I came to the B2B course from a winter lockdown time filler of making electric basses, and having made three I thought I had enough. However, I was alerted to the availability of a some recyclable wood by a work colleague (I work with some of Manchester’s premier skip surfers, at a north of England university). The wood included a Mahogany skirting board and a heavily scarred Iroko work bench top. The Iroko board made a lovely new worktop for my shed work bench. The temptation to use the wood for a bass was insurmountable.
I cut the Mahogany board down its glue joints and reorientated the strips into a glued neck blank, which was 970mm long. This meant that I needed a very short scale design, as the only extra material was enough to make a fretboard. I plumbed for a 762mm (30") scale and a neck-through design. The remains of the Iroko board formed the wings of my design, although it is only 28mm thick and there isn’t enough to glue two together to make a board as thick as most bass bodies.
I dislike the aesthetics of Fender headstocks, and plastic scratch plates. Leo Fender design that I really like includes strap button over the 12th fret, solid body for ease of manufacture, very simple (but ugly) and easily adjusted bridge, nut in a neck slot.
So, it will have a sloping headstock but not necessarily 15 degrees, I quite fancied a Rickenbackeresque shape. The 28mm wing thickness is only a problem when you realise an output jack is 30mm long, so I needed a control cavity cover at least 10mm thick.
I have a carpenter’s bag of hand tools but only a cordless drill and palm router. I have three G clamps but no sash clamps (so gluing stuff together can need some magic).
Since I am the client and engineer, I have allowed myself to start work before the design was complete and although this is a really bad idea, it has been chaotic fun.
The tuners, bridge, truss rod, strings, pickups and electronics came from a trashed ebay bass at a cost of £25, so apart from fretwire, this is my only financial outlay.
The bone nut is the last piece of Christmas beef joint bone.
Making a neck-through design was much more demanding than a separate neck. Everything seemed to get in the way.
Some things went badly wrong: I decided the headstock needed to be 5mm thinner, so I took a saw to it. I ended up with an overcut and opted to remind myself to think first by filling with sawdust and glue, giving the headstock an Ernst Blofeld scar over the left eye.
The scallop at the back of the body ‘moved’ when I changed the shape of the wings, so it had to be extended into the wings. Not too bad in the end.
First dry assembly – unsanded and unfinished, here is a size comparison with a long scale acoustic bass.
Aesthetics – I think the Maple control panel is a mistake, it probably needs replacing with a piece of Mahogany or Iroko, what would you use ?
I cut the fret slots and sanded the fretboard radius but I am waiting for fretwire to arrive. However, the temptation to play it fretless was unavoidable. So, should I put Maple fret markers in and go fretless ?
It weighs just 2.5kg (6 lb in old money), I have seen posts about heavy basses and wide straps, is this important ?