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Wood dimensions for a custom top

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jerry J, Sep 18, 2002.

  1. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    I am thinking about having a custom bass built but I would prefer to supply the wood for the top and the finger board.

    - What is the typical thickness necessary for the top wood? (I'm looking at a piece that is 3/8" x 14" x 21").

    - What would be the width, length and thickness for for the fingerboard?

    - What would be the best way to store the wood, so that it doesn't split or crack, for future use?

    Thank you for any assistance or suggestions.
  2. Carey


    Jan 18, 2002
    Redlands, CA
    Hi Jerry,
    The top wood you found looks like it should be enough. 3/8" should be plenty thick. Are you going with a one piece top? I usually buy my wood with a minimum width of 7.25". Then I resaw it for a nice bookmatch. 21" long should be enough for most body designs.
    The required fingerboard width depends on how many strings you're going to want. My 4 sting boards are a minimun of 2.5" wide. To give the builder a little to work with I'd go 3". My 5 strings start out at 3.25". A 6 could need a good 4" to start. Length needs to be about 26" for a 24 fret 34" scale neck. A minimum of 1/4" thickness would be ok for a four string, but the wider the board the more thickness you'd need to be able to deal with the radius so it doesn't look too thin at the edge.
    I usually wrap new wood in plactic bags. I tape it up good and then use a razor blade to cut little holes here and there. Maybe one every 6" or so. This allows the bag to breathe a little so the wood can acclimatize itself slowly. Rapid changes in humidity can cause big problems and this method slows down and smoothes out those changes. Store it in a cool, dry, dark place. This method has worked very well for me.
    Good luck!
  3. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR

    Thank you very much for the breakdown on the dimensions and the care of the wood storage. You were very thorough and aptly covered all the bases.

    One of the places that I was looking at for a wood top has already bookmatched the wood so the 3/8" should be the final thickness. It looks like they also plane the top for a fairly smooth finish so all that would be needed would be laminating, shaping, carving and final sanding.

    I appreciate that you gave me the numbers for the fingerboard as I'm planing on a 5 string, 35" scale. I will plan accordingly to make sure there is more than enough wood.

    I really appreciate your time here, Corey. Thank you again.

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