Winter Build Off 2018 - 54 P bass inspired 5 String

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by GMC, Dec 21, 2017.

  1. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    I'm venturing into the Winter Build off 2018 frey with my wish to build my take / variation on a classic Leo bass...the 54 P bass. Although my variant will be a 5 string, using modern bridges and tuners. I'm hoping to retain the classic '54 tone. So flat wound strings will be the order of the day.
    The trick (in my opinion) about making a modern variant of a classic is which bits to update and which bits to keep retro / vintage.
    I've started with a MDF body shape template. I started making a 51P shape, then I made a 2nd MDF template but widened the body to accommodate a 5 string neck and moved the lower horn back a tad to accommodate a 2 octave neck.
    Woods...well as trad as possible, maple fret board is essential for the look. A maple and walnut neck laminate would be my variation and I'll be looking for some alder or light ash for the body. Bolt on with 6 bolts and a 3+2 head stock. As much as I'm a fan of the original head stock...5 in a line just isn't my style. So The head stock will look to a later Leo design for inspiration...3+2.
    Pickups, I'm hoping for a Nordstrand 51 hum-cancelling single coil pickup and I may pair it with a quad coil MM at the bridge just for some versatility. I'm thinking of keeping this bass passive.
    Here's a shot of the 4 string 51P body shape:
    _W5A1984.jpg
    Hipshot B style chrome bridge in 18mm (with through body stringing) and chrome clover Ultralites for tuners.
    Classic control plate, but all the other routes will be as neat as possible as I'm not sure on choosing a fancy top plate yet...or going metallic.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
  2. Not to be a downer on your wood choices, but to compete you'll need walnut for the body too....

    -Jake
     
  3. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Ok Jake...that's a pretty lame set of rules. Dictating the wood choices. Ok...I'll look for some walnut for the body. Sorry I didn't read the rules more clearly. Walnut isn't as easy to find in the the UK as it is in the US of A and it's a lot heavier than Alder or Ash. Maybe I'll need to rout out some mass reduction holes!
    I'm just not so sure it's the best wood choice for my bass plan.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  4. bassman74

    bassman74

    Jan 2, 2007
    Montreal
    Just make your pickguard out of walnut.
     
    GMC likes this.
  5. It`s a pretty specific set of rules. Just wanted to let you know before you got too far. For some builds walnut probably isn`t right for the body. I`m planning on chambering mine pretty heavily to loose some body weight. I do like your idea, and I`ll follow along with your build regardless :thumbsup:
     
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  6. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Ok, this bass really needs to be built from non walnut wood sources for it to retain it's inspiration from a 51/54 vintage fender P basses. So I'm happy for this bass to be included in the winter build off list, but not apart of the over all completion.

    After concluding my Christmas and new year festivities...and recovering from a prolonged bout of man-flu...I think I'm ready to actually make a serious start on this project.

    I've completed the 5 string body routing template and a new 3+2 headstock routing template. Photos to follow.
    The Alder has arrived for the body wood. The Wilkinson 5 string Bridge has arrived and the Hipshot ultra lite tuners should arrive middle of next week. The pick up (Nordstrand 5 string 51 stacked Alnico V) will get ordered early next week too.
    I have some maple and walnut in stock for the neck. I'm thinking of making a maple / walnut laminate with a flat sawn maple fingerboard. I'm also considering making this a 33' scale length too.
    I've sourced a great Vinyl wrap for this project too, but more of that laters. I need to chat to a local a local car body restorers to see if they will do a pale pink sunburst to blend in the vinyl and cover with a few coats of top coat for me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
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  7. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    First photo: The MDF body template. It's a modified 54P, in this case, slightly wider with a wider neck pocket to accept a 5 string neck. I've also moved the lower horn back a tad and deepened the lower cut to help with access to the upper frets and work with a 2 octave neck.
    _W5A2090.jpg
    Next photo shows the two Alder body halves. Planed and sized, ready to be joined.
    _W5A2092.jpg
     
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  8. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Next is a photo showing the Wilkinson 5 string bridge and a few neck bolts that have arrived.
    _W5A2097.jpg
    Here's a photo of the two alder body halves with the template shape drawn around it.
    _W5A2093.jpg
     
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  9. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Here's an image of the new 5 string headstock design I've come up with. It's a variation on the 3+2 headstock, but it's a lot smaller and hopefully lighter too.
    _W5A2102.jpg
     
  10. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Can you send the elves that clean your shop over to mine now and again?

