Tuesday, 28 September 2010

New Bass in Progress pt.8

To radius the fingerboard, I made a block from off-cut Ash which I cut very accurately so that I can attach coarse abrasive paper to the underside to create the required radius. I decided on this instrument to create a more rounded 7.5" radius as used on early Fender Basses. The amount of radius, or curve is a matter of personal preference, but like the feel of a rounded fingerboard. There are pros and cons with the fingerboard radius - the rounder it is, the more the notes can choke if you bend the strings past a certain point, but in general is more comfortable. Whereas a flatter profile lets you have a slightly lower action, but may not feel as natural in a fretting position. One is not necessarily better than the other - just personal taste and playing style.
An addition to the fretboard jig are the parallel rails either side of the block to ensure that the radius curve is always consistent along the entire length of the fingerboard, so that block cannot slip during profiling.

New Bass in Progress pt.7

The fingerboard is made of Wenge, which is a very hard material with a pronounced grain pattern. A centre line is marked with white pencil and will serve as the basis of all other measurements. The size at the nut will be 40mm and 60mm at the heel. I built a fingerboard jig so that all fret positions will be exactly straight relative to each other. This is a very simple jig, but cut accurately and extremely useful.

New Bass in Progress pt.6

I decided to use only one pick-up on this bass. I had two Jazz Bass style pick-ups that I hadn't used yet - EMG and a Seymour Duncan, and decided to use the later. The pick-up, I believe, should reflect the structure and tone of the instrument, rather than create a false layer of tone masking the underlying true nature of the wood combination. I decided to encase the pick-up with wooden veneers - it will not affect the sound as the top veneer is .6mm - which is more than enough to let the elctro-magnetic field pass.

New bass in Progress pt.5

Once the body sides and the centre core are glued, its time to glue all three sections together for final shaping. After 24 hours or so, the clamps are removed and the rough shape is cut on the band saw. After cutting, its a long process to smooth the edges as the band saw can be quite rough on the curved sections. The second image shows the neck and body before carving. The neck still has masking tape over the surface - I find this a useful guide when I'm shaping the neck so that I don't take off too much material, as pencil lines are difficult to see on Walnut.

New Bass in Progress pt.4

The body is to be made of English Beech with American Black Walnut. These will create the 'sides' of the Bass along with a centre core of Honduras Mahogany and Walnut also. The woods have been selected to compliment each other in tone and also from a cosmetic perspective. Therefore the front of the instrument will have darker, rich woods, whereas the back will have a lighter softer colouration.
The second image shows the routered channel for the pick-up wires. I found this to be much more effective at the gluing stage rather than drilling the worm hole when the body is completed. The wires are fed down the channel straight into the control cavity so that maintenance or changing the pick-up should be a straight forward affair down the line.

New Bass in Progress pt.3

Here is the scarf joint for the head-stock to the neck. Again, since this Bass was intended to be built by trying new methods, this was a major change from what I've previously done. Historically, the neck and head-stock are the same piece of wood. This creates quite a lot of waste material as the bottom section on the neck is discarded in order for the head-stock angle. This seems very wasteful, but more importantly, you encounter something called 'short grain'. Short grain is when you cut an angle across the straight grain direction thus, weakening the inherent strength in the wood. I have heard countless stories of head-stocks breaking or snapping due to this. Since you need a fairly good angle (between 13-15 degrees) for string tension at the nut, I decided on the classical method by scarf joint. Tricky to glue-up, but should give a far stronger joint.

New Bass in Progress pt.2

Once the neck is planed and squared straight after gluing, the next step was to create a scarf joint for the head-stock and then to router a channel for the truss rod. In the past, I used a Martin style truss rod, which is basically a steel rod encased in an Aluminium box, which can add extra stiffness, but the downside is that its only one-way tensioning. On occasion, it may be the case where you need to have the neck bowing in the other direction, but ultimately, it means you have far more control with a two-way truss rod.

New Bass in Progress pt.1

The first Bass to be made in my new workshop. This is Eve bass No. 1. It all begins with the neck construction. I decided that since this was the first new instrument made in the new workshop, I would try some new construction techniques that I've came across over the years, but never actually tried. It all starts with creating the spliced neck for added strength and rigidity. The centre and outer strips are American Black Walnut with Rock Maple either side. This adds functionality, as well as cosmetic value.