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Single Cut Carved Top: Build #3. Very Little Woodworking Experience

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Deep Cat, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    I’m pleased to begin my first build thread. I don’t intend for this thread to be a tutorial on how to make basses. I really don’t have the experience to tell anyone how this thing should be done.

    I started building and wood working with a workmate, a router and a jigsaw and no woodworking experience about a year and a half ago. I did and do extensive research online and watch lots and lots of youtube videos on everything woodworking and bass building. I’m still making lots of beginner mistakes, but I’m tenacious and creative. I’ll get to something I’m pretty proud of, sooner or later.

    I began this particular build a about a year ago. Most of the questions I had in building lead me to the LC for answers, so I thought it would be a good idea to first join Talkbass, and then contribute so I could give back some of the value I’ve gotten. I hope in this thread I can inspire others to build, just as other beginners have inspired me. Dream it. Build it. Make crazy basses.

    #3 will feature:
    • 34” Scale single cut violin style carved top swamp ash body, with honeyburst finish
    • Bolt on maple neck, pau ferro fret board with an angled headstock
    • Black hardware, string through tune-o-matic style bridge.
    • Single Bartolini X-shape in the J- bridge position.

    The devil is in the details, so if you have any questions about the build, please feel to ask. Also, if you can see I’m about to drive over a cliff, please warn me.

    I started this build mostly because I really wanted to carve a top. I love the way a carved top looks and I amazes me more basses and guitars don’t feature more than rudimentary contours, especially with the prevalence of CNC builds. Everyone wants what they want, I guess.

    I have a tendency to obsess over things, especially ideas, and after having watched a few youtube videos about carved tops, I really wanted to give it a go. Mostly, it’s an experiment that I decided to complete.

    I’ve spent a lot of time developing the body design. I prefer to work with pencil and graph paper, as I’m a luddite in regards to drafting software. I find something really satisfying in working out the lines of the instrument on a 1/1 scale on paper. P4150594.JPG
    Brett Zeppelin and lbridenstine like this.
  2. I like your enthusiasm about the project. I can't wait to see what comes of it. Best of luck on this one!
    Deep Cat likes this.
  3. Remyd


    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Sub'd - I wanna see!
  4. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Thank you. Since I got bit with this bug I've been kind of build crazy.

    I'm farther along than just the drawing. I'll update more soon.
  5. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Awesome Deep Cat I'm going to watch closely. I am in almost the exact same situation myself but I'm a little further along but was going to wait until the end and post everything for fear of screwing up along the way and looking really stupid on my virgin voyage. It is an excellent time to get into this building thing.
  6. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    I've waited a while to post. I was going to do #1 and #2 except I've made way too many mistakes with those two. Probably would have made fewer mistakes though if I'd been posting a thread about them and asking questions as I went.
  7. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Yeh I thought I read somewhere you are supposed to have 2 builds under your build to start in this section but I agree with you100% so many helpful and encouraging members who have been there.
  8. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    I traced the outline of the body on the blank and then rough cut the shape with a jig saw. I used a router with a flush trim bit and a template from my hand drawn body design to refine the shape. I then smoothed the edges with a dragon rasp and 80 grit sandpaper.

    P6160620.JPG P6160627.JPG
    Splods likes this.
  9. Off to a nice start. Very cool. Do you have plans to contour any of the edges?
  10. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Pretty much what I started out with, along with a drill press. Once can do amazing things with a minimum amount of tools. I'm looking forward to your progress.
  11. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Yup. I'm actually a bit farther along on the build than the pics currently uploaded suggest. I went with a 1/2" round over for the back edges and the top past the "waist." I'm actually not terribly pleased with a 1/2" and will go for 3/4" on much of it, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

    Thank you!
  12. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    I planned out how I wanted the carve to look and sketched the topography on graph paper. I transferred the sketches to cardboard then ¼” and ½” Mdf. I made a different template for every 1/8th” inch of depth. I would never have thought before getting into this building thing how deep 1/8” could be. A 5/8” carve is mountainous.

    You'll notice I'm using my amp cabinet as a shop stool... I really have to get around to building a pretty cabinet.

    P4150591.JPG P6100616.JPG
  13. Jonny5bass

    Jonny5bass Supporting Member

    May 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Looks like a cool build, I'm in!
  14. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Thank you!
  15. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    I hogged out most the material with a router, and smoothed the contours with a dragon rasp. After inexpertly grinding away at it for a while I realized why more tops aren’t carved, (also that a dragon rasp is not ideal for carving the contours of a carved top). It’s not really hard to carve a top, so to speak, but it is a pretty time consuming step if you aren’t using a CNC, especially when most players don’t even think of a carved top as being an option. At this point I know there are lots of ways to speed up the process, and I’ll likely take advantage of several of them for future builds.

    Attached Files:

    Brett Zeppelin likes this.
  16. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    I rounded over the edges on the back and carved a more or less standard Fender style belly contour. I routed out the control cavity. I’m currently on the fence as to try out the Ritter-esque output jack on the back control cavity, or to go with a Strat/Ibanez Ergodyne output jack on the front. I’ll probably wait until right before grain filling to finalize a decision on that front. One of those two options doesn’t involve routing another hole in the body.

    Attached Files:

  17. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Pretty close to where the last step left off, I decided I wasn’t making enough progress on my first and second builds (which I worked on simultaneously) and basically decided to hold off on working on #3 until #1 and #2 were done. Also, at that point I decided I’d build my own necks instead of jobbing it out to Warmoth, Carvin or Allparts. How hard could that be? The answer: very, very hard, but worthwhile.

    During the initial carve, I banged the body pretty good in several spots. Nothing terrible, but not something I really wanted to sand out. I made a pretty good go at steaming out the dents. I used an eye dropper to drop a few drops of water into the dents, covered the wood with a damp towel, and then passed a hot iron over the spot. The dents popped right out. Pretty neat.


    Attached Files:

    flameworker and Brett Zeppelin like this.
  18. Great save on the dents there. What's cool trick. Next time don't knock it against anything are while carving!
  19. I can't wait to see this thing with some finish on it.
  20. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Me too. The body has sat in a half finished state in my dining room for about eight or nine months and it's driving me crazy. I'm making good progress now on the rest of the build so an (eventual) end is sight.

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