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Low rent 4 string fretted build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by bimmer, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. bimmer


    Nov 14, 2005
    Here's my new build, a fretted 4 that I'll be doing pretty much on the cheap. Specs are -

    Mahogany (Utile) body
    Maple/ mahogany 5 piece neck, six bolt fixing
    Bocote fingerboard, no markers
    2 x Wilkinson MM pickups
    Artec SE3P preamp
    Korean bridge and tuners, through body stringing option

    Nothing special or fancy there then. I've spent some time over the weekend making dust and shavings, and I now have a semi complete body and neck.


    The neck pocket was roughed out with the router and cleaned up with a paring chisel for a nice tight fit. It's possible to pick the bass up by the neck with it just pressed into place.

    All the neck and body blank jointing has been done the proper old fashioned way with a Stanley No.7 - I find machine jointers just don't get it quite good enough for a musical instrument.

    Spinning it over, the control cavity and cover plate recess have been routered, and the opening for the jack socket bored out.


    I made a template for the headstock after a lot of doodling, and ended up a little wider than I initially planned. Had to make trip to the offcut bin for some *ahem* "supplementary" pieces.


    Whilst I was waiting for that to glue up, I took care of a few odd jobs, including cutting the nut blank from Corian. Actually about enough for three blanks there.


    Here's a shot of the nerve centre of my operation, my Elu 1251 radial arm saw, aka "Most Useful Piece of Kit Known to Man".


    The exhibition shop where I used to work was scrapping it out because the switch had thrown in the towel; I think the switch was £10 and took half an hour to fit. If I can find a router head for it my life will be complete.

    Glue has set, headstock has cleaned up nicely, ready to be butchered with a jigsaw.


    A bit of an overall view of it so far -


    The pickups will be here in a couple of days, once I have them in front of me I can make a routing template from 6mm Tufnol, get those cut out and then I can introduce the forearm chamfer and belly cut to the body. Also due any time is the bridge, which will be set 3/32" into the top - again I need it in front of me before I can get that templated. Thanks for looking.
  2. Looks sweet!
  3. Swever


    Nov 13, 2008
    Joensuu, Finland
    It's beautiful! Damn, the only more or less budget things here are pickups, preamp and hardware. The wooden part is closer the high-end side to me. At least I never thought of Mahogany as a bugdet timber... ;)
  4. bimmer


    Nov 14, 2005
    Thanks. I don't suppose mahogany is all that budget really - but I work as a bench joiner in a shop that does a lot of real tree wood work, and da boss gives us our pick of whatever is left over at the end of a job.

    Found time to get the shaping of the headstock squared away earlier, jigsawing most of the waste away to within 1/8" or so of the finish, and then mounting a birch ply template onto it using strong doubled sided tape so I could run my small Trend router fitted with a copy bit around it.


    I stopped well short of the neck/ headstock joint, and finished the transition by hand by taking most of the waste off with a shoulder plane and then paring away with a very sharp chisel until it was within sanding distance. Next thing to do is cut the headstock veneer from an offcut of the body wood and to thin down the headstock.
  5. That is NICE. Very *crisp*, you know? Well thought out, I mean. Keep 'em coming. :cool:
  6. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    i love seeing the "low-budget" projects. im guessing youve done a few basses before?
  7. when you said low rent I was looking forward to a craptastic build but that thing is sweet man!
  8. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured

    Don't mean to whine, but do you REALLY have to cover that pretty headstock with a veneer?
  9. bimmer


    Nov 14, 2005
    Thanks for the comments. As far as a headstock veneer goes, I think it may look a little unbalanced as a bolt on. The stripe through the body an an NT keeps it all together visually and you don't have that with a bolt on. Still, when the bocote fingerboard arrives it could all change again and so all options are open for the time being.

    The pickups, bridge and tuners arrived today, so I knocked a template up for the pup routs and let those into the body.


    The pickups are a snug fit in there. I'll need to make up another template to let the bridge into the body. Speaking of which, I was quite pleased with bridge. Locking saddles, top loading or strung through and pretty solid and it cost next to nothing.


    Laying it all out gives a rough idea of how it's shaping up, and I think it's pretty reasonable. Once I let the forearm cut into the body and lose the slab sided look, it shouldn't be too bad at all.


