After moving home 4 times over the last year, I've been living in Deal for the last 10 months. I have a small amount of shed space where I can so my weight lifting and hopefully do some wood work. It's not an easy space to work in as it is quite small and most of my time is spent moving stuff around or looking for things in cardboard boxes. But this will have to suffice until I have my own place with a workshop again. While I have a plan to make a 50's retro style bass, I thought I'd re-start my bass making with the conclusion to my 7 string headless head piece. I was so frustrated when it snapped off as I only had a few days before I was to move out of my home. I've designed a few ideas to fix it and I think I have it nailed this time!
The bass that I have on my mind is a 5 string single coil P bass, that may become headless. It'll be strung wiht a high C and with flat wound strings. I'm thinking that I will want amybe two single coil P bass pickups or maybe a Music man in the bridge position to make a versatile P/MM bass. The MM could easily be coil tapped to add a lot of variety to the sound. I think an MM will pair well with a MM. I could go crazy and fit a pair of jazzes, a split P and a single coil P. That would be wild and cover a lot of flat would sounds. I really like the telecaster / ASAT body shape and being headless...would sort out the inevitable neck dive / balance issues that that type of bass has. The bass with have a painted alder body, probably a wenge neck and wenge finger board. Hipshot hardware and maybe a photo decal under the laquer. Maybe a pink paisley? That would look very nice! There a lot of detail to iron out and I have no way of funding said bass at the moment, although I do have all of the necessary timbers in stock.
It'd been a wild year
I managed to fashion a new lined fretless fingerboard for my 7 string headless bass. But the issues with the top head piece is still causing me a lot of problems. I added about an inch and a half to the end of the neck but I didn't realise just how much tension that head piece was under with 7 long scale bass strings. It snapped right off quite quickly....so much for titebond beinf stronger than the wood itself! Lol! So unitl I have a workshop again...this bass is on ice...which is a pity because I just love it's tone. It's one of the nicest basses I've heard period.
This year most of my bass making aspiration have come to a sudden halt as my life came to a dramatic and unexpected change of circumstances. Due to series of events which included ill health and battling a very un-amicable divorce I found myself fleeing my home in Swindon with very short notice. Much of my possession I managed to put into storage before I left. But that means all of my wood work machinery and my wood stock are in a self serve storage hold for the foreseable future. Certainly until I am fit for work again after a breakdown in Febuary. I'm currently living in Deal in Kent again (after 12 long years) and it's great to be back in my home town again. I'm told that I probably wont be back in full time work until the new year, so I doubt that I'll have my workshop back up and running until some time in 2017. At the moment, I have no idea where that will be. Deal, Swindon or even London. Who knows!
Some thoughts on my bass building process.
Every bass that I build
starts it's life as a concept. An idea or a design. Each one is intended
to fulfill a specific purpose in music style of application. I have
a specific role or job that I need this instrument to do.
In a similar way, we have been built by God for a specific purpose in life and we will only be fully satisfied if we meet His desire and intention for our lives. We are not a random collection of cells and skills. He built each one us for a purpose and a reason. When Fender makes each bass neck, they are made to 1/1000th of an inch acuracy and each one is essentialy the same. Identical and mass produced. When God creates, every thing is unique and individual. No two are the same. Unlike Fender, each one fits a specific purpose and are not generic.
Jeremiah 1:5 God states to the prophet
In life we can pursue the things that
we think will make us the most happy. The world likes to fill our hearts
with desires and goals. But in reality, the things that will make us
the most happy or satisfied are to do the things which we were created
God has a general plan for our life,
firstly to love Him and turn from or Sins. Everyone has fallen short
of the mark and we need to acknowledge that. The second is to accept
His only Son, Jesus into our lives and live as one of his Disciples.
I've re-assembled my wew six string bass. The lacquer is still a little too soft to bring to a high shine and there's still a bit of flatting back to do. The control cavity cover needs sorting out and attaching too. But it's just so nice to play, it's hard to find the time to rip it all apart again. In the mean time, I'm finally getting around to making a new fingerboard for my 7 string headless bass. I took the decision that it will remain fretless. But this time around, I'm going to take my time with the board and get it right. Macassan Striped Ebony with fret lines will look amazing, while providing the very best in string wear resistance.
