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Lets start this build again 5 String 35" Maple

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Snort, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Last year I started my first ever Bass build, It was a neck through 34 inch 5 string with contoured laminates of maple. 3/4 through the build I noticed some inconsistencies in the neck that were hard to ignore so I have Started to make its replacement using the same hardware I bought for the first bass.

    I have been working on it for some time now so I apologize I dont have photos of the initial build of the neck, but I am getting close to finishing the neck and almost ready to fit the wings.


    Through neck 35" scale
    5 String
    All maple (most of which from my own spalted maple lumber, yes this is a built from rough lumber Bass
    The finish will be stained not sure what colour yet, and then Polyurethane, I also intend to have a go at adding some walnut veneer as headstock cover and possibly fake scratchplate.

    I will put some photos up in the next post
  2. This was my first attempt at Bass Building Using Lumber I felled from my front yard, it was a large maple



    The reason for scrapping this one was the neck, when I tried to string it the top string was very close to the edge of the fretboard. so for the new design I took this hard learnt lesson to heart and widened the neck.

    This is a photo of some of my collection , with the old Bass, as well as a six string that I built from scratch (first ever build) and a 12 string "Les Paul" that I built from a kit.

  3. So this is the new build so far, I have tried a lot of new to me techniques on this build, its my first ever scarf joint, I have also tried bookmatching some laminates for the headstock, although I am not that impressed with the outcome, these may end up with a walnut veneer over them. As you can see the neck is three pieces with the main neck with just 1 trussrod, covered with a maple fretboard, which has been prepared for fretting and the holes drilled for the fret markers. The neck heal was pre routed for pickups and wire channels prior to being joined, So far it is 100% maple.
    The wings are from my lumber supply and have a slight spalt to them, nothing is joined at this stage.

    This is the headstock with the spalted maple veneers I cut and bookmatched, they may take a stain well, but at this moment I am considering covering them with a walnut veneer.
    The fretboard, I have started to radius the fretboard, had to build my own radius block, as the neck is pretty wide, at 3 1/8" at the end of the fretboard going down to 2" at the nut. so a handy piece of 2x4" was radiused and turned into my sanding block. The Frets (24) were cut but not to finished depth, so they will need to be re cut once the radius is complete.


    So this is the Bass from the back the control cavity has been routed using a bearing, thanks for the tip in these forums, the cover was made by the same technique. The cover has a walnut veneer applied. not sure how it will be fixed in place yet either magnets or screws.

    As you can see the wings were routed yesterday, and still have a few burn marks on the edges, I have worked these a fair bit today and all of the burn marks are now gone. I still have a few worm holes to fill, and may stain them before I join them to the neck, but I need to decide on a colour scheme yet.


    I will get some photos of todays progress in a bit and put them up as well.

    I would really appreciate constructive criticism, my woodworking skills are not great but I do learn fast.

    I still dont have a clue how to get the neck heal down to some good contours , and whether to start it before joining the wings, likewise with the neck carving and fretting should I do this before joining the wings?
  4. So I made some more progress today, I cut the neck heal to correct length and cut the PUP slots, the Pups are wider than the neck and will have to be routed into the wings when the wings are joined


    This shows the lower wing with the control cavity without cover


    As you can see the burn marks from yesterdays routing are no more, although I still have to round off the heal which will be done when the wings are joined.


    The trouble with getting wood from the garden is the worm holes, they have a habit of appearing right where you dont want them to, the worms are long gone, their homes are there for the rest of the life of the Bass. I will fill them with epoxy and the stain should mask the colour variation.


    Regarding stain I use analdine stain from Lee Valley, as the hardware is all gold for this Bass I think it will look washed out if I keep this Bass a light colour, therefore I am tending toward a Chestnut brown for the wings cherry red for the neck and natural wood for the fretboard. It should all blend nicely with the walnut veneer.


    And finally for today the mock up with my daughters cat inspecting the workmanship.

  5. lucian


    Aug 28, 2007
    Hi, I have just read through your postson your bass build and I have to say that I really do admire you and all the love in your hard work that is defenitely showing through.Respect.
    What glues will you use when you finally come to put it all together?,in joining the wings to the neck,also what pups are you intending to install,and will your bass be active or passive?.
  6. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    I'm interested in this, I subscribed a few days ago.
  7. Thanks Lucian it is somewhat a labour of love, Bass was the first instrument I learnt to play 34 years ago, but I couldnt get my head around singing and playing Bass at the same time. So I started to learn 6 string so that I could sing funny I have no problem singing with Rhythm guitar.

    Anyway I havnt played Bass for 20 years so this is definetly going to be a return to my roots.

    As for Glue I use normal carpenters Tight Bond yellow Glue, everywhere. this bass is only going to be for my use and so its no point using hide glue on the fretboard as its never likely to come off again.

