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New Black Limba body for an old Washburn! (work in progress)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bass Kahuna, Oct 23, 2003.


  1. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Hey Folks,

    Jeff, a bassist in the L.A. area, has an old Kramer bass that he just loves, and over the years he has done quite a few modifications to the original body to get it to his liking. It has been reshaped and refinished several times, pickup configurations changed, etc. He finally decided that to get it to finally be exactly what he wanted, a new body was in order.

    I spoke with Jeff quite a bit on the phone dicussing ideas, wants and don't wants for a new body. He had already worked up a new body design that he wanted, but wasn't sure of what body wood would be best. Based on these conversations I suggested a new black limba body, and referred him to Larry at Gallery Hardwoods to help him pick out the exact pieces for the new body. Jeff picked out and purchased a really nice set of bookmatched black limba from Larry, and shipped them to me for creating the new body. I quoted Jeff a price of $100 for me to make the new body, getting it completely ready for final assembly and finishing (Jeff is going to finish it himself, with a Tung oil or similar oil finish).

    I also asked Jeff to send me the original neck, body, and electronics to allow me to route the new body for the existing hardware and neck to ensure that I can get them to fit perfectly.

    Here are some pics of the project in process:

    [​IMG]
    Current body with neck

    [​IMG]
    Current body detail

    [​IMG]
    Jeff's original new body design full scale drawing

    [​IMG]
    The body blank, planed down to proper thickness, clamped and glued.

    I'll be starting on cutting out and shaping the body tomorrow, and then routing for electronics, neck pocket, etc. I'll be updating with pics of the body taking shape as I work on it over the next few days!

    :^)~
     
  2. pc

    pc

    Apr 4, 2000
    Montreal QC
    nice piece of wood!

    [​IMG]
     
  3. steve-o

    steve-o Guest

    Apr 17, 2002
    lets see it cut!!!

    steve
     
  4. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Here is an update on this new body.

    [​IMG]

    The original customer design, and the MDF template made from the design. The countersunk
    screw holes are for mounting the template to the body blank for using the pattern cutting
    router. The pattern is mounted to the body blank with 3/8" woodscrews where the pickups and neck
    pocket will be routed.

    [​IMG]

    The pattern traced onto the body blank, ready for the saw.

    [​IMG]

    Two thin strips cut from the body blank on the table saw, to be used for laminates on the
    control cavity cover, and for a possible headstock laminate.

    :^)~
     
  5. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    [​IMG]

    Body blank cut out, ready for the pattern routing.

    [​IMG]

    MDF pattern mounted to the blank, now to the
    routing table!

    [​IMG]

    The finished body blank, ready for additional routing and finishing.

    Next is the rounding over of the body edges, routing for the pickups and neck pocket,
    and final sanding. Just a few more hours in
    the shop and then it ships!

    :^)~
     
  6. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Just thought I'd chime in... this is my bass! For the record it's an '86 Kramer Focus and was my first bass, so the neck has always been very comfortable for me since I learned bass on it.

    The original body had an Explorer-type look to it, once I had a few more basses and this one became something I could afford to destroy, I chopped off the top of the headstock to make it a 3+1 (used to be 4 inline) and took off the lower horn and a great deal of body from the forearm area. Stripped the heinously thick finish, did a bad stain job, put her back together and whoa! the sound opened up unbelievably. And it was more comfortable to play, although now had a big head dive issue.

    Couple years later got tired of how ugly it was so I restained the wood darker and sprayed a poly finish on it. Looked somewhat better.

    Couple years later, stripped/sanded/refinished to what you see in the pics (poplar's tough to make look good, I did my best) and put a wax finish. Put lighter tuning machines, EMGs (active), and cool abalone-topped knobs. The stock bridge pickup was a double jazz pickup that was epoxied together, when I put in the EMGs I could put the single jazz in either position, although it went against my intuition it sounded much better in the forward space, and when plucked just in front of the bridge pickup I could get a very clean "modern" tone.

    Still my favorite bass to play, but ugly, I decided to have a body made that would be small like what I have, but more aesthetically pleasing, and at the same time retain the really sweet tone as much as could be predicted. Y'all will see the results pretty soon.

    I'm planning a natural/thin polyuretahane finish. Grandon has been great to work with, very patient and understanding, very willing to listen and work with me.

    Anyway, exciting project for me, glad Kahuna could share the in-progress!
     
  7. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Getting closer to finishing this up..

    [​IMG]

    Finished routing the J-bass style bridge pickup...

    Next was the p-bass style pickup in the neck position. The new p-bass pickup template I recently bought from a luthier supply house looked a bit big to me, so I decided to check it on the old body and pickup, and boy, it is WAY too big. This is just not acceptable to me, I wouldn't want a bass with a pickup route like this that was so much bigger than the pickup. I'm glad I checked it before I put the router to the new body.... so now I have to make a template myself without so much "slop" in it. Dangnabbit.....


    [​IMG]

    :^)~
     
  8. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I've roughed in the forearm and belly contours... the edges have been rounded over at a 3/16" radius as well

    [​IMG]

    Forearm contour

    [​IMG]

    Rear belly contour

    [​IMG]

    Side profile view of both

    :^)~
     
  9. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    That's really nice work! What type of sound does the Black Limba have? Did you pick the body based on the type of sound that it would produce, or was it strictly about looks. I'm considerring doing a Black Limba body because of the looks, but if it doesn't have the type of sound that I'm after, then it would pointless to select.
     
  10. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Hey Halftooth,

    Thanks!

    After talking with Jeff I recommended Black Korina for several reasons. It's sound is very similar to Mahogany, but not nearly as muddy as a mahogany bass can be (IMHO). My goal here was that for a smaller body like this the extra lows and mid lows that Black Korina can produce would give the sound a great boost. This particular piece has really nice tap tones, very clear and articulate. I, personally, feel that Black Korina is a very unknown/underrated wood for basses.