My new six string is in pieces at the moment....I'm lacquering it. It's going to be out of action for a further 3-4 weeks as the many layers of lacquer have to be applied to each surface and then left to harden for several weeks. Then it'll need flattening back before final buffing and polishing takes place. In the mean time, it's about time I started to work out what I want to build or repair next. It's tempting to make the fingerboard for my 7 string headless. But I would use this bass more if it was fretted. So I might make it fretted while I am making the new fingerboard. It would be great to get this bass back in action again. Hmm I wonder if I can be bothered to fit LED's in the dot markers again.
It's great to have my new six string playable, it's been a hard slog to get to this point. It will unfortunately need dissasembling for the laquering process. So It's time to plan out my next bass project. I have four basses on my mind at the moment. A headless Sixer design which I am really keen to start but I've just done a sixer and so a different challenge next. Another idea I have is a simple hollow body Ricky 365 bass...a Ricky that never was. I have most of the wood in stock, but I'll need to source the hardware. This bass would be very different to anything I already have and I'll prolly fit flat wounds on it for that retro '50's sound. Another project on my mind is an uber-P/MM bass. I seem to be getting very vintage / traditional in my bass ideas of late. I fancy making a 4 or 5 string with a bolt on 2 octave neck. Three piece maple and walnut neck and rosewood fingerboard. I want to use a telecaster body outline. Rear routed and a deep set neck. I want to use a vintage toned P bass pickup placed in the exact P bass spot (most P/J's move the front pickup back too far). A carefully selected Music Man bridge pickup which can be coil tapped for Jazz / single or MM tones. I can't put that PU in the MM sweet spot, but this is primarily a P bass. I'll probably be looking for an ash or alder body and maybe a fancy cap for it....in fact I have a rather nice flamed maple top which I was keeping for a Jazz bass I was pondering some years back. I'm in no rush with these three bass ideas...and I still have to find time to replace the fingerboard on my 7 string headless.
I had a long wait for the hardware for my 6 string bolt on to arrive. I went for a pair of Nordstrand dual blades and my usual hard ware choice of Hipshot bridge and tuners. There's been a lot of progress since getting these parts and the end is in sight for the bass. So my mind is starting to ponder my next projects. I'd like to build a 6 string headless for church as my next endeavour. But I also really want to build a 4 string P/J bass with a bolt on Telecaster body. Swamp ash body, rear routed, active with a translucent green glossy finish. I might even consider a Status graphite carbon graphite MM style neck for it. Man! I'm getting traditional in my middle age! Another project which is on my mind is a bass which never was but should have been....a Rickenbacker 2005/365 bass. I have the maple body blank already in stock...I has to be hollow with the triangular sound hole and naturally, the body has to be in black! There's a few places I can get a simular tailpiece and bridge and there's a few options for the pickups. Three toasters should do the trick nicely.
I've got a lot done, but progress is slow and ponderous. The 6 string bolt on is progressing really well, but the Bartolini pickuos aren't right. They are for a really narrow spacing sixer, so I need to re-think what pickups I want to use. I'm leaning toward a pair of quad coil P4's. The fingerboard is nearly ready, radiused and slotted. The neck is coming along. I just need the bridge and pickups to push it forwards. My 4 string is still a delight to play, my 5 string headless is far more usable and I'm using that a lot more. I just don't like the tight string spacing too much. But I love it's tone! I've been working on my pedal board and it's nearly complete. It's pretty much everything I need...although there's still a few more I want to get! I'm starting the replacement 7 string fretboard soon. I'm going to make this bass fretted. I need to start thinking about a six string headless which i've had on my mind this year. I found a design in my old notes which I really like and I'm still considering building a GMC Ultra Jazz 5 string bass. After that, I'd like to build a P bass style and that will probably be it for me making basses for myself.