    I am trying to keep the costs down on this build so the Pups are a no name brand that I bought off of E bay. They work as Ive done a resistance check on them, they are for 5 string and ive sprayed them gold with metal flake in them. I intend to put a walnut veneer surround on them as the route is a little ugly. Ill post a pic soon. This Bass will be passive to start with I have never used active electronics, and its been so long since ive played I want to get some time in before I start tinkering with electronics.
  8. I have come to somewhat of a halt, I thought I had enough Abolone neck inserts to do this but I am 12 short so ive just ordered some more, I cant realy finish the radius of the fretboard until I have installed them, everything else on the neck is waiting until I have fretted it, I like to fret the neck with a flat back to the neck, so I cant start to carve until ive installed the frets.
  9. OK whilst I await the hardware for the neck I need some advice.

    I have 2 inches at the nut, and 3" 3/8ths at the top of the bridge, I have individual bridge pieces for each string, and I am wondering on the spacing between strings at the bridge and nut, also as I have never set up a 5 string before do I need to stagger the bridge pieces for better intonation range of movement.


    as you can see I have plenty of space to place them in, my question is, having only played a 5 string once does the spacing need to vary for the string width? or should the spacing be standard based upon the center of the string no matter how thick it is?
  10. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Are you asking about varying the distances from the nut, or varying the side-to-side spacing?
  11. Hi Pilot Jones thanks for taking an interest I have very much admired your work in the past and would very much welcome your advice.

    I should have been more clear in my questions, I guess there are several here.

    1. Side by side string spacing should it be equidistant, or should it take into account the thickness of the strings as I know the B string will be pretty thick, is there an optimum rule for a 5 string?

    2. This is a 35" scale and I have plenty of space to offset the bridge pieces to get the maximum travel of the saddles to adjust intonation. Should I line them all in a row, centered saddles on the 35 inch line? or would there be benefit in staggering the "up the neck position" to help bring the intonnation in?
  12. ddtkills


    Mar 7, 2009
    Nice work. But that cat must be an identical twin to mine. The resemblance is uncanny.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    1. This is a matter of personal preference. I'd say equal centers at the bridge is far more common, since that's all that's possible with many bridges.

    2. For a straight alignment, you would place the bridges with the saddle witness points on the 35" line *when they are adjusted all the way forwards, towards the headstock.*
    You could also built in a bit of the intonation compensation, starting with the G on the line as just described, to the B at maybe 1/4" back. If you have a properly intonated bass on hand, you can do some measurements on it.
  14. Thanks for the response, I dont have a bass to compare the intonation settings with, but anyone out there who has a 35" scale if you could let me know the B string shift to the rear for intonation from the 35" line that would be great.

    As an aside I have just checked my Strat and the E 6th is backed almost all to the rear, and that guitar has perfect intonation so I would imagine the B string of a 5 string bass would need a fair bit of travel to find that sweet spot:confused:

    Another point with these individual bridge pieces is how do you people ground them?

    I usually run a ground wire to a metal plate or tape under the Bridge but that is for solid bridges, can anyone think of a way to put a ground wire that connects all 5 bridge pieces but is unobtrusive.

    On that note I am planning on a brass nut would the conductivity be enough through the strings to only need to ground one bridge piece?
  15. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    My B sits back about 3/8" further than the G, but YMMV.

    What kind of strat is it? Backed to the rear sounds like a bridge installation snafu.

    A brass nut will ground the strings with only one bridge piece. If you ever change to something else, it will be ungrounded though...
  16. thanks BeeJ I will have a play around with the positioning and see if I can get something pleasing to the eye as well as good for set up.

    I may just inlay a Brass Plate to mount the Bridge pieces upon, as continuity through the strings may not be the best earthing solution and I hate earth hum or buzz.
  17. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    My Lakland (35" scale) intonates with the G through B saddles at 35.1 through 35.3". My crap ass bass with high action (34" scale) intonates with the saddles at 34.06 through 34.31".

    If you ever use taper cores, though, they are said to require less compensation. So you might not want to build too much into the bridge piece positions.

    And like Beej said, a brass nut will carry the ground from one grounded string to the others, as long as you don't use nylon tapewounds. A zero fret will do it also. On my bass I did not ground the strings, though.
  18. Beej its only a Squire Strat, but the spring on the 6th is fully compressed, however the intonation is perfect and its my favorite ive had it for 15 years and its worn in now.

    It did get me thinking about intonation adjustment for the B String though, 3/8ths is certainly doable.:hyper:
  19. Pilot Jones that is interesting and from the sounds of the little adjustment you require for the 35" then I think I will just fit them all inline. thanks for the precise measurements it will give me something to work from.

    My basic trade is in Aircraft Avionics, I initially specialized in Radio Communications, so I am very interested in the fact that you didnt ground your strings, how is the instrument in terms of buzz hum pops or hiss.

    I am perhaps a little fanatical about such noise and everything in my guitars is shielded and soldered together yes I solder grounds to the metal tape that I screen my cavities with and collectively everything metal that doesnt carry a signal path is grounded to a common ground stud.

    Effectively the strings act as antennas especially if joined together by a metal bridge or nut, so I am interested to hear how yours performs in terms of noise?
  20. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    My bass and my Lakland both have shielded cavities, and humbuckers. My bass has ungrounded strings, the Lakland has grounded strings.

    They are both behaving identically for me. They both have zero buzz, except in one particular venue where they both get a buzz. That place has horrendous dimmers, that can make stratocasters nearly unusable. Touching the strings on the Lakie does not make the buzz go away.