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Greetings,

I just recently wrapped up my first scratch build. so I figured I'd make my first post here on PG. I documented the whole shebang on Luthier's Corner (TalkBass), but it is a rather lengthy read, despite all of the awesome advice I received along the journey.

The inspiration for the build was based on the early 80s Aria PROii SB1000 basses. Being a fan of John Taylor, this seemed appropriate.

Stats:

34" Scale 4-string bass guitar

Macassar Ebony fingerboard (pre-slotted and radiused by LMII)

Hickory body wings (later scrapped for Peruvian Walnut/Purpleheart -- see below for change)

5 piece maple/walnut/purpleheart/walnut/maple laminated neck-through

13 degree scarf

No break angle as the bridge is rather low profile

Hipshot Bridge and Tuners

 

I doubt I'll have time today to post all of the pictures, so I will break it up over a few days. Day job + startup nano-cidery that my wife and I own have caused my free time to collapse! Alas, such is life.

 

So, I had zero woodworking experience. None, zilch, nada...aside from basic carpentry cuts, etc. This journey started off with me chipping the headstock on my Rickenbacker 4003 and searching the googles for an easy fix. I stumbled into Talkbass's Luthier's Corner and got sucked into a vortex of threads documenting actual instrument builds. My mind was blown, and life took a turn to the adventurous world of guitar building.

 

Here goes!

Wood cut for neck-through blank

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Glueup! This is when I realized I'll likely be criticized regarding having too many clamps (non-woodworker) or not enough clamps (woodworker) depending on who I was talking to. I need more clamps.

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Neck blank jointed after 24 hours in clamps. Not a bad start, good glue joints!

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Quick mock-up with the hickory (at the time) and fingerboard

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While frequenting wood stores for my lumber, I quickly realized it would be a good idea to sandwich 4/4 boards as opposed to dealing with 8/4, which can sometimes be less stable (I can't say if this is true or not, it is just what a local hardwood wholeseller had told me). Plus, I can chamber for weight loss quite easily.

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MDF body template final-shaped on ROSS

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Hickory upper wing roughly shaped. I was quickly realizing how tough that wood is! My poor little (at the time) bandsaw was having issues with that stuff!

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I made a angled scarf jig for the chop saw. It did OK, but not as good as I had hoped. I now have a good bandsaw with a nice Incra miter guage/fence. 

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I made a sanding jig out of MDF and spray-glued some 60 grit.

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A friend and fellow builder offered to show me how he cuts his truss rod channel on his router table.

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It fits!

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Scarf sanding (which took ages...may just turn that into a router jig) complete and ready to glue up!

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More to come soon!

 

-Rich

 

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Next up, I added some Peruvian Walnut wings to the headstock, let dry overnight, and clamped some curly maple veneer with cauls to ensure even clamping force distribution.

 

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Headstock partially shaped and neck tapered

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Then, I created a wood sandwich with the fingerboard in the middle. I used fingerboard cutoffs in the middle also in order to ensure a flat clamping surface with the top board. A top bearing router bit was used, riding along the top board, to trim the fingerboard to the correct size.

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I wanted to be as accurate as possible installing the 1/16" brass dowel side position markers, so I glued up a ply jig to hold the fingerboard while I used the drill press

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Brass sands nicely. :)

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Amazingly, I remembered to install the truss rod prior to gluing the fingerboard on.

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Hi Rich! Great to see you documenting this one over on here as well. Hickory is amazingly durable wood for what it is. I'd like to get a bunch on stock one point in the future simply for tool and clamp handles. I haven't seen any here yet though, however being a US-domestic wood it makes sense. "Hikkoripuu"

(for everybody else, I know Rich from outside of ProjectGuitar.com as I made the preamp for this bass)

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Best get to the doctorb and have your fingers checked. :peace

To be honest, you could use a 12-way rotary however the number of values in the ranges that the caps were used in have such a wide tolerance that it becomes silly.

At one point I was considering designing an infinitely-variable varitone using an active gyrator (oo-er) circuit. Probably wouldn't have sounded the same though really.

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Thanks guys! And especially to Prostheta, whose infinite patience and super-awesome preamp skills was amazing! You sir, rock.