I've got a fiar amount of work one, I've pretty much finished work on my 4 string fretted (bass #1). I though about fitting an extra jazz pickup, but I decided against it. It would spoil this bass's clean looks. But I did replaced the faulty EQ with a really nice Bartolini 3 band. Which has a varible mid control attached to a pull up pot, nice. Very trick...it has a pull up volume pot too to activate the active circuit. It's a slightly smoother tone than the Kent circuit, it works really nice. Lots of variation and control but always within the charector of the bass. It's added a nice mid range options and I like the tone of it. More modern.
I then started on the electrics on bass #2, the headless 5. I enlarged the control cavity and ripped out all the electrics and started again. This time a simple vol, vol arrangement which has worked well. I think went and re-added the phase swtiches and it's all got over complex again. The humbucker lead is a bit short and the cover is really worn...so I'm looking to replace it with a new Kent pickup. I've re-soldered the phase switching...I think I might remove it all again and go back to a simpler vol / Balance arrangment. But with the same Bartolini circuit I fitted to my other bass.
I've pushed forwards a bit more with my 6string bolt on bass (bass #7). I've cut out the neck blank and cut the angled back headstock out. Then I cut the truss rod channel and fitted the two way truss rod, then it'll be time to fit the fingerboard.
Last year, I found myself playing bass again in church. It's been quite a few years since I last played regularly and it's been very nice to be back in the groove again. My gear has been very useful, but over the last 7 years, much of it is damaged or worn out. So I need to repair or over haul a number of things on each bass.
My main bass, the 4 string fretted has been in a sorry state for a while. The 2 band EQ has stopped working and the electrics have developed an earthing issue. It's out put has dropped substantially as a result and it's shielding is no longer good. The jack is in the wrong place (hey, it's my first bass) and I'm considering changing the EQ for a Bartolini 3 band.
My 5 string headless needs a complete electrics overhaul. It buzzes a lot (poor shielding) and it's cavity is way too small to work on easily. The pre amp hasn't worked for quite a few years and the battery cavity was a bit of a mess. So I'm looking at tidying all that up. I'm also considering sanding it down completely and re-finishing it again. I know I can do a better job. It's a bass I rushed so get finished before my Son was born, but I need to go back and fix a number of issues to make this bass reliable and perform as it was intended. It has a really punchy and powerful tone!
My 5 string fretless bass is a really nice instrument, but it needs finishing, the binding is a little poor in places and I need to cut the heel down to be more comfortable. It also needs a repair to it's cocobolo bridge.
My 7 string headless is in a very sorry state. I've bought a new head piece (amazingly, hipshot now make one off the shelf) which needs the bass having some alteration work to make fit. It's a better design and will allow double ball end strings. The finger board which I replaced years ago was too thin and the action is way too high. So the only answer is to replace the finger board with one which is a lot thicker. The blend pot is wrongly wired at the moment (both pickups together cancel out) and the neck needs a smooth over and re-polish.
My 6 string bolt on needs progressing. I need to order up the pickups, bridge and tuners. I need to fit a truss rod to the neck and to start work on the finger board. I need to rout out the bridge and pickup holes as well as the control cavity. Then I need to start on the neck shaping and neck pocket on the body.
Mike's bass needs a re-laquer in some places and then the cavity needs shielding. I can then fit the electrics and put the whole thing together...finally!
I found myself between jobs for a few weeks, which is good because it's allowed me to catch up on Bass making and de-stress from my last IT placement. I've tidied my workshop and it's looking quite clean and spartan. I've spent a fair amount of time cracking on with my 7 string. The finish erm...finished and i've re-fitted all of the hardware. I've soldered in the pickups and the Bartolini 2 band EQ. I have a slight shielding issue and a few wiring niggles that I need to address, but I need a little space from this bass for a while now.
