My first frankenbass project, with progress updates

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by klocwerk, Jan 4, 2006.

  1. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    So this is going to be my winter project.
    I live in a small apartment in Cambridge, MA and don't have access to a workshop of any kind, so this will mostly be done on our dining table with hand-tools, and/or on the roof for the dirtiest stuff.

    Awhile ago I bought a custom body off a guy on TB, who got it from a Brazillian luthier/woodworker on E-Bay and never used it. Wood type unknown, style rather unique. The TBer told me it fit a standard fender neck. When I got it, I discovered that while a fender neck would fit, the scale length would put the bridge off the back end of the bass.
    Pissed off, I stuck it in the back of my closet and started trying to find a short scale neck so that I could make something playable with the body, since I do like the design of it. Suffice it to say, short scale replacement necks are ridiculously hard to find (except danelectros which I don't like), and even ebay was no help to me.
    Then I was in my local guitar store, and had an epiphany. A 24 fret neck would make the scale fit on the body! Unfortunately, a true 24 fret neck (aka not the FB extension a-la warmoth fender necks) proved almost as hard to find as a short scale replacement neck. But there's a lot of basses out there with 24 fret necks, I just had to bide my time and cherry-pick a cheap one off e-bay.

    I eventually scored an old Washburn Axxess SX-6 bass on e-bay for $70 shipped. Not bad for a $650 retail bass from 1990. When I got it it played fairly nicely, sounded far better than expected, and was definitely a steal for the price I paid. But the paint job was godawful and the headstock was that pointy 80's metal style, so I didn't feel bad stealing the neck off of it and butchering it. :D


    Stage 1:

    :: Sanding body: %80 (need to go once over with fine grit)
    :: Reroute neck pocket (too shallow as is): %0
    :: tweak p'up routes: %0
    :: Body finish: probably doing natural oil, %0
    :: Route rim for backplate: %0

    -Hardware obtaining: %40
    :: Bridge from Grizzly in the mail
    :: Tuners off washburn: DONE
    :: Strings: have crap ones for initial setup, need good ones.
    :: Backplate: custom job of wood.

    -Electronics: %10
    :: Get Ultra Jazzes: DONE
    :: Get Bart NTCT: DONE
    :: Pots/switches: in the mail
    :: Drill lead holes for pickups & bridge grounding
    :: Determine knob layout and drill holes
    :: Wire up pots/pre.
    :: Install p'ups, knobs.

    - Assembly: %0

    Bass will be playable at this point. yay!

    Stage 2:

    - Changing headstock from 4-inline to 2+2: %0
    :: Headstock shape: still in debate.
    :: Cut headstock. Veneer?: %0
    :: Drill +2 tuner holes: %0
    :: inlay design: %0
    :: inlay: %0
    :: refinish headstock and/or-not neck: %0
    :: reassemble: %0

    So I have a lot more to do than I thought, now that I sit down and lay it out. Ah well, it'll keep me good and busy through this cold, dark New England winter.

    Attached is a mockup from photos of bits and pieces.
    Note that final body finish hasn't been decided yet, nor electronics. Nor pickups for that matter, but I had to put something in there. heh.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Advice?


    Attached Files:

  2. Now you know why I never write this stuff down - what I don't know won't piss me off! :D

    Cool little project though - I like your drive and initiative.
  3. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Thanks Hambone!
    What do you think of the converted headstock design? Trying to work around/in the old third tuner hole is giving me a headache. (original headstock is that triangular Peavey shape.)
  4. I like this looks like a cross between a warwick and an Alembic. I really don't like the headstock (coming from a man who owns a WISHBASS... :rolleyes: ).

    hopefully there's enough wood up there for you to accomplish what you want... If there isn't you can always go for a headless design...I think it would look great on this body...

    somehow that bridge just doesn't seem to meld well with your bass design... But for a budget bass, it is FANTASTIC!

    for pickups, the world is your oyster...JJ is cool and I'd probably just keep it simple and get a couple of passive J's...or maybe get a little more elaborate and go for a J/MM combination.

    Nice work...keep updating us on your progress
  5. I'm with you on the headache part.

    Honestly, your shape isn't my first choice but I fully understand the limits you are having to work in. And, in that regard, you've probably done all you can. The hole idea is cool but I probably would have left the hole closed up to make a perfectly round opening. THEN, we can have some fun like a 3D logo floating in a clear resin disk that you can see through from both sides of the headstock. Eh? :D

    Have you considered putting another headstock on there? I've done this a couple of time and it's not very hard at all. The only thing that's different when you're done is that you'll have to put a veneer on both sides of the headstock to cover the alteration.
  6. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Yeah, I don't like the headstock either, but it's the best I've come up with so far based on what I have to work with. I like the headless idea though, I'm going to whip up a photoshop job of that and see what I'd be looking at.

    The bridge is just a photo of the bridge on my mim Jazz. I was going to pull the (essentially the same) bridge off the old washburn simply because it's free. As you said, budget bass. I currently have exactly $105 invested in this bass, and could easily finish it for under 200 if I reuse parts (such as the bridge). But a nicer bridge is definitely on the long-term wishlist if it ends up sounding good.

    It's currently routed for JJ pickups, but I could easily go J/MM which I'd been thinking about.