Next up, comes the neck carve. Whew, what a workout! I do love purpleheart, but hand carving it is certainly sweat-inducing--especially during the summer!

 

I really only used two of the pictured tools (small/fine dragon rasp and Shinto saw rasp), as the other tools (harbor freight rasp, surform) were not up to task. I plan on adding another dragon rasp or two to the arsenal to make the workflow a bit more efficient (and save my arms).

This is also where I realized how awesome card scrapers truly are. I am still working on my burnishing technique.

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I marked up the neck blank and used the technique based on what I studied by watching the following video series (and quite a few others, actually) by Fletcher Handcrafted Guitars (https://www.youtube.com/user/fletch123).

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Beginning to facet

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It's starting to look like a neck! *passes out*

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Starting to hack away at the heel. This is where an angle grinder may have helped. But, hand-carving is so damn satisfying!

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I'd stop now and again to scrape and hit with some mineral spirits to clearly see my progress. It is difficult to truly tell when there are deep rasp gouges. I think it was worth the effort to take the time to get it right.

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I also started to work the headstock transition and volute. first with the small dragon rasp, then with a collection of tiny files available online or at local hardware retailers. The little files also make great fret crowning tools with slight modification.

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Fairly close to my intended target! The Aria at the top is a series 2 (early 90s) Aria Proii SB1000.

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The neck needed a place to comfortably sit while I cleaned off my bench.

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I had mentioned at the beginning of this post that I was using hickory body wings.... Here is why I made a change...

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Yes, I hogged out wood from the wrong side of the upper wing. It is OK though--I'll use this for tap handles for my cidery or tool handles. The strength of hickory shall be reclaimed!

Onward....I had some purpleheart and Peruvian Walnut. Let's make a sandwich!

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I had some 1/4" walnut to make a pretty transition from neck blank to body wings. I also wanted that extra 1/2" of total body width

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Purpleheart may be a pain to carve, but it is worth it. It is strange to see it "brown out" a bit when sanded. Luckily, the rich color comes back out after a while. Sunlight seemed to help it along as well (there are numerous topics regarding purpleheart color change, UV/sunlight/regular light and aging).

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Glue up!

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I used a small plane and card scraper (did I mention how much I love those?)

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Finally, I began to carve the heel transitions. This was a mighty effort to to the angles and amount of wood that needed to be removed.

I also managed to hog out (drill press w/ forstner) and route the control cavity in the proper spot.

However, I did manage to have a cavity template failure (or double stick tape failure, if you will) and gouged the lower wing a bit. This was prior to glue up, and was patched with CA Glue and sawdust. The color isn't very accurate, but it doesn't bother me and has given me the opportunity to do better next time.

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6 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Hi Rich! Great to see you documenting this one over on here as well. Hickory is amazingly durable wood for what it is. I'd like to get a bunch on stock one point in the future simply for tool and clamp handles. I haven't seen any here yet though, however being a US-domestic wood it makes sense. "Hikkoripuu"

(for everybody else, I know Rich from outside of ProjectGuitar.com as I made the preamp for this bass)

I have a good source for hickory down the street (Mr. Plywood!). However, I have no idea what freight would be to Finland!

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5 hours ago, Norris said:

Are you going for the 7-way vari-tone switch? :D

I also have a Prostheta preamp in my 1980 SB-1000 :)

Edit: Good work so far btw - looks very clean. I do like a bit of purpleheart

No. That 6-way rotary is far too advanced for me to replicate. I went with a on/on/on toggle (series/split/parallel) with volume and tone, 18V active with Prostheta's Noisekiller preamp circuit. I'll post the schematics later in the thread.

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Now that we actually have an actual instrument shape, it is time to do other instrument-preparation-like activities.

First, I need to glue up a pickup routing template for the AWESOME SB1000 pickup reproduction by Viejo Rautia.

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A quick rough assembly to see how things line up. Looking good.

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Here's a shot of the cavity route that had been done in a previous step with my route failure. I patched with CA glue and sawdust, but my sawdust selection was darker than intended. Oh well, it adds character. :P I did, however, learn to collect sawdust from ROSS in marked baggies for later use.

