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My Koa Jazz Bass Project. First timer!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Tslicebass, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Hey there gents. I have creeped in this section for a long, long time and admired many of your projects. I have been more interested in repairing and building lately so I figured I would give myself a project to dive into. I have been lucky enough to be working on this project in collaboration with Carl Pedigo (a.k.a The Chicago Bass Doctor) who has been nice enough to let me use this bass as an informal apprenticeship project. For those who don't know, Carl is the man over at Lakland. He is responsible for a lot of the design ideas that make Laklands so great and working with him constantly leaves me in awe.
    I found the perfect guinea pig bass here in the classifieds section. It's a 4 string Warmoth body and neck jazz bass. It came from one of TBer JumboDbassman's massive bass sales. The thing that drew me to it the most was the sweet flamed Koa front and back facings and the fact that it was an ash body and the neck had a rosewood fingerboard (a combination I have not messed with much in the past).
    Here is the only picture I could find of the bass from the original sale ad.
    It came to me without the pickups in it. I already have my jazz bass needs filled with my custom CB jazz type bass. So I figured I would take a shot at converting this one to a MM/J style bass.
    I knew it was gonna be a project bass but I didn't really anticipate how much. I got a great deal on it but then once I got it out of the box I realized some of the reasons such a nice body was so cheap. First off, the finish that was on this thing was nasty. It was really thick and bubbly and did not look smooth at all (and it had a really nasty odor). It's hard to tell from the picture but up close it was bad. According to the for sale ad it was a Poly finish. And to make matters worst, it looked like the finish had been sprayed over everything, the body, the neck and even the fretboard with the frets in it.
    So I started by removing all the hardware from the neck and body. After doing this I saw that most of the hardware was installed improperly. The bridge was drilled into the body with only two holes. And the tuners were also drilled in with only two holes per tuner. Most of the hardware that was on the bass was cheap generic stuff too. So I sold it all after removing it and set out to get some good stuff.
    I decided to tackle the neck first. I removed all of the finish from the neck by hand sanding it from 60 grit to 400, which was quite a pain. I then removed the nut and started to try to remove the fretboard finish around the frets. I brought it to Carl to take a look at and he told me, even though I was trying to avoid it, that the frets had to come out.
    So I removed the frets from the board and sanded off what finish was left on the fretboard.
    Then I went at the body and started hand sanding off all the finish on the body. I am about 80 percent finished with that process now.
    Here are some pics that show the progress after removing the hardware, finish and frets.
  2. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Oceana (Pacifica) CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    so far so good
  3. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Next up, I removed the fretboard extension from the board with an orbital saw and rounded it off to match the profile of the end of the neck. I didn't really see the point of having the extra frets, especially if it was going to make accessing the truss rod that much more difficult. I couldn't remove the extension flush with the neck because of the last inlay on the fretboard.
    One thing I never liked about the body was that it had no contouring whatsoever, it was just a block. I brought the body to Carl and he cut out a rough tummy cut by mounting the body to a jig and sending it thru the jig saw. It was a pretty easy process for him. You can see in the pics below that this is a pretty sweet sandwich. There is the nice Koa front and back, followed by a light brown wood layer (not sure what it is) with a ash core. And this thing is very lightweight which I am really excited about.
  4. FatherG


    Dec 16, 2009
    Nice. Very nice.
  5. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    This past weekend I brought the neck to Carl to address leveling the fretboard. I don't want to go into too specific details because I don't want to share any of Carl's secrets ;)
    Long story short, I attempted to do the fretboard leveling myself according to the methods Carl taught me but realized that my workspace is just not conducive to precision work. So I brought it into to him and he leveled out the fretboard and got rid of any of the bumps and uneven spots. Then he rounded out the edges of the fretboard and opened up the fret slots in preparation of the re-fret. Then he filled in a few of the small divots and chips left from pulling out the frets and hit the fretboard with a coat of tru-oil. I left the neck with him to let the oil settle and we are going to get back to work on it this saturday.
    Next up for me is to finish removing whats left of the finish on the body and to add in a forearm contour with my surform file. But that will have to wait till the weather warms up here so I can do some sanding outside. The fiance wouldn't be too happy about me doing it in the apartment :spit:
  6. Subscribed, seems like a nice project. The core is beautiful and with your ideas and attention to detail, it's going to be so much better :smug:
  7. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    Awww, C'mon! Are ya sure ya can't share just one little secret?......I won't tell Carl!
  8. sequel91


