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New fingerboard on a cheap Chinese bass homestyle

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by craigie, Dec 27, 2018.

  1. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    i bought a cheap Chinese bass a number of years ago with a banana neck. Actually a Chinese (coincidence) friend picked it up for me for cheap used while I was out of town.

    Obviously too thin and probably was put together green. The fingerboard was bent out where it meets the neck. The neck bowed forward and things really took off at that discontinuity.

    I’m finally putting on a new fingerboard and will document it here.

    Edit: I’m not a luthier. I’m always impressed and amazed by the work I see people do in this forum. We’re just doing the best with what we’ve got without a huge investment. The guy helping me is an amazing builder. Exacting, patient and inventive. It’s coming together better than I expected.

    The first thing I did was cut off the dyed maple looking fingerboard by sawing “fret lines” in it and chiselling it off. Couldn’t get the glue to separate which is no surprise as they wouldn’t have used Hyde glue.

    Then I had it resting on it’s back with weights on the peg box to encourage it to bend back straight (for about a year). Then it sat for a few years unfinished in my garage until the right person came along to help me.

    Since a ready made fingerboard is too expensive I decided to make one! Ambitious yes. That’s why it sat so long.

    A local wood shop store the “black forest wood company” has a great and somewhat pricey selection. I was able to pick up a nice piece of Pao ferro that will do the job for about $30 CAD. So not too pricey considering. The grain is nice and straight and beautiful. A bit of a curve to the board but we fixed that. It was dead flat, no twist or cup and was a dense heavy mofo.

    The tools at our disposal: table saw, skill saw, chip saw, chisels, hand planes, router, belt sander, orbital sander.

    After various discussions on how to cut the compound curvature of a double bass fingerboard: make a jig for the router, belt sand and make curve gages, I decided to cut four planes on the table saw. My vision of how to do that was a bit different than doug’s But he’s a very skilled tool guy so we’re doing it mostly his way. We cut a test piece using fir and so far so good.

    To show how good he is, here’s his current project which is a 30’s truck put onto a modern Chevy S10 frame and drive train. He’ll chop it into an el-Camino.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2018
    leonard likes this.
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Be careful working the pao ferro. Many people have a serious allergic reaction to the sawdust. Both on their skin and from inhaling it.
    HateyMcAmp, craigie and PauFerro like this.
  3. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Here’s the bass awaiting its new fingerboard. I’d also like to paint it some funky colour. I have two CAR basses and one CAR Strat.....

    303A2AAC-2E1F-4C57-9DF5-DBDDE2632100. I sanded the neck with 100 grit paper and a sanding block to get it nice and flat for the fingerboard. I got some hide glue from lee valley tools and will try that.

    I also want to reinforce the neck and thought about carbon fibre. I decided since being neck heavy isn’t an issue to use steel bar as it’s cheap, easy to work with and readily available. I got a 1/2” square section steel bar from steel supermarket.
    8C9ACBC8-FFD0-40E2-9EA9-45A77281CE27. i used a grinder to take off the mill finish on the steel, the theory being that adhesive will better adhere.
    My original plan was to put it in the neck but it will be far easier to put in the fingerboard and also the fingerboard will benefit from being reinforced it’s full length.
    This painferro is incredibly stiff. Should be fine without it but by the time we cut it and plane it there will be a lot less material so I won’t take the chance. As long as the glue joint between the neck and fingerboard is good I don’t think it will matter.
    Here’s our fir test piece.

    We ripped a piece of 3/8” ply to provide a nice straight edge against the table saw fence.

    The pau ferro wasn’t quite wide enough so after ripping a triangular piece for one side we had to glue that to one edge. I’ll take photos of the actual fingerboard tomorrow as work progresses and of my original sketches.

    This wood cuts beautifully. The saw cut edge is so smooth.
  4. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Thanks! Didn’t realize that. Seem ok so far but we didn’t cut much. I’ll use a dust mask tomorrow.
  5. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    976F251C-C902-453E-A2D7-D2010944676F. Got quite a bit more done today. Got the fingerboard cut and shaped and the steel stiffening rod and the slot for it in the neck ready. Another day we will epoxy the rod in place and a following day glue on the fingerboard and do finishing touches.

    Above is the piece we had to glue on to widen it.

    Here you can see the rough sawn back of the board and how good the cut edge looks.

    Here’s my plan of how to make cuts on the table saw to get the correct radius along each string path.
    Here’s our piece screwed down to it’s table saw cutting jig after one cut.
    Here’s our piece after all four cuts ready for sanding. I sanded it with a long body work sanding block (about 2’), along the path of the strings to get rid of saw marks. Then I sanded the ridges to round it out being careful to follow mostly the path of the strings and keep the compound radius.
  6. Fingerboard...table saw...I need a beer.
  7. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Here’s our piece after sanding.

    We needed to grind down one side of the bar and cut it to length. 1/2” was too thick for the neck because the neck is too thin up by the nut. Ground it to 3/8”.

    1A03EF8D-DFBB-4C5E-B529-1ADF17459366. Got the bass strapped down to cut the neck slot.

