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ADFinlayson

build #11 - Snuffy's Billy Bongo bass

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I've finally started my first bass build, which I've put off for the best part of 6 months - Rightly so I think as it's my most nerve-racking building to date. It's a combination of 2 designs - neck taper/shape and tuner positions of a Musicman bongo 4 and the body shape of the Billy Sheahan attitude 3, but with neck-through constructions. No templates available for either designs so I'm working entirely off a diy plan and measurements taken from the musicman site, plus I drew around his attitude bass body, but I think he want's some bongo style carving in the attitude shape (will figure that one out later)

I've got a 1 piece black limber neck-through blank and another plank of limba to make up the body. The body will have a golden phoebe top and I'll use some extra pheobe I've got to make control covers, possibly a headstock veneer too and Macassar ebony board.

He's got an abs bridge, hipshot tuners (3+1) but the bass tuner has the d-tune thing that his attitude bass has, dingwall pickups that I guess needs a preamp and battery compartment, I guess I'll just make sure the control cavity is a good size and figure out the wiring near the time.

Inlays are still up in the air, he want's something skull related, so I guess I'll come up with something along the lines of Ollie's V.

Anyhoo, last night I transferred the plan onto the neck blank and routed the truss rod channel. Got a bigger blade on my band saw and all set up ready to cut the tapers tonight. I haven't got a functioning straight edge that I can route the whole taper with so I think I'm going to have to try and get down to the lines with the no7 once it's roughed out.

Wish me luck.

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7 minutes ago, Andyjr1515 said:

Watching with eager anticipation :thumb:

I'm not 🙈

I'm also not really feeling the bongo headstock shape against the body design, I'm hoping I can convince him to go for something a bit more like the attitude but with the 4th tuner on the underside. 

While I've got your attention @Andyjr1515, what's a good target weight to be shooting for here? all bases are heavy to me so not sure what I should do about chambering.

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4 minutes ago, mistermikev said:

noa u gonna 'slappa da bass'?  looking fwd to your demo video! 

ha, I will leave it to him to do the demoing, my only bass trick is an abysmal rendition of Larry Graham's pow 

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56 minutes ago, ADFinlayson said:

While I've got your attention @Andyjr1515, what's a good target weight to be shooting for here? all bases are heavy to me so not sure what I should do about chambering.

How long have you got (having picked one of my pet subjects)?  :lol:

Bass guitars - like electrics - vary enormously in weight, but a typical 'P bass' shape of 'average weight' is likely to be around 8.5 to 9lbs

The ones I build nowadays are usually between 6.5 to 7lbs, but incorporate pretty much every trick in the book to get there.

Chambering is one way - but you do have to do a LOT of chambering to make a significant difference.  This bass started at nearly 10.8lbs:

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This amount of chambering took it down to 8.8lbs.  The main chambers are within 6mm of breakthrough:

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The timbers you use will make a BIG difference.  Bubinga weighs a tonne; ash varies but - as above - can be very heavy; swamp ash can vary but tends to be significantly lighter; mahogany somewhere in the middle; oak off the scale.

Another effective way of getting weight out to make it slimmer.  This one below weight 6.5lbs (same scale length as the ash one above) and incorporates slimness and chambers (and swamp ash at the back):

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The balancing act - literally - is avoiding neck dive as, with conventional timbers, the only weight you can take out of the neck is having a short and small headstock and/or lightweight tuners.  There's a LOT of leverage with a 34" neck.

The things that help include:

- keeping the bridge well back

- keeping the top horn strap button close to the 12th fret

Your plan looks like it already incorporates these.

 

Hope this helps

 

 

 

By the way - this is how the heavy Harley Benton ended up at a couple of lbs lighter ;)

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Ah dude that's a huge help, I guess I should be ok then, my headstock has the potential to be quite short with the high tuner on the other side. It's getting topped so I can do some chambering and I guess I can go quite thin if it's a neck through. 