    I like the headstock refinement


    What's that in the window? Is that an Opel GT or a Datsun 240Z? Something even better?
     
  11. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    You should see the state of the place after I made my DIY pedalboard....lol...I think I have a few hours of cleaning and putting away tomorrow morning.
    Here's what's been distracting me this past few weeks:
    My DIY Pedalboard

    Thanks about the headstock comment. The big 5 in a line just doesn't do it for me. I know it's more authentic looking, but it's so big and bulky. So I'm hoping my new design is slightly fresher and a lot smaller / neater. Hopefully lighter and better balancing too. I'm hoping it still retains enough "Leo" to carry the bass.
     
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  12. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    It's a Fiat X1/9, I used to have a flame orange 1500cc, many many years ago!
     
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  13. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Great cars! Absolutely loved my ex-wife’s ‘82 model with fuel injection. Except when it came time to replace the speedometer cable. Which was every four months or so.
     
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  14. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Yep...and drive shaft bolts that dropped out every 4K miles. I had a jack, 6mm long allen wench and a set of axle stands in the boot for that very job...ah...Italian cars from the 80's....
     
  15. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Well...after a long bout of flu and a pedal board build distraction, I have some free time to progress with this build. I started today by ordering the Nordstrand 5 string 51 P pickup, the hum cancelling version and a set of chrome Hipshot ultra lite clover tuners for it. Unfortunately, the pickup is a special order and I'll have to wait 2-3 weeks for delivery. But that leaves me a bit of time to start gluing the body halves together and maybe make a start with the neck laminates.
     
  16. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    I thought I'd make use of my time by making a neck template using some 19mm MDF. This is the first non titled back headstock, so it seems to make sense to make a neck template that includes the headstock shape. I've chosen a variation on the MusicMan / G&L theme: 3+2 tuners. But I've also shrunk the headstock somewhat to prevent neck dive and lower the over all headstock mass. The 4 in a line or 4+1 just looks overly bulky to my sensibilities.
    I also selected some neck laminates for the neck blank. I'm actually building another bass straight after this one, a short scale 6 string headless. So I'll be using the same billet for both necks.

    As much as I want to stick to the authentic "Leo" tone woods....the neck is the one area I think I can vary the theme and add a little of my own sparkle to the mix. In this case, I'm using a 3/4" Padouk core with 1/2" Purpleheart either side, sandwiched between 1" Wenge on either side. The stock is slightly oversized, so this makes a 3 3/4" neck billet. With nice and dark timbers. So from the front, it will look very trad, except for the heastock. The fingerboard will need to be maple to retain that early Fender 54P look, so I think the contrast between the wenge and maple will look quite nice.

    _W5A2325.jpg
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    _W5A2333.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
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  17. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Good choice on the headstock! Leo-style headstock are typically larger and bulkier than necessary.
     
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  18. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    I popped the rough rip sawn neck laminates through my thicknesser. It's astonishing how much chippings this generates, how much time setting the unit up and clearing table space for the long lengths on either side of the thicknesser. I have a large extractor with 100mm inlets...and this clogged up 3 or 4 times. It's noisy and certainly needs ear defenders too. Sorry, but no photos of the wood going through the thicknesser this time. Holding a camera with one hand, a lot of dust in the air and passing the timber through the machine...that's asking for trouble. But it's now done and the surfaces are looking very sharp and clean. Next step will be to glue these laminates together. I'm loving the smell of the Paduak....easily the nicest aroma from exotic timbers. The colour contrast between the timbers is really nice too.
    _W5A2339.jpg

    _W5A2344.jpg

    _W5A2343.jpg

    _W5A2345.jpg
     
  19. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    The hipshot ultra lite clover tuners and 5 string Nordy pickup have arrived. Photos tomorrow :D
     
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  20. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    Today, I did a dry clamp of the neck laminates to see how they sit together. I also hammered in small 2 way panel nails between each laminate at each end to prevent slippage once the glue is applied.
    _W5A2370.jpg
    _W5A2371.jpg
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