    19E3BE91-0939-4AED-83F8-CBDA2DDB98F3. Here’s my tools for the job: a nice thin saw and a 1/2” chisel. Was tedious work but got it done with enough patience.
    833FFE6C-89CF-41BC-B43C-0E2AC7E18069. Using the steel bar as a guide for the saw I sawed a slot for each edge of the bar and chiseled out the middle. I put tape on the saw to know how deep to cut.
    My slot is a bit off centre: I misjudged how thick the saw would cut and didn’t do a test cut. Doesn’t matter: it will be covered and won’t make a difference structurally.
    Beej likes this.
  8. Disappointing.
    Mudfuzz likes this.
  9. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Carbon fiber bar stock is preferred over steel, lighter, stiffer
  10. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Sure, if I could pick it up locally for $7. Nothing is going to bend that steel rod. I looked into carbon fibre and the cost to order one rod is outrageous when you consider shipping. Took me one hour to stop off and get the steel and I also got some aluminum sheet to make two pickguards all for $12.

    Young’s modulus of carbon fibre (along the axis of fibres only): 228 GPa. Steel: 200 GPa. Steel is also a ductile material while carbon fibre is not. It will have just as high a bending strength and if it does bend it will do so elastically and come back. Anything beyond that and the headstock or neck at the body would shear off first.
  11. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Hey Craigie,

    Nice work on shaping the fingerboard. Criticisms aside, there's more than one way to do this, and I'm sure you'll get the results you need for your bass.

    Re the channel for the neck reinforcement, I cut my first one using a saw and chisel. Agreed, it is completely tedious! I have cut another half dozen or so since, always using a router. I built a small template to ensure the channel comes out centred and straight. Five times as fast, and it gives a clean result.

    If you ever need Carbon Fibre in future, Dragon Plate is probably the cheapest source. Agreed, though, that shipping costs in Canada are through the roof.

    Good luck with your project!
    craigie and james condino like this.
  12. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    " .....if I could pick it up locally for $7..."

    The stuff I use IS $7 a stick from Dragonplate.

    Either way, cool thread- old cars, upright basses, and a person who is not afraid of jumping right in.

    Sure, you may make a few mistakes along the way and there are things you will do different the next time. It is not a 200 year old Italian bass. I support your endeavors and more so your fearless attitude willing to post it here knowing that the crusty crusty old guard will likely rip you apart for the small things. They all told Leo Fender and Stradivari the same thing.......A+....!
    s0707, Levin S, jsf729 and 6 others like this.
  13. Mister Boh

    Mister Boh

    Oct 23, 2016
    Annapolis, MD
    I think making a bass out of a bass shaped object is great! Thanks for the updates.
    craigie likes this.
  14. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Thanks! We considered making a router template. I thought after the fact “I bet I could have cut that with a skill saw lol”
  15. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    "If you ever need Carbon Fibre in future, Dragon Plate is probably the cheapest source. Agreed, though, that shipping costs in Canada are through the roof."

    JB Alred, who owns Dragonplate is a good friend of mine. I'll pass this on to him and ask about the idea of a Canadian representative or distributor to work through the shipping issues. I tried to ship a set of tuning machines to Toronto a couple of weeks ago and the first attempt they wanted $47!!!
    Remyd and craigie like this.
  16. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    The worst is when you get hit by “import duties”. Could be $50 just for that. Sometimes companies won’t ship USPS. If it’s UPS I don’t even bother.
  17. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Here’s a test fit of our bar. It was pretty snug getting it in there.

    6E71E1D1-7421-4D64-94CE-D0BE7544E397. Clamping blocks made up. Used two different radius hole saws (the plywood was already like that, these are cut from spruce).

    4CD50FFA-F486-405D-BF98-FB5B1F1212C7. Here it is taped off, epoxied,
    Clamped in place. We used the extra bar to push the bar down in place. 8B9EA1C2-2BF6-4BCD-9749-90F926BE7892. Another view of our clamping jig. I didn’t bother with cloths on the back of the neck as I intend to sand it down to wood anyway and use a tru oil finish.

    That’s all until next weekend when we’ll clean up the neck and glue the fingerboard in place and do our final shaping. Will also attach the pickup I got and sand the back of the neck. Then will just have to decide what colour to paint it and how ;)
    I’ve got two CAR basses and one Strat. A DB to match would be sweet!
    Maybe a pinup girl on the back?

    Happy New Year Y’all!
    Inky13 likes this.
  18. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    When you glue in the rod/bar stock you are locking in the shape of the neck that's why it is important to use a caul that will ensure flat/straight. I broke the neck of a bass I was repairing and installed a carbon fiber bar, you can see the caul in use here. Installing the rod/bar it should fit easily since you are using epoxy, no need to force into place

    Attached Files:

  19. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Finally time for an update!

    The tape on the neck before epoxying in the steel bar came it nice and easily. Just had to chisel down a few lumps and then fit up the fingerboard, cut it to size, and sand the neck to make it fit flat.
    FEFDB780-CE76-4E74-B656-96169AE725C8. A8247459-E463-4167-83D4-8BD45B110492.
    Cut tye board to length and had wood guy:
    Then we fabbed up a piece of aluminum plate to mount rye pickup:
    Jigsaw, file, belt sander. Then doug sanded the face and used steel wool to give it a brushed finish. 75CDBD74-3525-4FA6-B73D-50281CD7A1E6.

    27AC1F7E-FA4F-49A2-BC1C-90DA6B7442F5. Our fingerboard. There’s some fine scratches I attribute to the steel wool. I’ll try car paint sandpaper.

    Another photo of the 31 Chevy.
    jsf729 likes this.
  20. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    AE4E8447-E8B9-4C83-AF03-9226AEB7C379. FE91D20A-F11A-4F0F-8F84-EDA21714E51E. C2BCBA86-BF5D-40E2-AC20-14D7D7F9BB2F. 169BCE48-223A-4919-8F60-AAFEEA91D241. A322D7F5-E247-4B42-97CF-F15F92194D5A.
    Some more photos of the chevy.

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