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some design input welcome

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Wademeister63, Sep 6, 2004.

  1. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Some pics of my first bass project...

    mercyfish. backfish. fishtailback. fishandfriend. fishtailfront. kneefish. bass2view.

    So far so good. It seems comfortable enough even before carving which is encouraging. I like the way the grain worked out with the fish shape, the flame giving a feeling of scales down the sides. A little disappointed at misaligning the neck lams at the back of the headstock. No going back now, maybe I'll paint that area black :meh:

    The plan is to carve the fish body in low relief and painting a few lines on sort of like in the cad drawing and fading the fins to black. Probably some yellow-green stain before clearcoating. I have a fair amount of leftover myrtlewood so I can experiment a good bit for just the right look.

    Well I got myself all into this project probably sort of half-assed, but here I am. I'm building this bass guitar shaped like a bass fish! Probably been done a million times, but I haven't seen it before :eyebrow:

    I have a nice piece of lignum vitae for the fingerboard, the body is myrtlewood on the 7/8" top with mahogany for the rest. Neck is laminated hard maple with black mesquite. The black mesquite I chose because of the supposed stability of mesquite wood. Turns out it's a little less stiff than the maple, about the same hardness, and a bit heavier. The "bonk" tone of the board had a decent ring to it but quite a bit lower pitch compared to the maple. Pickups are a set of Bartolini XX M55C (-T & -B) soapbars. I don't really know what kind of tone these are supposed to have but I got a good deal off of Ebay so there they are! I'm planning on getting a Bart preamp too figuring I can't go wrong that way as far as having the right pots and whatever to suit the pickups.

    The plan is to have it 35" scale fretless with 5 strings, but I am having a tough time considering the strings and tone of the finished bass (guitar). I stopped in a t a big music store while on vacation and bought a set of LaBella Deep Talkin' nylon wounds which I though would be great from what I read on the TB forums, but they are too short for a 35" scale! So now I'm wondering about changing to 34" so I can use those strings, or what seems to be a lot of possibly great strings that will be too short for a 35" instrument. Then again I can get those strings as well as a few other flats in an extra long length. Or some roundwounds maybe. I don't want it to be really really dead sounding. I guess I'm hoping for something like the bass on "Is There Anybody Out There" from The Wall by Pink Floyd. Somewhere in the middle of bright and dead, smooth and growly. To me anyway.

    Any advice from experienced builders regarding fretless/flatwound/and 35" scale would be most welcome before I get too far along to make changes on this project.
  2. dls59

    dls59 Supporting Member

    I like it. I like unique stuff.
  3. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    i like it too.

    looks well balanced.

    only comment, knobs may be to close to the bridge.

    then, maybe not.

    i've found it extremely helpful to model/draw up all the electronic components prior to cutting to insure proper clearance.


    nice drawing too.

  4. Lowtonejoe

    Lowtonejoe Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Richland, WA
    Don't ask me why but it reminds me of my Thumb.

    Warwick Thumb.


  5. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Thanks for the feedback guys :)

    As for the knob locations, It's going to end up with only four pots so location will be changed some from what shows there. Also the bridge won't really look like that. I'll be making 5 aluminum bridge pieces and screwing them down individually. Which brings up another question! Is intonation adjustment important at all on a fretless? I'm considering just making them solid pieces and locating them based on the saddle locations of my Ibanez.

    Joe, I think it looks like a Warwick too. I'm not really crazy about having it look like anyone elses bass, but the first few drafts looked to me like an Ibanez :meh: It's all in the headstock shape and tuner location/angle as far as I can tell!

    Here's a more detailed drrawing, haha!

    I certainly will draw the electronics and electronic cavity when my preamp arrives! The one I want is out of stock at bestbassgear.com at the moment though, DOH!
  6. 5thString


    May 5, 2004
    Very nice piece of work! I like it a lot! :)
  7. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    wow, MasterCAM.

    now i don't feel so guilty showing off my Pro/E work.

    i shouldn't hijack your thread.

    images removed.

    see how sensitive i am now!!!


  8. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Very cool F!
    I was hoping to see something of yours since I read your apology thread and saw no pics. We just bought the solids module for MasterCam and I haven't had a chance to fool with it yet. Been horribly busy lately leaving no time for training. The bass is a great project since I get some recreation from working on it, and can continue working on paying jobs at the same time. Yeah I do work too much...I'm attempting to "get a life" haha.

    Hey, no input from anyone about the 35" scale and string availabilty? I got a reply from LaBella and they're going to help me get the right length strings. What would you do? 35" scale for B string tension or 34" scale for more common strings?

    Put the pic back man, I like that stuff!
  9. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    34" 35"

    hmm. hard to say. i think a lot more goes into the B feel than just the length.

    here's a partial collection.


    a mixture of scale lengths, all with great B's.

    i don't think 35" scale length string availability should be an issue.

    you try www.juststrings.com?

    my Tune Spacebass takes 36" scale, that can be tough.

