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Rosewood P Bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by cstar, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Hi guys,

    I believe I just bought myself enough East Indian Rosewood to build myself an all Rosewood Precision Bass.

    What tips can you offer me about working with Rosewood? Is there anything particular I should know about it?

    I will be documenting this build extensively, and it will be a slow process. But I am very excited to begin working on it!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Rip Topaz

    Rip Topaz

    Aug 12, 2005
    Willow Street, PA
    Beta tester for Positive Grid
    Get yourself a WIDE strap. It's gonna be HEAVY.
  3. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Haha I knew that would be one of the first replies.

    Thank you for the warning! I am aware it will be on the heavy side. My current bass is quite the anchor and I've managed with it so hopefully this one won't be an issue. I suppose I could chamber if I had to...
  4. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    Chambering would be a good idea. You could slice off the top, chamber it then add a veneer in between, then glue the top back on.

    Tips: Some people recommend that you wipe surfaces to be glued with acetone before gluing up as its an oily wood. Also finishing may be a pain too because of this if your using an oil finish.....oil finishes dont like oily wood. Also you might want to grain fill. Look forward to seeing it!
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Um, wow. Can you share a bit about what made you want to attempt this in the first place? Is it an aesthetic goal? Because I'm quite sure you can achieve equivalent tone via other, more conventional means...
  6. ACNick

    ACNick Guest

    Oct 23, 2012
    South Florida
    I'm sure the aesthetics is reason enough to try this, the few rosewood bodies I have seen have been beautiful.

    As far as chambering, is it necessary to add a veneer between the the two halves when gluing it back together like Meatrus suggested? Would there be a problem slicing the body in half, hollowing chambers, then gluing it back together to (hopefully) get a seamless body?
  7. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    Been there, done that.

    In 1969, Fender built two rosewood teles and two rosewood strats. Philip Kubiki worked on the one that ended up with George Harrison on the Beatle's rooftop concert.

    The bodies had to be chambered extensively for playability.


    Bottom line: save your $$. Solid it is too heavy, and although rosewood makes a great fingerboard, because of all the resin in the wood, it kills sustain.
  8. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    The veneer layer is not required. It's an aesthetic choice. I think it looks good, and it provides a nice line of separation between grain lines that otherwise won't line up exactly right (because you do lose some thickness when you cut a slice off the top. I think high-contrast is better, so something like white maple veneer would look cool.
  9. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Hey guys, thanks for all your input.

    I'm undecided about chambering. I am definitely considering it. I guess I will know best about it when the blank arrives.

    Aesthetics were not the motivation. I believe that it will be beautiful, but I am mostly curious about the tone. I heard once that the bassist of Live has an all rosewood p bass and since I've just wanted to try it.

    The guy I get bass lessons from raves about rosewood telecasters, so I just thought this would be worth the try. I realize it is a risk but I'm willing to try.

    I already bought the neck and body blanks, and it was just about $300. I didn't think that was too bad.

    I'm looking for a rosewood pickguard or veneer to make one. Do you have any tips/leads on that? Thanks.

    I will be documenting this thoroughly! Hope to have pictures of the wood within a week.
  10. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Also, what are your thoughts as far as pickups go on this bass? I expect it to be rather warm. I was tempted to try a Duncan quarter pounder p (assuming they make them? I haven't looked specifically yet). Would that likely be muddy? Would I be better off with an antiquity or a Fender custom shop or? I realize that tonally these pickups are all somewhat different. I think the tone of each could be stellar in its own way. I just want to avoid a muddy sound. Thanks.
  11. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I would consider and EMG PX if you are concerned about losing definition in the bottom end. The X series are made with ceramic magnets. They are less moderny and hi-fi than non-X series EMG pups. Sound clip is here:


    You can get them for $109, and the nice thing about EMG pups is that they come with everything you need: pickups, screws, volume and tone controls, battery clip, and output jack. The other nice thing is that there is no soldering.


    It may be difficult to find rosewood veneer in that width without paying a lot for it. Veneersupplies.com has some 16.5x98" sheets for $112.69 each.

    Certainlywood.com might have some. Their website is a nightmare though.

    It may be easier and less expensive to buy some 1/8" rosewood thin stock pieces and join them together to make a pickguard.
  12. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Thanks for the pup suggestion and for the info on veneers.

    Regrettably, I'm not so much a fan of EMG pickups or ceramic magnets but it's an interesting suggestion and I will look into it!
  13. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Mike Lipe and I have built a few guitars with all-Indian rosewood necks. We did one within the last several months. It was done "match" style, where the fingerboard was sliced off of the same board, the truss rod was installed from the top, and the fingerboard glued back on. So, it ends up looking like a one-piece rosewood neck.

