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Now that's a hell of a title. I think that's it's fairly well-known that I've somewhat of a fascination with Japanese instruments made from 1976-1986 in the Matsumoku factory under the Aria Pro II banner. For the last ten years or so I've been making replacement preamp modules for their classic SB-1000 basses, and doing a few complete restorations for clients. The SB-1000 was an active single-pickup four-string bass made in two versions '76-'80 and '80-'86. It was made beyond this time in various forms, and is still made by the current incarnation of Aria Pro II, however the classic period for this bass was when they were made at Matsumoku. The 80s version introduced a slight geometry change, new headstock shape, finishes, switchable passive mode but fundamentally it was the same instrument. 70s SB-1000 (thumb rest not original) 80s SB-1000 During the 80s, APII also made a dual pickup flagship version of the SB-1000 called the SB-R150 with better appointments and flashier wood laminations. Something I'd imagined a while back was to take the basis of the SB-1000, add in appointments from the SB-R150 and move it up into 5-string territory. In recent years, Aria Pro II have also made a 5-string SB-1000 however I have zero hands-on experience of those.
Starting up the new thread for 2014. Got some great projects for this year. More multiscale madness, headless builds, another express run, and maybe some multiscale basses. Expect custom pickups, exotic tops, and as much instruction as I can manage. Cheers! --RAD
Relatively simple project remit - two Les Pauls made from Khaya Mahogany and Karelian Birch. One is to be receive a relic'ed "Gibson-ish" look with a black headplate, faded honeyburst, etc. whereas the other is to be more or less natural and is being made as a surprise birthday present for my wife. Shhh! There are many threads around the net which detail "vintage" Les Paul builds better than I can so I will merely make reference to these rather than rehash the information in them or worse, duplicate contentious information and create more confusion over certain details. The greatest resource of information by far - especially for the carved - has to be Scott Wilkinson's vintage burst build from MLP. Google "exnihilo les paul"! The build is more or less by the numbers according to both Scott's and other people's reference plans such as John Catto, etc. As usual, I redraw all plans in CAD to rattle out any inconsistencies within and between people's measurements to leave myself with one reference source. Variations exist because of people's own interpretation of the "ideal" Les Paul from the instrument(s) they happened to be measuring at the time, plus Gibson's own adjustments and inconsistencies. This really means that there is no real gold standard as such. Apart from a Standard Goldtop which goes without saying. A unified CAD plan also gives me perfect opportunity to take arbitrary measurements during the build process and to tweak things as I want without breaking the way things work together in one design or another. A specific change introduced was my usual inclusion of a zero fret. Apart from being a purely personal preference, I do believe that done well they improve an instrument's playability to a significant degree. Beyond that we are looking at a very Les Paul-ish pair of Les Pauls. Two Khaya body blanks and two Birch tops were glued up and thickness sanded to 46mm and 17mm respectively. I prefer to scarf my headstocks as opposed to creating weak short grain, plus this happens to be more economical in terms of stock availability. The quartersawn Khaya neck blanks were cut slightly long and wide at 612mm x 80mm x 45mm. First order of the day was to get templating. Complicated builds like LPs tend to collect large template sets and I like to spend time making sure these are treated as well or better than the instruments built from them. The first body template locates the centreline (which is on the glueline anyway...a luxury), the upper switch hole location, wiring channel path and the control cavity layout. Rather than cutting these in the template and using a bearing-guided router bit referenced by the template, I transferred the locations and centrepoints and sunk these completely through the Khaya with a 40mm Forstner bit. This deviates from "vintage correctness" but that is not a specific priority anyway. My templates indicate where to draw crossed lines in order to cross-reference the centre point of each drilling location. In the case of the electronics cavity this consists of four lines drawn in a "hash". A simple straight channel connecting the switch hole to the control cavity was routed into the top of each body blank. This also intersects both pickup cavities to facilitate wiring. Two screw locating holes were drilled through the Birch tops in the areas where the bridge pickup and neck tenon will be routed out. Immediately prior to glueup, the mating surfaces of each top and body were thickness sanded down to their destination sizes of 44,5mm and 16mm and blasted clean with compressed air. A good coat of Titebond I was applied to the underside of the top with a notched plastic spreader and dragged over the surface several times with excess glue removed. This helps to ensure the surface is fully penetrated and wetted. The mating face of the Khaya was very lightly misted with water to improve glue penetration. I've found that this method of glueing also reduces the tendency for parts to skate under hydrostatic pressure which is the source of much self-kicking and flying body parts. The centrelines of the tops were aligned to those of the bodies and allowed to set up slightly for a couple of minutes to reduce any movement in the press. The tops were then screwed through to the body and clamped for 30 minutes in the hydraulic press at a pressure of around 50kg/cm² (720psi) and subsequently left at a lower clamping pressure for as long as the timer would allow me to. The clamping time gave me ample opportunity to hunt down a longer bearing-guided router bit. As can be seen, I was only able to work through to around halfway in the Khaya. No matter, and certainly nothing to stop me from moving processes forward. Apologies for the relative lack of photography at this stage. My phone has been deciding to crash at inopportune moments such as during photography. I soon get bored of waiting for it to reboot and crack on with work instead. Standing-Around vs. Busy-Working is little to no competition.
My plate is well and truly being filled this Autumn. In addition to the other projects on the boil I am fulfilling a long-standing wish to make my own "Red Special". Unfortunately since I am putting my energies into advancing my skills in manufacturing repeatability I am making two or three of them! The underlying basics are common however each one will be expressed in a unique manner. - "Back To The Light" relic More-or-less authentic Red Special aged and distressed to resemble the three decades of wear visible at this stage. Slave labour utilised, getting my son to mill a the tremolo unit. - Black Special Non-tremolo version with multi-ply binding and gold hardware similar to a '72 "Black Beauty" Les Paul with corresponding adjustments to neck tape and scale length. - unknown I'm open to suggestion on this one, including the name and finishing. Perhaps veneering the top and back with some spalty Karelian Birch? Mystery top Fret slotting. I still do mine by hand and have become inured to the difficulties. Start by running the saw over the corner from the outside in to prevent tearing and blowout. Mark both sides. Lengthen the marks to meet each other. Practice makes this a lot easier. Five mins and one slotted board. Might have been ten minutes? Currently the slots are only 1-2mm deep but will be cut to full depth after the board has been radiused. That way the depth stop can create radiused slots for minimal gap under the tangs.