Roundover radius on '63 P-bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fazeka, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Hi all,

    I have a '63 bass, all original, that I absolutely love. I am trying to replicate the body as close as possible with a new build. That includes:

    • weight (bass comes in just short of 8 lbs),
    • thickness (body thickness on my '63 with original paint clocks in at 1.62", just shy of 1-5/8"), and
    • edges' roundover radius (mine appears to be between 3/4" and 7/8")

    I contacted a few suppliers (Warmoth, USACG) as they can at least try to get a lighter weight piece to start with (they said they couldn't guarantee anything specific pounds-wise, understandably).

    Warmoth bodies are strictly 1.75", I am still pending on them to see if they can do 1-5/8". USACG does 1.65".

    Warmoth said they can only do 1/2" roundover radius. USACG didn't tell me what their roundover radius is but told me that can't do what I asked them to (3/4"). They suggested I could take it up to 3/4" myself with a hand-router (!).

    So a couple comments/questions on that.

    Assuming there is a 3/4" roundover bit that would fit a Porter Cable 690LR (which is what I have), don't things get pretty dicey trying to use a hand router to take off that much wood? I mean, USACG's comment is the reason why I am trying to go with a company like them or Warmoth (or someone else) in the first place: I don't want to **** this up!

    I'm puzzled how the roundover is done on the forearm contour as the plane is different than most of the top... can someone elaborate on that for me?

    Also puzzled how the roundover tapering off is done near the neck pocket...

    Is there someone else that can do me a vintage spec early 60s P-bass body in alder, 4.5lbs or lighter, 1-5/8" thickness with 3/4" roundover? Correct me if I am wrong but it doesn't seem that hard if a customer (me) is willing to pay?!?

    JSandbloom likes this.
  2. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Most larger shops are focused on one thing: churning out as much product as possible. Accommodating specific customer requests are kinda more trouble than it is worth for them.

    Doing a roundover ain’t exactly rocket science in the scope of luthiery, but if you’re sketched out by doing it yourself - which is perfectly understandable - I’m sure there’s a local yokel near you who’d be happy to knock it out for you.
    Beej likes this.
  3. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Finding a local builder might be a good way to go. To answer a couple of questions... Your router can handle a 3/4" bit, but ensure it's a 1/2" collet! To get the roundover, you rout down about 1/8" at a time until you get to the full 3/4". The body is routed around carefully near the neck pocket, or in my case, I rout the body first and then rout the pocket. Different builders have different processes. :) The forearm bevel is usually carved after the body is routed, and then the edges are blended in with files, sandpaper, belt sander, etc.

    You can probably buy a standard alder blank and then provide this to a builder who can plane it down to your 1.6"ish spec, and then make a body. They might also have to located a P-bass template to make it up to spec as well. If you're really set on the lighter weight, but want the p-bass shape, consider having it chambered out with an alder cap on top. Assuming you're painting it, only your back will know. :D
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  4. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    The roundover by the neck pocket is usually a finesse maneuver with a handheld router and then feathered into the contour with a half-round bastard file. There’s a similar procedure with the forearm contour.

    Your Porter Cable router should be able to handle a bit that size.

    If you go on YouTube, there’s a guy - Fletcher Guitars - he does some really thorough video tutorials of various builds that include both of these operations.
    Haroldo and Beej like this.
  5. Yep. Their production lines are going to be set up to turn out largely the same thing over and over. Changing specs costs money.

    As far as the round over on the contours and neck pocket, I normally round over the whole body then do the contours then blend those edges by hand. I have a point where I stop the router at the neck pocket and do that by hand also.
  6. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Sure, I get it. Note that Warmoth has a $40 upcharge for a light(er) weight body. They have a lot of options and respective charges for things that are apparently custom.

    I dunno, I was thinking having the body go through a planer a few more times to take it down from 1-3/4 to 1-5/8 wouldn't be something they couldn't charge me for. Or switching out a roundover bit from 1/2" to 3/4"...

    Not many where I live that aren't butchers for lack of a better term, unfortunately.

    Any recommendations on another (smaller, perhaps?) shop that could accommodate my specific requirements?
  7. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Yeah, Warmoth and USACG are pretty big shops. For them running it through a planer entails stopping production, resetting the planer, making the cuts, resetting the planer back to spec - in that time, they would have knocked out 3-4 bodies.

    I don’t know where you’re located, but most major cities have several competent luthiers around. But you’ll never know - I live in the middle of a bunch of avocado orchards and it turns out I live two blocks away from a warehouse full of rock star guitar builders.
    Bill Whitehurst, tbrannon and Beej like this.
  8. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I'm pretty sure Warmoth would be fully CNC and have preset programs to carve their bodies to spec. I don't think it would be super simple on their production line to accommodate those custom specs. In effect, you're asking for some R&D time there as they work out what you need and do their best to get it. Plus then if you're not satisfied, they are out with a custom unit that may be difficult to sell at their regular price point.

    What you're asking for (custom body) could easily cost more than Warmoth as well, depending on the builder. :) Where are you located?
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  9. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    I'm located in Kauai...
  10. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    This post is a decade old, but maybe you might have some luck? :D
    808 Builders
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  11. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Kauai is a relatively small island. Most on that list are from Oahu, Maui or the Big Island. One of those guys unfortunately passed on, even. The few that are here pretty much do ukuleles exclusively. Check my earlier comment.

    There's gotta be someone in the lower 48... I'm fine with shipping it in, it's a bass body. =)
  12. JSandbloom

    JSandbloom Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Redding, Ca
    Lakland Basses
    What’s your budget? The Fender custom shop will do whatever you want.
  13. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    OK, so you’re more out in the middle of nowhere than I am!

    One of those uke guys could probably help you out or give you some guidance or moral support. I have a buddy who builds jarana jarochas and I’d trust him with a router.

    If worst comes to worst, there are those Fletcher videos I mentioned earlier.

    You’ll never know - I originally started building guitars ‘cuz I didn’t want to pay Custom Shop price for a Fender J in Metallic Tangerine.
    Beej and fazeka like this.
  14. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Well, of course most would do if money was no object. Cheaper/easier to just buy another original '63...

  15. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Don't think it's good, couse then it will not be a 63 p bass.
  16. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Thanks everyone for the feedback thus far. I'll see about a local luthier. Still looking for suggestions on other smaller suppliers/builders/luthiers. I also found Tonebomb, which looked promising. I reached out to them but they don't do bass bodies (yet)... we'll follow up on them.
  17. JFLbass


    Mar 3, 2010
    For accurate vintage correct parts, check with Musikraft! Just got an awesome 58- specs neck lightly roasted maple and that neck is exactly what I was looking... I own many vintages basses and trust me, I did a lot of comparaison. They will do what you want! Roasted parts give a nice tint and made the wood sound's like an old bass...
  18. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Hi JFL, I reached out to them. Let's see what they say. Thanks for the recommendation!
    JFLbass likes this.
  19. fazeka


    Jul 11, 2009
    Interesting about roasting the body... wonder if that would shave a couple of ounces off if I get a body coming in at 4.75 lbs...? What do you guys think?
    JFLbass likes this.
  20. Beej pretty much covers it in post #3. If you are careful you can use your router to thin the body down to the desired thickness by maintaining just enough full thickness material for the router base to rest on. You then handplane what’s left to a uniform thickness.