay it in place on the neck blank and mark the outline of the fingerboard.


    I like a little air under the end of my fingerboards so I cut the neck blank about 3/8" short of the fingerboard.


    Next I use my fretting blade to cut slots for the position markers. I used a black/white/black veneer marker for the majority of the frets and a more complex veneer at the 12th and 24th fret with a piece of bubinga involved to match the red in the camphor top.


    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  3. MrArose13

    MrArose13 Commercial User

    Aug 15, 2011
    Atlanta Georgia
    Owner/Luthier:RoseBud Basses & Guitars LLC
    Nice to see that new shop put to work B. This is my kind of build, well I like all your builds though. :D I'll be watching :bag:
  4. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
  5. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Very nice
  6. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Next up is routing for the truss rod and stiffening rods. Since the neck is still square I can use a router table setup and do it the easy way. At the moment I am lacking a router table so I just bolted the router to a piece of plywood and just dropped a 1/4" straight bit through. Using a piece of plywood fence I can line up the bit with the neck blank and prepare for the cut.

    The truss rod will adjust at the body end but the stiffening rods will rout in from the headstock and will run through and support the scarf joint. This is my answer to a volute which I very much dislike the feel of. The rods will be sanded flush to the headstock and then covered by the headplate veneer. The truss rod is laid on the neck and the stop point is marked and transferred around the blank. Also I use a square to mark the back edge of the router bit and transfer that line onto the fence as well.


    Once the cut is set I run the blank until the line on the neck meets the line on the fence of the router table.


    The stiffening rods use the same 1/4" bit so I reset the depth, move the fence, and repeat the same process for the carbon fiber rod channels.


    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  7. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    You have some very nice woods in your scrap pile. Nice looking bass.
  8. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Thanks. :D Only the body can count as scrap wood on this one. The top and neck came out of my non scrap pile.
  9. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    You have a non Scrap pile too :O.....awesome...LOL :p

    Very cool so far B
  10. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Since we last met I began work on installing the carbon fiber stiffening rods. I like to use CA glue instead of epoxy but either will do. As long as the channel is tight and the rod is tight against the fingerboard there is no room for movement even if the glue somehow came loose.

    I tap the rods in with a small hammer and a small piece of very hard ironwood I use as a hammering block.


    Once the glue is dried its usually just a matter of scraping the surface flat with a scraper and a little light block sanding. These particular rods came from LMI at a substantial discount because the thickness is slightly irregular. This leaves a few spots sitting slightly above level. I would normally take the time to sand and scrape the surface flat but the insert knives on my jointer are finally going dull and I need to turn them to a new side very soon. (Not bad for 3 years of exotic woods and furniture building):) I just set the depth very low and ran the surface down nice and smooth. Once the excess on the headstock is sanded down I run that surface on the jointer as well. The rout for the truss rod was originally just a hair deep and resurfacing brought it right back up to a tight fit.



    Next step is to glue on the headstock veneer. A bit of cutoff from the camphor top. I clamp it to the neck using the headstock blank of a matching neck I have around.


    Next I rout the veneer flush to the blank and transfer the headstock shape.


    Last step before gluing up the fingerboard is to trim the neck to shape with the bandsaw. I leave just a hair past the cut line to allow for clamp removal after the fingerboard is on.


    And last but not least its time to glue on the fingerboard. First I make a very light pass on the jointer to get a fresh gluing surface and then I clamp the fingerboard on using another neck blank as a caul.

    Next time we meet we'll be radiusing the fingerboard with the jointer. :bassist:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  11. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    You know Brandon, you just gave me a great idea...LOL
  12. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Oh yeah? I'll send my address for the royalty checks. :cool:
  13. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    I'll just drop em off next time I'm n Austin...LOL. Should Be March or May...LOL
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  15. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Now that the fingerboard is glued on we can start making some more progress. The fingerboard is a bit smaller than the neck for now so I chuck up a flush trim pattern bit and trim it back in a couple of passes.



    Looking nice so far.


    Originally I was planning to do the compound radius on the jointer but as I mentioned earlier my knives are starting to dull and they have a tendency to chip out the birdseye in particular so I'll use ye olde radius block instead.

    I used my 16' radius and started with the sides of the fingerboard, sanding parallel to the edge of the neck, not the centerline of the fingerboard. After the edges are radiused I come back and sand along the string paths until I have a smooth radius and a flat path along the course of each string.


