Hollowbody Back Plate - Cutting a hole into my 50 year old Nitrocellulose finish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by wisconsindead, Nov 9, 2016.

  1. Howdy. I have wanted a backplate in my Guild Starfire for sometime. However, spending the hundreds of dollars to make it happen in addition to having my bass missing in action for weeks does not appeal to me. I am about to get a alembic style bridge installed soon and so I figured this would be the time to make the back plate happen as well. But after talking with the Luthier, he said he has never once put a back plate into a hollowbody. Not necessarily what I wanted to hear. This seems to me as not all that difficult of a job as long as you have a strong and stable template in addition to sharp drill bits. My biggest concern is the chipping of my nitrocellulose finish. It is in good condition for a 50 year old bass, but it is checked. So any input on making this happen...? I don't trust myself to install an alembic bridge, but I figure I might be able to make the back plate happen and save a few hundred dollars. I would plan to use a dremel and keep the wood back plate.
  2. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    So you're wanting to put a control access cover basically? What are you wanting to do?
  3. I want to make adjustments to the electronics a simple task and not a massive hassle. I'd like to try out active electronics. All of sorts of things. Having a large opening in the back would make things much easier.
  4. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    I've had hollowbody guitars where someone has done that and I really wish they hadn't. It's ugly, unnecessary and destroys the value. It's not that big a deal to swap pots etc through the F holes and if you want an active bass I'd just buy something else.

    Unless you're very careful when you start cutting into the back the flex in the wood will crack the lacquer for some distance around it. That's what happened to whoever cut the cavity on the guitars I mentioned earlier. You'll also need to think how you are going to create a lip around it for the back plate to sit in, if it's arch backed this can be a pain also. I did this by creating a frame around the inside of the cavity then screwing the lid to that. I was just repairing it and making a lid rather than cutting the hole.

    Don't do it!
    Will_White likes this.
  5. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    I agree with Manton, it's good in theory, I've done it and it makes electronics slightly (very slightly) easier but overall it's probably not going to look right. In my situation I don't mind because it's on a Rat Rodish build and it kind of fits but if I was to do it again I wouldn't.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2016