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Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jason_A, May 10, 2011.

  1. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    I decided I would do a "batch" build this time around. Originally it was going to be maybe 3 or 4 basses. I figured I'd do sort of a mini "production run". The last couple of builds I was always frustrated because I would spend more time setting up tools that I would actually building. So I figured if I was going to waste all that time setting up the tools, I might as well do the exact same operation on a couple necks/bodies at the same time.

    So I went wood shopping... and came home with more than I had intended. And then I "accidentally" went wood shopping again and came home with more. So the number of basses grew to something more like 4 to 6. And then I started cutting and gluing. And somehow I ended up with 8 neck blanks. I'm actually not sure if I have enough wood on hand for 8 bodies (or fretboards for that matter), but I know where there are a couple of good saw mills that could help with a problem like that :D

    The wood is actually one of the least expensive parts (at least the wood I use). So I am planning on getting the necks and bodies built, and then as I have funds, I'll purchase the hardware/electronics - probably one bass at a time.

    My main goals here are going to be to try several different body styles (traditional, modern, dual cut, single cut, chambered, etc), experiment with different pickups and preamps (Bill Lawrence, Nordstrand, AGS, Delano, etc), and sample a variety of bridges and tuners. I was actually very happy with my first couple of builds, but I figure this will be a good way to experiment with a lot of variations in a short period of time, find what I like and don't. For now I'm expecting these will probably all end up as 5-strings with more or less the same neck design (nut width, string spacing, etc), but I'll probably try a few different back profiles, radiuses, and fret sizes. It's probably lame to do all 5-strings, but that's what I like, so that's what I'm going to build.
  2. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    I'm already a little ways into this build, so I can jump past a lot of the boring parts and get right to the woods I'm using. A lot of the wood I use is local, from saw mills that are reasonably responsible with their harvesting (mostly trees from farmer's timbers). From my local saw mills I get black walnut, cherry, maple (flamed and birdseye) and alder. I also have a local guy that carries "exotic" woods, which obviously don't come from the midwest. I have padauk, zebrawood, bocote, bubinga, African "mahogany", and lacewood.

    The bodies and necks will all end up being laminates - some more "hippie sandwich" than others. Here are some in-progress shots of the woods in the form of body and neck blanks:

    Here's part of the stack of wood, still rough sawn and cut to rough lengths

    Here are some of the body woods

    African Mahogany and Alder




    Flamed Maple

    Here's some of the maple for necks
  3. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Are you doing more of the Tobias influenced bodies?
  4. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    After a lot of time at the jointer, planer, drum sander and table saw, the wood is ready to be glued up into blanks for the bodies and necks.

    Here are a few of the body blanks in progress (you can see the neck pieces in the background ready to be glued up)

    Walnut core (with flamed maple racing stripe)

    Alder backs

    African Mahogany core

    Flamed Maple cores

    Here are the neck blanks. After they come out of the clamps, I let them sit for a few days to cure and settle a little. Then I run them through the jointer to get one clean face, then through the planer to get them close to final thickness. After they've been rough planed, I let them sit for a little while longer to stabilize again. Then if necessary they can go through the jointer/planer to get flattened back out, then through the drum sander to get to final thickness.

    Here are the neck blanks patiently waiting

    Left: Flamed Maple with Padauk
    Right: Flamed Maple with Bubinga veneer

    Left: Walnut with Maple veneer
    Right: Flamed Maple with Walnut

    Left: Walnut, Maple veneer, Cherry, Bubinga veneer, Birdseye Maple
    Right: Birdseye Maple, Bubinga veneer, Cherry, Padauk (these two are currently my favorite neck blanks)

    Left: Walnut, Flamed Maple, Bocote
    Right: Flamed Maple and Walnut
  5. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    Another reason I'm doing multiple builds this time around is that it's better justification for getting new tools :D

    I found a nice 18" Grizzly band saw for a good price locally on Craigslist. The only down side was that I had to run 220V to my garage, but that wasn't too big of a deal, and now I have a nice massive bandsaw at my disposal. It takes up to a 1-1/4" wide blade, which is great for resawing (which I did a lot of - sliced through 7"+ wide bubinga without any trouble). MUCH nicer way to resaw than what I was doing before on the table saw (which was both more dangerous, more wasteful, and more time consuming - especially since I had to finish the cut with a handsaw because a 10" blade still leaves about an inch of material in the center of the board that it can't reach).


