Half scale travel bass build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Seezar, Nov 7, 2020.

  1. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Hi everybody,
    this is my attempt at building a half scale (430 mm) travel bass, clearly inspired by Wing Bass but with a twist of my own.

    2020-11-07 (4).jpg 2020-11-07 (3).jpg

    This is my first instrument build ever, so it's full of imperfections, defects and noob mistakes.
    I also don't have a shop, shed, garage or basement so I had to build it in my kitchen and on the balcony when dust was involved (a lot of dust!).

    When I started building it I didn't know if it would come out even half decent so I used cheap but strong birch plywood for the body, also I didn't want to invest a lot of money in a nice Hipshot tuning bridge and headpiece on a failed project so I said to myself: "Let's try to build those myself too".

    In the end it even sounds decent.

    Now some specs:
    • Scale: 430 mm
    • String spacing: 18 mm (13.1 mm at the nut)
    • Body: birch plywood (2 layers of 23 mm, very sturdy and stable)
    • Fingerboard: mahogany, compound radius (420-520 mm)
    • Frets: 16 frets + zero fret, jumbo (Cupronichel)
    • Pickup: passive J-style (cheap from Aliexpress)
    • Electronics: classic volume + tone
    • Bridge: self made from 6061 aluminium + 3D printed parts and thrust bearings (saddles from a cheap bridge)
    • Headpiece: self made from 6061 aluminium with M5 grub screws
    • Nut: carbon fiber (4.5 mm, I had a piece laying around)
    • Finish: transparent nitro satin

    Let me know what you think about it, please don't be too hard on me, I'm a noob!

  2. Looks good. I might have beveled the body more to show off that it’s plywood but I’m odd that way. :D We definitely need more pics and details on the tuning system you made!
    Beej likes this.
  3. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Thank you very much!
    You're right about the beveling, I love the look of plywood too :)

    The tuning system is made of 12x12 aluminium extrusions inserted into 15x15x1.5 aluminium tube, M4 bolts into 3D printed knurled knobs, 3D printed endcaps, small thrust bearings.

    Here are some pictures, you can see only 4 of the 5 because one was already under tension for tests.

    IMG_20200626_214108.jpg IMG_20200626_214121.jpg IMG_20200702_142059.jpg

    The downside is that the pitch of an M4 screw is a bit coarse for tuning so it's quite sensitive and not easy to tune spot on, also I'm a bit worried that in the long run the steel screw could eat the thread in the aluminium, I should have used 7075 instead of 6061, but I couldn't easily source it.

    Here's also the headpiece, machined from a 10x20 aluminium bar, staggered screw holes to minimize the risk of cracking the wood, M5 grub screws to lock the strings in.

    rwkeating, FretsAreFor and T_Bone_TL like this.
  4. I like what you came up with for the tuners. How does the string height adjust? It looks like there’s another screw in the claw / saddle. Is that it? I don’t have a 3D printer but if I could source something suitable for knobs and end caps from the hardware store I’d definitely steal that!
  5. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Hi Matt,
    for the saddles I "stole" them from a cheap bass bridge found on Aliexpress (US $9.54 46% di SCONTO|Nero 5 String Individuale Bass Ponti Parti con Vicolo Chiave Viti Parti di Chitarra e Accessori Individuale Bass Ponte|Ricambi e accessori per chitarra| - AliExpress), they have two grub screws to set the string height and one to lock it in place, there's also another one that locks the whole saddle in position within the aluminium tube to set the intonation.
    Here's a better view:


    I thought about making the saddles myself too, but I don't have the tools to do such a precise job on such small parts (yet ;))

    As for the 3D printed it is a wonderful tool to have, they've become very cheap (mine is an Ender 2 and got it for about 180€), not very difficult to operate and there are a lot of free software to help you model your own parts, I think I've spent about an hour or so modeling the knobs and caps.

