My first commission (on the cheap four string bolt on)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jisch, Oct 31, 2015.

  1. As I stated up top, I'm not interested in going into production (or even making basses for friends), but I am loosely keeping track and seeing what lessons I can learn along the way - sort of pretending I am going to go into production, just for kicks.

    Beside the suggestion above about using a body template another lesson I figured out this morning: looking at StewMac you can get plexiglass templates for Jazz pickups for $5 each. So basically for about $35 (including a small diameter router bit) I could save many hours of messing around making my own templates.

    It still doesn't seem necessary for the pickups to be different lengths, but I guess that's Fender's prerogative.
  2. fjadams


    Jun 7, 2011
    Danbury, CT
    It makes up for the string spread nearer the bridge. Shorter pickup near the neck and longer near the bridge.
  3. Precisely. It also means you only have to get the shape right on the template and then the template will make sure it's right on the body. Afterall, it's easier to bondo and fix a template than the actual body.

    Beware with the router though... there will be a few corners that will be prone to tearouts (on the end of the grain). Don't ask me how I know that. :crying:
  4. I know why they do it, but I think it's unnecessary, I can't believe that small bit of difference in the width makes any difference in the amount of signal. I guess I don't have a lot of experience with pickups besides EMGs, but it seems like most pickups (unless they are Fender replacements) aren't designated at Bridge or Neck position. I could be wrong there, but it seems like a unnecessary complication.
  5. I got some post Thanksgiving work done on the bass today.

    I got the neck pickup routed - this shows the eight points where I drilled first (four bumps and four corners)

    After taking the major material out with the forstner then routing the cavity - it came out pretty good, I'm satisfied:

    I got the inserts and the holes for the neck set up, but made a mistake and forgot to put beeswax or soap on the inserts - how can I forget that? ugh. I broke the insert tool putting in the third insert. I'll have to get a new tool. I'm so mad at myself, for such a stupid mistake.

    And the neck mounted with three out of four screws in - this is a bad camera angle that makes the upper horn look really strange, if you look at other pictures, it's not this weird.
  6. Excellent day in the shop today!

    I got another T handle and installed the last insert, as well as made the hole for the flanges a bit deeper.

    Then I got the control cavity hawged out with a forstner and chisel, then made the indent for the cover using a router and template.

    I cleaned up the pickup cavities and put some relief in the neck pocket on the holes - I don't think there was any interference with the inserts, but I figured this was an easy way to make sure.

    Next up I drilled the holes for the pickup wires, despite all my concerns about this, the position and size of the control cavity made this super easy, stressing over nothing (as usual). I need to do the bridge wire next. Gotta get my SOH CAH TOA on.

    I finalized the shape using an oscillating drum sander, then I rounded over the edges using a 1/2" bit and two passes, a little burning, but it went well.


    Then I started working on the shape a bit more:

    Belly indent - I thought I went really aggressive with this, but now looking at it when home, it looks like I could go further.

    Neck heel, lots more work to do here - I think I'm going to shape the neck itself to match the back of the neck pocket, but I'll study it more.
  7. I have a StewMac template for the neck pocket it seems like the neck fit perfectly into the template, but the routed hole ended up being just slightly too wide. I don't know what is off, but that gap bugged me (though not enough for me to take a "before" picture apparently). I should have done a test hole first, then I would have put some tape on the template to make it a bit smaller. A simple fix, nonetheless.

    I sanded down a shim and glued it into the gap and used the neck along with some plastic wrap and folded paper as a clamp to hold the piece in place:

    Out of the clamp

    Practically invisible:

    Acceptable gap (pre-finish):
    Deep Cat likes this.
  8. Nice recovery. That "what the $&@#!" moment must have sucked when you fitted the neck though.
    Jisch and Will_White like this.
  9. A little dremel work this morning, man that's a versatile tool. It's easy to manipulate and it takes off just enough to be productive without being scary.

    I cleaned up the neck heel a bit - still not happy, but I'll keep moving along:

    I got the control cavity cover done, another good use for the Dremel - I put the router attachment on the bottom (it's not much and it's plastic), but it allowed me to make the edges straight. This is probably the best fitting cover I've made (and yes I know making a template would make this easier). I'll hit it with the orbital sander to get the thickness right:

    And I cleaned up the front a bit:
    DerekW likes this.
  10. I think I could get used to not working, fun day.
    I got the electronics installed - I thought I had the cavity deep enough, but I had to do some sanding with the dremel to get the threads through the front, but all good now. Lots of room in the cavity:

    and from the front:

    Heading over to the shop now to sand down the control cavity cover and cut the headstock.
  11. Shaping is all done, just need a few hours of sanding. I'm pretty happy with how it's gone so far, I think it will at least look like it's worth a lot more than $150 - we'll see how it sounds - although with the "standard" jazz pickup routes, it would be pretty easy to swap to more expensive pickups, if necessary.




