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Winter Build-off 2018: It had to be walnut...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Big B., Jan 4, 2018.

  1. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Oh man, here I was minding my own business, actually making progress on things I should be working on, and you guys have to do this to me. I've managed to amass a pretty significant pile of cool cuts of walnut over the past 3 years and this is just too much temptation to resist.:cool:

    The stock I'll be using for this build has a really tight curl on the flatsawn face and the quartersawn edges have a fantastic beeswing figure that I've seen in mahogany before but never in walnut.

    These are all cuts from a single 12/4 board.


    Right now the blanks are 3" thick. I'm not sure yet exactly what I'm going to make, either set neck or neck through body. I've considered making an 8 string bass (single course) just because I've never seen one in person. I'd also like to have a 10 string (double course) but I've never found a decent bridge to accommodate that setup. If anyone is aware of something I'd love to hear about it. Who knows, I might do something really shocking and make a 4 string. :nailbiting:

    Whatever it turns out to be the body will be my double cut design.


    I'm thinking a bookmatched 2 piece neck, a solid body if I can make the thickness work out the way I would like and perhaps a black ebony fingerboard to tie it all together.

    I'll figure out pickups and electronics as we go and hopefully life will be kind and let me squeeze this build in with everything else I need to do.

    Until next we meet.:bassist:
  2. Oh yah! I was hoping you would join in!

    That walnut sure is pretty, it's cool that you'll likely be using it all from one board!

    Big B. likes this.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    It's good to hear from you again, Big B!
  4. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Always pleased to hear there is another BigB build in the works
    krimo likes this.
  5. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Ooh, the plot has thickened! Can't wait to see another Big B build either. :)

    That has got to be some of the most striking walnut I've ever laid eyes on. Some of the builds here have some stunning woods... :thumbsup:
    Fat Freddy and IconBasser like this.
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I think that Whackadoodle Basses would make an excellent brand name.
  7. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Thanks Bruce. I'm a slacker when it comes to posting these days but I just can't resist the call of walnut. I've spent the last 2 years at my day job working almost exclusively with walnut so not only do I feel at home working with it, I've also managed to stash away some nice drops. :cool:
  8. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    This build off snuck up on me but I've spent the last couple days plotting and a plan is starting to take shape. I've always wanted a 10 string bass (B,E,A,D,G with octave strings) but I've never been able find an appropriate bridge. Since frets tend to complicate intonation I decided to just make a fretless. The bridge is still the main working point of this build and perhaps I can find a pre made made bridge. If not, I can carve a wooden bridge and go from there. I've also decided to go neck through on this bass. I've been gravitating lately toward set neck construction but I feel like the added tension of the octave strings will be better served with through body construction.

    So to narrow down our specs,

    - 10 string bass tuned B,E,A,D,G with higher octave strings.

    - two piece walnut neck, thru body construction.

    - Dymondwood fingerboard, scale length tbd.

    - Matching walnut body wings.

    - Bridge and hardware tbd.

    I still have lots of design decisions to make but we'll start first with the neck blank.

    We start with a board that is 6" wide, 54" long and 3" thick. Going to the bandsaw we'll cut out 2 blanks, 2 3/8 wide.


    Setting aside the small drop we'll mill our 2 blanks square and then use a wide belt sander to give us a great gluing surface. I work as a woodworker during the day and I think it will be obvious whether the pictures are from the shop or from my garage. (Hint: the 3 head wide belt sander isn't in my garage)


    With our blanks trued up we can arrange the 2 bookmatched blanks and then apply glue to both surfaces with a foam roller and then clamp along the length.



    I find the mini foam paint rollers leave just enough glue to get squeeze out along the length of the joint. You can come back before the glue is completely hardened and trim the excess off with a chisel.

    Once the glue is dry we mill our blank flat using the jointer and planer, and finally get a look at our neck.

    Not bad.


    That's what I've got so far. Now I have to brainstorm the body wings and see what I can come up with.

    Until next time.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
  9. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA

    Good gravy I love your builds.
  10. IconBasser

    IconBasser Scuba Viking Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Fontana, California
    A fretless 10 string? I've never heard of such a thing before. This is gonna be awesome!
    Beej likes this.
  11. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    So here we are trying to decide how to make these body wings and we're faced with a choice between prudence and decadence.

    First we take the two 3" thick body blanks and using the bandsaw we'll resaw them down to 1 7/8" thick. The 1" thick drops we'll set aside for other tops in the future. Both of the body blanks and the neck blank have been sanded and I rubbed on a light coat of oil to show the grain. It's interesting how the same board can look different depending which direction you cut it. The quarter sawn grain of the neck blank is noticeably lighter than the flatsawn faces of the body blanks.


    And here's where I'm torn.

    My little walnut angel on my right shoulder is saying that these two thick blanks could be resawn into 4 different stunning top sets. We could use the nicest top set, and even a matching back set, for our body wings and I've got plenty of other cool walnut to make the core from.