I've really been pushing forwards with Mike's Bass too. It's just going through the necks last profile stage and the body is finish sanded and grain filled. I next need to continue that work though the neck and headstock and apply an epoxy sealer coat. Once flattened and sealed then this bass will be ready for it's first coats of laquer. It takes 3-4 months for laquer to fully cure before I can sand and buff it to a shine. So this isn't fast process. If I dsand it too early, the laquer stays soft and any leveling done will alter as the laquer hardens, producing bumps and swells in the finish. The longer I leave it, the harder the laquer will be and the better it will respond to a light sand. There is nothing more frustrating than carefully applying 8-10 coats of laquer to a carefully prepared bass and then find that the laquer is still too soft and accidentally sand right though to the bare wood in only a few light passes. Then it's back to the sealing stage again. I'm hoping to start the laquering in a few weeks, but that all depends on the current progress of the finish sanding and sealing.
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Another year has passed, six months since my last journal entry. My workshop has had a complete re-organise. I've added a whole new work bench, so now I have the luxury of 2 work tables. A dirty one and a clean one. I've added a huge amount of storage space too. Soon my workshop will look clean and spartan, with every tool having it's own shelf. I'm still hoping to get a shed for the Lawn mower, and it'd be nice to move the bikes out too.
Well, my time hasn't been idle, but in cold damp months I find it hard to drum up any Bass building enthusiasm. I'm a warm weather Luthier! Which is fine, because now it's Spring and the weather is improving by the day.
My Six string is progressing, the body is ready for routing. Neck pocket (yikes! my first bolt on!) and the pick up cavities. At the moment it's a very pretty slab of wood. The leck laminates are glued and planed into a neck billet. Just ready for cutting, I should be able to yeild 2 necks from this blank if i am careful with my cutting. If I was feeling stingy, I could get 3 out of it. But i don't think that I'll get around to using the 3rd neck and it would mean that I'd have to splice the headstock, which is another compromise that I don't want to take. I still haven't bought any hardware for this bass yet. I have the order made...I just need to pay my bill! Bartolini humbucker and single coil pickups, Bartolini 3 band EQ. Hipshot Ulta-lites, and a Hipshot bridge too.
Mike's Bass is progressing. It's been on hold while I investigated a good quality laquer. This has been quite a journey and I've learnt a lot over the last 6 months. More of that later, but this I do know, Cocobolo looks stunning under a good polished laquer. My Seven string is looking fabulous!
Which brings me neatly onto my severn stringer. It's just had a bare wood re-laquer, using an Epoxy grain filler. Which is horrible stuff to apply and flatten once cured. But does the job very very well. The Laquer is a new Acryllic from Luthiers Mercantile International. It's called KTM-6 and it really does look like Nitro-cellulous. It also brushes well too, but it's taken about 4 months for my to learn how to laquer, wet sand and buff. It's a long and tedious process. It takes 6 months for any laquer to harden fully (Gibson leave their guitars to dry for 6 months before buffing) but I think I can get perfectly good results with in 3 warm months.
I still have plans for a Jazz bass style. I'm torn between two designs, so i'll probably make both at some point. I think that I need to make a 4 string taditional looking bass (full hardware and pickup covers) but with a John east EQ. I'm tempted to use a Status Graphite MM4 neck too...Then there's a want to build an uber-five jazz (with a high C). I also want to build a sixer headless, just for fun too.
I'm also learning to play the guitar too, so I'd like to build a GMC guitar. A through neck with chambers, maybe even headless. but i'm not going to start any more projects until I have finished Mike's Bass.
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Here I am nearly 3/4 of a year later since my last journal entry and I'm wondering where all the time has gone? Firstly, my workshop has been a real mess this year. Since moving, I think I have finally cleared out and unpacked the last packing create froom my garage. That allowed me some space to re-plan the garage area which I use for a workshop. I use about 2/3 of the garage as a workshop, the rest is used for storage and bikes. Unfortunaly, we haven't got a shed yet. So I'm having to share the area with the gardening equipement too. Lawnmowers etc...
While have a sort out I thought it was time to re-organise my work space too. I swapped my sander's place with my Dust extractor, which has free'd up a lot of space and I bought some more kitchen units for storage and to use as a 2nd work table. Storage has been SO needed. I have a lot of clutter and it needs to be put away. Photo's to follow. I also simplified my dust extraction tubing network. It's simpler, more direct and with less air leaks too.