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On to crowning! I had borrowed all of the crowning tools for this build for cost savings.

First I made sure the neck was adjusted straight, then checked with straightedges. Since it was obvious I would need to do some sort of leveling, I marked the top of each fret with a sharpie and double stick taped some 400 grit to a length of steel square stock. Once all sharpie was removed, I sanded for falloff from the 15th fret on up to 24.

Next up was the ever so fun crowning bits, using a triangle file, small flat file and one of those StewMac 3-in-1 crowning files.

After all was nice and level and crowned, it was on to progressive grains of paper and steel wool.

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It was time to take care of some shop priorities at that point. I needed a new bench top. The ramshackle ply was driving me crazy. Plus, with some experience under my belt, I felt it was important to make something tidy, yet sturdy and simple.

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Two layers of 3/4" MDF with 1/8" hardboard top.

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After that, I took a ride to limber up my brain.

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42 minutes ago, 10pizza said:

no woodworking skills, said he :)

great job man! 

Thanks! But really, I knew how to operate a chop saw, that's it.

When I started building the bass in earnest, I did sign up for a city college-sponsored woodworking class. That helped so much--namely in shop/tool safety. I highly recommend that course of action to any new builders.

Also, there are the hundreds of hours of research. Without the amazing resources out there, this would be intimidating to no end.

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I'll keep the pre-finish sanding brief, as, well, it is sanding.

I used a random orbital sander on the flats, from 120 -> 320, then finished with rubber blocks and graduating grits to 600. For the curves, I did the same graduation, but with those pink rectangular erasers as blocks.

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Prostheta's Noisekiller preamp

Viejo Rautia SB1000 repro pickup

9-lug stereo jack

Toggle - I ended up using a on/on/on

LED - I decided not to use at this time due to cavity space restrictions/lack of cavity space planning.

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Here is an original schematic. Of course, a large chunk was lopped off for this build, without the VariTone circuit.

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Here is the final schematic. As stated, I did not use the LED this time, but everything else is up to date and accurate. I translated the Seymour Duncan humbucker color codes to the Rautia color codes as apply to a series/split/parallel. The Vol and Tone (25K) pots I figured out from old wiring diagrams and what I knew from gutting a P-Bass a ways back. The preamp connectivity, Prostheta was kind enough to provide, as I was completely off on my guesstimations.

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I have middling soldering skill (at best) from racing 1/10th scale offroad RC vehicles as a kid in the mid eighties. Such tiny little lugs and pins....I suppose I should finally get at least some reading glasses now that I am over 40....hah!

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For finishing, I used Tru Oil. Many, many coats of Tru Oil

After sanding, I gave everything a light wipe with some denatured alcohol to clean up any residual dust. Once that dried, I applied a wash coat of Tru Oil, which I let dry overnight. This would ensure that the grain filler wouldn't over-tint things.

I mixed some powdered dye (forgot brand) with a Behlens pore filler, which was liberally applied, let to dry, and then wiped back. I didn't care for this product as I have no paint mixing machine so manually swilling this stuff was a huge mess and time-killer.

The next planned builds will be utilizing other, undecided grain-fill techniques.

Next, came the start of many TO coats. I applied using a wad of paper towel wrapped by strips of cotton T-Shirt. Little bundles, if you will.

With TO, you want to have many light coats as opposed to thick coats. In between coats, you may use 0000 steel wool, scotch-brite pads, wet sanding or denim to keep the coats flat. I used steel wool for the first 10 or so coats, before wet sanding with 1200 for the last few coats.

Next time, I'll use denim to 'burnish'. I am hearing good things about that from people that know a whole heck of a lot more about TO then I do.

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Really starting to get a nice gloss going after 5 or so coats!

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After ~9 coats?

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Weeeeeeeee

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=D

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So, it was left to cure for around 10 days before wet sanding with graduating micro mesh paper before using Finesse It II, then a finer Maguire's product, then finally a wax paste.

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I like these new mini-growler cans that some local brewers are utilizing these days...

