Help with a homemade “Wing bass”

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DragonFrog, Sep 24, 2020.

  1. DragonFrog


    Mar 22, 2018
    Sorry to bother you guys/gals, I’m a 100% disabled vet on a fixed income. I was looking at a wing bass (beautiful works of art) but the price is a bit steep :p

    One of my therapists said playing bass would help work on my dexterity and coordination (nerve damage to neck/spine). I spend a lot of time traveling from Colorado Springs to Denver and the waits between appts. I was looking for something small I can travel with. Then I stumbled on the wing bass!

    So my question is on something that short, are my measurements based on the the distance between the bridge and nut? And is there a type you recommend? (A 5 string is what I’m looking to try to build)

    Not sure where to start really.

    The measurements part for the frets/bridge/nuts kinda scares me ;)

    Thank you so much for your time,

  2. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) mmm Woody! DHDIK? Sweet Treets. Supporting Member

    Andy Brown is a TB member perhaps he'll have some input.
    @Andy Brown
  3. DragonFrog


    Mar 22, 2018
    Thank you!
    /\/\3phist0 likes this.
  4. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    Beej and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  5. My love of this forum got me interested in woodworking.
    My love of woodworking got me interested in Rob Cosman.
    My love of Rob's YouTube videos got me interested in the Purple Heart Project.

    Perhaps you might be interested in enrolling. They are trying to get the FREE bootcamp workshops started when the USA/Canada border opens again. As a disabled vet you should qualify.
    DragonFrog, chinjazz and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  6. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Hey Josh,

    You can buy the fretboard radiused and pre-slotted to the scale length you want from places like LMII. And you can always come here for lots of help and advice if you decide to build it.
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  7. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Besides wing basses, you may want to check out ukulele basses (i.e. the Kala U-bass and others) if you're looking for a small portable bass-like instrument.
    Turxile, DragonFrog and T_Bone_TL like this.
  8. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    Those are surprisingly satisfying, and work well in acoustic mode if you are playing for yourself (I've met and played one.) Reports are that they also work well with a pickup if playing on a larger scale, I don't have personal experience with that, or an application for it.

    The band consensus remains highly anti-electric, (I don't personally have a stake, but I like playing with them, so I play the upright) though they have been letting that slip a little as we adapt to "spaced out rehearsals" for covid; our guitar player is also "the sound guy" for our local contra dance and has been experimenting with putting most instruments (not me, so far) through the PA (which means we actually get to hear his always decent but often too quiet guitar playing) so we can be further apart without not hearing each other.

    The ukes are bigger than a Wing, and the Wing would be better if you'd be playing into headphones anyway.

    Depending (quite a bit) on why you are thinking a 5, have you considered a BEAD 4? i.e. if you are mostly looking for the lower lows and don't do much up high, that's an option.
  9. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Another option would be a hybrid - solid body, but with a piezo pickup so you don't have to use magnetic strings. Then you could use uke bass strings which lets you get typical bass tuning in a very short scale length.

    I guess my point is, the sky's the limit! Decide on the tuning/size/acoustic vs electric/etc that you want and we can help you figure out the mechanics and the specifications!
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  10. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    ...or look for a (used, I think they are out of production again, again) Ashbory bass (which is a piezo/rubber string bass factory built) The actual owner of the upright I play has one of those.

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
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  11. DragonFrog


    Mar 22, 2018
    Thank you for all your help!
    Got a few questions.
    1) I measure from the nut to the back of the bridge correct?
    2) How do I figure out the scale I want? I know it won’t be perfect but I would like to plug it in and use headphones from my phone to play along.
    3) Hipshot bridge is pretty expensive, is the another bridge that would be a good replacement?

    I just starting to play and lucked into a 5 string Horner b V bass for 60 bucks at a garage sale. That’s why I want to do a 5 string to keep it the same.

    *edit for question 3 and 5 string reason.

    Thanks for all the suggestions and help,
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
    T_Bone_TL likes this.
  12. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    1) Scale length (nominal) is generally a bit shy of the front of the bridge. Due to physics, the actual position of the bridge saddles (correctly intonated) ends up a bit longer than the scale length. So on a "normal" 34" scale you would expect 34" from the face of the nut to fall slightly in front of the G string saddle, and considerably in front of the B string saddle (on a 5 tuned per normal.)

    2) if following the Wing approach (we've tossed around several other possibilities, but that's where you started) your scale is just like you put a capo at the 12th fret on your bass. So for a 34" scale full size you'd be building 17" scale - it plays an octave up and (AIUI) it has some electronics to drop it an octave. I may have a detail wrong but I think that's correct.

    2U) the rubber-string approach is different - those fat silicone-rubber (or polyurethane, or...) strings actually play bass notes directly, no electronic shifting needed. There, you may be limited to working with scale lengths you can get fat rubber strings for. 20-3/8" is evidently the Kala UBass scale length. Ashborys are evidently 18" but I'll bet most rubber strings on the market currently are optimized for UBass (though it may not make a huge difference.)

    3) would depend on string type in 2) but for the Wing-esque option I can't see that any normal bridge wouldn't work. UBass-esque would require a bridge that works with rubber strings, though make that yourself is an option more easily done there (but you can for a normal bridge, too.)
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  13. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    One thought - if you're designing totally from scratch, your most significant limitation is going to be string selection. It would be hard to find strings appropriate for a really weird scale length - both in terms of getting something with the right gauge/mass and also getting something that would have tapers in the correct place to fit on conventional bass tuners. For this reason, it probably makes sense to find a commercially produced niche (i.e. wing basses, uke basses, the Taylor GS Mini basses, etc) and copy the scale length. Then at least you know you can find strings.
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