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Let's hollow out my jazz bass, shall we?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by teej, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Alright, so I've got a jazz bass that I built a few years ago. It's a great bass, with good tone, and looks really sharp, if you ask me, but frankly, it's just too heavy for me. I have a back problem, even at my young age of 23, so as nice as the bass is, it simply never leaves the case. I replaced the tuners with Hipshot Ultralights, made a few other minor modifications (contoured the body a little, replaced the neck plate with neck ferrules, replaced the bridge, converted to string-through...), and got a nice, soft, wide Taylor strap, but it's still too heavy.

    So here's what I'm thinking... I know the idea of planing 1/4" off the top and hollowing out the body has been beaten to death here, so I think that's what I'll do. I'm going to use spruce for the top, since it's a tried and true top wood that's also very lightweight. Oh, and don't worry. The finish is acrylic lacquer -- very hard. I'm not going to worry about bracing, since this is just going to be semi-hollow. I don't think it will need bracing.

    Question, though. Since it's going to be refinished a solid color, would there be a problem if, say, I had to rotate the top 30 degrees in order to cover the entire body? I know that if this were an acoustic with a transparent finish, that would be totally unacceptable, but I figure no one is going to see the glue line or the grain or anything. The body is 13.5" wide, and so is the top, so I doubt I'll have to, but just in case.


    EDIT: Okay, my mistake. The body is 13" wide and the top wood is 13.5" wide, so there's shouldn't be a problem.
  2. chuckocaster


    Apr 27, 2005
    manteca, ca
    i've done this a couple times with some cheap tele bodies, one i routed from the back so i could still use a bigsby on it. i left it solid from the neck pocket to just behind the bridge pup. then from the bridge pup to the butt i left the top about a half inch thick. the other one (still not done) i did from the top and left the center solid like the first one, but routed behind where the bridge goes.
    firsrt one: this was taken before i cleaned up the route.

    hope that helps.
  3. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I took the plunge today and planed 1/4" off the top, and then began hollowing out the body using forstner bits. So far, it's MUCH lighter -- possibly 2 lbs. -- but I've still got a little more hollowing to do (that little bit highlighted on the left side, and a little more on the right) to smooth out those chambers, glue on the top, and put the hardware back on. I could take it a step further and hollow out between the pickups, and between the neck pocket and neck pickup, but I wanted to keep the body solid there. I read that doing so helps transfer the vibrations, or something like that. I think that, rather than using a router to finish the job, I might use a rotary rasp. It seems like it would be easier, simpler, and quicker.

    By the way, the hole in the upper horn was done simply because I could. It does little to reduce weight, but I figured why not? :smug:

    Oh, the carnage!

    Marking where I'm going to rout the chambers.

    I start by using a drill press and forstner bits.
  4. Murphys Law

    Murphys Law

    May 7, 2009
    Endorsing Artist: SPECTOR® - Stuart Spector Designs, LTD.
    I'll tell ya why not:
    because now the end of your Strap-pin-screw hangs in the air.
    go on an hollow out most of the upper horn, but not THIS area :D
  5. J. Crawford

    J. Crawford Supporting Member

    Feb 15, 2008
    Why not add onto the amount of wood you took out of the upper horn?

    That would take lots of weight off.
  6. SpamBot


    Dec 25, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    +1. I'd fill that back in if I was you.
  7. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    Or instead, hollow it out, and put a threaded anchor in there that wil match a machine screw that you get for the strap lug.
  8. T-MOST


    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    So what are you going to cover those huge cavities with???
  9. Gotta see the end of this!

  10. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    In the OP, states a "spruce" top....
  11. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Actually, no, it doesn't. :smug:

    Because of the tummy contour on the back of the body.

    1/4" Carpathian spruce!
  12. jordan_frerichs


    Jan 20, 2008
    What is the plan about refinising it?
  13. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    The finish on the back is still mostly intact, but needs to be re-polished after it's multiple trips through the planer, so all I'm going to do is spray the top the same color and restore the finish on the back.
  14. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Used the router to clean up the chambers and bring them to their final depth of 1". It's a very light body now. I was hoping the top would arrive today, but it didn't come in with today's mail. Perhaps there's a pink slip in my mail box saying it's waiting for me at the post office. I'll check that now. Maybe I'll be able to get the top on today! :D
  15. OHSPyro89


    Jun 21, 2009
    I always hate those pink slips...

    Sweet idea though, decent idea with the spruce, it's a good change. I doubt you'll hear much of a tonal difference though. You could throw in some piezos, and that would allow potential for the spruce top to sing!
  16. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Yeah, I thought about going with a nice piece of 1/4" poplar from Lowe's, but they didn't have a piece wide enough. I then considered a maple top, since that's pretty much the standard, as far as tops go, but they're too expensive. Spruce, however, is pretty cheap (cost: $30 shipped), and it's not something you typically see on a solid-body instrument. I always like to do things a bit out of the ordinary.

    And I suppose I could add piezos, but I'm not at all concerned about changing the tone or getting fancy with the electronics. I just want to finally play my bass without killing my back and shoulders.

    Oh, by the way, the top arrived this morning. I was expecting it to be jointed already, but nope. I had to hit it with the router. I glued one side on earlier today and am now gluing on the other side. Here's a photo, though it doesn't really show much -- just a top being glued and clamped. I took it just now.

  17. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I'm curious to know how much your bass weighed before you started, and what it weighs when you're done.
  18. teej

    teej Venmo @teej1986

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    You know, I'm not really sure how much it weighed. I don't have a scale, but if I had to estimate, it was maybe 12 pounds?
  19. Nice job, I'm considering doing this. I'll be curious to hear whether or not the bass seems 'punchier' now that it's lighter. In my experience lighter basses 'punch' more. Whatever that means.
  20. spigmu


    Mar 25, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I was thinking the same thing, wondering about the punch. I've always thought the whole "more mass = better because of increased sustain" train of thought from the '80s was misguided. I mean, it may be so, but you have sustain on one side and punch on the other. A resultant cutting down of sustain from something like this could be really great sounding, punch-wise.

    Curious to hear! : )