    Jan 7, 2013
    Rochester, NY
    Subscribed. That top is surely a beautiful piece of wood.
  9. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    I am pretty sure he would hunt me down and run me thru the jigsaw if I leaked his top secret approach. :ninja:
    But seriously. It is amazing working with him. He did mention at some point in time he would like somebody to teach his approach. I doubt that person would be me but when the time is right, he will share. He did mention that most of what he does is his version of the hideo kamimoto approach to instrument repair. He lent me the kamimoto book and I have to say, it really changed the way I think about setup and repairs.
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    I'm pretty sure the way he levels a fretboard is the same way that many people here do it. Weather its by hand or with a belt sander jig.

    I have nothing but respect and admiration for Carl Thompson, there is nothing that he knows that he will not share with someone who wants to learn. I'm not a huge fan of the aesthetics of his instruments, but his quality and knowledge are second to none, and he is more than happy to share that knowledge. I am nowhere close to Carl Thompson, but there I will share anything I know about building with anyone that needs it.
  11. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Actually talking about Carl Pedigo. He was one of the main dudes at Lakland. You can check out his site at chicagobassdoctor.com
    And he is more than happy to share his stuff with me. But I am hesitant to share his approach with others. Especially cause I am pretty much a noob and don't want any miscommunication of his approach
  12. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I was just using Carl Thompson as an example. I know you were refering to Pedigo, I figured that would get confusing when I posted it. ;)
  13. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Womp Womp :D
  14. Tdog


    May 18, 2004

    My original post was me being more sarcastic than it was begging for information.

    Being a person who usually detests snarky comments on internet forums, I was attempting to point out the obsequious nature of your comments.
  15. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    All good Tdog... I got your sarcasm. ;)
    Got some more work done today. Was supposed to head over to Carl's shop to fret the neck but he is leaving town till mid april and had too much else going on today to squeeze me in.
    So instead I took advantage of our spring weather tease here in Chicago and did some sanding. Got the body 99% sanded down to bare wood. A few round edges where the top and back meet the core still need a little love but for the most part this thing is gross poly finish free! :hyper:
    Also started smoothing out the tummy cut with some 100 grit sandpaper. I am a little worried about the tummy cut. The line from the jig saw cut is not even. Do you guys think i should just try to sand it even or am I gonna have to hit this thing with my surform or a planer or something?
  16. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I'd clean up the shape with a surform or rasp (my preference would be rasp but everyone has their favorites). Just go slow, move it around in oblique light and take it off where you think you need it. Remember you can't put it back on! :)

    Just a thought, but have you considered rounding the edges over more? That combo of woods would look good with a 1/2" roundover me thinks, but that kind of stuff is personal preference of course.

    So, are you addicted to building yet? :D
  17. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Thanks for the advice. I am gonna give it a shot with surform. I haven't really considered rounding it off more but that give me something to think about.
    And yes, I am addicted. I just wish I had the space and a sweet work bench. My apt is way to small to house even a minimal setup. Just gotta try to be patient... maybe look into renting a work bench somewhere. There about a million guitar repair shops in the chicago land area.
  18. As Beej said, you need a surform or a rasp, you won't be able to get that line smooth with sanding paper alone (or you'd have an incredible amount of patience). My preferred method is a rasp. You could practise on a piece of scrap wood if you like (doesn't have to be hardwood).

    +1 on the round over advice from Beej too. I'd go with 1/2", would look way better than the square-ish look it has got now.
  19. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    I hope you are doing the contours to your body. Looking cool though. Good luck!
  20. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Not sure about the contour thing yet... gonna run it by Carl and see what he says. I am worried about taking much more wood of this thing because it is so lightweight to begin with... don't want to have to deal with neck dive.
    Got some work done on the belly cut today. Did a little work with the surform and a ton of sanding. I would say it is almost done. Gonna run it by Carl and see what he says

    Got my line for the forearm contour as well. How does this look to you guys. It is not crossing into the bridge's real estate so I think it is cool. Tried to compare to the contour on my P Bass as a reference point.

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