Now my Bass making:
Mike's bass has come on leaps and bounds. This year, I have trimmed the fingerboard. Attached it to the neck, glued the body laminates, glued the body sides on and attached the cocobolo top. I also cut the fret lines and filled them with Paduak veneer. I've routed all of the cavities and soon I'll be drilling the tuner holes in the headstock.
With my seven String, I've made a new fingerboard and fixed it to my bass. It's slotted and fret line filled too. I'm trialling a new epoxy wood filler and acryllic paint. I'll also be trying out my new spray gun soon too. I'mm use this bass as the learning curve.
My new 6 string bass is comming along very well. It started as just a wood excerise, and soon it will need some hardware like the tuners, bridge and pickups. It's so much quicker to make a "bolt on" bass than a "through neck". I have no idea who this joint will affect the tone, but I have chosen a deep set neck pocket and a 6 bolt fixing to secure it. Bolt-on basses tend to have a lot less sustain and carry less tone than a through neck bass. But as a result they can sound more punchy.
When I look back over the last year, I think I've accomplished quite a lot. But I never seem to get as much done as I'd like to.
Next year, I'm hoping to start making a Jazz style bass. I'm not sure how many strings or anything about it yet. But I know that I want to make one. I also want to make a six string piezo chambered bass too. This one will will be simular to my 5 string piezo but with a few differences. I'd like to make a start on my fretted seven string headless too. I might start on the wood work and put it aside once I need the hardware.
My Bass Plans for the year ahead
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Grief! Another year has passed already...Duhhh! SOOO much has happened over the last year. I have recently moved from Kent and relocated to Wiltshire. My wife and I have moved into our new house...finally and there's packing crates every where! My new garage is a decent size and it has great storage in the eves above. It's also got a flash electric door! Naturally I can get my tools in there and soon it will have the Dust Extraction permenetly fitted. Hurrahhh at last! I've Bought several new machines too. An Excellent Sanding machine...really powerful, but creates a lot of saw dust. So I bought a big 100mm dust extractor too. Just got to get it plumbed in, so to speak. I also bought a great little desk pillar Drill, which I can fit my bobbin sander to to turn it into a Drum sander. I should make a table for it too. I also bought a Thicknesser too.
Anyhow, that was then and this is now. Down to Bass talk. My main priority to to get Mike's bass completed. But over the last year, I've had plenty of time to think,consider and muse about my next few creations. I have also bought a delightfull pair of Rosewood fingerboards for my seven stringers. That's one to replace the broken 7 stringer that I made a few years ago and a matching one to go on it's fretted twin sister, which I hope to start later in the year. I also want to build a bolt on sixer too, but more of that later. I'd also like to build another Chambered acousic Bass, but this time a sixer too. I'd also like to make a wide spaced 5 string Jazz style (or maybe G&L influenced).
Task order: complete Mike's bass, start on the 7 string fretted headless, make a sixer bolt on, a sixer acousti-bass and build a wide spaced 5 string bolt on jazz style...that should keep me busy
How much did I accomplish?
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Well, not nearly as much as I'd hoped! But I have rarely been realistic with my Bass building ambitions. Also moving into my new house has really taken a lot of my time and attention. Buying a brand new house is all well and good, but that I have spent a lot of time putting up furniture, curtain rails, curtains, getting the lawn laid, getting a phone hooked up, broad band, fitting door bells, putting up house number....the list goes on! But thankfully my workshop is getting sorted. There's still a lot to do but I have recently sorted out the dust extraction and it's working great. Next I need to sort out the power points for each piece of machinery and put in some more lighting. A few wall mounted storage units will help to tame the clutter too!
Mike's bass has really come on leaps and bounds over the past year and I have been very pleased with it's recent progress. It started the year in 4 pieces and very rough cut too. The fingerboard was lightly slotted and not radiused either. Now look at it! It's really looking good.
