Sirena • El Santo: Freekmagnet Jumps on the Short Scale Bandwagon

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Freekmagnet, Jan 5, 2021.

  1. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    All kidding aside, I recently felt inspired to build a short scale bass. While I’ve never been and never will be a short scale believer, I’ve always recognized that they do occupy a sonic space that is all their own. After all, Sir Paul rocked a Hofner pretty convincingly, and Andy Frazier’s super-fat Gibson EB-3 tone on All Right Now is one of my favorite bass sounds of all time.

    Having been laid up with a back injury (I seemed to have pinched a nerve while on an easy bike ride with the li’l Lady and her niece), I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days browsing through guitar and bass images on the internet. Somebody on another forum posted a Vox Clubman bass on one of my threads, and I was instantly smitten by this instrument. Since I can’t really do much besides sit or lay around, I sat down last night and sketched out this bass.


    I was kind of striving for that “student model” vibe a lot of those old short scale basses had; basic abbreviated versions of some of the full-scale models using recycled technology and design elements - while still making a small effort to define their own niche. The idea back in the day was to sell these instruments to kids and establish a sense of brand loyalty. A Fender Mustang was basically a miniature PBass, yet it had its own little pickup. I used a few design elements from some of my previous builds. I was also looking to capture a few elements from the Hofner 500/1 and Moserite basses.

    I’m not completely set on the pickup configuration yet. For now, I placed a pair of tall humbuckers I designed last year - I’ve been trying to find a place to put these. Additionally, I found a source for some thick AlNiCo magnets, so I kind of wanted to swap out the C8 magnets I’m using now. I might move the bridge pickup closer to the bridge to give it more of a Hofner vibe. Or, I have some skinny single coils I built for the Pistolera bass. Anyway, I have a few options to try out.

    Just FYI, El Santo was a legendary Mexican wrestler who went on to make horror and adventure movies. El Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro (The Saint vs. the Vampire Women) comes to mind. I haven’t decided on a color, but I’m thinking maybe silver as sort of dedication in his memory. We’ll see - I’m trying to go further out there with my color choices and selection of cheap materials, and silver feels kinda tame. I don’t know if I can pull off a water-based silver sparkle finish. Silver sparkle would be more appropriate. Maybe a frosted white would be cool.

    I’m in the middle of another build, so I’m not going to start this new one right away. Maybe if I start feeling better this week and I need to occupy myself somehow, I’ll run down to Mayan and buy some wood.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
  2. BishopJP


    Apr 5, 2019
    North Carolina
    This looks to be a cool project! I can only assume the color scheme would be inspired by luchador masks/costumes?!

    Also, as a fellow cyclist with back problems, I know your pain. Hope you recover quickly!
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  3. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Yeah, I’m thinking maybe silver sparkle with white or pearl accents. El Santo wore a silver and white mask, so it seems like that would be the ticket. I’m not sure yet if a sparkle job is possible or advisable using a Varathane finish. I’m going to look into that Varathane triple thick sanding sealer to bury that glitter. I’ve seen a flake job done here on TB using that Solarez stuff. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard good things. I’m not sure if I I’m excited about R&D with a new finishing product seeing how I have almost a full can of Varathane in my garage.

    Yeah, I’m feeling better day by day. I got up out bed without thinking about it for the first time this morning. I’m still not sure how that back injury happened while cycling. I’ve never had that happen before, and I’ve been thankfully spared of any major back problems most of my life. And the ride was fairly routine for us.
    BishopJP likes this.
  4. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Wood day. I been feeling a little better, and since it looks like it's the stuff I need to move forward with my other build will not arrive in the mail for some time, I figured I might as well get out of bed, move around and buy some lumber.


    Nothing special. Just some 5/4 hard maple and red alder. It's a little more wood than I wanted to buy, but this was the best piece of maple I could find. It's under 8', and the guys at Mayan don't like cutting down pieces to less than 4'. It's alright - now I have enough for two necks. And to think I just cleaned the extra maple lumber out of my space! The red alder will be for the body - I'm going to make it a 4-piece. Again, it's a little extra, but they didn't have very many wide pieces in 5/4 today. It's got a few knots, but the board is big enough so that I can cut around them and fill the rest if I have to.

    I'll let these sit for a few days and start milling them down.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2021
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Cool. Come on over if you need to use any big scary machines. I need to make a run out to Mayan soon too, for some more walnut.
    wraub and Freekmagnet like this.
  6. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    I will! Thx.

    I'll definitely be bringing another fretboard down there soon. I really like what you did with the last one you cut for me. I was talking to the li'l Lady about doing more of my woodworking there after Keith moves out. Maybe work something out with Young Gabe.
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    That's what I'm thinking. You could rent a small amount of working/storage space here (for cheap), and do your messy work here. I'd be around to help you with a few of the scarier operations. Gabe would also rent some space in the same shop. You guys could make your own deals doing work for each other.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2021
    wraub, Matt Liebenau and Freekmagnet like this.
  8. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    I like the design quite a bit (as usual with your designs), although the peghead seems a little large for the body- but, just a little.