    To check the smoothness of the radius I make crossmarks on the length of the board, particularly the very edges, and use them as a sanding guide. The marks should come off evenly with just a few strokes per string path. If you get intermittent marks you need to continue sanding for smoothness.

    I mentioned paying special attention to the edge of the board as I find this to be a place that problems can happen. If you dont get a smooth radius all the way to the edge of the neck you can end up with gaps under the ends of your frets that can be very frustrating. For example this is a pic taken while I was radiusing the board. If you look at the g string side of the radius you will see it dip slightly on the edge because I havent made the radius true all the way out to the edge. The E string edge on the other hand is smoothly radiused all the way out to the edge. If I were to fret at this point I would have issues with fret ends on the G string side.


    Now that the board is radiused it is time to install frets. About ten minutes with a fretting hammer and we are in business.


    Next up I nip the ends with clippers. I find it important to clip from directly above the fret. This leaves a nice clean fret edge instead of twisting the tang sideways in the edge of the slot.


    Next I use a bastard cut file to smooth the ends of the frets to the fingerboard. This is actually a well worn plastic laminate file from Plasti-Cut and works wonders on metal. I can knock the frets down in a few strikes and as long as I dont hit the edge of the board at an angle I get almost no damage to the wood at all. Here you see filed frets and unfiled frets.


    I like to glue in my frets with CA, partially because I like the insurance and partially because I like the empty space under the frets filled as well. At this point I glue the slot by taping one side of the fingerboard off and flipping the neck over. I fill from the other side with CA until it crests over the top of the slot and then leave it to dry. Once dry I knock the CA back with a sanding block, cleaning the last edges of the frets along the way.


    Once the edges are clean I can use my bevel file to file the frets ends to a nice consistent angle.


    To get an idea of how flat the frets are I like to watch how light reflects off the frets. Position the neck so that a light reflects down the length of the frets. If your frets are even you will get one consistent , straight reflection down the fingerboard. The more uneven your frets are the more broken the path of the reflection will be. In the case of a compound radiused board you will also see the reflections follow straight down the center of the board but fan out toward the edges as you rotate the neck in the light.

    This bass turned out particularly well. The frets are smooth from end to end and the compound radius looks straight as I move across the board. With only the lightest leveling this bass should hum.

    Well its saturday morning and I've got the day free so expect some more progress soon. :cool:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  16. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Give me a shout when you make it out here. I'd be glad to catch up.
  17. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Yeah will do, if all works out, we'll hit the dirty dog for munchies
  18. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Back with an afternoon update.

    To start the neck pocket I clamped the neck on a piece of plywood and screwed down blocks around it. Next I removed the neck and routed out the inside with a 3/8" pattern bit.


    I then attached a piece of plywood to the neck with double sided tape and routed it flush to the plywood.


    Once routed I mark the 3/8" corners onto the plywood and sand the corners on the template with a spindle sander.


    Next we check the fit for sweetness:


    Sweetness achieved. :cool:

    Next I mount the inside template to the neck and use my 3/8" pattern bit to trim the curved corners onto the neck itself, leaving the fingerboard square.



    With the neck heel complete I clamp the neck to the body and align the centerline of the neck with the center seam of the camphor top and mark around the neck heel.



    To get to 35" scale on this body the neck will have to sit pretty forward compared to the cutaway. I'm interested to see how much stability I can get from a smaller neck pocket, though I have no concerns about functionality.

    With the lines marked on the neck I put double sided tape on the body and align the template with the marks. Once located I clamp it for stability.


    I make a very shallow first pass to get a clean cut on the top and then work down to the depth I can reach with the template.


    The template is then removed and the bearing rides the inside of the cut to finish cutting out to the final depth.



    With the pocket at final depth the neck fits just right and the fingerboard sits level with the top. I expect to add a small shim to the back of the neck to introduce a slight angle.


    Its time to head back to the lab now... If you havent heard from me in a week send a search party. (byob) :ninja:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  19. Thumpin_P


    Nov 26, 2006
    Limestone, TN
    Outstanding work!!!
  20. Randyt

    Randyt RAAPT Custom Wood Productions

    Jul 21, 2010
    Barrie, Canada
    Thank you very much for sharing this process...such an incredible detailed process...Kudos ..sir!!!