I made a new fingerboard for my 7 String, which is has been fitted to the bass, just needs some fret lines and some final dressing. I think I need to re-finish the laquer, it's looking a bit naff in places. I have started my 6 string bolt-on too, the body is cut and radiused too. I need to start on the neck for that soon. I have still got plans for a wide spaced 5 stringer, based on a G&L / lakland influence. In fact that's a must. But not until Mike's bass is finished and my and 6 string is more complete (i don't like to have too many projects running at once). I also want to start on the 7 string headless fretted bass, the twin on my other 7 stringer. I'm also hoping to investigate a new Acrylic laquer that's just been released in America, apparently it's almost as good as nitro-celulous but much easier to apply and a lot safer to my health.
Over the year I'm going to do some more remedial work on my acousti-bass, I never really completed this bass. It's high time that I actually completed it. My 5 string Headless is in need of a few tweeks too. So 2006 is going to be a busy year, hopefully I can achieve my goals for this year!
This is a sketch for a 6 string bolt on bass. What do you think? It's inspired by Wal basses but a lot of my own thoughts too.
The above sketch is the basis for my current six string bolt-on that I've started. I'd like to make the string spacing quite wide so that it'll be a doddle to play. I also want to use a thick Purple heart fingerboard and Bartolini Pickups for that certain sound. A front Jazz pickup and a fat wide spaced humbucker at the bridge will be nice. The neck will be a multi laminate (hey whad ya expect???) and a spliced angled back head stock will be cool (sorry I don't do flat head stocks).
<<This is an early sketch that i did when i was designing my 7 string. I like this design a lot, but it just wasn't right for the seven. It would make a very nice five or six though. It's not a headless design and I'm not that keen on this particular head stock. You can see my early thoughts for the laminate choices that passed through to my seven string. At the time, I was playing with the idea of having a volute and the end of the body (aka Alembic) but this can't be done on a headless bass. I still like the idea and it got transferred to Mike's bass. It adds a fair amount of additional complexity to a bass manufacture, but it's a really nice feature that looks great.
It still ammuses me to think that Mike's Sixer started off as a simple project that has grown and evolved in complexity. To the point that it's as complicated as my seven! Maybe even more complex! It'll be a very very nice when it's finished. Mike's has two other fantastic basses, a lovely Lakland 5 and a stunning Conkling 7. So his new sixer fretless will add to that eclectic array of sounds at his disposal.
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Ahh lots of body wood stock. These are all cut to 1" thick so that I can laminate easily. Running from left to right, Paduak, Flamed Amazaque (less two sets, one that went into Mike's bass and the other is for my bolt on sixer), Alder, Swamp Ash and some Wenge. I'd like to pick up some Walnut and Cherry this year too.
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In the way of top caps (1/4" slim exotics), several sets of figured Cocobolo (is there any other type?), Spalted Beech and a stunning 3/8" Flamed Maple top which will go onto the 5 string Jazzer...some day.
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I'm hoping to move away from laminated bodies, it just takes soo long. I'm thinking of combining just two woods separated by a single veneer.
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I have a nice array of fingerboards in stock, two terrific Macassan Ebony (wide) boards, a nice 34" slotted (5 string) black Ebony board. I have a wide Wenge board, along with a single mega wide Tulip wood board. I have just purchased a single wide Purpleheart finger board for my sixer too. It makes a lot of sense as a fingerboard wood. It has a great tone, it's very strong and stable and it takes a good finish. After a lengthy discussion with my Luthier friend Lucas Fermor, I think that it will be my preferred wood for fingerboards from now on. With the various species of Ebony a close second. The Black Ebony board on the far left went on to Mike's sixer. They don't come much blacker than that! Next is the Wenge board. Then followed by my two prized Macassan ebony boards.
I've a lot of Neck laminates in stock too, slowly seasoning in time. Walnut, Paduak, Purple heart, a little mahogany,Wenge (a lot of wenge) and naturally a lot of good old Maple. I've started buying 4" square lengths of various woods so that I can cut the laminates how I like and thickness them myself.
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