    emjazz and DerekW like this.
  12. Sanding is pretty much done. I used 320 grit and got all of the machine marks out. I cleaned up the pickup routes (again) and generally did a once over. I made a nut out of bone (man that stuff stinks when you work it!) and cleaned up the neck a bit. I checked the truss rod and it seems to work, but I have no idea if it's dual action or not. I didn't want to risk it by backing it off too far and having it come unthreaded to see if it's dual action. Based on the thin profile of the neck, I doubt I'll need to introduce forward bow, so hopefully I won't need to find out if it's single or dual action. I'll take a look at it in the sunlight tomorrow and if all is good start the finishing process. I could have this thing done by next weekend, this is the fastest I've ever made a bass before. My friend is psyched, it's going to be REALLY weird handing this off to him, like handing out one of my kids.
  13. Is it my imagination or is the body really thick?
  14. It's 1.75" - pretty standard thickness.

    (edit: after thinking about it, I couldn't remember ever ACTUALLY measuring the thickness. I just pulled out the ruler and yes it is 1.75" thick exactly. I started with a blank that was nearly 2" thick, but then thickness planed it to get rid of chips on both sides, I'm still not sure I ever measured it until now).
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
    DerekW likes this.
  15. Amazing what good light shows. After initially thinking that I was close on sanding, I can see that I've got a few hours more to go.
  16. I marked up all the trouble spots with a pencil, it took me about 45 minutes to clear them all out, blew it off with the air compressor, wiped it down with a tack cloth and gave it another inspection, no issues found, on to oil.

    This is pretty close to the color of the oiled wood. It looks great, the oil got absorbed pretty evenly and I didn't feel any grain lifting.

    wraub, bassestkkm and DerekW like this.
  17. The finishing is coming along nicely, although it looks like the bottle of Formby's Tung Oil I got is mislabeled or bad. It's supposed to be "high gloss", but it's drying satin. I am torn at what to do as the satin finish looks pretty awesome with this wood. I have another bass with this same wood and the gloss finish looks fantastic. hmmm I've used up most of this bottle, so it's not like I'd be wasting anything by getting another bottle. In fact I may have to get another bottle just to finish.
    bassestkkm likes this.
  18. I was on a business trip Tuesday-Thursday, I got home Thursday night and ran down to the basement to see how it dried, it looked fantastic except for one dry spot. I decided that the next perfect coat would be the last, it took two more before I got there (one drip in between).

    I had a good finish on the neck this morning so I mounted the tuners before breakfast. The tuners are kind of harsh, I'm sure they will hold the strings fine, but putting new strings on is a good wrist work out with all the friction in there, really made me appreciate good tuners:

    The nice thing about a bolt on is you can do this stuff without the neck on, everything went in easily:

    I forgot to glue in the nut, so I just held it in place with tape until I made sure the bridge position was good. I said before that the screws they sent with the parts from China were crap. I bought some stainless screws for the bridge, but I figured the pickup screws would be fine (not much pressure there!), but even being extremely careful with the driver the heads look like they've got one good turn left before they completely strip out. I should probably replace them:

    When I plugged it in I got nothing, bummer. I pulled all the electronics out and it turns out there is a bad volume potentiometer that came with the preamp. It's got a partial open on it somewhere. It took a lot of tinkering to find the culprit the smallest amount of movement on that one pot caused it to cut out, so I'd move something connected to that pot and it would cut out causing me to chase a few gooses. I actually took the pot apart to see if I could see the problem, I can't. I need to order another one. For now I jumpered across the pot so the bass is either off or full volume.

    I started the set up the truss rod works fine, the bridge string adjustments worked great (unlike the tuners, the bridge doesn't look or feel cheap at all). I'll get that nut glued in tonight and finish the set up tomorrow. I've got knobs on order, but I forgot about them and ordered them very late. I'll probably hand it to my friend as is and take it back when I get the parts to finish it.

    Front and back (I'll get better pictures outside when it's daytime):


    I think if this was hanging in a music store for $150 people would assume there was something wrong with it, it's really nice looking and (so far) plays and sounds pretty good!
    smithcreek, emjazz and DerekW like this.
  19. I got everything straightened out, the set up went pretty well and the action is good. The e string saddle is just about bottomed out, I can easily file down the bottom to get more room, but even if I did I don't think I could go lower without buzz. I had to file down one fret that was too tall. Everything else went as expected.

    I'm waiting for knobs to come in, I offered to put something on temporarily so my friend can take the bass now. While I have made wooden knobs before, it's a lot of effort for this bass that is supposed to be a low cost/effort unit. I was out on a mountain bike ride today and was thinking about how I could make some easier and had the idea that the right diameter branch might work. It's a little (ok a lot) bit "Flinstones", but I think it is better than leaving the pot shafts just sticking out. Good thing my friend has a sense of humor. I actually think this could work out with a bit more work, maybe on the next one.
    Why Nautilus‽ likes this.
  20. I love it!