    I think I need to spend some time making some sort of homebrewed fretpress soon, as I don't fancy hammering them in and as well as this one to fret, I have to refret a Ric guitar copy I built for my GF a few years ago so I might as well have a big session and get them both done.
  10. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    you can get a fret caul that will fit in your drillpress... if you have one
  11. bimmer


    Nov 14, 2005
    Yeah, I know about the drill press fret cauls, but I still don't have a drill press. Every time I decide to buy one, I decide I need something else instead just before I pull the trigger.

    I got the headstock thinned down tonight. The neck was cramped down and then I made saw cuts across the back face about 1/8" apart and nearly to the line. A nice cup of tea is needed for this job.


    Then I cut the waste away with a chisel. This is where I start wishing I'd got around to making a jig so that I can do this on the radial arm saw.


    Then I planed it down with my block plane almost all the way though the pencil line and finished off with 60 grit double taped to a block of Corian.


    Then I got the router out and set the bridge into the body. The template was made up slightly undersize so the rebate could be tweaked for a firm press fit.


    The bridge sits in there nice and tight, I have this idea that every little thing that can be done to make things mechanically solid can only be good.


    That's moved it all on a good way, I'm pretty stuck now until the fingerboard gets here, should be in the next couple of days. Thanks for looking.
  12. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    Damn' this is looking sweet!
  13. jordan_frerichs


    Jan 20, 2008
    I know far too well how much a pain a thick headstock is. Still dealing with it. Trying not to look at it until i get a safe-t planer.
  14. Basstovsky

    Basstovsky Stuck on those 4-strings Supporting Member

    Feb 29, 2008
    I really like the body, reminds me of an old Ibanez I once had. I'm sure the pickups wil sound fantastic, I'm becoming quite the fan of the MM+MM setup. How did you decide the spacing of the pickups?
  15. vbasscustom


    Sep 8, 2008
    with a thick headstock, i always just cut the basic shape on the bandsaw, and then take it to my belt sander and flatten it.
  16. LCW

    LCW Banned

    Mar 2, 2009
    that neck is sweet make me a fretless one ;)
  17. bimmer


    Nov 14, 2005
    The pickup positions - the bridge one is in the standard MM position, and the neck one is set so that the rearmost coil in in a Jazz position.

    The bocote for the fingerboard arrived, so that was slotted with my dovetail saw and sanded to a 16" radius before being glued onto the neck. I've omitted the usual shot of every cramp in the workshop. I was going to fret it before shaping the neck, but I only have just under 2' of fret wire at the moment so I've had to order some more. Rather than leave the bass idle until the fret wire gets here, I decided to shape the neck anyway.

    The first thing was to mark out the neck taper, and then mark the heel against the neck pocket. Then I made a second mark 3/16" forward of the heel mark and routed the leading edge of the heel with a 1/4" box core.


    And that's it for power tools until the finish sanding. The shaping is done by hand using spokeshaves. The moral of the story here is don't leave your shinto rasp at work. After making a big new pile of shavings, the shape was fine tuned with sanding blocks and a carbide grit rasp. The neck was left sanded at 80 grit for the time being.



    I put it all together to check the balance and see how things were looking.


    Over the next couple of days I'll rout the battery compartment and carry out the final shaping of the body. Thanks for looking.
  18. bimmer


    Nov 14, 2005
    Got the body squared away ready for finish sanding today. The gut/ moobs cut was let in to the back with my ancient convex shave, the forearm chamfer planed in and the heel thinned down. The counterbores for the neck joint bushings have been done - still trying to decide wether to go for a seventh bolt or not. I've held off on the battery rout for the time being. When the electronics are test fitted it may turn out that there will be room enough in the control cavity for the battery, no point taking wood out if if doesn't need to be.



    All of the odd lumps and bumps around the routed edge have been chased down and nailed with various cabinet raps, rifflers and scrapers. I'll sand it all to 180 tomorrow, then concentrate on the fret job.
  19. LCW

    LCW Banned

    Mar 2, 2009
    that looks great
  20. RH434


    Aug 25, 2008
    Boiling Springs, PA
    I just put that bridge on my Squier Jazz. It was cheap as you said, but I'm thrilled with it. Really improved the sustain and helped remove a dead spot. I had to shim because of the height though.

    Nice Bass in the making. Thanks for sharing and keep the pics coming!

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