  10. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Nice collection there. I was thinking about a lightwave for this one at one point. I have looked on Juststrings.com and see that I can get the LaBellas and T-I's in extra long, but I don't see the SIT strings which I would like to try, and it seems like maybe the Fender strings I was looking at also were for 34" scale. 34's can have good B's so I'll try that
  11. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    Gotta say, I really like it. My first custom was actually a fish as well, well a different kind of fish but none the less a fish. It was a christian fish actually. I'll post some pictures after I get some developed. Good luck with that design though, It looks like your in for a lot of carving. i don't know how good you are at painting but, IMO, that thing would look pretty cool with a custom paint job, you know, made to look like a real fish. That would be sick!
  12. Wade! Nice! I'm a MasterCam guy m'self! Love it!

    Jury is out on whether I like a bass themed bass, but the execution is really great. What did you cut that on?
  13. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I like the idea and the design. It's going to be neck heavy no doubt but it'll be neat enough to offset that fact.

    My only real feedback is that those neck lam lines are going to disturb the fish idea. If I was you I would have gone with a full face top so you wouldn't have the illusion interupted by contrasting wood right down the middle of your carvings.
  14. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    I used our MultiCam router to cut the head and body shapes. Sure makes things easy! I may go ahead and do all the carving with it too but creating all the 3D surfaces may be more trouble than carving it by hand. I'll just have to see where my inspiration comes from when I get ready to do that.

    DSCF0225. Da router

    From what I've seen so far Scott, I don't think it will really be neck heavy. It was well balanced at this point while sitting and the neck side strap button will be reasonably far forward of the body mass. Also have the Hipshot Ultralight tuners and fairly small headstock in hopes of being reasonably balanced. Will find out for real though fairly soon!

    As for the finish, I really agonized over that. I was going to use the top to cover the neck but I wanted to be able to see that also. The neck really only shows under the strings up until the bridge, and the fish head will be painted so none of the wood will show in that area. The fin areas will also be painted to accentuate the figure in the body area. Also thought about painting it up like a trophy from the taxidermist but decided I wanted it to look like a nice guitar shaped like a fish more than a discarded wall hanging wearing a bass neck and strings!

    I've been thinking about this project waaaay to much...
  15. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    that's my gig. i'm a 3D surfacing FREAK.

    if you want, send me some info and i'll give it a shot.

    MasterCAM is cool too that it will take Pro/Engineer data directly. no need to convert to IGES.

  16. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Not so cool Fred, ( I think I saw someone call you Fred, not completely sure...) I'll have to pay $1,500 or 2,000 bucks to directly open ProE or Catia files. IGES do work fine though. I'm very proud about doing stuff myself so I'll consider your offer though I may stumble through it myself anyway. Or cut it by hand. I really am a glutton for punishment!

    I honestly don't know why I never bought Melvyn Hiscocks book either, I guess I just have the "throw the directions away first" mentality real bad, haha!
  17. Mmmmmm....IGES files. The bane of my existence...but, the only decent way to convert from Vellum3D to Mastercam...so yeah, works good.

    For your sculpting transitions, use a bowl bit (corebox) to get nice, smooth, radiused transitions. Even if you just dissect the depths of your sculpts in 1/8th inch increments, the sanding stages will be more exacting and erasier to finish...sanding just takes forever. I did the belly cut on the back of my T-bird that way, and it came out really sweet.
  18. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Question- have you laid out the height of strings over FB vs. nut height vs. pickup heights vs. neck angle vs. bridge height aspects properly? It just looks in your first CAD pic like it may be off.
  19. how about adding fish scale carving all over the body?
    I think that'll be cool!
  20. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Cool stuff guys, nice to be meeting all of you here.

    As for carving the scales, nah I don't think so. On a real bass they are so flat you can't really see them while the fish is wet, so anything carved would be grossly exaggerated so I'll go for he wood figure as my fish skin texture flavor :D

    As for string height, I'm just going to play that one by ear. I'll put the fingerboard on, then rout the pickup sockets to bring the pickups flush with the FB or slightly low so I can put foam under them. Finally I will make my bridge saddles to suit. I'm planning on one piece ball holder/saddles to be inlet into the body surface to allow for shimming if needed later on. For the time being, I can cut replacement saddles as needed to adjust for height and intonation.

    I usually like a bull end mill for aluminum and will probably use a square end mill on the wood since it sands out so easily and the square end creates less tool pressure. I would make my tool climb up and down the surfaces with stepovers of about .08" for this project and pencil trace the pectoral fin outline to body fillet with a ball end mill. That would leave next to nothing to sand out.