    The other major tool purchase was a drum sander. This was another Craigslist find, although this was a new machine, still in the crate. The guy I got it from is a liquidator, and he bought out a bunch of these machines. They're branded as Palmgren, but it's essentially the same machine Grizzly sells, just with a different paint job. So far I've been very happy with it. Some of the woods I'm using are very prone to tear out (or in the case of some of this flamed maple - exploding!). So I can run the boards through the planer to get them almost to final thickness, and then run through the sander to finish them out, without having to worry about tearout or chipping. It's definitely slower than just planing, but the results are so much more predictable.



  6. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    As I mentioned in the previous post, I used the band saw to resaw several of the boards to be used for top and back sets. After the boards are resawn, they are run through the planer and sander to get to a uniform thickness. At this point the boards are anywhere from 1/4" to 3/8" thick (most end up around 5/16"). On my first builds, I first glued up the "core" for the body, then tried to glue on the two bookmatched top pieces to the core without first gluing them together into a single plate. It was too much to try and keep them pressed down to the core, aligned, keep all the glue joints level and tight, etc. So this time around (and with the help of the drum sander), I'm gluing the top and back plates up before gluing them to the body cores.

    This is a jig I made tonight to aid in gluing them up. I didn't figure I'd have much luck gluing them up with just a couple of clamps, so I made a platform for the boards to lay on, while pressure is applied from the edges to pull the joint tight, as well as squeezing pressure from the wedges to keep the boards flat and the joint level. I wish I could take credit for the design, but I hocked it from a picture I saw in a Grizzly catalog for a jig he uses for the same purpose. I glued up a couple of plates tonight, and I have to say that this little jig is working great so far.

    This is a lacewood set being clamped up.



    So that's the state of things for right now. So far the idea that doing multiple builds at once will be more efficient seems to be holding true. Granted, if I was just doing one bass I'd be a lot further along, but this is most definitely much faster than doing 8 separate builds in series.

    I have to finish gluing up the top and back sets, then they need to get laminated on to the body cores. I suspect that's going to take another week or two at my current rate. While that's going on, I'll probably start doing the headstock scarfs and cutting the truss rod channels. I suspect my progress on these builds is going to be kind of slow, but at least with each update there ought to be a bunch of pictures :smug:
  7. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    I'll probably do one or two with the same body shape I did on the first couple of builds (the one in my avatar pic). However, I'm going to be trying a different headstock shape - still need to work that out. While I am a huge fan of Mike's, I do kind of feel like my first basses were a little TOO inspired by his work :) Part of the fun with these builds will be trying out some different body shapes. I'm still trying to figure out if I'm going to try something traditional like a Precision or Jazz shaped body. I will definitely be trying some different shapes though. It seems just about everything has been tried before, so it will most likely be melding aspects of different basses I like into something I can kind of call my own.
  8. Awesome stuff...sub
  9. Thumpin_P


    Nov 26, 2006
    Limestone, TN
    ditto...MASS PRODUCTION!!!!!!
  10. subscribed!!!
  11. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    Just a quick update (no pics yet, I'll snap some later tonight)...

    I determined that I needed a little more wood to make the last body, so I stopped in to one of the local saw mills that I don't normally go to. Turns out he had some spalted soft maple. Wasn't what I was looking for, but I think should make for an interesting top set. It's kind of hard to tell what it will do after being cleaned up, but there could be a little figuring in it as well. the Spalting in the board I got is pretty dramatic, so it will definitely have plenty of character on it's own. The wood feels pretty solid, but being soft maple it does feel noticeably softer than hard maple. I think it's about as hard as alder or basswood, so I don't think I'll have to do anything special when finishing, although I'll definitely be testing with scrap!

    I get the house to myself for most of the evening, so I'm hoping to get some bodies laminated. Hopefully some vaguely interesting pics to follow...
  12. This build, I like where it's going.
  13. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    Well, it was one of those weekends where I spent a lot of time working, but don't have a whole lot new to show for it. Friday night I got the spalted maple resawn and glued up into a front and back set for the last body. Still need to figure out what the core material for that one will be.