Love the red one :D 

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31 minutes ago, ADFinlayson said:

ha, I will leave it to him to do the demoing, my only bass trick is an abysmal rendition of Larry Graham's pow 

u coward.  also, larry graham is perhaps the greatest bassist ever. 

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Whoa! Some serious wood there! And some properly maintained well behaved tools...

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20 hours ago, ADFinlayson said:

golden pheobe

I had to look that up.

Reminds me a bit of myrtle and myrtle burl. It ought to make a killer top.

SR

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On 10/2/2019 at 10:42 AM, Andyjr1515 said:

 

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That is killer looking.  I've got some new inspiration for a design.  Bass guitars always have the coolest shapes.  The one I'm building now was inspired by a bass guitar.

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Good bit of progress over the last couple of days. Fretboard is glued on and trimmed flush with the taper, I've cut the nut slot (I'm using a graphtech 42mm nut) which slots in nicely, not as snug as i'd like but I think, worst case I could squeeze a slither of veneer in there with it. I opted to cut the slot prior to radius as I figured it would be easier to keep the bottom flat.

I've also cut the excess off and shaped the ramp on the bobbin sander, there's a truss rod in there somewhere :) 

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Cut out the rest of the shape on the band saw, it's a nice light bass at the moment :D 

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Came up with a design for the headstock (the bongo headstock just doesn't work with the billy body design). It's, i guess a half-way house between music man and fender - I'm trying to keep it as short as possible for balance but maintain the tuner positions of the bongo. (the bottom one will be facing in).

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I'm putting a contrast veneer between the top and the body. The veneer sheet isn't wide enough to do it in one, so I figured the easiest way to glue it together would be to glue a sheet to the underside of both halves of the top and then joint them together and glue all on to the top as one. Had some wood hanging around to use as a veneer press :) 

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I've got some headstock ears jointed and ready to be glued on. I've also marked out the plank fo the body so I'm going to start chopping that up tomorrow. 

This one's coming on quite quickly, Hopefully when I see Snuffy tomorrow, he will tell me what he want's me to inlay, I think that is going to be the part that slows down this project.

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Oh yeah, I got a new tool this week :D Not a particularly expensive one, but a vast improvement on the hand drill and my dads mortice machine. It turns out there is a little engineering shop around the corner from me that I didn't know existed, it's like Alladins cave, every imperial drill but I've never been able to find along with every other odd and sod I could need for making jigs etc. I went in for a drill bit and came out with a drill big enough to do string through ferrules 👍

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16 hours ago, ScottR said:

Looks like you've got a fair bit of work in progress too.

SR

Yep, the two DCs have taken a bit of a back foot for a week or so. I was getting worried that I'm going to be getting behind on the commission builds. I appear to have inherited my fathers gene of starting a job before finishing another. The other body you see it just a prototype I'm working on here and there so I can prove that I can build a guitar with a trem before I start working on another customer build with a trem.

Got my top jointed and glued up along with the headstock ears. My shooting board isn't big enough for a bass body, rather than making a larger one that I'm rarely going to use, I decided to rough out the shape first so there was less of a joint to work on. It was quite difficult to get the joint right with all the weird figuring. But it seems to have come out ok, bit hairy at the very top but that will be cut away for the fretboard anyway.

You can see there are a lot of spots where the glue splurged up through the holes when I glue the veneers on. That's going to need a fair bit of cleaning up and I think I'm going to have to flood it all with epoxy.

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So my ears are on and planed flush, joints came out really well

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But I decided to to stick some pheobe to the back with a contrast veneer between to match the top - for strength as much as anything, I doubt it will be that visible under the tuners.

Like the top, I'm going to have to flood the voids with eboxy, but I think I'll get the shape finalised first and tape round the sides.

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One thing I've just found which is very annoying, the Bongo plans I have are totally inaccurate. The plan that has the exact tuner positions is not the same scale as the drawing of the headstock, seems to be printed at a different scale even though it's on the same sheet of paper 😢 So I'm going to have to manually figure out where to drill the tuner positions. If anyone has some ideas on how best to achieve this, I'd be very grateful for the advice.

