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Warmoth G4 SSB Build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by davegardner0, May 29, 2017.

  1. davegardner0


    Mar 27, 2016
    I built a Warmoth bass recently, so I thought I'd share my build process with you all. The request for this bass came from a female bass player friend of mine, so the goal was something short-scale and as lightweight as possible. The G4 SSB seemed to fit the bill.

    The start of something fun!!

    Here's the starting point, right out of the box. The body is alder (chosen for weight), and I paid the extra surcharge to get Warmoth to hand-select the lightest piece of wood they had. The neck is from the showcase, pretty standard maple but picked because it has the prettiest fretboard grain pattern of the necks available.

    I really like the headstock shape!

    The neck arrived with pretty squared-off edges, so I got out my triangular file (with the edges ground off) and rolled the fretboard edges slightly.

    Looking good now!

    I'm using a 5-knob Bartolini NTMB+ preamp, so the next task was to locate the knobs and drill the holes for the pot shafts. I chose to arrange the knobs in two straight lines, a line of 3 knobs and a line of 2. The master volume will be closest to the neck, with blend just behind it. The lower line of 2 knobs are the treble and mid controls, with the bass control at the back.

    A forstner bit made nice holes, although I measured the pot shaft diameter wrong and did end up enlarging the holes with my Dremel after finishing the body.

    After fine-sanding the body I wiped it down with some Naphtha to check for any scratches/sanding errors. It also is a good chance to see what the grain will look like after the body is finished. I usually don't think of alder for a transparent finish, but this body has pretty nice grain!
  2. davegardner0


    Mar 27, 2016
    The body will have a purpleburst finish, and I'm using aniline dyes applied as a stain directly onto the wood. The stain is extremely simple, just dye powder mixed with water and/or isopropyl alcohol. After application the water and alcohol evaporate, leaving the dye powder sitting directly on the wood. The clear finish over the top seals in the stain and protects the wood.
    The first step was to mix up my colors. I started with single drops on some scrap wood, then moved to bigger sections. The dye changes colors dramatically as it dries which made pinning down the exact color kind of hard.

    Applying the stain to the top and bottom of the body. The purple color is simply wiped on.

    Here the stain is about half-dry.

    Now it's all dry. Isn't it crazy how much the color changes??

    The next step is to wipe black stain onto the sides in preparation for spraying the burst pattern.


    And now for the terrifying part: spraying on the burst with an airbrush. There is definitely no margin for error here, but I think it came out pretty well!
  3. davegardner0


    Mar 27, 2016
    The body and neck are then sealed with some spray-can shellac. I'll be doing a hand-rubbed french polish finish on this instrument, but I can't rub shellac directly onto the stain as it'll cause the stain to run and smear. So this sprayed-on layer of shellac serves as a barrier to seal in the stain. I'll build it up with several thin coats.

    The body is pretty bumpy after spraying, which will need to be leveled through french polishing sessions and wet sanding.

    After one polishing session things are already starting to smooth out. But, polishing can only flatten things out to a limited extent. To get things really level I'll build up thickness through more french polishing sessions, and then wet sand to take down the high spots.

    The neck is also being finished in the same way at this point. The only differences are that (a) I didn't have to spray very much shellac at all before polishing (actually I didn't HAVE to spray any) so therefore the finish starts off a lot smoother, and (b) Maple builds a finish quickly so the neck will be finished way before the body. The only hiccup is that it's hard to get my polishing pad in between the higher frets, so the finish won't be super shiny up there on the fretboard. Luckily I sprayed a bit thicker on the fretboard so I don't have to worry too much about the finish being too thin.

    After another session, things are getting smoother and more shiny.

    Wet sanding is another terrifying part of the process because it would be very easy to sand through the stain. The stain is virtually impossible to repair because of the burst, so I'll go slowly.

    Here's what they (dry) surface looks like after sanding. You can see that all of the high spots have been sanded while the low spots are untouched. From here it's an iterative process - several polishing sessions followed by sanding as the body gradually becomes more level. Eventually all parts of the surface are touched while sanding, which indicates that the surface is level.

    Eventually the surface is level. then I can do a few more polishing sessions with more alcohol and less shellac to get the surface extra smooth and shiny. It's looking good!!