    No big issues building it. It somewhat depends on the rosewood that you have. Some rosewood boards can be packed with the purplish resin; others not so much. The one I did recently wasn't real heavy on resin. It was a little heavier than rock maple, but not a whole lot. It routed and machined just fine.

    My guess is that an all-rosewood bass will tend to be on the bright end, more like a multi-lam neck-thru. It's true that the resin in the rosewood does some damping, but overall, the rosewood frame will be dense and stiff. The stiffer the frame, the brighter the bass will be. Warm tone basses have flexible frames. Your rosewood frame isn't going to be flexible.

    Chambering the body will help warm up the tone (if you want to), but you'd have to do a lot of chambering have much effect. Again, the rosewood is dense and stiff, as compared to most body woods. Chambering the body to save some weight is a good idea, but you have to be careful not to end up making it real neck heavy. The neck is going to be heavy, and there isn't too much you can do about that. If you chop too much weight out of the body, it'll get unbalanced. Do the chambering in the forward end of the body (towards the neck), and leave the wood in the back end to help it balance. And leave a generous upper horn to get the upper strap button out over the neck.

    I'd also recommend a fairly thin body, like 1 1/4". That will help with the weight. You won't have any structural issues.
  14. LHbassist


    Apr 4, 2003
    Reno, Nevada
    If you are going to be sanding this- use a mask. I love the smell of rosewood when I sand it. That is a danger signal. It is not good to breathe the vapors of rosewood as you sand it. We all know it is an oily wood. I see the naturally occurring oil 'bleed' from it all the time. I'm no scientist, but those vapors are caustic, and irritant. In my 40+ years of working on instruments, that's a given. Use a mask.
  15. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Update: Neck blank scheduled to arrive today! Pictures later if it does.
  16. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    Instead of a seperate pickguard, rear-route the controls, but then route down the body front so that the 'pickguard' is raised up.
  17. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Thanks for the idea.

    I nabbed a rosewood pickguard on eBay last night. Looks well made and should match by body and neck beautifully.

    I will be buying a radiused + slotted fingerboard blank from StewMac eventually and truss rod and steel stiffening rods from Warmoth.

    If anybody can direct me to some resources about building a neck, it would be greatly appreciated. I have a blank for the back and I will have a radiused and slotted fingerboard blank; I just don't know much about doing the glue up, shaping the radius of the back of the neck, locating tuning peg holes, truss rod routing, etc. I'm sure I can handle it, but some info would be great. I do have a fret press and will be buying some basic fretting tools, as I hope to fret this neck also.
  18. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    You might want to do a practice neck with some maple before you cut into the rosewood. I wouldn't bother with Warmoth's "stiffening bars". A rosewood neck should be more than stiff enough (see Bruce's post).
  19. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    I've been doing some searching around lately and have seen some people saying to wipe rosewood down with acetone right before gluing it to get oil off of the surface. Other than that, you'll need a lot of clamps and try to make the pressure as even as possible over the whole fretboard. I put a 2x4 on its side on top and another under the neck on the one I did recently, so the clamps are on the 2x4s and not denting the neck/fretboard and that helps distribute even pressure too. It worked good for me.

    For the back of the neck, you could give this a try: http://www.tdpri.com/forum/tele-home-depot/317748-neck-carving-drawing-creating-facets-wood.html

    Tuning peg holes... as far as I know, you mostly want to make sure you have enough space between them so the tuners fit next to each other and draw the string paths from the nut to where the holes will be to make sure the strings don't touch each other.

    I'm looking forward to seeing this build. I was looking on tdpri a lot recently and found some really nice looking rosewood guitars. Can't wait to see it in bass form.
  20. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Hey, thanks guys.

    I too, am stoked to see this bass. I think its going to be a looker but I am super curious about the sound.

    Would the stiffening rods make my neck TOO stiff? I have a quartersawn maple neck w/ rosewood board from Warmoth with the double expanding rod and it is marvelous. Takes heavy string sets like a champ. My old AllParts neck was really weak... could never get the thing to stay where I wanted it (I like pretty low action). I like thicker strings and I might even go for flats on the rosewood p, so I see the added stiffness of the rods being helpful, but if you think it's too much then I am all ears.

    If the rods won't make the neck too stiff, then I don't mind the weight and I think they do a lot for the sustain + tone- there was a definite difference in tone when I swapped my AllParts neck for a Warmoth one.

    Pics when possible! This build is going to be slow.

    Also, thinking about using a Badass II bridge. Thoughts?