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NBD- Different kind of flame top

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Sundogue, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Sorry, this is long...it's been a labor of love and in the planning for a long time, but wanted to share...

    I made a new bass body for my Yamaha BB415 that I converted into a 6 string a while back. It was a bit on the heavy side and I made a new body out of a piece of old growth Douglas Fir that had been in my garage for over 100 years. My brother is a woodworker and given the size of the piece and the tree it must have come from he estimates that it’s at least 150 years old.

    Sorry, I didn't take any photos of the build progress of the body (which in hindsight I regret). I only have one shot of the wood before I went to work on it.

    The Douglas Fir body is very light. The body before being painted, cleared and loaded weighed a little less than 3 lbs. The whole bass weighs about 6.5 lbs. (using my bathroom scale). The upper horn extends a little past the 12th fret and this bass balances quite well given the lightweight tuners and heavy mass Kahler 6 string, fully adjustable bridge.

    For the paint job, being an artist and painting many guitars, I wanted to do a Tru-Flame mural on it, but I knew I didn’t want the flames to stand out too much. I wanted the flames to follow the sculpted body and be more subtle so that it not only looked like flames, but also as if it could be the pattern in some exotic wood. I also painted the bridge plate and pickup covers to match the flames on the body, as well as the volume and tone control knobs. The headstock didn’t really allow room for a noticeable flame job so it was painted to match the colors of the body with an Om symbol painted into the end.

    The painted flame job makes the bass appear to change shape depending on the angle it is viewed at and almost makes the body appear even more sculpted than it really is. The back is just black leading into the edge of the sculpted sides where it goes into a very deep dark red of the top edges before transitioning into the flames.

    The body shape comes from the fact that I like the look of a P-Bass but it is a little too squared off on the end, while a Jazz’s butt end looks a little too droopy (like a Dali clock dripping off a table). I really dig the thinner horns of a Sadowsky, so the shape morphed into this as a blend of all three. I made sure the lower horn cutaway was far back enough to allow easy access to all the frets.

    The top is not quite a full arch-top but it is heavily sculpted all around, tapering away from the center. The Kahler bridge is mounted to the downward angled end of the body as it curves around the bottom. So the bridge plate itself is not mounted to a flat slab top. This lowered the bridge so I could keep the strings lower without having to recess a pocket for the bridge plate. Since the bridge is fully adjustable in all directions this was not an issue aside from having to take a bit more time setting up the action and intonation.

    The Jazz and P-Bass pups are angled to better suit my desire for the thinner D-G-C strings to have an equally full sound like the other three, with the P-Bass pup reversed to have that side for those strings be closer to the neck. All the strings sound very even like this. With the P-Bass pups in their normal layout on my Yamaha, they never sounded as full as they do now.

    The switch on the front of the bass is my on/off switch for my wireless transmitter which is mounted in the body cavity.

    The bass feels fabulous and should help alleviate back, neck and shoulder issues from the weight on gigs. The sound is very warm, yet bright and punchy. I don’t know if body wood makes a huge difference or not in electric basses, but for some reason this bass sounds sweeter and richer than before. Beautiful sustain and a very even sound throughout the strings and frets. Obviously I dig the look.

    I’ve been working on it a little more than two weeks now and just got it done before Christmas. The only cost to me was my time and a little bit of supplies I had already being an artist.

    Here's some pics of my custom "M3-Om" 6 string bass. Hope you enjoy...






  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Damn, man, that's really nice.
  3. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Thanks. I wasn't sure if using the Douglas Fir would work as good as it did. It was easy to work with, easy to sculpt. It was a bit soft, but I used hardwood dowels where all the screws go in, and "painted" on multiple coats of watered down glue before final sanding which made the surface pretty hard. With the clear coat it really doesn't dent very easy and it is super lightweight, and plays and sounds wonderful.
  4. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Wow, nice work!
  6. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
  7. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    Very nice!
  8. bobunit

    bobunit I'm here. Now what? Supporting Member

    Jul 15, 2008
    Now those are flames! Nice work.
  9. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Thanks. I've done tru-flame on many things, from bike tanks to cars, to guitars and even on a violin once.

    But this time I wanted it to be very subtle. Last night at rehearsal one guy actually thought that the wood looked really cool showing through the color...until he noticed it was flames and not a wood pattern!

    Exactly the reaction I was hoping for...an understated flame job.
  10. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Got to play the new bass at rehearsal last night. My, what sweet tone it has!

    I've heard the debate over whether or not body wood makes a difference in the sound of an electric bass, and after doing this I'd have to say...yes it does. To me anyway. I mean, every part must make some difference. To what degree I don't know.

    Every part on the bass is from my converted Yamaha. The only thing changed was the new body which was carved out of Douglas Fir. And it does sound distinctly different.

    The bass tone last night with the new bass is much more mid forward and punchy, yet also warm. "Sweet" or "organic" describes it. It just has this "woody" character to it, where it's almost acoustic in it's warmth. But it has a very bright, rich tone to it. Words aren't adequate, but I have no recording of it yet.

    The weight (or lack of it) is so-o-o-o appreciated. 4 hours of rehearsal for a very long New Year's gig and my back, neck and shoulders felt like I never even had a bass on me. Balance was nice and it was very comfortable playing.
  11. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    Wow! :hyper: That is stunning. Really like that boddy shape and the paint job is just unreal! super cool man.:cool:
  12. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI

    Two days and I'll be able to use this beauty on a gig. A New Year's Eve gig no less, which will really be sweet to not have to lug a heavy bass around all night (which could be a VERY long night).