    And then we have our little walnut devil. Little walnut devil says go full Stuart Spector and just make solid body wings and blow though all of this gorgeous walnut. We'd have a bass that's entirely made from the same board and with a minimum of cuts but at the cost of losing tops for 2 or 3 other future basses and the acceptance that we are gluttonous pigs.

    Here I am asking the internet to help arbitrate a decision between reasoned restraint and gluttony... you guys are reasoned and restrained right?
  12. b3e


    Sep 5, 2017
    Warsaw, Poland
    What I am always thinking - that wood took decades to grow that big and beautiful, let's make the best use of it. Meaning that, I would resaw it further into other tops. But that's me ;) anyways it'll end up being a beautiful top!
    Beej likes this.
  13. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I'd go resaw into tops and backs too, that stuff is utterly stunning...
    reverendrally and Gilmourisgod like this.
  14. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Resaw it! Multiply the goodness!
    IconBasser likes this.
  15. Frederiek


    Aug 8, 2016
    I'm all for extremely efficient use of pretty wood :) I keep even the tinyest of offcuts for future use and I'm often glad I did!

    And wow, it is gorgeous.
  16. I went through this dilemma on my recent build. I opted for keeping it whole and making a thick top. It was wasteful, I guess, but I like the way the thick top looks.
  17. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    And here I was secretly hoping for excess... ;)

    Ultimately I decided for purgatory instead, so we'll set one of the two blanks aside for later. We'll take the remaining blank and resaw it on the bandsaw.


    Anytime I resaw a bookmatched set I always make an indexing mark on the end of the two boards.

    This makes sure that you always keep the matched faces together. Next we'll run our two pieces through the wide belt sander and surface them down to maybe a 64th over 3/4 of an inch. The tiny bit of extra thickness accounts for all the sanding that will come later.


    Once we finish thicknessing our blanks we can get a look at our match.


    Having a decent gut I like a bass with a low profile so my standard thickness is 1 1/2. With our 3/4" top we'll add 3/4" back to get to our final thickness. I wanted to use a less figured blank from the same board but there were too many defects in the wood that just won't fit the the look I'm going for. Instead I pulled a board with a nice wide flame that I think will make a nice contrast against the tight figure of the top and neck blank.


    We'll take these blanks down to 1 1/4" inch before we glue them to the top. The extra material will be sawn off later and used to make grain matched cover plates.

    Using our foam roller we'll spread an even layer of glue and clamp the blanks together.


    I always like to clamp wide, face glued joints against a flat surface so what could be better than the jointer table?


    And now we remove our clamps and we have the makings of two body wings.


    I'm waffling on whether to make this a fretted or fretless bass. I've got two fingerboards that I've picked out depending on which direction I decide to go. We've got a solid black gaboon ebony board that I've already slotted at 35" scale and a Dymondwood board if we go fretless.


    After sanding the Dymondwood is not quite so dark but still looks quite nice against walnut.

    So that's where we are now. Next time we'll take a look at the neck blank, so until then... :bassist:
  18. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    Looks fantastic
  19. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    So the good news is I've spoken to Hipshot and I've got a 10 string A-type bridge in the works. Unfortunately until I have the bridge in hand there are some crucial measurements that can't be taken that are holding up my final layout. In the meantime I'm prepping other parts of the bass so that when the bridge arrives I can move ahead as quickly as possible.

    The first step is gluing the carbon fiber rods into the neck blank. Using the router table and a 1/8" bit we route two channels 3/16" away from each edge of where the truss rod slot will be. Once the slots are routed we'll use a block covered with clear packing tape to clamp the rods in with epoxy.


    You can see a nice little boo-boo right around the 3rd fret where I let the blank walk on the table but fortunately it was in the first pass so is only about 1/8" deep. It gets filled with epoxy and nobody but us will ever know. Right?... :D


    You'll notice that the slots go all the way through the break angle and continue out into the headstock. I'm not a fan of volutes on necks so I let the carbon fiber rods add some extra strength since the neck is thinnest at the point that the grain changes direction. Later on these rods will be hidden behind a faceplate veneer on the headstock.

    Once the epoxy is dry we can use a scraper to remove the excess epoxy and then we'll make one pass on the jointer to clean up the face. A flush cut saw removes the ends of the rods sticking out of the slots and they are scraped and block sanded flat to the face.


    Since our blank is still a big block, it's safe to expect that when we cutaway the excess material from the back of the neck that there could be some reactionary movement in the wood. When we make that cut we'll let the blank sit for a couple days to reacclimate and then we'll surface the front face flat and route in the truss rod slot. If we route the truss rod slot now we'll be paddling up a certain unpleasant creek with our bare hands if the neck moves after we rough profile it.

    So, that's where we are for now. It's been slow going so far but I expect in the next couple of weeks things will ramp up quite a bit as our bridge arrives and we close in in the deadline.

    As always, thanks for following along and until we meet again... :bassist:
  20. That's some impressive wood, wow.

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