I want to get the tuner holes drilled and screw the bridge into the neck through so I can be sure that the taper of the neck is right now that I've found the plans aren't accurate, hopefully that way I can make adjustments if needed.

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Maybe draw your string locations through the headstock.  Then dictate the starting tuner location based on how far you want that string to be from the side while lining up with the string.  Then find the last tuner position with the same side respect.  Draw a straight line between the two and equally space the other two tuners.  They should be pretty close to the center string positions. I guess if you want to get crazy accurate you could offset your center point with the radius of the tuner shaft using the neck center to square off of.   Just an idea!

If that doesnt work I'd find the centerline for the neck and do some math from there.

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16 hours ago, ZekeB said:

Maybe draw your string locations through the headstock.  Then dictate the starting tuner location based on how far you want that string to be from the side while lining up with the string.  Then find the last tuner position with the same side respect.  Draw a straight line between the two and equally space the other two tuners.  They should be pretty close to the center string positions. I guess if you want to get crazy accurate you could offset your center point with the radius of the tuner shaft using the neck center to square off of.   Just an idea!

If that doesnt work I'd find the centerline for the neck and do some math from there.

I think you're right, I'm definitely going to have to get the ruler out on the wood and draw some lines along the taper, just awkward because it's so damn long. But I've got this procrastination game down to a fine art. by starting a new guitar 😂

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I’ve filled all the voids in the top and the back of the headstock with black epoxy and it seems to be taking an age to dry,  either it’s the cold weather or I didn’t get the mix right.

So in the meantime, I’ve been worrying about these tuners. They require a 14mm hole for the shaft and 17mm hole for the bushing. Can’t find a 17mm Brad bit anywhere but I have got a 16mm flat bit that has a point and I’ve managed to find a 17mm hss bit which I’m hoping to use to fettle the hole up to size. Tried on a test piece and it worked, bushing went in fine. 

The procrastination guitar is coming on too. Got the neck blank roughed our and the cap is flat, glued and routed to shape, Got to route the pot recesses the carve. It’s going to be another semi hollow les Paul type build like the red one, only mahogany instead of Ovangkol, ziricote board and it will be purple, oh and the chap wants a monkey at the 12th fret

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A step drill would be ideal but 17 mm indeed is an odd size and not available as they tend to jump from 16 to 18. However, in imperial step drill bits 11/16"  can be found.

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2 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

A step drill would be ideal but 17 mm indeed is an odd size and not available as they tend to jump from 16 to 18. However, in imperial step drill bits 11/16"  can be found.

I did look for an odd numbered step drill actually, to no avail. Didn't think of imperial, but I've got a 17mm bit now - that I will probably never use again :P 

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On 10/10/2019 at 3:27 PM, ADFinlayson said:

I have got a 16mm flat bit that has a point and I’ve managed to find a 17mm hss bit which I’m hoping to use to fettle the hole up to size.

If you haven't already done this the best way is drill the smaller hole with your new pillar drill and leave your work piece in the clamps. Change to the larger bit and drill that same hole while it is still clamped in position.. This will insure both bits entered the work piece on the same center line.

SR

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I'm afraid this is turning into a tale of two axes because I did nothing on the Billy Bongo this weekend, I can still dig a finger nail into the epoxy so I'm leaving it another couple of days. I have been doing a lot of carving the other one though, all with gouges and thumb planes 

I got this crude pin-router esque setup so I could flip the top upside down, the outside of the carve would ride on this and the depth stop would enable me to dirll a consistent depth to give me a guide  for carving, Worked really well :) 

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So after carving the outside, I carved the inside around where the f hole is going to mirror the outside. Still a bit more to do but the carve is getting there. Carving the inside concave was really awkward because there is nowhere for the gouge to go, so I had better luck just using the thumb planes.

You can see the maple didn't like the router very much so there is a lot of burning to sand out in the pot recesses, but I'd rather burn marks that tear out, so counting it as a win. 

Planning to get the tuner holes drilled and headstock shaped on the bass later this week.

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