    The shellac will remain soft at first, and will gradually harden over a few months. So I need to be extra careful to not ding anything during installation. Of course this instrument is handmade so I can promise it's not perfect like it appears in photos.
  4. davegardner0


    Mar 27, 2016
    And it's done!! Time for some beauty shots!


    Here's the custom headstock decal I mentioned. The top logo is 3 bass clefs arranged in a circle, and the middle of the headstock logo is an integral sign (the bass player I'm building this for is a math nerd :) ). The decals were printed drawn in vector art software and printed onto waterslide decal paper. I french polished the front of the headstock to a nice shine, then applied the decals, then sprayed shellac over the top, then repeated the french polishing process to bury the decals under the finish.


    Full photoshoot:
    Warmoth G4 SSB Bass Build

    Bigger Build Pics:

    Here are the final specs:

    Body - Alder Warmoth G4 SSB
    Neck - Maple Warmoth SSB 30" Scale
    Finish - French Polished Shellac over Aniline Dye Purple Burst
    Headstock - Custom Designed Decal
    Electronics - Bartolini Classic Bass BC Size Pickups with NTMB+ Preamp
    Bridge - Gotoh 201 High Mass
    Tuners - Hipshot Ultralight
    Nut - White TUSQ XL
    Strings - D'Addario Half Rounds

    New - Video Demo!!
    **Warning - Guitar player pretending he knows how to play bass content below :) **

    I'm playing straight into a Gallien-Krueger 1001RB-II amp and a Fender 810 PRO cab (with the crossover and tweeter taken out of the circuit). The bass has D'Addario Half-Round strings, Bartolini BC4CBC pickups, and a 3-band NTMB+ preamp, which I've demoed at a few different settings. This was recorded with the onboard mics in my Samsung Galaxy S6 so imagine a little more bass than you hear here, although the sound is surprising accurate. :)

    Here are the preamp settings I used for each song. The amp was set flat across the board:
    I'm Your Captain - Blend in center (both pickups), flat eq.
    Badge - Neck pickup soloed, flat eq.
    Bouree - Bridge pickup soloed, bass knob up a little, otherwise flat.
    Carry On Wayward Son (with pick) - Blend in center, treble turned up to 75%, mid and bass flat.
    Funk 49 - Blend in center, flat eq.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
    Rafar, RodRy, Protagonist and 26 others like this.
  5. tbrannon


    Jun 11, 2006
    Love that finish
    davegardner0, rwkeating and Low84 like this.
  6. Woofer


    Sep 24, 2008
    Awesome work, that bass looks killer!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  7. nonohmic

    nonohmic Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    Awesome. How big was the side jack hole?
    davegardner0 likes this.
  8. Excellent job!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  9. Great Job.. She's a beauty!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  10. Wesley R

    Wesley R Gold Supporting Member

    A cross between spectacular and phenomenal
    davegardner0 likes this.
  11. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    Beautiful bass. Nice finish, I've tried French polishing but it didn't came out as nice as yours. Well done!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  12. Low8

    Low8 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Love the color! Nice work out of you!!!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  13. Very nice!! Love the purpleburst!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  14. BRAVO !
    davegardner0 likes this.
  15. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Did you mean to say that you used the G4 Short Scale body? Or did you use an actual G4 (34" scale model) and adjust the bridge position accordingly?

    Looks great. The finish came out really nice.
    davegardner0 likes this.
  16. PDGood


    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Gorgeous bass.
    davegardner0 likes this.
  17. V70R


    Oct 2, 2016
    Seattle, WA
    Wow, awesome man!
    davegardner0 likes this.
  18. Bassmantd


    Aug 1, 2015
    That looks really nice bro.
    davegardner0 likes this.
  19. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Nice work. I have never tried a burst finish but understand they can be VERY hard to do well. Yours looks great. I like your headstock markings too.

    When I clicked on the thread I was hoping to see a single cut G4 because I'm thinking about doing one (with the same neck type you used). The double cutaway is a much more practical choice for avoiding neck dive, but I like the looks of the single cut.
    davegardner0 likes this.
  20. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    Cool build.
    davegardner0 likes this.
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