    Thanks for the reply!
  7. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Another headstock? hmm. I guess I could, but it'd be really tough with my "workshop" limitations, and I'd be worried about strength. It's an angled headstock which joins the neckwood under the 2nd fret. If I did go that route, what's the strongest glue for that joint, epoxy?

    and I love the 3d logo idea. I'll definitely have to give that some thought. Perhaps just a big inlaid chunk of some pretty wood carved with a logo... Or reshape the hole and do an inset chunk of something.
    hmm! further thinking.
  8. You don't just cut off the headstock and glue another one on! :rolleyes: :D What you do is plug the tuner holes then reshape the headstock to leave a couple of long edges for gluing. Then glue some matching wings on the shape so that you've got a large area to redesign your outline. The last steps are to add a veneer to the front and back to hide the changes and add some strength. Redrill for your tuners and that's it. I've done this and you can make just about any shape you want. If you really study the location of the tuners, you can usually add wood to an area of the headstock that doesn't affect strength.
  9. +1 on the headstock thing... it's a bit of work, but if done correctly should compromise strength very much.

    This body design is definitely calling for a 2x2 headstock...or, why not just take the standard 4 on a side headstock that you have, leave the holes in the same spot, add a little wood on the underside and take the pointy thing off, in other words had for something a little closer to a Fender or G&L stock?

    If you leave the holes where they are, then you'll KNOW you won't compromise the strength.
  10. Hambone you are evil, the idea of a 3d floating thing in the hole, now that's brilliant thinking. :)
    When it rains lemons it's time to make lemonade. LOL
    Nice job on the bass by the way klocwerk, improv in building is fun and that's what helps things come out unique. Especially having no real space to do it in, keep up the good work. I hate to warn you but it becomes addictive.
  11. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    see, this is why you are the master and I am but the student.
    brilliant plan! I'll have to sit down and think it out, but that just might work. I should probably keep the tuners mounted in the original headstock wood though, right? As much as possible at least.
  12. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    No need to tell me. I started carving a body about, oh, 8 years ago. It's sitting in my parent's attic waiting for me to get my own place with some workspace so I can get back to it.

    (really nice piece of wood too, man do I want to finish that!)
  13. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    new thinking on pickups...

    Neck: J (noiseless?)
    Bridge: MM style

    MM -> 3 way switch. Series, Parallel, Single-coil (coil closer to bridge) -> below

    p'ups -> [Series/Parallel switch?] -> blend knob [bypassed in Series] -> Master Vol. -> Tone -> output jack

    Holes in the body for:
    3 way switch
    S/P switch[?]
    blend knob
    vol knob
    tone knob

    Can you S/P switch a MM in it's various configs with a J?
    Something I guess I'll need to look into. I don't see why you couldn't though. It'll have two leads coming out of the three-way switch...

    note to self re: p'ups:

    Current working image:

  14. avoid one hole in the body...the S/P switch can be a push pull on either the volume or the tone (you can't get it for the blend, because it is a ganged pot)

    I'm not sure if you'll get much tonal variation by doing this, but it's worth a shot (just not worth an extra hole :)...yet, anyway)...I'm not sure of anyone who's done this on a J/MM yet.

    I did the S/P thing on a P/J and am quite pleased with the results (I run it this way 90% of the time live)

    as far as your query about keeping the peg holes in the original wood as much as all means, yes...also line this things up so that the string pull goes straight over the nut (no bending at the nut, if you can)...if your bridge is in place already and your neck is dry fitted, you can do this with a piece of string through the bridge, through the nut and then it should line up with the inside edge of your tuner hole.
  15. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Yeah, I've sure never heard of it.
    I S/P modded my fretless Jazz (see sig), and while it gives me a different tone it's not one that works with my current band's sound, so I leave it off 90% of the time. I like to have it for playing by myself though.

    Yup, I'm making sure that I have straight string pulls on the headstock. Being pretty careful about that actually.
  16. PB beat me to it but keeping the holes in the original wood is a good way to go for your first one. When you get comfortable with your glues, you can stretch it out a little further.
  17. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    man, I wish I knew what wood this body is, but even the guy who made it couldn't tell me.
    Anyone have an idea of something that I could veneer the headstock with that will either match, or complement it well? The maple is just enough off to look really bleh. I was thinking maybe Koa, which my local woodworking store (Rockler) always has plenty of in stock, but that would probably be just slightly off as well, looking almost as weird.

    The fretboard is a fairly dark, but stripey, rosewood, I know it's hard to tell from the photos.

    any advice appreciated. This headstock is driving me nuts. Although I might have some interesting news regarding it soon thanks to Hambone. :hyper:
  18. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Ok, moving along slowly on this project.
    I finished sanding the body, got all of the crap finish off of it and sanded out the nicks and gouges. I'm starting to think that it's a light-colored mahogony.

    Next step is getting the bridge p'up rerouted for the MM that I want to drop in there. Guy I work with has a decent little workshop, he's offered to let me go over there and get my routing done. I might take him up on it, but there's a local luthier or two that are friends of friends so I'm going to hit them up first.

    As for the headstock, I've got a new plan...
    *runs off to PM hambone*
  19. it looks very much like mahogany to me. I very much like the body, actually.

    as for the headstock...I'm officially in suspence :hyper:
  20. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    and you'll remain so until I have it together! it's too unusual an idea to give away early. :bag:

    The mahogony I've worked with in the past was always a much darker reddish-brown, so this one threw me for a loop. It works like mahogony though, but it's a bit soft frankly. It'll be interesting to see how the tone of this bass turns out.
    MM+Jneck on a mahogony body...