    I'd be happy to provide the model files (.STL) if someone is interested.
    Beej, Eli_Kyiv and Matt Liebenau like this.
  6. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    What gauge strings, and how is it tuned?
  7. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Hi, string gauges are 125 - 100 - 80 - 65 - 45 (what I had on hand) and the tuning is the standard for a 5 string bass (B, E, A, D, G), but an octave higher
    Beej likes this.
  8. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    pretty cool, OP! nice work on your "half scale travel bass!" lots of homegrown ingenuity/effort on your piece = admirable! :thumbsup:
    obieito likes this.
  9. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Thank you very much for your words!
    It was a long journey and a great learning experience and there's nothing more satisfying than playing an instrument built by yourself :D
    I hope this post will inspire more people, even with very little experience like me, to give it a go and build something.
    obieito, Beej and JRA like this.
  10. Strung_Low

    Strung_Low Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2012
    San Franciskee
    Nice work! Thats very impressive and inspiring, you make it look easy:) and very cool looking bass!!
  11. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Thank you very much!
    It was hard work considering my lack of experience and I went through many prototypes for the mechanics.
    I learned a lot and this forum was of great inspiration to me, giving me confidence that I could do it.
    I was so scared it won't work properly till I put the strings on :)
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  12. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    First of all I'd like to thank everybody for all the likes and kind words!

    I would also like to build a custom gig bag or hard case for this bass, can someone point me to some good resource on the topic?

    obieito likes this.
  13. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2020
  14. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    There have been a few build threads where a case was built too, but wasn't the main focus. Off the top of my head, I think @postalflunkie and @Rôckhewer have done custom case builds. If not, go drool over their instruments anyways. :D

    I know there were a few others shared here I barely recall from the late 2000s and early 2010s from amazing builders who aren't around anymore. And I've seen a couple on TDPRI and Gear Page.
    postalflunkie likes this.
  15. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Thank you very much,
    I'll have a look for sure!
  16. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    nah...wasn't me... was it?:cautious:
    You guys got better memories than I.
    I don't remember posting in that case thread.:confused:
    I never bothered to finish it.
    I've done custom pad/aphoulstry in flight cases, but nothing to write home about.

    @Seezar .. that's a gorgeous instrument.
    What would be cool is a form fit case like a for a violin or dreadnought guitar. Lot of work... but cool.

    I've never considered making a gig bag.
    I can "sew"... but not well enough.
    Here's a fun video.
    Beej and Seezar like this.
  17. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    @Rôckhewer Thank you so much for the compliments, especially coming from such an amazing luthier!
    I agree, a form fit case would be amazing, but I don't think I have the skills to pull it off.
    Thanks for the link to Adam Savage video too, I might start with something simple and maybe later consider a more complex case.
    Rôckhewer likes this.
  18. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    If you can't remember it, then my memory is probably even less accurate. :D
    Rôckhewer likes this.
  19. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Seezar likes this.
  20. Seezar


    Mar 11, 2020
    Hello everybody,
    here's an update on the project.
    I've just finished the case for the half scale bass.

    IMG_20210416_073914.jpg IMG_20210416_073755.jpg IMG_20210416_073828.jpg

    The exterior is made out of plywood, with box joints, painted black with satin wood paint.
    The hardware is all from Aliexpress except for the handle, which is a drawer handle from the hardware store.
    The internal structure is made of open cell foam (the one used for furniture padding), two layers on the bottom (1 and 5 cm.) and one on the top (2 cm.). I've coated the foam with a filling elastic primer to smooth the surfare and close the foam holes and then painted with a couple of layers of red Plastidip.

    The red internal color was chosen by my daughter and I have to say I like it.

    The finish has imperfections, but I think the overall result is nice. The bass doesn't move inside and I think it's well protected.

    As for the bass itself it's holding up fine, tuning is stable and the mechanics seem to still work properly, which was my initial worry, given the materials I've built them out of.

    Wish everybody a nice weekend and see you on the next project, whichever that might be.

    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
    rwkeating, Beej and Tim Barber like this.