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NBD, sort of...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by steve_rolfeca, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    After 19 years, I just completed major revision #3 to my number one bass.

    When I built it, this neck-through singlecut had a simple slab body, with Fender style tummy and forearm cuts.

    With my latest work, additional tapering and re-shaping has dropped another pound and a half, bringing it down from its original build weight of about 12lb (!!!), to 9lb 14oz.

    My back thanks me, but best of all, friends agree that the tone is even more resonant and "alive", with no loss of low end...




  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    If it sounds half as good as it looks, it's an amazing instrument. Congrats!
  3. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    If I could play it half as good as it looks, I'd be further ahead...

    The chunk of Maple I used for the body wings was a wonderful find. I love the way the Bubinga "racing stripes" set off the figure.
  4. Rip Topaz

    Rip Topaz

    Aug 12, 2005
    Willow Street, PA
    Beta tester for Positive Grid
    That's a sweet looking bass!! Nice work!!
  5. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Nicely done. With rounded edges I bet it gets more compliments for the looks to. 12 pds? eeks, to much, 9 is much better. lol.
  6. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Well, 9lb 14oz is till closer to 10 pounds than 9...

    Still, that's not out of the ordinary for a 5-string. I took a Mexican Jazz V in trade recently, and that weighs 10lb 5oz. My ATK 305 is over 10lb, too.

    I guess 9lb 14 is actually pretty good for a 35" scale fiver made solely out of high-density hardwoods. If I ever did another, I think I'd do a slightly thinner maple top with a swamp ash back.

    I'm out of town a lot the next couple of weeks, and it's looking like I won't get to gig it out until Feb. 8th. It's sounding great just woodshedding at home, but I won't really trust that I've achieved a sonic improvement until I hear it on stage...
  7. Astreaux


    Aug 31, 2012
    Excellent look on the rework. Congrats!
  8. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Finally, got it out to a rehearsal for a trio gig I'm playing next month. Acoustic piano and guitar/Vox.

    It's always had a very even, neutral tone, a ton of sustain and a clear voice that responds very well to how and where I address the string.

    But now there's more "wood" to it, and it growls more. The active balance control is nice, I definitely like the way it works compared to the old V/V setup. Instead of a few sweet spots, it seems like the whole range of blends are usable.

    The first time I reshaped it in 2003, I was pretty conservative. This time, I was more adventurous, and the slimmer shape sits in closer against my body. It makes me feel very connected with the strings.

    Speaking of strings, i've been pretty pleased with these, my first set of TI Jazz Flats, but after the weight loss, they feel absolutely perfect. I slimmed the back of the neck down some, and it feels very sleek, without losing the roomy, beefy feel I've always appreciated.

    I've got a long, varied gig with a 7-piece band tomorrow, and I'm going to be really ticked if the predicted "Snowmaggedon" shuts us down...

    Anyway, I am really, really pleased with how it sounds and feels.
  9. wednesdayagain


    Sep 28, 2012
    Nice and curvy ;)
  10. engedi1

    engedi1 Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2005
    Those TI flats are wonderful in that acoustic trio setting. Sits in a mix really nice, and they sustain enough to sing. I haven't heard them yet through my TC115 as I am in roundwound cycle at the moment. I'll probably get back to flats eventually...
  11. IronLung1986


    May 19, 2010
    Exeter, NH
    awesome job! looks so good I mistook it for a fodera at first.
  12. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    It's pretty much a stew of much of influences from mid-'90's issues of BP magazine. I had no design experience, so after about 6 months of examining/measuring every high-end instrument I could get my hands on, I decide to steal from everybody. I figured you don't have to worry about patents, if you're just building a one-off to please yourself.

    The carbon fibre neck reinforcements, compound radius fingerboard and 35" scale were courtesy of Rick Turner, the laminations were Tobias/Pedulla/Ken Smith, the volute and faceplate on an angled headstock were Alembic, the upper bouts and simplified control layout were Fodera, the arm and tummy cuts and waist position were P-bass, the original single EMG 40DC was Modulus...

    The final body shape literally came from overlaying photos of a P-bass and a Fodera Imperial over each other, and smoothing the transitions with a French curve. About the only original thoughts in the whole mess, were resawing the body wings to insert pieces of the same 1/8th inch bubinga I used for the racing stripes and the control cover, the curved fingerboard end, tapering the neck log before attaching the body wings, and a shortened Fender-ish 3 + 2 headstock with straight string pull. Shortly after I started construction, I saw my first MM Stingray, and realized that the master had beaten me to the headstock concept, too...



    It's been like an ongoing high school science project ever since day 1. It started with Tung oil over a blended amber aniline dye in '94, clear nitro lacquer around '96, Tung oil again in '03, and most recently, Lee Valley Gel Finish. I added a second pickup rout in '03, and it's had just about everything in the EMG catalog through it over the years- DC's, CS's, a J, a TW, a PA-2 booster, and a BTC. It currently sports a pair of 40P5's, and the ABC active blend.

    The only thing left on my GAS list is to try it passive with Aero P5's, or maybe a pair of custom-sized Nordy's.
  13. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Steve, that's a truly beautiful instrument. Well done!
  14. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    It's been a real blessing to me.

    I own a huge debt of appreciation to my good friend Tony Karol www.karol-guitars.com, not just for helping and advising me throughout the build, but for getting me started as a builder

    When we started talking about doing something in '92, we were working at the same 'phone company. I was dreaming of owning a Fodera or a Carl Thompson, but didn't have the bucks. That was when Tony started bugging me to build.

    At the time, he was crafting beautiful solidbody electric guitars and Marshall clones in his basement, mainly as a hobby. My woodworking skills were pretty limited, but he kept nagging me until I agreed to give it a go.

    He introduced me to his lumber suppliers, and gave me the run of his shop once a week over the course of the build. He taught me how to make jigs, and I helped him build his first drum sander. Together with an old Yugoslav engineer at work, we were also learning how to go deeper with our tube amp mods and designs.

    That bass has been my right arm for nearly twenty years now.

    I shut down my shop after a few more builds cause of a job relocation, but I'm still a part-time tech, mostly doing setup work and amp mods for guitarists as a side business to my work as a computer consultant.

    Tony now builds and teaches full-time, and his amazing acoustic guitars and harp guitars are in the hands of the likes of Stephen Bennett and Bruce Cockburn
  15. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    That's a real gem, Steve. Never seen close up pics of it before!
  16. jim777

    jim777 Tarantula Lobbyist

    Aug 7, 2006
    South Jersey
    Wow, that is beautiful! I love everything about it :) I could no more build a bass like that myself than I could build an Eiffel tower in my backyard LOL. Superbly done Steve!
  17. shrigg

    shrigg Beta Tester for AudioKinesis Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Traverse City, MI
    You could always route a larger control cavity and make a new cover to drop even more weight. I had Josh Helms do this on my Helms to fit a Fodera Preamp and lost about half a pound in the process. This photo shows the "after" and the "before" was a more typical shaped control cavity. Your bass looks to have a lot more material that could be lost in this manner.

  18. johnson79


    Jan 8, 2010
    Lancaster, PA
    Wow, what a great looking bass.
  19. 2cooltoolz

    2cooltoolz Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    Lake Conroe, TX
    Okay, fine. I mean, yeah, it's beautiful and all that. But, when are you going to start on mine??? :D

    Absolutely gorgeous! If you have any, before and after pics (and various stages of its evolution) would be fun..
  20. She looks great Steve! I know she plays great! Now, walk away from the bass... it's done!