    Secondly, Jeff wanted to go with a very thin finish and maybe even an oil type finish, and it is an excellent wood for those type of finishes as it has a natural oil/waxy feel to it.

    Lastly, yes, IMHO, it is a beautiful wood in appearance, which can't hurt!

    FYI..It's also known as Limba, and it is imported from Africa.

    :^)~
     
  11. just for clarity, Limba and Korina are the same wood? How is the weight and hardness?
     
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Korina = Limba. Comes in "black" and "white" varieties.
     
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
  14. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    (Forgive me if this is TMI...)

    When I started out looking for a body wood I mainly wanted to try to come close to the tone characteristics inherent in the modified bass. As I think I mentioed above, the original body was (several pieces of) poplar. It really didn't sound that great until I chopped up and stripped it. At the same time I took some mass off the head, so it's really impossible to say what had the biggest impact on waking up the sound. If I had to guess, I believe stripping the finish was the biggest factor. IIRC, this was 10+ years ago, there was a white base, thick red paint, and a very thick top clear coat that was very difficult to strip - in fact, I took it to a marine stripping shop in Santa Monica who said they'd strip anything or it was free, and it was free. Their chemical stripping did most of the work, but any mechanical method ended up clogging things up as the finish would melt with friction. They did get the majority off, I finished the job with several hours of hand sanding.

    Anyway, I checked a few websites to find wood characteristics (didn't save the links, sorry, there were two in particular that were very informative that were mentioned on TBL within the last year or so). I started with my body wood experiences (poplar, alder, basswood, mahogany). So I looked at "tone characteristics" (subjective assessments) as well as more objective modulii, strengths, stiffnesses, blah blah, and came to three candidates for this body.

    I forget the first, IIRC it was a very pretty African wood that was really hard to find anywhere. The other two were I believe butternut (is this white walnut?) and black korina (limba). Then I spoke with Larry at Gallery Hardwoods, very knowledgeable guy and willing to share. He confirmed most of my thoughts, offered a few other suggestions to consider which didn't really pan out. I was pretty set on the butternut/white walnut (?) but he steered me to the korina, I believe due more to his stock and how often the woods become available.

    Another big factor in the selection, at first I was also set on having the body be one piece. You may not be able to tell the scope from the pictures, but the body here is very small, I think only about 11" wide, so a one piece was relatively feasible, even on my budget. Larry and I discussed gluing (down the center/off center, # of pieces), tops/cores, etc., and after some back and forth we settled on the limba since he had thick limba stock that he could make a bookmatched set for (two pieces glued together but essentially the one piece).

    And of course appearance is a factor (I'm a big fan of natural wood look), as well as cost - although this particular bass is special to me let's face it, it's a Kramer not a Sadowsky, and I've got wife/kids/dog/bills...
     
  15. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I've finished up the pickup and neck pocket routing. Took a few pics to get an idea of how the bass will look when complete.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All that's left is to rout for the control cavity, install the threaded brass inserts for the control cavity cover, make the control cavity cover, line the control cavity with copper tape, drill the holes for the bride and pickups and pots, then final sanding.

    :^)~
     
  16. Im a sock

    Im a sock

    Dec 23, 2002
    Central MA
    Wow, what a fantastically original design. I really like that you're basically taking the parts of the old bass that you liked so much and put them in a new house. Very nice work!
     
  17. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Sock, thanks for that compliment. My goals in the body design were (in no particular order):

    - overall small, for weight and comfort. This is a jazz size neck, so this body shape probably wouldn't 'feel' appropriate to a precision or other wide sized neck. And I wanted it to look good/be somewhat conventional, so I didn't go to the Steinberger extreme. The brigde will sit almost at the very end of the bass, and the wings are relatively small.

    - upper horn to mount strap. The previous body lacked an upper horn and had some neck dive issues. This should be less of an issue with the new body, hopefully I'll be able to get it perfectly balanced.

    - flat on the bottom, so it can be stood up without a stand. I plan to put two strap buttons on the bottom edge - for flexibility, to help counter neck dive if it's still an issue, and so that she'll stand up easily.

    - no need for lower horn. Need the cutaway for fret access tho.

    - bottom edge so that it'll sit nicely on your lap/right thigh. I measured where this cutaway is located (relative to the brigdes) of all my other basses and a few at the guitar store - they're all pretty close but some feel better to me, so that's where I put it.

    - contours for forearm, belly. Makes it feel less bulky.

    The rest of the lines were drawn out from those points, in a way that at least I would call aesthetic. I showed my designs to several folks, musicians and non, along the way. I re-drew the shape of the horns/cutaways several times to get them to look pleasing to everyone.

    I then made two cardboard cutouts (for front and back), held togehter with masking tape and stuffed with newspaper, to make a fullsize mockup. Didn't learn much new here, but it gave me confidence that nothing was out of whack. It gave a realness to it, the most surprising aspect was still it's small size.

    It's looking great Grandon, thanks again for all your work and attention.
     
  18. Scott D

    Scott D

    Apr 21, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Pilot, that JP is BEAUTIFUL. Is that yours or no?

    Hey, i used to have an 80's Kramer Focus 7000-it had a P and Dual J's, and a Jazz like neck, but nix on the "Explorer type body", it was more Precision style.
     
  19. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Unfortunately, no. But I'm a great admirer.
     
  20. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I think that Plume 5 string is Xush's, yes?

    I agree, I find the JP Plume, both the double cut and single cut models to be one of the best looking and aesthetically pleasing designs out there today! (Wonder if he would license the design to me?...:) )

    :^)~