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Total weight: 9.2lb

It's a pretty slim (1.5") body and I did not chamber. It sounds FANTASTIC! I love the tonal range of the pickup and preamp. I still have yet to capture sound clips. Soon! I do have some housecleaning items:

- Headstock - I decided to go a different direction than the Aria headstock. I just need to knock the corners down and apply some oil.

- Intonate! - Very minor saddle adjustment needed. String action is smooth. No fret buzzing at all. Really thumpy!

- Shielding - the only reason this is needed is because I wanted a split coil option. I may actually get rid of that entirely since the series and parallel are rock solid (and quiet thank to the preamp). I have some copper slug tape for that.

The only reason these items are still outstanding is that I have to finish the cidery buildout in my basement I am hemorrhaging money on the business right now, so these items, plus starting my next two builds are on hold.

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Thanks for reading, and sorry about the bad lighting! Hoping for a couple sunny days and some proper time to take glamour shots and record some clips.

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, PDX Rich said:

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*spits coffee over the monitor*

:D

Ah, you crack me up Rich. Are you guys only licenced to sell within Oregon from your cidery? I'm not sure how the law works there. We have a thread about what's in our fridges, and @ScottR is usually the biggest culprit with his fine selection of IPAs/APAs. If I get a particularly flush month, I'll do my best to try and ping you guys over a bottle of the Mufloni CCCCC IPA. I doubt it'll be new news to you guys, but it's in the league of Russian River's "Pliny The Elder". Pours like an English cask ale. Beautiful.

That's an absolutely wicked bass. I doubt it'll be the last, eh? I know I keep repeating it (especially since my capacity for building is far exceeded by my "vanity wants") however a 5-string SB-1000 would be truly fantastic. I might have to see if I can mould up a custom-sized pickup that carries the look of the MB-1E over. Certainly, I can't vacuum-form (they might be injection, not sure) the cases like Veijo does.

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11 hours ago, Prostheta said:

 

*spits coffee over the monitor*

:D

Ah, you crack me up Rich. Are you guys only licenced to sell within Oregon from your cidery? I'm not sure how the law works there. We have a thread about what's in our fridges, and @ScottR is usually the biggest culprit with his fine selection of IPAs/APAs. If I get a particularly flush month, I'll do my best to try and ping you guys over a bottle of the Mufloni CCCCC IPA. I doubt it'll be new news to you guys, but it's in the league of Russian River's "Pliny The Elder". Pours like an English cask ale. Beautiful.

That's an absolutely wicked bass. I doubt it'll be the last, eh? I know I keep repeating it (especially since my capacity for building is far exceeded by my "vanity wants") however a 5-string SB-1000 would be truly fantastic. I might have to see if I can mould up a custom-sized pickup that carries the look of the MB-1E over. Certainly, I can't vacuum-form (they might be injection, not sure) the cases like Veijo does.

Thank man, I appreciate that. And it certainly will not be the last! I am really itching to get the 8 string octave started...I need to finish the cidery buildout first, however. I believe the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)  requires some sort of export certificate. I have not looked into that yet since we are focusing on building our brand in Oregon, with Washington, Idaho and California on the somewhat-distant horizon once we expand.

As far as non-sales alcohol shipping, I'll have to research. I'd love to send you some of our product! I suppose Googling international alcohol gift regulations will help. More to come!

A 5-string SB-1000 would be epic. I wonder how amenable Veijo would be to doing a one-off? I would totally build a 5-string fretless SB! I would even replicate the Aria headstock end design... :)

That Pliny the Elder is solid! It's been a while since I've had it. As you know, we are awash in booze here in Portland.

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Ah, that's a legal minefield. You should see the legalese here in Finland when it comes to importing alcohol. I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. Even buying whisky from Holland (EU, same as us) means we have to pay import duty to Finland. I mean, seriously. What happened to the open European market? The Finnish public are being robbed blind.

I don't think it's realistic to do a one-off for the casing of a 5-string MB. I'll have to make one up in wood, seal it with CA and sand it perfectly smooth to make a silicone mould, then paint the inside with epoxy, drop a pickup in and encapsulate it. I'm sure Veijo could make the internals, however the casing is probably something I'd have to worry about.

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