    I also got the neck blanks all planed/sanded down to final thickness. They all look great, and I'm loving that drum sander more every time I use it. The ability to deal with figured woods makes it worth every penny. I didn't snap any pictures of the neck blanks - they look just like they did before, only slightly thinner and without any tearout ;)

    I also got the top and back sets sanded down. That took longer than I expected. I also started gluing up the bodies. The weather was "cold" here Saturday, so the glue didn't set up as quickly as I had hoped. I didn't realized that until I had unclamped the first body, and the back started pulling away from the core. So back into the clamps it went and came in to the house over night. Fortunately when I took it out of the clamps Sunday everything had set up properly, and the joints all stayed nice and tight.

    Here's the first body - walnut core, zebrawood top, padauk back, and maple accent lines. This will most likely be the most "bold" (maybe "flamboyant" is a better term) of the bodies in terms of wood combinations. That padauk is fiercely red! I hit the end of the body with the sander just to see how the joints came out and get a feel for the color combinations. I'm liking it, and I really like the contrast between the different woods.



    I also got one of the new body shapes drawn up. I have to admit that it's not much of a departure from my last body shape, but this one is a little longer and the upper horn is a little higher, which will allow for wider necks (6-7 strings) and longer scales (including multi-scale). I'm not saying one of these will end up as a 7-string multi-scale... but theoretically it could be possible with this body shape.


    And here's the second body being glued up. I've found it's easier to do the glue ups by first rough cutting the body outline, which allows getting clamps all around the perimeter of the body to make sure the joints are tight there. I use double-sided carpet tape to hold the laminations together when running through the bandsaw to rough cut - that way you only have to do the cutting once. I also leave a little "tab" in 3 or 4 places around the body to pop in a couple of brads to keep everything in place while clamping it up, and to prevent the laminations from sliding around under the clamp pressure. This blank will be the new body shape, and has a walnut back, flamed maple core, leopardwood top, and a bubinga accent line between the top and core.

  14. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    Thought I'd post a few more pics of the progress. All of the body blanks are now glued up, sanded to final thickness, and rough sawn to shape.

    Spalt maple top, cherry and walnut core, flamed maple back:

    Leopardwood top on alder core:

    Bubinga top, flamed maple core, padauk back:

    Zebrawood top, walnut core, padauk back, with maple accent lines:

    Spalt maple top, walnut core, flamed maple back:

    Walnut top, alder core, cherry accent:

    Leopardwood top, flamed-maple core, walnut back:

    Flamed maple top, African mahogany core, with walnut accent:

    Here are the bodies after being rough cut to shape and sanded to final thickness.

    This afternoon I got the scarf joints all cut on the neck blanks and the headstocks. Most of the headstocks will have a veneer on the front or back (or both).


    Next up are truss rod channels, and then hand slotting 8 fingerboards - my shoulder is sore just thinking about it.
  15. ddtkills


    Mar 7, 2009
    Awesome post man, thank you very much. Keep it coming.
  16. darylchan


    Mar 1, 2011
    If you used identical electronics on all these basses, you would settle the 'tonewood debate' once and for all.
  17. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    Yesterday I picked up some more lumber for the fingerboards. The guy at the wood store had a nice piece of Ziricote that he made me a good deal on, and I also picked up a piece of Wenge. If I had a resaw blade that would cut a straight line, I could have gotten 3 fingerboards out of each board, but I ended up with two from each, and a little slice left over to use as an accent layer under some of the other fingerboards.

    Wenge and Ziricote:

    Bird's eye maple:

    Bocote and Ziricote:

    Flamed Maple and Wenge:

    Sorry the pictures kind of suck - I snapped these quick on my phone this morning. Here's one more shot showing them all lined up on the neck blanks.


    I need to finish gluing on the fingerboard underlays for a couple of the necks and then I will start cutting the truss rod channels. The headstocks also need to be veneered (front and/or back). I'm really hoping that I'll be able to start carving necks over the long weekend.
  18. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    I'm not normally a fan of spalted tops, but I love how the figure on this one sort of echoes the cutaway...

  19. Awesome stuff...all eight of these basses are for ur personal use?
  20. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    We'll see. Originally the idea was to have different electronics and hardware on all of the basses in an attempt to sample a wide variety of parts. It's likely I'll end up with some duplication, though. My exposure to quality parts is kind of limited - I've had several basses with Bartolini electronics and Hipshot hardware. Can't really complain about that I guess, but there's a lot of other options out there and I'm trying to get a sampling to see what I like. I have to admit that I was really into the Nordstrand Big Singles I had in one of the other basses I built, so it's going to take a lot of restraint to not put those in every single one of these basses :)

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