    Definitely go silver flake if you can. :)
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  9. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    It’s funny you mention the headstock because I used the same headstock on another build. On the finished price, I thought it was almost too small. I think maybe it looks bigger on the drawing than it does in real life. I’m working on the new template right now, and I made it slightly larger. I’m not sure, but now that you've mentioned it, I’ll take a closer look.
    wraub likes this.
  10. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Little by little, I've been chipping away at the templates.


    And then today, I planed the edges for the glue up. I did this with my little router jig. I did them all at once.


    After this cut, I left them in the jig and gave them a good sanding with 120 using my leveling beam. They'll glue together nice and tight - hopefully I'll get to doing that this week.

    @wraub: I checked the headstock, and you were right - it was a little big. It was maybe 5/16" wider than a Fender headstock, but substantially shorter. I just made it a little narrower. Thanks for pointing that out!
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I think you should make the headstock whatever size you think looks best. Don't let the other guys tell you it's too big or two little. You aren't trying to build a Fender.
    John_Nicholas, tbrannon and wraub like this.
  12. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Yeah, you’re right. I’ve looked at this headstock so much, I’m not sure what size it should be. Right now, it looks pretty good on this bass, so I’m OK with it.
    tbrannon and wraub like this.
  13. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Here's my first update in a while. I have been working on this bass, but a lot of it has been behind the scenes stuff that I'm not ready to post yet. In the meantime, I have been doing some of the woodwork - I started on the neck earlier this week.

    The first order of business was to plane the maple plank down flat. I milled it down to just under 1" on my router sled.


    The plan was to laminate the neck, so I mapped out the choice cross section for the middle laminate. I cut that out with my el cheapo table saw.


    That gave me 3 strips of maple. I milled the center piece down to .875" wide.

    This image is for illustration only. It's actually from a previous build and I'm not using padauk for the fretboard.


    Glued it up with West Systems Epoxy.


    Following this step, I planed the blank down to just a little more than .75" From there, I cut the scarf. Like everything else, my scarf jig is crude. It's just a thing to clamp on which to clamp the wood and run it through the table saw. I cut it at a 13°.


    Then I used this other jig I made to clean up the cut. I just passed the router over it a few times and it gave me a clean cut. This photo is from another build - I used sandpaper that time, but it's the same idea.


    And the last thing I did was glue up the scarf.

    Last edited: Feb 4, 2021
  14. Looks like an interesting project. Are you planning on selling it once it is completed?
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  15. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Everything is for sale.

    If there is a buyer for this bass, then yes, I will sell it.
    wraub and tbrannon like this.
  16. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yeaaaaah! That's the attitude! And if it sells, he'll build more!
  17. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    I got my fretboard material today.


    It’s “Redstone” Richlite. I’ve been eyeing this color for a while. They sell it on the Richlite website it in a guitar size, but they don’t have in sizes large enough for bass. I occasionally interact with a Richlite rep via Instagram. I contacted them in hopes that they could do me a solid and get me a bigger piece, but no luck.

    Instead, I bought a 24”x24” piece and had Bruce cut this slice for me. It’s 1/4” thick, but I talked to him about it and he says it can be radiused to just barely 1/4”.

    I have enough left over for 6-8 24” long fretboards. I can radius and slot them at Bruce’s shop, so if anyone wants a Richlite fretboard in Redstone, PM me.

    Tomorrow, I’m going to go over to Bruce’s and he going to show me how to make one of his special truss rods for this neck.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
  18. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    You lookey, lookey bahstid...
    tbrannon and Freekmagnet like this.
  19. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    OK. Here’s the neck blank with Bruce’s truss rod installed.


    It’s a dual-action compression truss rod. Basically, there’s an anchor on each end with a stainless steel rod joining them together. Bruce gave me a quick walkthrough making and installing the rod. Initially, Bruce described the installation as a “PITA”, but he’s been doing it so long he’s got it down to a not-as-hard-as-you’d-think system. Using a number of fixtures, you cut a hole for the first anchor, cut a curved channel, cut a notch for the second anchor, add some carbon fiber tow, and epoxy the truss rod in place. Not too bad. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the process. I’m probably going to use Bruce’s truss rods more often, so I was more focused on paying attention. He’s documented the process exhaustively elsewhere, so if you need to see photos now, I can find a link. I’ll post some of my own pix next time I do it.
    BishopJP and John_Nicholas like this.
  20. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    What I personally don't like about that rod (and why I abandoned that style so many years ago) is the large cross anchor required at the nut. Too much material to remove and weaken the neck preventing me from thinning it as much as I like. I expect it works fine just not for my application.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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